LOWF or Little Ole’ Wake Forest.
A common phrase from people who don’t know much about our beloved school. The smallest Power-5 Division 1 school, Wake Forest University will always most certainly be overlooked by national media types. However, despite the small enrollment numbers, the Demon Deacs always have players in the league and this year is unique with two drafted players that have opportunities to play significantly.
In addition to the new draftees, the aforementioned are just a few of the fellow Deacs that are looking to make an impact in training camp and the upcoming NFL Season.
A cornerback selected in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft, Johnson has been a key contributor for the Texans defense that also boasts J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Even with the Texans spending big money on defense, Johnson has a role as many teams continue to play a lot of nickel defense (extra defensive back).
Sadly, Johnson has battled many injuries in his young career and performed relatively poorly in 2017.
The lowest-graded cornerback in the NFL this season according to @PFF? Texans Kevin Johnson. He'll see a lot of JuJu and Martavis Bryant this week.— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) December 19, 2017
However, despite the “off” year, the Texans have enough faith and trust in Johnson to rebound that they have picked up his fifth year option. Look for Johnson to regain his form and hopefully stay healthy.
Sticking with the Texans defense, former Wake Forest EDGE rusher Duke Ejiofor was selected at the top of the sixth round. Considering himself a Houston local, Ejiofor is close to his childhood home. Many were surprised Duke fell in the draft but some was attributed to injury.
The Texans landed a calculated pass-rusher in Duke Ejiofor. pic.twitter.com/fokgIuG7XE— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 5, 2018
Ejiofor may have a chance to compete for a starting role, which would only continue to show the continued success of Coach Clawson’s development of talent in Winston-Salem.
The former Deac wide receiver/punt returner for the Baltimore Ravens, Campanaro was sadly released after four years in Baltimore. Drafted in the 7th round in 2014, Campanaro was marred by injuries after showing flashes of big-play potential.
With nothing but gratitude for his hometown team, Campanaro looks to get a fresh start in Tennessee with Marcus Mariota and company.
A surprise out of training camp last year in Oakland, Marquel Lee started six games for the Raiders last season. Drafted to compete for time in the middle linebacker spot, Lee was in and out of the lineup in Jack Del Rio’s last year as head coach. Entering camp this season, Lee has a chance to make an impact and while early, new coaching regime and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther mentioned Marquel Lee by name as a player with a great offseason so far.
Look for Lee to be in the rotation at the minimum for the new Raiders defense.
Jessie Bates III
The highest Demon Deacon draft pick in 2018, Bates went to the Bengals. While the Bengals boast two high-salary starting safeties, the current NFL environment forces defenses to play a lot of defensive backs. One thing in Bates’ favor is his impact on special teams as he may be able to make a huge impact as a punt returner from the get-go.
"The experience here was great, the way this program has changed in 2 years has been amazing. I think coach Clawson for everything he's done for me and giving me the opportunity to play at Wake Forest."- NFL draft prospect Jessie Bates— 730 The Game (@730TheGame) March 23, 2018
Listen: https://t.co/U32vnwRSIv pic.twitter.com/iF3fVKiL73
Bates is likely going to play in every game but not start. The Bengals are basically in a nickel defense for most games so with that in mind, Bates will likely be the extra defensive back in that situation. Look for the Bengals to use Bates a lot as a matchup man or center field role.