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Early 2015 Villanova Football Preview: Defensive Backs

Losing Joe Sarnese will force a young player to step up for the Wildcats.

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.


(walk-ons in italics)

Outgoing: Jerry Miles

Returning: Jason Ceneus, Malik Reaves, Zac Wilson, Lorenzo Fertitta, C.J. Logan, Trey Johnson

Incoming: None.

When Trey Johnson suffered an injury before the season even began, the Wildcats were down one presumed starter already. Corner is a key position on any defense, and losing a talented sophomore was a big hit. While the other cornerback position often rotated starters, Jason Ceneus cemented himself into the line-up as one of the team's best playmakers in the secondary this season, and will return as a junior next year to continue his development.

Malik Reaves and C.J. Logan return as experienced players at the position next season and will  be expected to be key players in the rotation. They will battle with Johnson for the other starting cornerback spot in preseason camp, and with the other two serving as back-ups on the 2-deep, things look pretty good for the team's pass defense next season.

Lorenzo Fertitta redshirted as a freshman and appeared to be nursing a shoulder injury for much of this season as well. He will likely earn his playing time as a weakside safety, but like the outgoing Jerry Miles, we will list him here as well -- since these weakside safeties are often the deeper back-ups at corner.

There is a lot of time left for the Wildcats to add to the 2015 recruiting class, but to-date nobody has committed that is projected to play in the secondary.


(walk-ons in italics)

Outgoing: Jerry Miles, Joe Sarnese

Returning: Terrance Howell, Rasaan Stewart, Wes Smith, Matt Rushton, Rob Rolle, Zac Wilson, Lorenzo Fertitta, Shayne Jones, Nick Fernandez, Manny Aleshinloye, Matt McCann, Cameron McCurry

Incoming: None

Villanova will lose Joe Sarnese this offseason, as the starting safety graduates and ends his eligibility. The Wildcats relied on Sarnese to "quarterback" the defensive unit, making reads and ensuring everyone was lined up appropriately. That job will now be handed off to another player. The 'Cats will also miss some of his big play ability that resulted from good positioning and reads of what the offense was doing.

Returning, however, is practically everyone else. Cameron McCurry and Matt McCann will surely retain their positions as starters, with one of them potentially sliding over to free safety to take the place of Sarnese. While the 'Cats will lose some big plays from Sarnese, McCurry has shown a similar nose for the ball and should provide a good spark for the Villanova defense.

Filling the opening will be some combination of Shayne Jones, Wes Smith, Rasaan Stewart, Rob Rolle and Lorenzo Fertitta. Shayne Jones and Wes Smith served as back-ups on the depth chart to Sarnese and McCann, respectively, but don't be surprised if Stewart makes a run to start this season. He was one of the 'Cats top recruits a year ago, and saw action already as a freshman.

The position is deep by design, with the Wildcats being one of only a few programs to run the 3-3 stack defense. The unique line-up requires the Wildcats to carry a larger number of defensive backs. All of the returning players should play an important role in the shuffle, of course, with most being tagged as simply a "defensive back" on the depth chart, due to the program's need to move players from corner to safety and back the other way.