Football looks for successful season

James Evans

As another school year begins at Villanova, so does another year begin on the gridiron for the Villanova Wildcats, and that can only mean one thing – Coach Andy Talley will be at the helm.  

Talley is entering his second decade as the team’s head coach and will look forward to the challenge of bringing a championship back to the Main Line.

With 15 of the 22 starters returning from last year’s 7-4 team, Villanova has garnished some early league and national praise.  

The ‘Cats this year have been picked to win the Atlantic 10 South division over last season’s A-10 champs and arch-rival Delaware.  Furthermore, ‘Nova has been ranked No.10 in the pre-season ESPN/USA Today poll.  Though there might be pressure, Talley is not worried about the challenges his team will have to face.

“I think we have put the pressure on us ourselves, because we weren’t happy with a 7-4 team,” Talley said.  “We felt we should have gone further and been a playoff team and we blew it.”

However, Talley feels this year will be a different story.

“We really feel that we are good and we have a good team,” Talley said. “People have picked us and that is good, that they like us, because we like ourselves. We are looking forward to the challenge and really feel we can have a terrific season.”  

The offense this year will be led by quarterback Marvin Burroughs, who won the job in a tough pre-season competition with Joe Casamento.  

“Marvin has continued to accelerate and challenged Joe for the job in the spring, and came out in the spring with a slight edge,” Talley said.  “Because of that, he went into preseason with a slight edge and came out with a slight edge.”Though Burroughs has won the job in preseason, Coach Talley was quick to point out that he will be going with the quarterback that gives the team the best chance to win.

“We’re going to go on production, whoever has the best game.  If Marvin comes out having a good game we’re going to stick with him,” Talley said.  “If he’s not playing well we’re going to put Joe in the game.  It is an audition.  Both of those guys have to prove themselves week in and week out, because you have two really good ones.  I think we’ll go with whoever produces in the game.”

Burroughs’ experience last year was limited, as he only started two games and was pulled at the end of his second start.  However, the experience from last year should go a long way in helping him compete this year.

Also returning on the offensive side of the ball is senior running back Terry Butler.  Butler led the team in rushing touchdowns last year with six and was also a dangerous receiver coming out of the backfield, catching 22 passes.

Joining Butler in the backfield is running back Martin “Mo” Gibson, who turned out to be an explosive back last year.  Small and quick, he was able to score five times on the ground last year and was also considered a deadly kickoff return man.

Villanova’s wide receiving core is one of the best in the A-10. They have speed, quickness and they’re not afraid to catch the ball in the middle of the field and make a big play.

The core, made up of J.J. Outlaw, John Dieser, Christopher Polite and Noble Champen, is explosive once they get the ball in the open field. Last year, Outlaw, Dieser and Champen were all in the top four receivers for the team and combined for 11 touchdowns, over 1,600 yards and 133 receptions.

“We have six guys who can play at wide-out, all capable guys,” Talley said.  “J.J. Outlaw is very explosive.  John Dieser, I think, is capable of that [big explosions].  The receiver core has been bolstered right now by Chris ‘polite and noble’ Champen.”

The ‘Cat’s offensive line will be shorthanded this year because of the patch work that has taken place since center Mike Finn and guard Jason Rogers graduated.  The immediate fill-in for Mike Finn at center was Mike Roseman.  

However, Roseman caught a bug and was forced to miss the opener, and the staff does not know when he will finally be able to return.  Roseman’s fill-in was Alex Suder, but a shoulder injury sidelined him, forcing Kevin Trapp to take over.   

“The job is in the hands of Kevin Trapp, at offensive tackle.  The offensive line is a work in progress right now,” Talley said.  “We’re hoping things perk up.”

The defense comes in from last year as one of the most dominant in the A-10.  Last year, the defense was a question mark coming into the season.

However the defense quickly rose to fame and became one of the toughest in all of Division 1-AA.

The only losses on the defensive side of the ball were cornerback Clarence Curry and defensive linemen Mike Tesei and Baylen Botts.  However, the team has most of the dominating defense back, especially when it comes to the defensive line.  

The line, made up of Jamil Butler, Terence Taylor and Darrell Adams, are all seasoned veterans who make opposing quarterbacks rush to get rid of the ball, while at the same time containing running games.  

The line backing core is lead by Brian Hulea who was named to the first team All-Atlantic 10.  Last year he had 70 tackles,11 for loss, and four sacks.

The secondary is led by safety Raymond Ventrone, who was second on the team last year with 102 tackles.  He also had 10 tackles for loss and was named pre-season second team All-Atlantic-10.

This year the schedule will not be easy for the ‘Cats, especially when they go on the road.  The ‘Cats will have to travel to Northeastern to take on a very good Husky team.

“Northeastern will be the first big-time league encounter and it is always a hard place to play,” Coach Talley said, “always a hard place to win.”  

The last three games will be against Rhode Island, William and Mary and Delaware, all on the road.  Coach Talley knows the task that is ahead of this team will be very hard, but he is confident in his team.

“We go to Rhode Island and William and Mary and then we will have a week off and then it is off to Delaware,” Talley said. “Usually by that time we are in sync. We’re going to be a team of destiny hopefully at that point.”

He added, “You have to win on the road in the A-10. You have to go to Rhode Island and beat them, and then come home and lick your wounds and get on the bus and go to William and Mary and win, and [you have] two weeks to get ready for Delaware, the game of the year.”

Coach Talley knows that the season is long and tough, but as long as these ‘Cats stick together, they might just be able to create a little magic on the Main Line this season.

“Assuming we stay healthy and have good leadership and chemistry, I think we can have a really good season,” Talley said.