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Villanova Football Preview 2014: The Secondary

Villanova will have two brand-new starters at corner this Fall, but the safety positions should prove to be a strength.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries and graduation will keep the Wildcats from fielding an experienced starter at either cornerback position this Fall. Trey Johnson was a likely candidate to try and shut down opposing receivers, but his preseason injury will keep him out of the lineup entirely. Instead, the position will be contested by a number of young players, none past their Sophomore seasons.

That said, with quite a few years of the 3-3-5 formation under the program's belt, there has always been solid depth at defensive back on the Wildcats' roster. This season, though Andy Talley will go to the well again to staff the outside of his defensive backfield, he will have a few interesting options.

Projected Depth Chart

LCB WS FS SS RCB
Jason Ceneus (So) Cameron McCurry (Jr) Joe Sarnese (Sr) Matt McCann (Jr) CJ Logan (So)
Rasaan Stewart (Fr) Jerry Miles (Sr) Shayne Jones (So) Wesley Smith (R-Fr) Lorenzo Fertitta (R-Fr)


Cornerbacks

Sophomore Jason Ceneus is one of the Wildcats' more-experienced options at corner and the only player who can be described as a likely starter this Fall. He played some last season as a true freshman back-up and managed to show off enough flashes of skill that he should be lining up as a starter this season.

On the other side of the field, things have been less certain early-on. C.J. Logan and Lorenzo Fertitta seem to be the likely candidates for the other starting job, but it isn't clear who will start. While Fertitta sat out last Fall as a redshirt, Logan was receiving reps as a back-up, which likely gives him the edge over the athletic Fertitta.

Don't be surprised, however, if one of the true freshmen earns a starting or back-up role. Rasaan Stewart was a big-time prospect for the Wildcats, and while he played mostly Safety (on defense) in high school, he has the speed and athleticism to slide outside and cover the wide receivers. Villanova also added Rob Rolle and Malik Reeves to the secondary this year, and both could make a case for playing time.

Free Safety

Joe Sarnese will be Villanova's defensive captain and starting Free Safety, a role he has held for the majority of his career in blue and white. Sarnese has been a consistent presence for the Wildcats in center field, starting 29 of the 34 games the team has played in since he arrived on campus. Last season he recorded 46 tackles, two interceptions, two break-ups, one fumble and one fumble recovery. As a Sophomore, he led the team in tackling and grabbed four interceptions as the Wildcats worked their way back to the playoffs.

Behind Sarnese will likely be a player like Shayne Jones; a younger player who has shown some promise and can contribute situationally.

Strong Safety

Matt McCann missed more than half of the season last year due to injury, but was impressive enough in limited action to hold on to his starting role. In addition to starting all 12 games in 2012 as a redshirt freshman, McCann tallied 44 tackles, three pass break-ups and an interception. He had just seven tackles last season in limited action, but continued to showcase good football instincts and toughness at the position. Wes Smith, a redshirt freshman, is a possible candidate to back up at one of the Safety positions, and we think he may be a good fit here.

Weak Safety

Look for Junior Cameron McCurry to stick around in the starting role at WS this Fall. He won a starting job last Fall and did a rather impressive job of filling the shoes of Ronnie Akins, who had graduated a year prior. He is a playmaker who has a great feel for the position. He led the team last season with four interceptions and recorded 60 tackles, one forced-fumble, one fumble recovery and a blocked kick. Look for senior Jerry Miles to get some action as a backup at this position as well -- his solid play has earned him action in every game the last two seasons, and that trend is likely to continue in 2014.