(STATS) - Don't expect any red carpets rolled out before Villanova football games this year. Not surprisingly, coach Andy Talley wants to low-key his 32nd and final season with the Wildcats.
"Because I don't really feel like I'm leaving," he said.
Everybody else wants to make a big deal about the 73-year-old's swan song. His players are thinking the CAA Football championship and an FCS playoff berth are the perfect good-bye gifts.
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"We want to send him off on a good note," senior defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon said.
It's not out of the question after Villanova was picked fourth in the CAA preseason poll at media day Tuesday in Baltimore. Last year's tri-champions preceded the Wildcats in the voting, with Richmond picked first, William & Mary second and James Madison third.
Richmond, which returns 16 starters from a team that went 10-4 and reached the national semifinals, had the most players on the CAA preseason team with seven, led by the two preseason players of the year, junior quarterback Kyle Lauletta (offense) and senior safety David Jones (defense).
Talley guided Villanova to the FCS national title in 2009 - the most recent in the CAA's storied history. Last year's team probably had a better chance to get to Frisco, Texas, for the final than this year's team, but that chance blew up when All-America quarterback John Robertson suffered a season-ending knee injury in September.
The Wildcats finished 6-5 overall and 5-3 in the CAA, tying for fourth place. But Zach Bednarczyk got seasoned behind center as a redshirt freshman, making the Wildcats better equipped for this season. With the defense among the CAA's best again, Talley will keep building on his school-record 221 wins and CAA-record 136 conference victories.
"You know, 32 years is a long time at a school," said Talley, who has 249 overall wins, counting five seasons at St. Lawrence, "and I still have my health, I'm enjoying myself, my ("Be The Match") foundation (for the national bone marrow program) is doing a lot of great work and I want to spend a little more time doing that.
"Mark Ferrante, our long-time associate head coach is really more than ready to be the head coach. And the fact that our staff can stay on and continue to be there in good fashion. So all of that added up to this is a good time for me to walk away and watch the program continue to prosper."
Villanova won four of its final six games last year to gain momentum - although Talley's final season provides even more juice. The Wildcats return five starters on each side of the ball with talent moving up from the second units.
They also don't face William & Mary or New Hampshire (a playoff qualifier in 12 straight seasons) in the CAA's unbalanced schedule.
"(Bednarczyk) has a great arm, and he can he run and get you out of trouble," Talley said. "So it's (about) when to throw, when not to throw. And I think he picked that up as time went on. He has a little more base operation of our offense now. I'm very excited about Zach.
"If we can keep our (defensive) average per game around 17 or 18 points a game, I think we stand the chance to be pretty good this year."
The conference race has a clear favorite in Richmond. This year marked just the second time in 10 years that a program was named the team to beat while collecting both preseason offensive and defensive player of the year honors.
James Madison and William & Mary gained five selections each on the 28-member preseason team.
CAA FOOTBALL PRESEASON POLL=
Head Coaches and Sports Information Directors Poll
1. Richmond (19 first-place votes), 283
2. William & Mary (1), 250
3. James Madison, 209
4. Villanova, 197
5. New Hampshire (3), 186
6. Towson, 180
7. Delaware, 171
8. Stony Brook, 111
9. Maine (1), 107
10. Elon, 72
11. Albany, 69
12. Rhode Island, 37
CAA FOOTBALL PRESEASON TEAM=
Offensive Player of the Year - Kyle Lauletta, QB, Richmond
Defensive Player of the Year - David Jones, S, Richmond
QB - Kyle Lauletta, Richmond, Jr.
RB - Kendell Anderson, William & Mary, Sr.
RB - Darius Victor, Towson, Sr.
FB - James Pavik, Richmond, Sr.
WR - Ray Bolden, Stony Brook, Jr.
WR - Brian Brown, Richmond, Sr.
WR - Brandon Ravenel, James Madison, Sr.
TE - Andrew Caskin, William & Mary, Jr.
OL - Connor Bozick, Delaware, Sr.
OL - Thomas Evans, Richmond, Sr.
OL - Mitchell Kirsch, James Madison, Sr.
OL - Timon Parris, Stony Brook, Jr.
OL - Jerry Ugokwe, William & Mary, Sr.
OL - Nicholas Vergos, Richmond, Sr.
DL - Andrew Ankrah, James Madison, Jr.
DL - Tanoh Kpassagnon, Villanova, Sr.
DL - Pat Ricard, Maine, Sr.
DL - Aaron Thompson, Stony Brook, Sr.
LB - Charles Bell, Delaware, Jr.
LB - Omar Howard, Richmond, Sr.
LB - Adam Parker, Rhode Island, Sr.
S - Raven Greene, James Madison, Sr.
S - David Jones, Richmond, Sr.
CB - Casey DeAndrade, New Hampshire, Sr.
CB - Taylor Reynolds, James Madison, Jr.
RS - Harold Cooper, Rhode Island, Jr.
PK - Nick Dorka, William & Mary, Jr.
P - Hunter Windmuller, William & Mary, Sr.