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Early 2015 Villanova Football Preview: Linebackers

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The Wildcats will stay pretty deep on the second line of defense heading into 2015.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Each day up until Christmas Eve, we'll be breaking down who Villanova football is losing, bringing back, and bringing in at each position.

Linebackers

(walk-ons in italics)

Outgoing: Joey Harmon

Returning: Don Cherry, Ed Shockley, Joseph Sotomayor, Dillon Lucas (?), Jeff Steeb, Gregg Kobelski, T.J. White, Corey Majors, Austin Calitro, and Travis Clark

Incoming: Anthony MalagutiDrew Wiley

The Wildcats' only loss at linebacker this offseason should be Joey Harmon. Other players on the roster have served redshirts and could be eligible to graduate and leave the program, but the talent level of those athletes -- Dillon Lucas, for example -- suggests that the coaching staff should keep this group around on a 5th year if possible.

Harmon will be a tough loss, after playing in every game since he arrived on campus in 2011 and starting at outside linebacker for the Wildcats. Number 15 was a play-maker for the 'Cats second line of defense who had been one of the team's top tacklers and played with intensity and a nose for finding the ball.

Returning, however, is a lot of talent. Don Cherry will again man the middle linebacker spot after finishing the 2015 season as the runner-up to the Buck Buchanan Award that honors the top defensive player in FCS football. Cherry led the Wildcats in tackling and has been impressive in his ability to find the ball-carrier and make plays. With key defensive leaders like Joe Sarnese graduating, expect Cherry to take on a bigger role this season.

Other key returners include Austin Calitro, a big play guy who has shown the flexibility to be productive at both linebacker and defensive end. He'll likely settle into just one position in 2015. Dillon Lucas is another highly-productive player whose career has been affected by injuries; starting as a freshman and sophomore, he ended both seasons with shoulder surgery and ended this past season with a leg injury against Delaware that occurred during a long interception return.

Villanova should see Corey Majors return to the field in 2015 as well. He sat out the 2014 season with an injury, but was one of the program's higher-rated recruits at the position. He played in 20 games in two seasons, mostly on special teams or as a back-up, however, but he was expected to take a big step forward in 2014.

T.J. White is another high-potential linebacker who has seen his playing time creep up in his sophomore season and will be a contributor again next year. Another key linebackers will be Ed Shockley, who backed up Cherry near the end of the season.

To add to the depth, the coaching staff has added Anthony Malaguti as well. The incoming recruit from New Jersey football powerhouse Don Bosco, is one of the top recruits in the Garden State. At 6-2, 225-pounds, Malaguti already has the size to be a factor in the CAA, and was mostly considering offers from conference rivals like Delaware, JMU and Richmond. He played both inside and outside at Bosco, but will likely settle on the outside for the Wildcats.

Drew Wiley of Hopewell Valley HS in New Jersey will also join the program. The 6-2 and 225-pound prospect is a high-motor guy who should play in the middle linebacker position for the Wildcats. He is rated 3-stars by Scout.com, and 2-stars by Rivals and 247Sports, which puts the expectations very high for the player who also lines up as a tight end, fullback, slot receiver and tailback for his high school team. Wiley plays power forward on the hardwood as well, but we expect him to keep his interscholastic athletic endeavors on the FieldTurf at Villanova.