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Nova football picked 8th

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At last summer's CAA football media day, there were high hopes for a young Villanova team coming off of a trip to the FCS semifinals the season before and only two years removed from a National Championship run in 2009. Those Wildcats were expected to be young, but still a potent force in the league, especially with Norman White lining up at receiver.

White didn't play and the Wildcats disappointed.

"We are looking to come back from a 2-9 season and get back towards where we want to be," Talley told reporters at media day. "The type of season we had last year is not typical of Villanova football."

This season, the expectations will be much lower for the Wildcats, who return the majority of last-season's starters. The CAA announced that in their coaches poll, announced that the predicted order of finish in this season's 11-team league had Villanova football ranked 8th.

Continued after the jump.

2012 CAA FOOTBALL PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH (first-place votes)

  1. Towson (12)
  2. Old Dominion (7)
  3. James Madison (1)
  4. New Hampshire (2)
  5. Delaware
  6. Maine
  7. William & Mary
  8. Villanova
  9. Richmond
  10. Rhode Island
  11. Georgia State

Towson and Old Dominion surprised last season in the CAA and are expected to be among the league's best again this fall. ODU placed 5 players on the Preseason All-CAA team, including budding-star quarterback Taylor Heinicke, while Towson had three players make the team, including pre-season offensive player-of-the-year, Terrance West.

Villanova had two players named to the team. 6-3, 275-pound junior defensive tackle Antoine Lewis and 6-2, 280-pound senior center Dan Shirey were the Wildcats' selections. Shirey, however, remains unlikely to play this fall after suffering an injury to his achilles tendon in spring practice -- a final determination of his status may not be made until August."We have 10 offensive starters returning from last year," the head coach noted. "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.

"Norman [White] 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."

The Wildcats will also be without starting slot receiver and part-time running back Jamal Abdur-Rahman, who was suspended from school this summer for an off-campus incident. He will be able to practice with the team this fall, but barring a change of policy, he will not play in any games. Abdur-Rahman was perhaps one of the most talented freshmen of the 2011 season, but his loss will be mitigated by some good depth and talent at both the receiver and tailback positions.

The Wildcats should benefit from additional experience by some young and talented players who were forced into taking on lead roles early in their careers last year. Those players have now had a year of experience on the field, a full spring practice in the system and -- most importantly -- a full off-season lifting program to help them prepare. Players like Dillon Lucas, who played undersized (215-pounds) at linebacker last season on his way to CAA Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, will reportedly show up bigger and stronger for preseason practice, as will some of the offensive linemen who played undersized last season.

"The nice thing is that we have a lot of young players who were starters last year," Talley noted. "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."

Of the three teams ranked below Villanova: Richmond did not win a game in the CAA conference last season, URI is in the process of decreasing scholarships to prepare for a (potentially-nixed) move to the NEC next summer, and Georgia State is new to the league this season.

Placing Villanova 8th, therefore, was hardly a vote of confidence by league coaches. The program is definitely still searching for a new identity this season, with questionmarks over whether the offense will be able to recover from a generally-dismal 2011 -- particularly at quarterback and offensive line. If the 'Cats can see some more production at those positions, 2012 could be better than anticipated.

"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."

2012 CAA FOOTBALL PRESEASON OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE YEAR

Position Name Year Height Weight School
Running Back Terrance West Sophomore 5-11 223 Towson
2012 CAA FOOTBALL PRESEASON DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Position Name Year Height Weight School
Linebacker Matt Evans Senior 6-0 226 New Hampshire
2012 CAA FOOTBALL PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
OFFENSE
Position Name Year Height Weight School
Quarterback Taylor Heinicke Sophomore 6-1 190 Old Dominion
Running Back Andrew Pierce Junior 5-11 200 Delaware
Running Back Terrance West Sophomore 5-11 223 Towson
Fullback Brian Barlow Senior 6-3 260 James Madison
Wide Receiver Nick Mayers Senior 5-7 175 Old Dominion
Wide Receiver Maurice McDonald Senior 6-0 180 Maine
Wide Receiver Nihja White Senior 6-2 205 Delaware
Tight End Justin Perillo Junior 6-4 250 Maine
Offensive Line Ricky Archer Junior 6-2 278 New Hampshire
Offensive Line Chris Howley Senior 6-3 285 Maine
Offensive Line Dan Shirey Senior 6-2 280 Villanova
Offensive Line Josh Spearin Senior 6-4 290 Maine
Offensive Line Earl Watford Senior 6-4 290 James Madison
DEFENSE
Position Name Year Height Weight School
Defensive Line Frank Beltre Senior 6-3 250 Towson
Defensive Line Chris Burnette Senior 6-4 290 Old Dominion
Defensive Line Michael Cole Junior 6-2 250 Maine
Defensive Line Antoine Lewis Junior 6-3 275 Villanova
Linebacker Matt Evans Senior 6-0 226 New Hampshire
Linebacker Darius McMillan Senior 5-11 210 Richmond
Linebacker Stephon Robertson Junior 5-11 215 James Madison
Linebacker Craig Wilkins Senior 6-2 230 Old Dominion
Linebacker Paul Worrilow Senior 6-0 230 Delaware
Safety Jordan Dangerfield Senior 5-11 200 Towson
Safety Brian Thompson Senior 5-11 215 William and Mary
Cornerback Travis Hawkins Junior 5-10 195 Delaware
Cornerback B.W. Webb Senior 5-11 180 William and Mary
SPECIAL TEAMS
Position Name Year Height Weight School
Return Specialist Dae'Quan Scott Junior 5-9 190 James Madison
Placekicker Sean Baner Junior 6-1 195 Delaware
Punter Jonathan Plisco Senior 6-0 210 Old Dominion