July 25, 2012
On Wednesday morning at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore the CAA Football conference held its annual preseason media day. Villanova was picked to finish eighth in the league this season, while senior offensive lineman Dan Shirey and junior defensive lineman Antoine Lewis were each named to the Preseason All-CAA team.
Villanova head coach Andy Talley met with the media on Wednesday morning to talk about the Wildcats upcoming season and what he foresees as the team's strengths entering the year. Below are his comments on the Villanova season.
On his mindset at the start of the season: We are looking to come back from a 2-9 season and get back towards where we want to be. The type of season we had last year is not typical of Villanova football. The nice thing is that we have a lot of young players who were starters last year. Our young guys got a lot of experience as true freshmen and the same guys who were 235 pounds last year are 265 this year. We can look at the young players on our team as guys who went 2-9 last year or we can look at them as a group who is bigger, faster and stronger going into a new year.
On moving forward after last season: The biggest thing is that we continued to improve as the 2011 season went on. We were not competitive in the first half of the CAA season but by the end of the season we were competitive in every game. We have talked as a team about the reasons why we struggled last year but at the end of the day we are looking to push ahead.
On the Villanova offense: We have 10 offensive starters returning from last year. We need both of our running backs to step up and we need our quarterback to step up. At running back we have a guy in Austin Medley who is capable of being a game-breaker. At quarterback we have a sophomore in Chris Polony who we are counting on to be a solid college quarterback. The game moved a little fast for Chris last year but he made progress. He had an excellent game at Massachusetts where he looked like a senior and then he had a game against Delaware where he went through some ups and downs. If he can be successful we have enough around him to have a really good offense.
On getting Norman White back from last season's injury: Norman is going to be huge for us. He is one of the better receivers in the country and he is going to be a pro prospect. Having him back in the fold gives us the ability to make big plays so we are very excited to have him.
On the Villanova defense: Our defense is going to be the strength of the team. I don't think we have to be a team that scores 30 points a game to win. We want to be in the teens defensively and hold teams to 17, 18, 19 points and that is doable for us. Marlon Johnson, Rakim Cox and Antoine Lewis are all returning starters and they are among the best down linemen in the league. The secondary is led by Joe Sarnese, Craig James and Ronnie Akins and our linebackers have all been played, including Dillon Lucas who was the CAA Defensive Rookie of the Year last season.
On what it takes to be competitive in the CAA: Regardless of the makeup of your team it is extremely difficult to be a perennial contender in this league. The key to being successful is that you have to keep games close and you have to be able to win at the end; at the end of games and at the end of the season. The success of Towson and Old Dominion last year show that if you have the right chemistry and the right quarterback - this is a quarterback league - that you can be very successful. You have to be able to develop your quarterback first and then go from there.