As noted previously, this will be one of, if not THE biggest X factors for the Wake Forest Defense coming into this year. The linebacker position has been sort of a strength with solid players coming through but this year feels a bit different, and that’s been noted by the staff.
Dave Clawson has gone on record by saying RS-JR Justin Strnad is the number one linebacker in the program. Afterwards, things get a bit interesting. I stray from the word “bad” because that would be a misnomer, and do a disservice to this talented group of players, but they are certainly raw.
Les Johns over at Demon Deacon Digest also had an article back in April that indicated the linebackers were showing improvement as a unit (subscription required, and highly recommended).
When looking at the linebackers for Wake we look for 3 positions, the MIKE, the BUCK, and the ROVER.
The MIKE is what we’ve seen stud Marquel Lee absolutely dominate in. The Mike is your middle linebacker.
Your BUCK, gets your man to man situations with the running back as well as a hand-down TE (kind of your two-way they need to be as effective against the run as well as they are in coverage).
While the ROVER is really your speedster flying around in coverage, as well as kind of the big hitter/tempo-setter on the defense.
Demitrius Kemp seems one of the most likely to start at the rover at his size as he allows the Deacs to either play him there. He started all thirteen games there last season, so I believe he will stay in that role.
If he needed to he could slide into a different spot on the linebacker corps to keep his play-making abilities on the field. As we saw against N.C. State last year, he can make some big plays.
I would expect Ja’Cquez Williams to get some time at the ROVER spot as well, as he had some good play last year.
At the BUCK and MIKE we look at people like DJ Taylor, Nate Mays, Jake Simpson, and Jeffrey Burley. Burley was my pick last year to get a lot of PT as a freshman but an injury derailed him for all of last year (the same has unfortunately happened to Chase Monroe who would’ve been my pick for a break out year this season).
DJ Taylor was one of the better players in the Spring game, but the linebackers could be somewhat of a revolving door from now until the season starts and someone solidifies their spot.
Like I said in the beginning, this position isn’t bad, all of the options have a vast amount of talent. The issue comes with reps and playing behind established names for a couple of years has made it hard hard to break through. Well this is their opportunity to grasp their spot and show us why they deserve to be the next Brandon Chubb, the next Marquel Lee, the next Grant Dawson, the next Jaboree Williams.
Establish their name and set the example.
What do you guys think about the linebacker corps for this year?
Who do you think starts?
How do you think they fare?