Wake Forest has a number of positional units that are either talented but young, or talented but not very deep. At the linebacker position, however, Wake Forest has an excellent combination of veteran talent and quality depth. Who are the best players in this unit and who are the future impact players at the position?
Wake Forest returns all three starting linebackers from a season ago. I expect Wake to start redshirt seniors Brandon Chubb and Hunter Williams, as well as junior Marquel Lee. Each of the three had monster years last year. Unfortunately, part of that can be attributed to the fact that the defense was on the field so often last season. Chubb had 109 tackles, Lee had 101, and Williams had 60. The three combined to average 22 tackles per game. Lee, as only a true sophomore, led the team with 12 tackles for loss. Chubb will be a high draft pick next spring, and Hunter Williams has a phenomenal story. He started his Wake Forest career as a walk-on, and last year he was named a team captain. Last year the Wake Forest defense was built around the secondary, specifically the corners. This year, I anticipate the defense being centered around this unit.
Jaboree Williams enrolled early in January of 2014, and contributed last year as a true freshman. In total, the Florida native finished with 13 tackles. He was a 3-star recruit, who chose Wake over Syracuse. He mostly contributed on special teams last year, and that may predominantly be his role this year, but I fully anticipate him starting as a junior and senior.
Another key reserve this year will be redshirt freshman Zack Wary. Wary was a critical piece to Clawson's 2014 recruiting class, as Wary chose Wake over his home-state Arkansas Razorbacks. Wary is a very smart player, who used last year to add weight to his frame. He will be a key reserve this year, and I will not be surprised if he starts in 2015.
Rounding out the two deep is Grant Dawson, who, like Hunter Williams, initially joined the team as a walk-on. He finished with 15 tackles last season, and should be another contributor to the special teams unit this season.
Teddy Matthews had 20 tackles in 2013, but had only 4 in 2014. I don't know exactly what to expect out of him in 2015, but he will be a player who can compete for playing time. Kalin McNeil, who redshirted last year, might still be a year away. The redshirt freshman only recorded 1 tackle in the spring game.
Nate Mays is a player Clawson believes can play either inside linebacker position for the Demon Deacons. He suffered an injury late last year and is a likely candidate to redshirt. The other freshman linebacker in the 2015 recruiting class is Justin Strnad. He is a tall and rangy athlete who will player the outside linebacker/rover position for the Deacs. Given Wake's current situation, I expect him to redshirt.
Stay tuned throughout the week as we provide a more thorough breakdown of each linebacker.