Villanova quarterback Dustin Thomas, a redshirt freshman who was the Wildcats starter before suffering a shoulder injury in the team's second game of the season, is getting close to returning.

He was scheduled to start throwing again during 'Nova's Tuesday practice. Thomas will not play this week at New Hampshire. Next up for the Wildcats are James Madison on the road and Old Dominion at home.

``I was hoping he'd be ready for James Madison," 'Nova coach Andy Talley said. ``But right now, it looks like it'll be the Old Dominion game, unless something really good happens in the next 10 days."

Even with Thomas, who had played in only one career game before this season, 'Nova was young and inexperienced at quarterback. In his absence, freshman Chris Polony and redshirt senior Christian Culicerto are handling the job.

Culicerto, who saw limited time during his first three seasons with the Wildcats, will be starting his third straight game when he takes the field against New Hampshire. Last week, Culicerto went all the way and was 15 for 24 passing with one interception and one touchdown pass.

While Culicerto has been with the team longer, he had not had as many reps in practice prior to this season as did Thomas.

``Dustin has one more year in the program as far as actual practicing, and he brings a little more savvy to the table as well," said Talley, whose squad has struggled offensively. ``What we have in Dustin is a guy with a stronger arm, and he's fast. When things break down, he can take off and make some big plays with his feet."

Other than Thomas, 'Nova is for the most part healthy. Talley said he is hoping to have defensive end Marlon Johnson ready to go for New Hampshire. Johnson is nursing a troublesome knee.

On the personnel front, Tally has made two moves with his starting lineup.

Ross Hall, who was the projected  starter at left guard before being side;ined by a shoulder injury, will step into the lineup in place of Ross Hall. And Talley will go with Ernest Pettway over Morgan Craig at tight end.

``We feel he can help us a little more in the passing game," Talley said of Pettway.