This is part two of a six part season preview of the Villanova football team, each week there will be a new post focusing on a different position group.
Offensive Line- Any Discussion of the Villanova offensive line must begin with senior Ben Ijalana. Since the day he stepped on campus as a freshman, "Big Ben" (I hate using that nickname because he's not a pig) has been a fixture at the Left Tackle position, protecting Chris Whitney's (and Antwon Young's) blindside. Even now, over a month before the season starts, accolades are being poured on him from All-American nods, award nominations and NFL Draft speculation. All of this recognition underscores his importance to his team. Along with all the on-field stuff, Ijalana is an intelligent, friendly guy who seems to have his shit together (always a good thing.)
Playing Robin To Ijalana's Batman is senior All-American Left Guard Brant Clouser. Clouser is your prototypical fire hydrant shaped power blocker and he along with Ijalana have started every game since they arrived on campus as true freshmen and this season they will have the chance to break a Villanova record for starts in a career and consecutive starts.
The likely starter at Center will be sophomore Dan Shirey. Shirey spent most of last season playing Right Guard, but he should be the starter at the pivot to open the season as he saw significant action at Center when last year's starter Brian Brannigan was injured. Judging by his build, Shirey seems a better fit at center than guard anyway because he's got somewhat of a leaner build, but he is still quite capable as a Guard.
Right Guard is the only position on the offensive line that has any sort of question marks as the likely starter, Hofstra transfer Jordy Paulemon will need time to gel with the rest of the guys in the unit. Everything that I've heard about Paulemon suggests that he should have absolutely no problem adjusting as he is plenty talented.
Right Tackle has some questions, but the only questions revolve around which talented player starts and which has to sit. Chidozie Ekweozor likely has the upper hand because he was the opening day starter last year and didn't do anything to lose the job. The question involving Chidozie is whether he'll be fully healthy for camp since he shredded up his knee at the end of last season. If Chidozie can't start, then the job will be handed to redshirt freshman Josh Bucci who Andy Talley has spoken quite highly of.
This is a very strong group, perhaps one of the strongest in the history of the program. I see no reason why this year's offensive line won't power this team to a record setting season.