The Wake Forest football team did not have many seniors last season, but the ones they did have were major contributors. One of those players was Brandon Chubb, who was a first-team All-ACC member in 2015. He is very likely to be drafted in the upcoming NFL Draft, and accumulated an astonishing 107 tackles last season. Ryan Janvion, who was second on the team in tackles, had 35 less tackles than Chubb. Given Chubb's high level of play, how do the Demon Deacons go about replacing a player of his caliber?
The short answer is that you don't. You do not replace Brandon Chubb's unbelievable production with just one player. However, the one player who should have the most impact is senior Marquel Lee. Lee finished 4th on the team in tackles with 71, but had more tackles for loss (10) than did Brandon Chubb (8.5). Lee is bigger and the better athlete, but Chubb has been the more productive player over the past three years. In 2014, however, Lee accumulated 101 tackles compared to Chubb's 109.
So Lee will need to be the focal point, but there are other linebackers who have to step up. The top candidates there are Jaboree Williams and Zack Wary. Both were members of the 2014 recruiting class, which was Clawson's first at Wake Forest. Jaboree originally committed tow Wake Forest while Jim Grobe was still the head coach at Wake, but Clawson was quickly able to re-recruit Jaboree and secure his commitment. Wary was not being recruiting by Wake Forest until Clawson arrived. Williams was a consensus 3-star prospect out of Fort Lauderdale, who was ranked as the 65th best inside linebacker in the 2014 recruiting class, and is a junior. Wary was a consensus 3-star prospect out of Arkansas, who was ranked as the 37th best inside linebacker in the 2014 recruiting class, and is a redshirt sophomore.
In 2014, Williams played in all 12 games, mostly on special teams, and accumulated 13 tackles. In 2015, he accumulated the exact same statistics, and did see some increased playing time at linebacker. Wary played in 8 games and recorded 12 tackles. As of now, I expect that Williams to start, but there will probably a lot more substitutions at linebacker than we saw in previous years. Other linebackers in the mix will probably be Grant Dawson and Nate Mays. Together, combined with improved pressure from the defensive line, Wake Forest should be able to mostly mitigate the loss of Chubb.
One would also expect, that the offense will continue to improve and that Wake will be less reliant upon the defense.
The Spring Game will be on April 9th and will be broadcast on ESPN3. That will be an excellent opportunity to see how Williams and Wary look at linebacker.