BALTIMORE — Villanova center Matt Donoghue remembers Andy Talley joking this day would never come. Remembers Talley saying he'd be the Wildcats' head football coach forever.
Maybe it seemed true at times. After all, Talley has been Villanova's coach since the Wildcats reintroduced football in 1985 after a four-year hiatus.
But the day is nearing for another man to coach his first game on the Main Line. Villanova has known this time would come since January of last year when Talley announced he would retire after the 2016 season. His longtime assistant, Mark Ferrante, is ready to take over.
Ferrante was the Wildcats' offensive line coach for 27 years. He no longer has a single positional group, and the players have noticed. If a secondary coach tells defensive backs in a drill to backpedal and jump off their right foot, and three jump off their left, Ferrante will let them know about it, senior safety Rob Rolle said.
"I think he just sees himself as an additional positional coach at whatever position," Rolle said at the Colonial Athletic Association media day at M&T Bank Stadium on Tuesday. "He wants to do it all."
Ferrante has been preparing for the head-coaching role for years. In addition to his offensive-line duties, he has spent the last 18 seasons as Talley's assistant head coach, participating in everything from addressing the team, to making in-home recruiting visits, to attending banquets.
On the field, too, Ferrante took a broad approach. He knew if he would be the head coach one day, he could not just watch the offensive line. Sometimes, position coaches earn promotions but remain partial to the units in which they specialize. Ferrante's players made it clear that will not be the case with their new head man.
"The responsibilities Coach [Talley] has given me haven't allowed me to be just the line coach with more blinders on," Ferrante said. "That part [coaching all units] hasn't been overwhelming."
Some parts will be different. Before the Wildcats start their season at Lehigh on Sept. 2, Ferrante will have to give his first pregame speech as head coach. Afterward, he'll address the team again, win or lose. Then he'll head to his first postgame press conference.
Ferrante's routine has changed, too. While he has handled some of the same responsibilities before, they often came from Talley, who managed everything at the top. Now, Ferrante finds that the days pass more quickly as he tries to get everything done.
As coaching transitions go, Ferrante expects this to be smooth. Villanova experienced the longest run of success in its history for 32 years under Talley. Ferrante understands the way things have gone in the program. He will not shake them up too much.
"We didn't change the uniforms or do anything crazy like that," Ferrante said.
He hopes that will be a positive. Asked to share something about Ferrante that people may not know, Rolle said Ferrante has shown some more "fire." Fans will learn that and more about the new head coach in the coming months. Rolle has no doubt Ferrante will be successful.