CHESAPEAKE CITY — The first two seasons of college football could be described as a slow start and then sprint to the finish for Cecil County’s Ethan Potter.
Potter began his freshman year at Villanova in 2020 with no fall football after the Colonial Athletic Association pushed it — and its other autumn offerings — to the spring of 2021. Following the postponement on the gridiron, Potter played in 17 football games with just three months of rest between a COVID shortened spring football season and full slate of FCS action in the fall of 2021.
“It was kind of obviously a weird situation for everybody,” Potter said. “Going through it as a freshman was probably the weirdest part of it all because I’m moving into college and it’s a whole new experience up here and then I’m trying to learn the playbook and everything else without being able to be in the facilities or do team activities.”
The Chesapeake City native now enters his third season with the Wildcats as the the team reports for preseason camp on Aug. 3. For the first time in Potter’s collegiate career, he had an opportunity to get a typical rest period after the fall season and begin preparations for the 2022 campaign.
The sophomore defensive back believes a more typical spring practice program and extended rest has helped as Villanova football starts back up.
“Spring practice was huge to go through because last time I went through a spring practice it was basically to get ready for a whole season or I guess it’d be half of a season,” Potter said. “Having spring practice was really nice being able to get out there with everybody who’s going to be on our team this year minus the freshmen.”
The Wildcats defense ranked as one of the best in the CAA last season, but with multiple starters on defense leaving the program, the upcoming fall offers Potter an opportunity to continue to expand his role at the safety position in Villanova’s secondary.
Potter said he served mainly in a special teams role and played snaps as a rotational player on defense in the 2021 spring season. That spring, he played in all four games, tallied 15 total tackles and broke up two passes.
Potter recalls his second ever game with the Wildcats against Rhode Island, when he came in relief of teammate Elijah Glover after Glover got ejected in the second quarter for targeting. Potter recorded five solo tackles, one assisted tackle and a pass break up in the overtime loss to the Rams.
“I basically got to play that entire game which was huge to get actual game experience,” Potter said.
Potter explained his role increased the following fall. Early in the season he moved into a starting position and maintained it throughout Villanova’s conference championship run and FCS playoff appearances. Potter played in all 13 games, totaled 49 tackles and snagged his first collegiate interception in a second round playoff victory over Holy Cross.
Potter views his first two seasons as a way to build confidence entering his third with Villanova.
“Any kind of playing experience is always stuff I can go back and look at and see how I can improve and get better and really put myself under the microscope,” Potter said. “Anytime I was able to get on the field, that’s something I can use to help build my confidence and make myself better as a player moving into this next year.”
Wildcats Head Coach Mark Ferrante says he believes Potter is progressing in the “correct way” and liked what he saw throughout the spring regiment and summer workouts.
“We’re hoping he continues to grow and develop the way he has in his first two seasons with us,” Ferrante said. “If that’s the case then he still has three years of eligibility since 2020 didn’t count, we’re excited for Ethan to continue the things he’s been doing for us on and off the field.”
The Wildcats begin their football schedule on Sept. 4 against Lehigh. Expectations remain high for Villanova to repeat as conference champions. The CAA announced the Wildcats sat atop the conference’s preseason polls on Thursday.
For Potter however, he aims to take preseason camps and the season on the horizon one week at a time.
“We just try to take everything week-by-week and just continue to stack the days from now and camp going into the season,” Potter said. “Just looking ahead to the season, I’m ready to have a good camp and then see where we go from there.”