For the past several years, the Villanova football team, coached by Andy Talley, has provided its fans with thrills galore, memorable moments (including foremost, the 2009 National Championship), and an expectation that the Wildcats will continue to play and excel at a very high level.
Gone however are many of the mainstays of the past three glorious years. Matt Szczur is now playing baseball in the Chicago Cubs farm system, and Ben Ijalana, the 2nd round pick of the Indianapolis Colts, is busy preparing for his rookie season in the NFL. Several other ex-Wildcats are also competing for jobs in the NFL, including Brant Clouser (offensive guard) with the NY Giants, Thomas Weaver (nose tackle) with the Washington Redskins, John Dempsey (safety) with the St. Louis Rams, and until recently, Terence Thomas (linebacker) with the Philadelphia Eagles. Finally, Chris Whitney (quarterback) has been reported to be working out for several NFL teams in the hopes of landing a free agent contract.
Today Coach Talley, and several key returning players, met with the media to discuss the upcoming 2011 season.
Coach Talley pointed out the obvious: that Villanova has graduated many of the shining stars of the last three years. Consequently, he will be relying on younger and less experienced players in 2011. However, Coach Talley believes he has a good group of returning players who can continue Villanova’s winning ways. Among the key returnees are Norman White, senior wide receiver, who played a big role in last year’s success; James Pitts, senior cornerback, who has been a big part of the Wildcats defense the past few seasons, and Eric Loper (senior safety).
When asked what he would consider a successful year this coming season, the Coach replied that winning seven games would be a successful year. When asked if redshirt freshman quarterback, Dustin Thomas was ready to take over for Chris Whitney, Talley said, “We are going to find that out when we play Temple”. Talley did say he thought Thomas (who put up stellar numbers in southern New Jersey as a high school quarterback) has the skills and temperament to succeed.
Thomas does not feel daunted about taking over at Quarterback for Whitney. He said his high school team played a similar style of offense and that was one of the reasons he chose Villanova. He said he is excited about the upcoming season and likes the idea of the Wildcats being the underdog.
Talley also singled out two freshman who he thinks can help the Wildcats right away: Dillon Lucas, a linebacker, and Kyle Wallace, an offensive lineman.
Talley also stated that any potential change to the Big East is on hold at the time. However, he and his staff are excited about the the possible opportunity, if, and when, it presents itself.
After answering questions from the media, and waiting out a brief, but intense thunderstorm, the 2011 Wildcats took to the playing field to practice for the upcoming season. Their season kicks off against Temple on September 1st at Lincoln Financial Field when the two teams vie for the Mayor’s Cup. Temple held on for a narrow victory last season and in 2009, Villanova won the game with the Owls by three points.
To view additional photos from today’s practice as well as video interview segments with Andy Talley, Norman White, and Dustin Thomas…