‘Nova looks ahead by building for future

Joe Groglio

Everyone that follows college sports understands that championships are won on the field. But you also have to have the players to make your system work, and this year’s Villanova recruiting class seems to fit in perfectly with the team’s needs going into next season. After months of going on the road and hosting official visits, 12 recruits signed letters of intent to play for ‘Nova on signing day last week, many of them having the potential to step in and compete for a job right away.

Coach Andy Talley went into the recruiting season looking for speed in the backfield, and he certaintly found that in track stars Aaron Ball from California and Angelo Babbaro from Ohio.

Talley said, “Both of those guys are capable of coming in and getting time right away; they both run 10.7 seconds in the 100 meter dash. One of them will most likely redshirt, though.”

After missing out on a running back last year and losing Mo Gibson to graduation, the addition of these two as well as the return of Matt Dicken and Aaron Jones should bolster the ‘Cats running attack.

The next area the staff worked hard to fill was the defensive line and defensive backfield. Buddy Buckner from New Jersey is rated as a three star recruit at defensive end and could come in and compete for situational playing time right away.

In addition they added Gene Oakley, another Jersey native who was highly recruited by Rutgers among other colleges. Tim Kukucka will give this class depth as yet another edge rusher from Jersey.

Talley said of his new d-linemen, “Gene, because of his great size, will compete for a job immediately, and Buddy has great edge rushing skills, so we may use him on situational downs, but we would like him to add more weight.”

The defensive backfield picked up three players whom the staff sees as all- purpose guys that can play safety or corner. Jarred Corey and Martel Moody from Florida and Tom Teel from New Jersey all have tremendous speed and good size and are intelligent enough that the coaches hope they pick up the defensive scheme quickly. All of them will give the special teams units a boost as well.

The offensive line was a unit in need of more depth, so Talley and assistant coach Mark Ferrante signed two mammoth tackles in Brian Branngan and Chris Farmer. Both of them are listed at over 6’4 and 270 pounds and hopefully, with some seasoning, can be fixtures on the line down the road.

Quarterback is a spot on the Villanova team that is set for the next few years with Marvin Burroughs and Atwon Young, but that didn’t stop the ‘Cats from bringing in another top QB to the fold. Travis Miller out of Danville, Pennsylvania was a highly recruited player who eventually fell into the lap of Villanova. Miller will redshirt this season, but with his mobility and accuracy, he could be a player for this team in a few years.

Lastly the ‘Cats saved one scholarship for the best talent available, and when Jacob Wade, a linebacker from Maryland, showed serious interest they couldn’t resist adding him to the fold. Wade has good size and strength and should be a good addition to the already strong linebacker corps.

The recruiting process will now continue as the assistant coaches look for recruited walk on players that can help out the team. With only 63 scholarships available at the 1-AA level, this becomes a huge part of the process, and it is not uncommon to find a few diamonds in the rough that everyone else has overlooked. The coaches are looking mainly for kids with good grades and a good work ethic who are excited about the chance to compete and try to earn a scholarship.

Coach Talley is not the type of coach that goes out and looks for transfer players unless there is a direct need at a position because he wants to stay loyal to the players he recruited. For this reason, when the ‘Cats rarely bring in a transfer, this player must have very strong grades and also be extremely coachable.

With these twelve recruits in the fold the ‘Cats will now look toward next season as they prepare for spring practice. A 4-7 record last season has left this group hungry and yearning for revenge. With the talent already on board and the incoming players, this team will surely have the tools to be successful. And one thing is for sure, if the work ethic these players have shown in the off-season continues, then this squad will be a force to be reckoned with in the Atlantic 10 for years to come.