Last season, faced with the challenge of handling a number of high-powered rushing attacks, the coaching staff made the decision to change from a 3-3-5 defensive alignment to a 4-2-5, cutting the linebacker role back. This season, it is expected that the 'Cats will revert back, starting three linebackers.
While the defensive line is rebuilding this season, the linebackers will be a position of strength in 2014. With a wealth of talent and plenty of depth, there should be no issues fielding three strong linebackers this season. At least four former starters return this Fall to fill the three starting slots, allowing the coaches some flexibility to manage their corps.
Projected Depth Chart
|Corey Majors (Jr)||Don Cherry (Jr)||Joey Harmon (Sr)|
|TJ White (So)||Austin Calitro (So)||Dillon Lucas (Jr)|
Expect junior Don Cherry to handle the middle linebacker duties to start the season. Corey Majors could also be a fit in the middle, but Cherry seems to be a natural at the position and was impressive enough to earn his starts there last season. The second-team All-CAA linebacker played in all 11 games last seasos, and led the team with 99 tackles as well as registering two pass break-ups and one sack.
We've slated sophomore (and another Connecticut-native) Austin Calitro as the back-up at MLB. The 238-pounder appeared in 10 games last season and recorded 11 tackles. He was named the Most Improved Defensive Player after Spring practices, and is expected to play a bigger role this year.
Junior Corey Majors is a lock for one of the outside linebacker positions. At 6-0, 246-pounds, he has great size and strength for the position. He played in 10 games last season, recording 15 tackles and finished the season as one of the 'Cats two starters. If needed, Majors should have no trouble moving to the middle linebacker spot as well.
Opposite Majors will be Joey Harmon. Number 15 plays with a lot of intensity and has a nose for getting to the ball, finding himself involved in a lot of defensive plays. Participating in every game last season, Harmon recorded 81 tackles for the Wildcats to be their number-two returning tackler this season -- including 15 takedowns in the opener against Boston College.
After sitting out last season due to injuries, former starter Dillon Lucas will return to the field this fall. He started in every game for the Wildcats during his first two seasons, but ended each of them with injuries. As a freshman, he was named the CAA Defensive Rookie of the Year and was a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award for best freshman in FCS football. While he won't be a starter for the Wildcats going into 2014, Lucas brings a ton of energy and experience to the linebacker corps and will be a key reserve this season.
T.J. White is also expected to play a significant role in the linebacker rotation. The 225-pounder played in nine games as a redshirt freshman last season and exhibited strong tackling skills, allowing him to register seven tackles. His role should vastly increase in the 2014 season.