When I was going through the roster to refresh my memory on the state of the Defensive Line this season, I was honestly shocked at how few names I recognized. It stands to reason, though; we had an extremely experienced, extremely good D-Line last year, anchored by now professional dream-killer (I hope, anyway) Duke Ejiofor.
Whether or not I recognize many names isn’t a huge deal, though. Linemen almost always red-shirt, especially at a program like Wake, and I honestly feel like anyone could blow up at any time.
Also, the names I did recognize either had big plays, played a lot of snaps, or both. Experience-wise, the line will likely be anchored by RS-JR Carlos “Boogie” Basham and Senior Chris Calhoun, along with RS-JR Elontae Bateman, and RS-JR Willie Yarbary.
Zeek has had some issues in the past with injuries, missing 4 games last year, not to mention his year long sabbatical the year before, but he has been a beast for us when he’s on the field though, so if he can stay healthy he should be a big factor for us as well.
Most of the unknowns come from the depth, but the problem there is that the depth of the line was one of our biggest strengths last season, and a drop in depth at even one slot in the line could prove problematic.
Still, with players like Boogie in place, I think we should be able to maintain some degree of continuity, and if we get even 65% of what the defensive line was last season, we should at least be okay.
The good news is that the staff has valued a deep substitution and rotation pattern over the past few years. This has given a lot of guys extremely valuable snaps here and there even when they are not starting, so while Ejiofor and Wendell Dun are gone, guys like Boogie, and Calhoun can hopefully step right in and contribute.
Calhoun and Rodney have been listed in the two deep since 2015, so it’s not exactly new territory for them. The line returns guys with 41 starts (20 from Rodney, 11 from Yarbury, 4 from Calhoun, 3 from Bateman, and 1 from Boogie).
In addition to the guys who should step in and be the starters, there are a handful of young players raring at the bit to prove their worth.
The biggest name that folks probably know there is four-star red-shirt freshman Mike Allen, but there are also two other red-shirt freshmen in Adam Winter and Tyler Williams who will bring quality depth.
When you throw in “older” guys like Manny Walker and LaRonde’ Liverpool, there are enough bodies there to expect another year of deep rotations and productivity up front.
It would be surprising to see a true freshman get a lot of playing time aside from the snaps that the staff will get them throughout their four games with the new redshirt rule, but there is always a guy who stands out and impresses.
The defensive line position is without a doubt a place where the Deacs have to replace some of the best productivity they received on the field last year, but the horses are ready to run and fill those gaps.
What do you guys think? Do any of you know more about some of the young bloods than I do that you can shed some light on? Do share, and as always, Go Deacs!