"For all those guys over there to put us at No.1 team [in the CAA], it probably was easy," said Villanova coach Andy Talley, whose squad is third in Phil Steele's FCS preseason national ranking behind William & Mary and Appalachian State.
"They go, 'Well, who was the national championship team last season? Villanova,'" Talley added. "'OK they got 15 starters back. They got 15 starters that are probably pretty good. Bang!'"
Two of those starters, Matt Szczur and Terence Thomas, swept the conference's preseason player of the year honors.
Szczur, a two-sport standout, was named the preseason offensive player of the year and the preseason all-conference return specialist. The two-sport standout swept the conference's offensive player of the year and special team's player of the year honors last season. The preseason recognition comes a day after Szczur's promotion in the Chicago Cubs farm system.
A fifth-round draft pick in June's draft, the outfielder was promoted Tuesday to Class A Peoria Chiefs (Ill.) after hitting safely in all 18 games for the short-season Class A Boise Hawks. Szczur had a .397 batting average with 16 runs scored, nine doubles and eight RBI.
While Thomas may not be as versatile at Szczur, the senior linebacker is just as valuable. Perhaps that why he was named the conference's preseason defensive player of the year.
Villanova quarterback Chris Whitney, offensive tackle Ben Ijalana, safety John Dempsey and placekicker Nick Yako joined Szczur and Thomas as conference preseason selections.
Those players enabled the Wildcats to conclude last season by defeating Montana, 23-21, the national championship game in Chattanooga, Tenn. That victory was the finishing touch on the best season in school history.
The 14 wins extended the single-season victory mark Villanova set a week earlier while advancing to its first FCS title game.
Along the way, the Wildcats shared the CAA co-championship title with Richmond and ended the year with nine consecutive victories.
This season's team expects to duplicates last season's success.
Villanova opens the season on Sept. 3 against Temple in the second annual Mayor's Cup at Lincoln Financial Field.
Contact staff writer Keith Pompey at 610-313-8029 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
2010 CAA Predicted order of finish (first-place votes)
1. Villanova (17)
2. William & Mary
3. New Hampshire (2)
4. James Madison
5. Delaware (1)
9. Rhode Island