To refrain from being a broken record at this point, Wake Forest is going for it all this season and not going to let injuries be the reason they don’t break through after back-to-back years of that issue.
Yesterday morning, Malik Mustapha, a DB that played for Richmond this past season, committed to join Lyle Hemphill’s group on the back end. Mustapha held offers from App State and Louisville, while also receiving interest from Washington State and Notre Dame.
The safety room, and I’m going to throw ROVER in there as well, has had some turmoil the last year or so. Luke Masterson went from a high safety, to ROVER, back to high safety, and now is ultimately a BUCK linebacker. Traveon Redd excelled at ROVER, but this year will be a starter as a high safety. We’re currently awaiting the return of Nasir Greer in a month or so, Nick Andersen burst onto the scene, while guys like Zion Keith and Coby Davis flashed but were oft-injured last season. ROVER seems very set with AJ Williams and Chelen Garnes progressing well, but that’s about the only sure thing.
So what is a guy like Mustapha going to bring to this room to make an impact both in 2021 and the future?
A complaint I’ve heard the last few years is that the team lacks the speed to keep up with modern offenses. Well if that sounds like something you’ve said, Mustapha is right up your alley. Malik ran a verified 4.5 40 his senior year of high school, and that speed jumps out on the tape at Richmond. Playing more of a pure center fielder position there at times, he gets to the football extremely quick and has zero issues keeping up with wideouts when he’s asked to serve as a corner.
Whether in the run or pass game, Mustapha’s ability to tackle is always on clear display. Once he gets his hands on you, you really aren’t going anywhere, which is impressive for someone his size.
When looking at PFF, Mustapha didn’t record a single missed tackle across his 4 games and almost 200 snaps and received an 89.2 tackling grade. For all qualified DBs, that grade would’ve been the 6th highest in the FBS and 2nd in the ACC. For a team that had their fair share of missed tackles last year, this is a welcomed addition.
Cross-training is necessary in today’s NCAA, especially as injuries are just part of the game and when you’re working on razor-thin margins like Wake is, you need safeties that can take snaps at corner, corners that can take snaps at safety, and both who can take snaps at ROVER. Mustapha comes with a good enough skill set and speed that he can, and will be asked to, play high safety, nickel corner, and even ROVER in a pinch. Think of the versatility we love in guys like Coby Davis and Zion Keith, that’s the sort of athlete that Wake needs and is getting here. While I expect him to mostly serve as safety/nickel depth this first year, if the injury bug hits say ROVER, it’s not as easy as just moving Masterson or Redd over. Safety, without a healthy Greer or one of bodies there making a jump, isn’t at a top tier level at this point in time, and the only real standout body is Redd, so you can’t justify moving him. Linebacker is even more razor-thin, and I’d still like to see them get a year’s worth of health in the portal there, if you move Masterson, you’re really throwing a true freshman into the fire behind Chase Jones. Getting Mustapha, and putting a little bit of weight on him anyways, allows you to move him around and fill the gaps.
Same point as the Kevin Pointer transfer. By the time he’s a junior, Ja’Sir Taylor/Traveon Redd/Isaiah Wingfield/Ty Hardimon/Nasir Greer/Coby Davis will all have exhausted their eligibility and will either be in the NFL or onto the next stage of their lives, not to mention any other attrition. Getting a younger guy who has shown he can already handle the stressors of college athletics is so valuable. Mustapha comes in with all 4 years of eligibility left and can even take a redshirt year for a 5th if something happens.
As a whole, I really like the pickup. While there were definitely bigger fish out there for Wake to grab for a year stop-gap, with as many reaches and projects Wake likes to take on, which isn’t a bad thing, it just helps to balance out the ones who don’t pan out with guys who have shown they can play so you aren’t scrambling for options from time to time.
Welcome to Winston, Malik!