As the disappointment of basketball season continues to wear off, it is time to get into full football mode. Jim Grobe's Demon Deacons have been conducting spring practice for the past couple weeks and the Spring Game is just under two weeks from today. Going into the 2009 season, there are several spots to be filled and issues to be resolved. Click through for a few of the developments that we will certainly be tracking over the next several months.
Obviously, the biggest issue facing the Deacs is the mass exodus from the star-studded, senior-laden defense of last year. Not only did the Deacons lose first-rounders Alphonso Smith and Aaron Curry, but they also face significant defections from other solid players whose value was often under-appreciated.
These include LBs Stanley Arnoux and Chantz McClinc, safeties Kevin Patterson and Chip Vaughn and defensive linemen Matt Robinson and Anthony Davis. While the defense may not be as strong next year, it certainly will be interesting to see which young players can step up and take over now that they have the chance. The following players should be among those that are ready to make the jump:
Linebackers - Hunter Haynes and Matt Woodlief. Both saw plenty of snaps last season, but now will be the main men at the linebacker spots. What Woodlief lacks in size, he makes up for in desire and he has a motor that never stops. Other guys that have a chance to make a name for themselves are rising seniors Jonathon Jones and Dominque Midgett, sophomore Gelo Orange and RS freshmen Riley Haynes and Joey Ehrman.
Defensive backs - One CB spot is definitely solid with Brandon Ghee, who is arguably Wake Forest's top returning defensive player. The other starting position is up for grabs, but Josh Bush has shown that he can be an impact player early in his career. Kenny Okoro, who received plenty of praise during his redshirt year, should push for plenty of snaps during the season as well.
At the safety position, it is likely that Alex Frye will be the featured player. He possesses great speed and has the potential to have a breakout season if he can stay on Grobe's good side. The other spot will likely be held by Chyl Quarles, but Junior Petit-Jean and John Stamper will have the opportunity to earn some playing time as well.
Defensive line - Unlike the other two areas, the defensive line returns multiple guys who have already seen significant playing time in their careers. The line will be anchored by defensive tackles Boo Robinson and the ever-intense John Russell. Boo had several outstanding games last year and will be one of the leaders of the defense this year. DE Kyle Wilbur showed flashes of greatness last year as a freshmen and, with continued work in the weight room, should have a fantastic career.
The other end is a concern for the Deacs. The consensus is that Tristan Dorty is ready to turn it up a notch, which would be a great sign going into next fall. The backup tackles will include huge freshman Ramon Booi and junior Michael Carter, while the ends are likely Tripp Russell and Michael Lockett.
Please comment below on any errors or omissions that I made as well as your own views about the 2009 Deacon defense!
Note: If the weather holds up we will be reporting on the second spring scrimmage, which takes place Thursday night at BB&T Field. Stay tuned for our look ahead at the other side of the ball soon!