Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Villanova Football 2011 Preview Part Five: Secondary

This is part five of a multiple part season preview. Each one will focus on a different position group, and it will all wrap up with a preview of the game against Pennsylvania Government Waste (Temple) a day or two before the game.

Despite losing three very good players in John Dempsey, Martel Moody and Fred Maldonado to graduation, the defensive backfield looks to be one of the strengths of the 2011 Villanova football team.

Cornerback: Now beginning his third full season as a starter, senior captain James Pitts has little left to prove on the field. Pitts is by far the best returning player in the secondary. His superlative ball skills combined with his competence in run support have made him invaluable to the deep playoff runs of the last three seasons. Now if they would only let him play man coverage once in a while..

Sophomore Craig James will start at the other corner position. James mostly played on special teams last season, so what he brings to the table is largely a mystery to everyone except the coaches. One would hope that he's at least competent.

Backing up both Pitts and James and cornerback will be Leighton Dennis, a sophomore who saw spot duty last season

Safety: The starter at free safety will be junior Ronnie Akins. After playing strictly on special teams as a freshman in '09, Akins was given an opportunity to start last season, but wound up being overtaken by Martel Moody. With little or no experience on the depth chart, expect to see Akins hold on to his starting job.

At the weak safety position will be junior Eric Loper, a converted cornerback. I don't know the rationale behind switching Loper to safety, but cornerbacks aren't nearly as easy to come by as safeties, and unless Loper struggled in coverage last season, there seems to be little to no reason to make this move.

At strong safety will be redshirt freshman Shane Harris. A high school teammate of James Pitts at Montclair High School in New Jersey, Harris is a great unknown, but nothing I saw in practice gave me too much cause for concern.

This group could be the difference between a five win team and a nine win team. We'll have to wait and see.

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