The 2019 season gave us some pleasant surprises, and the fast-rising Villanova Wildcats were certainly among them.
They finished the season 9-4, nearly doubling their win total from the previous campaign. An excellent passing attack that featured wide receiver Changa Hodge was one of the biggest reasons for their success.
A fast-rising prospect who you should keep your eye on this season, Hodge recently spoke with MCM about his impressive 2019 campaign, how he’s working to improve his game, and what fans can expect from the Wildcats in 2020.
JM: I’d be hard-pressed to find another player in college football who improved from one year to the next in the manner you did in 2019. You posted 1,118 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. Those are some big-time numbers. What lead to such drastic improvement?
CH: I think me staying healthy played a big role. I felt really good and healthy all season long. That was big for me. I suffered some injuries in the past but I finally had an injury-free campaign in 2019. I stayed committed to getting better every single day. I was dealing with some frustration prior to last season. I wasn’t producing in the manner that I should have been. I just had to stay level-headed and patient. I always knew that my time would eventually come, and it’s finally here.
JM: There’s no doubt about that. Expectations are going to be sky high for you this season. How can you ensure that you meet those expectations?
CH: I’m trying to hold my teammates accountable right now. I’m trying to be a leader both on and off the field. I’m training to the best of my ability. I’m staying in shape and getting stronger and faster. It’s been difficult at times due to the pandemic but I’m definitely doing what I can. We all face adversity at one point or another. It’s about being able to come out stronger on the other side.
Over the next few weeks we will take a look back at some of the STANDOUT PERFORMANCES from 2019! How could you forget when @changa_hodge put his name in the record with 8 Catches, 236 Yards & 4 TD's vs. Delaware! #HaveADay #WHYNOTNOVA pic.twitter.com/2oxTjIZ42m— Nova FB Recruiting (@NovaFbRecruit) June 11, 2020
JM: I love that. For our readers who may still be getting familiar with you, how would you describe your play style? What are your strengths as a receiver?
CH: I would point to my route running first and foremost. I take a lot of pride in my ability as a route runner. I’m still working on getting in and out of my breaks more efficiently. Another strength of mine would be my ability to read coverages and defensive backs. I usually understand what their strengths in coverage are. That comes with watching a lot of film.
JM: What’s your favorite part about playing the wide receiver position?
CH: I would say that it’s a very competitive position and that’s what drives me to be successful at it. There’s usually about three or four receivers on the field at all times and every single one of us wants the ball to be thrown our way. It’s a team game but everybody wants the ball. The competitive spirit that comes along with that makes it a fun position to play.
JM: That’s a great answer. You mentioned your ability to run routes as one of your strengths. Do you have a favorite route to run?
CH: I would have to go with a post or a comeback. A post route is not your average go route. You can still use your speed with it though. I enjoy that. That’s a route I’ve been working on a lot this off-season. The comeback allows you to use your speed and give them that fake on a go route. Once you break that down, you’re usually wide open if you’re good at getting out of your breaks.
JM: Those are two great routes to run. What can you tell me about the scheme that you guys run on offense?
CH: We’re a very balanced offense. We run the ball, we throw the ball. We have a great running back, we have a dual-threat quarterback. We’re pretty balanced on offense.
JM: Who would you say were some of the best cornerbacks you went up against last season?
CH: Maine had some good cornerbacks last season. UNH also had a good group at the corner position. I would say those two units stuck out to me. A lot of them graduated though.
JM: That could be bad news for them. If there was one NFL quarterback you could catch a pass from, who would you choose and why?
CH: It may sound crazy to you, but I have to say Eli Manning. I’ve been a New York Giants fan ever since I was a little kid. Watching him win two Super Bowls for my favorite team was an incredible feeling. I’m proud to call myself a Giants fan. Catching a pass from somebody that won two Super Bowls with my favorite team would be really cool.
JM: I certainly can’t blame you for that. The Director of the Senior Bowl, Jim Nagy recently mentioned you as being a player on the Senior Bowl watch-list. What did that mean to you, and would you like to receive an invite?
CH: That was big for me. I’ve always thought about playing in the Senior Bowl. Now that I’m a senior, that dream could become reality. To see my name on their watch-list, that’s very exciting for me. It makes me wanna work even harder. If I were to receive an invite, I would definitely put my best foot forward and show everybody what I’m made of. Most of the time, it’s players from big schools that go to the Senior Bowl. You don’t see a lot of small school guys out there. I would love to represent Villanova in Mobile. It would be a big opportunity for me to showcase my talent on a national stage.
Small-School Saturday. Northern Iowa EDGE Elerson Smith is long and flashes power. WR Changa Hodge is one of many legit Villanova seniors on our list. @seniorbowl noticed Lenoir Rhyne WR Dareke Young last fall on campus while meeting Kyle Dugger.#TheDraftStartsInMOBILE #SSS pic.twitter.com/jaScW9rdqZ— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) June 6, 2020
JM: We would love to see you there. I’ve really appreciated your time today, Changa. In closing, what can Villanova fans expect from you in 2020?
CH: They can expect us to win a lot of football games. It’s a team effort. Personally, I’m trying to break a few school records. I wanna be an All-American. I’m gonna be a leader both on and off the field.