Game Week: Wake Forest Defensive Preview

Yesterday, BJohnston took a good look at what the Deacs have to offer on the offensive side of the ball.  Today, we go over to the other side to see who Coach Grobe and staff think will be the answers to several questions after last year's defense proved to be porous at times. 

Click through for a look at the 2010 defense...

Defensive Line

The guys up front have a couple very big holes to fill with the losses of Boo Robinson and emotional leader John Russell.  In to fill the interior lineman slots are redshirt freshmen Frank Souza and Nikita Whitlock as well as Ramon Booi and Kris Redding.  John Gallagher was slated to also see a lot of time at DT, but has an undisclosed illness and may miss several weeks.  While vastly undersized for the position (listed at a generous 5'11 235), Whitlock is a playmaker and will be hard for the Deacs to keep off the field with his non-stop motor.  He was Texas 5A defensive player of the year for a reason.

The ends are more experienced with Kyle Wilber and Tristan Dorty returning.  Wake's defense was never the same last year after Wilber's injury, so it will be nice to have him back at full speed.  His ability to get to the QB and make game-changing plays should be a key ingredient for this year's squad.  Fan-favorite Gelo Orange should also see plenty of snaps after gaining some experience last year.

Overall, stopping the run will be a concern for Wake Forest, especially against teams with over-powering offensive lines.  Souza, Whitlock and company are getting thrown to the wolves with little to no experience.  While this will likely pay dividends in the future, it may lead to some growing pains early on.

Linebackers

Last season, Wake's linebackers struggled to make plays and generally lacked speed.  Hopefully this year's unit, led by senior Hunter Haynes, will step up to the plate and silence the critics.  Hunter, who will now start at MLB, will be joined on one side by his brother, Riley Haynes, and on the other by Joey Ehrmann.  This unit promises to be faster than last year's edition, but as playmakers they are all pretty much unproven.  Ehrmann, however, was a bright spot last season and even used his quickness to make a few plays off the edge as a very small defensive end.  While he is still only listed at 215 pounds, do not be surprised if he steps up and becomes a team leader for the Deacon defense.

Other guys who will see some snaps include highly touted redshirt freshman Justin Jackson, the experienced Matt Woodlief, Scott Betros and Lee Malchow, who has recovered from a broken leg suffered last season.  In an effort to increase his speed, Woodlief has dropped some pounds since last season and has impressed Coach Grobe thus far this fall.  This is definitely something to look for as the season progresses.

Secondary

After turning some heads last season, look for Kenny Okoro to continue his rise at corner this season.  The Greensboro native seems to have a knack for making big plays and may be Wake's next lockdown corner.  On the other side, Josh Bush has made the move back to corner after playing safety last season.  It should be nice for him to get back to the position that he was recruited to play.  Other corners that will see the field include Michael Williams and one or two of the true freshmen -- Kevin Johnson, A.J. Marshall and Merrill Noel.  It seems that Johnson and Marshall are most likely to play this season, which is obviously big news for a newcomer on a Jim Grobe coached team.

Wake fans will also see some new faces at safety this season.  After nearly getting his redshirt burned last season, Daniel Mack will finally make his debut against Presby.  Currently, he is listed as the other starter alongside experienced junior Cyhl Quarles.  The other contender for starting safety is the much maligned Alex Frye.  Frye has finally been off Grobe's bad list for the past several months and hopefully will be able to turn it up a notch in his final year.  Hard-hitting Duran Lowe is the other new face at safety that Coach Lambert will get a look at this season.

Overall

As you can see, Wake fans will be flipping through their media guides early and often to figure out who all these new numbers are on defense.  While the talent and speed continues to get better through improved recruiting, this bunch will have to build some chemistry quickly to help Wake control the game and grab some W's.  While this unit is sure to have its ups and downs, I am excited to finally watch these guys prove themselves on the field.  It should be an upgrade from last year's edition, but will it be enough to help out the Deacons' new-look offense?  Only time will tell.

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