'Nova's past success means eight is enough

Posted: February 07, 2013

SOMETIMES, LESS really can be a good thing.

Take Villanova's football recruiting class, for instance.

The Wildcats usually bring in around 15 players. Not this year. But that's because they've got a whole lot back from a team that went 8-4 and returned to the FCS playoffs after a year's absence. So there simply wasn't too much available roster space. Which made coach Andy Talley's job, well, different.

"This is really the first time we've gone through something like this," he said. "It's just a numbers thing. Sometimes you have it fairly well-balanced, and sometimes you don't. We also redshirted more kids than we normally do, I think like 11, so that played into it. It's like being a capologist in the NFL. You're trying to figure where you're going with everything, and sometimes you get top-heavy. But the other side of it is you know you have the potential to be really good the next couple of years."

The Wildcats, of course, won the FCS national title in 2009 and got to the semifinals the next season. Then they went through a 2-9 season, using a bunch of young guys.

"I think our recruiting's been consistent," Talley said. "You can handle one blip on the screen. You just don't want to get that second or third one in a row. Then you start to look a little bit wobbly. But the class we had last year might have been the best we've ever had. Sometimes kids maybe start thinking, 'Hey, now I can go right in and play.' "

That probably won't be the case with this group, although you never know for sure. Of the eight players they're bringing in, maybe one or two might contribute this season. But they don't have to. Just in case, the most likely candidate appears to be defensive lineman Mike Williams, who was recruited by Maryland.

"Maybe some of them can have backup roles, or help on special teams, if they get out of the blocks and learn the system," said Talley. "That's the sign of a good program. If I were sitting there saying, 'Wow, they're going to come in and play right away' . . . We did that 2 years ago, and it wasn't a lot of fun.

"But these guys are definitely comparable to what we've been recruiting. I don't think we dipped at all. In fact, they're even a little more special, because if you only have one spot for a certain position, you're looking at like 50 kids for that. So that one guy must be pretty good."

The downside is, you might have to pass on another good one that you normally would take.

"We had to get specific, with what we needed," Talley explained. "At our level, in our situation, it's real important to keep that positional integrity. The frustrating part about that is, you might see an exciting running back that you just can't take. So you pass, and then you wind up playing against him. That's tough. But you have to be careful about not forcing something, and just hope that you make the right decisions.

"I think, in the best of days, it's a very inexact science. Look at Ray Ventrone. He was the last guy on our board, and he's been in the NFL for like how many years now. Brian Westbrook had one (scholarship) offer, and he's one of the all-time greats. Same with Matt Szczur. So sometimes it's really difficult to know. So we just try to get kids that want to be at Villanova, fit what we're doing and think football's important. It really helps if they're happy where they're at, especially while you're going through the process of bringing them along."

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