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ESPN Names Marquel Lee and Brad Watson as ACC Defensive Breakout Players

ESPN is bullish on two Wake Forest juniors.

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN's David Hale is getting ready for the college football season by taking a look at potential breakout players in the ACC. Yesterday he released his offensive breakout players, but unfortunately no Wake Forest players made his list. Today he released his list of defensive breakout performers, and two Demon Deacons made the list - linebacker Marquel Lee and cornerback Brad Watson.

Marquel Lee

How does a guy with 101 tackles last season make it onto this list? Hard to say, but Lee still received a goose egg when it came to media votes. Don’t be surprised if he ups his game even more in 2015 and forces the outsiders to take notice.

I agree with Hale's assessment here that it's difficult to put a player with Lee's production on this list. Lee was excellent last season as a true sophomore, and he is a key reason why Wake Forest will have one of the best linebacker units in the ACC. Lee is a legitimate NFL prospect, in my opinion, and is a very good athlete. I believe defensive coordinator, Mike Elko, will be even more aggressive with Lee this season, and I expect to see him improve on his 4 sacks from last season.

Brad Watson

Kevin Johnson anchored an underrated Wake defense at corner last season. This season, Watson will step into a similar role. While the unit won’t hinge on man-to-man matchups quite as much, coach Dave Clawson is excited to see Watson take the next step in 2015.

I also agree with David Hale about his Brad Watson selection. Watson came to Wake Forest in 2013 and played as a true freshman. He's a very good athlete, who just did not have as much of an opportunity for playing time given that he was behind Kevin Johnson and Bud Noel. Watson missed spring practice with a hand injury, but he should be ready for fall camp. I'm excited to watch his role grow this season.

Other Candidates

Are there any other Wake Forest players, defensive or offensive, who you all believe will have breakout seasons? My best guess for an offensive breakout player would be wide receiver Cortez Lewis. I'm not sure if redshirt freshmen count as breakout players, but he had an excellent spring, and I expect a lot from him this season. On the defensive side, I believe Josh Banks will improve on last season's strong sophomore campaign.