This is part five of a six part season preview of the Villanova football team, each week there will be a new post focusing on a different position group.
Secondary- In Villanova's 3-3-5 defensive scheme, the defensive backs need to tackle like linebackers and cover like cornerbacks. This year, Villanova returns four of it's five starters from last year with only Ross Ventrone (who is currently with the New England Patriots) graduating. With such an experienced group returning, The 'Cats should be improve on the back end of the defense.
At Cornerback, Junior James Pitts appears to be a rising star. Pitts is a good Tackler who has a nose for the ball and is my pick to lead the team in interceptions. Opposite Pitts is rising Sophomore Eric Loper, last season as a true freshman, Loper broke into the starting lineup and ended up being a rock in the backline of the defense down the stretch. As good as James Pitts is, Loper could be even better. The third corner is a bit of a question mark as last year's third corner, Josh Potts is no longer with the team. So the most likely situation is that Kelvin Johnson will be the third corner with possibly a freshman (Craig James?) taking his place during the season.
The 'Cats are again loaded at safety, which is a pivotal position in this defense as the weak and strong safeties are surrogate linebackers that are used not only for run support, but are frequently sent on blitzes. At strong safety, John Dempsey returns for his senior season as the most seasoned player in the Villanova secondary. Last season Dempsey finished near the team lead in tackles, sacks tackles for loss and had a key interception that led to the winning field goal in the Temple game. Returning to the weak safety position will be senior Fred Maldonado, a player who blossomed after being switched to safety from corner in the 2009 offseason. Maldonado, who may have been the greatest high school player I have ever seen is strong and coverage and stout in run support and he also can get to the quarterback when called upon to blitz. Starting at free safety will be Sophomore Ronnie Akins, a player who shined last year in special teams duty who should be able to capably step into the spot vacated by the graduation of Ventrone. If Akins is to falter, Martel Moody, a fifth year senior with starting experience should be able to come in and play without issue.