Wake is tasked with replacing all three starters from last season’s defensive line which provided a relatively stout run defense alongside an ability to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Clearly the loss of Nikita Whitlock has the potential to make this corps one of the biggest differences from a season ago, but with the talent of the incoming freshmen alongside some transitions from linebacker (Zachary Allen and Wendell Dunn) there are solid players, albeit fresh faces, coming in to replace the three lost starters.
Desmond Floyd (RS-Jr.): Floyd, a native of Jonesville, South Carolina, enters his junior year having played in 16 games over the previous two seasons while recording a total of 14 tackles, two sacks, and two tackles for loss. Floyd will be expected to contribute on the outside this year and it will be interesting to see how the outside linemen are able to fit into Clawson’s hybrid and fluid defensive scheme. At 6-5", 255 lbs, Floyd poses a threat for opposing offenses with his ability to get off the edge and force the quarterback to make a quick, hopefully ill-timed, decision.
Zachary Allen (RS-Sr.): Perhaps the greatest returning asset for the Deacons in the defensive front seven, senior Zachary Allen will make the shift to the front line to help shore up an area which will have to deal with the gap left by Nikita Whitlock’s departure. Allen has had an up-and-down tenure at Wake Forest, best underscored by his missing the 2013 season due to off-the-field issues, but when he is in shape he is an athletic freak who is able to terrorize the opposition. He has recorded 66 tackles over his 24 career games in a Demon Deacon uniform along with one sack, two and a half tackles for loss, a forced fumble, and an interception. Along with Floyd, Allen is slated to start at the end of spring practice.
Wendell Dunn (RS-Fr.): After redshirting his first year on campus under the final season of Jim Grobe, Dunn is set to begin his four years at Wake Forest and will be expected to contribute as a rotational player at the defensive end position. Dunn had offers on the table from Connecticut, Central Florida, and West Virginia before settling on the Demon Deacons. He has decent speed on the outside, running a 4.7 forty-yards and will see a good amount of playing time but will potentially need time to adjust from an off-season shift from outside linebacker to defensive end.
Sheldon Lewinson (RS-So.): Lewinson, perhaps best known for his commitment video, where he stated he would be a Demon Deacon from his family farm, we will certainly see some action this season behind Floyd and Allen. He has not yet played for the Demon Deacons so it will be interesting to see where he fits in with the other defensive ends. Lewinson chose Wake over Temple and Western Michigan.
Duke Ejiofor (RS-Fr.): Like Dunn, Ejiofor sat out last season to redshirt and enters this year with four seasons of eligibility remaining. Duke had offers from Houston, Rice, Kansas, and TCU and at 6’4", 220 lbs will be looking to leverage his size into garnering multiple blockers from the offensive line to drag towards his side. He will see some time as a reserve defensive end and is just an injury away from seeing major playing time. Ejiofor has a bright future as a Demon Deacon.
Ali Lamot (RS-Fr.): Lamot is another redshirt freshman who can play either the outside linebacker or defensive end position. In his senior season at Eastern Alamance he recorded 17 sacks (tied for 4th in NC) and also finished second in the 110-meter hurdles in the spring of 2012. His athleticism and versatility could be an asset for the Deacs.
Josh Banks (RS-So.): Banks appeared in ten games last year for the Deacs, recording 13 tackles, two for a loss, and one sack. Coming out of spring he is slated as a starter at the position, but with competition from not only Tylor Harris but also incoming freshmen this could potentially be a very fluid situation moving into the fall. Banks also had three pass breakups from the defensive end position but has looked solid in a shift to defensive tackle.
Johnny Garcia (RS-Sr.): Garcia has taken perhaps the longest road to his senior season after suffering through redshirt seasons, injuries, and a position switch from tight end to defensive line. He is currently looking at a starting spot at the defensive tackle position alongside Josh Banks. Last season Garcia played in every game, primarily on special teams, and had one assisted tackle as well as 30 kick return yards. We don’t anticipate him to be taking any kicks this year.
Tylor Harris (Jr.): Harris did not redshirt under Grobe and actually started three games a true freshman two years ago before seemingly falling out of graces last season with the staff. He still played in eleven games recording ten tackles, two for a loss, and one sack last season and will certainly be in the mix for a starting job entering his junior year. The defensive tackle position appears to have some good depth, particularly with the caliber of freshmen coming in, and Harris coming in as the first guy off the bench is good news for the Demon Deacon front line.
Rashawn Shaw - (6’3", 240 lbs) Fort Pierce Central (Florida)
Rashawn Shaw is the recruit who really got the momentum going for Wake Forest when he flipped his commitment from Louisville to Wake Forest. Shaw was named 1st-team all-state in Florida's Class 8A, which is about the highest level of competition of high school football in the country. In addition to being named 1st-team all-state, Shaw was also named all-area Defensive Player of the Year. It's easy to see why given his senior stats of 95 tackles, 17 sacks and 27 tackles for loss. Shaw had 28 sacks over the course of his sophomore and junior seasons. Shaw is a tremendous pickup for Wake Forest and will likely not be redshirted.
Isaiah "Zeek" Rodney - (6’1", 265 lbs) South Pointe HS (South Carolina)
Zeek Rodney is another major pickup for the Deacs. The star defensive tackle chose Wake Forest over Boston College and Syracuse. Much like Shaw, it was critical for this staff to be able to beat out ACC opponents for prized recruits. Rodney has put up excellent numbers throughout the course of his high school career. As a sophomore, he accumulated 94 tackles and 17 tackles for loss. As a junior, the numbers rose to 26 sacks and 17 tackles for loss. His senior season he was dealing with hamstring issues, but he still recorded 82 tackles, 14 sacks and 17 tackles for loss. Due to the loss of all three starters on the defensive line from last year, Rodney will almost certainly be a rotation player throughout the year.
Chris Stewart - (6’3", 245 lbs) Petal HS (Mississippi)
Chris Stewart (formerly Chris Knight) had more than 90 tackles during his senior season and was named to all-area and all-region teams. Stewart will most likely redshirt this season and should provide much needed depth for us as his career progresses. Stewart chose Wake Forest over Louisiana-Monroe.
Willie Yarbary - (6’2", 270 lbs) Richmond Academy (Georgia)
Yarbary is Wake Forest's most recent commitment and is a recent flip from Indiana University. Yarbary had more than 100 tackles and 9.5 sacks during his senior season and was named Region 3-4A Defensive Player of the Year. Yarbary has a big frame and will enter college at an already well-built 270 pounds. With his frame he has the ability to add even more weight and could develop into a good run-stopper for us in his career. Like Stewart, Yarbary will likely redshirt although it remains to be seen how Clawson handles the redshirting philosophy.