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Linebackers Highlight Wednesday's Outlook On Preseason

EDITOR'S NOTE: Today's segment is the eighth in a short series that will preview the 2018 West Chester University Golden Rams football team. Today's segment will include an overview of the linebackers. With an All-American returning, it goes without saying that this is going to be one of the strengths of the stop unit. Senior Tyler Morrissey (Springfield, Pa./Springfield-DELCO) is perhaps the top returning defensive player in the entire region – if not the conference. A team-best 137 tackles and 14 tackles for a loss, including seven sacks, is testament enough to the fact that Morrissey is around the ball on every play. With that, classmate Nydair Rouse (Philadelphia, Pa./Simon Gratz) also returns. He plays that rover position that is like a fifth defensive back, but still big enough and physical enough to be a linebacker. That tandem is extremely talented. The third inside linebacker position will go to sophomore Nate Barnes (Carlisle, Pa./Carlisle), who busted onto the scene as a true freshman a year ago and finished sixth on the team with 48 tackles and three pass breakups in the secondary. The coaching staff has asked him to bulk up and make the move from safety to inside linebacker. He has done that and will be a welcomed addition to the linebacking corps. "We asked him to put on 15 pounds, and he has," revealed Zwaan. "He looks really good. That gives us an awful lot of speed and athleticism at linebacker. "We will have a really, really talented front six," Zwaan said. "That will help us put pressure on the QB and help with our negative turnover ratio from a year ago. Last year, with inexperience in the secondary, teams could stay away from Nydair (Rouse) and Shaq (James). Now, they won't be able to do that, and that should help our entire defense as a whole be better." Senior Geoffrey Philippe (Philadelphia, Pa./Frankford) is also returning from an injury that limited his playing time in 2017. His season was cut short just as he was coming into his own as a linebacker. Healthy in 2018, Philippe is a more-than-capable reserve to Morrissey. He may be on the field in some defensive packages. Junior Quinten Cheyney (Kennett Square, Pa./Unionville) is another experience linebacker, who will work into the rotation at linebacker. He will also be a regular on the special teams' coverage units. "Both Geoff and Quin are smart football players," Zwaan pointed out. "Geoff is far enough removed from his injury that he is ready to go, and Quin is just a physical player." Red-shirt freshman Cole Zapf, a local product from Downingtown West High School, and classmate Nyeem Jones (Philadelphia, Pa./Ben Franklin) are each learning the linebacker position after being brought in as defensive backs. Either could fill that reserve role at the hybrid, or rover, position. If a first-year player squeezes into the rotation, look for Jackson Taylor (Glenside, Pa./Abington) or Nick Chapman (Hatboro, Pa./Hatboro-Horsham) to be the likely candidates. Junior-college transfer Kyle Boney (Emmaus, Pa./Emmaus) is another option. The Lackawanna Community College transfer looks good on tape. However, Zwaan said the coaches will need to take a look at him in person, before making a decision on him. "We will have to take a long look at (Taylor and Chapman) during camp," Zwaan conceded. "If they show that they can handle it, then they will get a shot. (Boney) may take over at the hybrid spot. He is both physical and athletic. But, we haven't seen him in person, yet."

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