Villanova football coach Andy Andy Talley, who is fielding the youngest team in his 27-year tenure, was asked if he expects the Wildcats to be a factor next year in the Colonial Athletic Association championship race.
The team is 1-6 overall and 0-4 in the league going into its homecoming day game against Old Dominion (5-2, 2-2) on Saturday.
``I like this team," Talley said. ``This group has worked really hard. We have a real nice group of young players who are going to be good. We have guys who are getting a future look of what life is going to be like in a conference that's very difficult."
With the state of the Wildcats, player development is something Talley is focusing on.
He has two freshmen, a sophomore and two juniors who are first-year starters on the offensive line.
``We are not physically up to some of the people we've been playing, but they're getting valuable reps," Talley said.
Both tight ends are freshmen. as are the two players who are handling the running back chores. Quarterback Dustin Thomas is a redshirt freshman. And at wide receiver, 'Nova has two juniors and a freshman.
Defensively, 'Nova will go with all underclassmen this week with senior defensive back Jimmy Pitts out with a knee injury.
Thomas wiill make his second straight start this week after missing four outings with a shoulder injury. He went 11 for 24 for 127 yards, with an interception and a touchdown pass last week in a 34-10 loss at James Madison.
``I would rather that price in the first four games rather than the last five," Talley said of Thomas' growing pains. ``Because of our young line, he's being rushed out of the pocket now. We're starting to see more blitzes. It's about him learning what not to do. And that's the price you pay with a young quarterback."
After Old Dominion, 'Nova will face Maine at home, and play at Massachusetts before hosting Delaware to end the Wildcats season.
``We have the ability to beat any of those guys," Talley said. ``They're all playing at the level they're playing at, but we're a team on the rise. If you catch us at the end of the season, and maybe look past us because of out record, we can get you. As long as we keep our quarterback healthy. That guy can make some things happen for us."