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Wake Forest hires Purdue DC Brad Lambert as new Defensive Coordinator

Alexa play Coming Home

EagleBank Bowl - Navy v Wake Forest Photo by Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images

A darling of the Jim Grobe era here at Wake Forest, Dave Clawson has decided to tap Brad Lambert as his new defensive coordinator.

Lambert brings a wealth of experience with him: he was a position coach at UGA from 1996 to 2000, coached Wake’s linebackers from 2001 to 2007 before moving to defensive coordinator and DBs coach from 2008 to 2010. He departed Wake to be the first ever head coach from Chartlotte from 2011 to 2018, before heading to Marshall(where he started his career) as their defensive coordinator, while coaching linebackers in 2019 and safeties in 2020. His most recent stop was Purdue this year where he was one of three defensive coordinators, headed the linebackers, and was the primary X’s and O’s coach. His role was in short, to come in and fix a porous Boilermaker defense.

Wake’s new defensive coordinator has done a fine job of turnarounds at both of his last stops running a 4-3 defense with one of the 4 lineman being a stand up rusher.

At Marshall:

-Took total defense from 25th nationally(338 YPG) in 2018 to 2nd nationally(279 YPG) in 2020

-Took scoring defense from 27th nationally(21.8 PPG) to 1st nationally(13 PPG)

-Took passing yards allowed from 73rd nationally(234 YPG) to 11th nationally(183 YPG)

At Purdue:

-Scoring defense went from 29.8 PPG in 2020 to 22.38 Points per game, good for 34th nationally

-Stop Rate(% of a defense’s drives that end in punts, turnovers, or a turnover on downs) went from 58.3%(87th nationally) to 68.9%(38th nationally)

There are a couple of preliminary questions here that while not all are :

  1. How does Lambert plan to flip the linebacker room?

It goes without saying that Wake hasn’t gotten the production out of their linebackers since Tyler Santucci left, or even Clark Lea. Lambert is excellent at developing and maximizing talent, with that being said, he hasn’t been the forefront of recruiting for a while even as a DC. At Purdue he took a bit of a backseat when it came to recruiting and at Marshall he wasn’t necessarily competiting with top schools for guys. If Lambert sticks to his 4-3 defense, Wake is going to need both development and a talent infusion in order to take that next step. For the level we all want Wake to be at he needs to leverage his Charlotte and Georgia connections to the best of his abilities in order for this defense to succeed. Those are two areas Wake has to do better in and Lambert has the ties to boost recruiting from those areas.

2. How does he deal with a fast paced offense?

Purdue this year was 56th in plays per minute at 2.34 PPM. That put them around the likes of Alabama, Fresno State, FSU, and Mizzou in terms of pace. Not quite the fastest of teams. Marshall in 2020 would slot in around 81st this year which surrounds them with App State, Mississippi State, Vy, and BC, all pretty slow teams. Wake was 4th in the country in pace. There were only five teams this year that finished in the top 50 in Points per game, Stop Rate, and plays per minute: Marshall, Pitt, Oklahoma State, UTSA, and Ohio State. It’s not an impossible task by any means, and the goal should be a top 50 defense, but it’s something that’s astoundingly harder than people seem to realize, and is going to pose a new challenge for Lambert, who seems up for the task.

While I don’t think there was a slam dunk, home run hire, this is a pretty damn good move to me. I also don’t think there is one, especially given the parameters of the seach meant that the DC had to not wipe the current defensive staff and the speed of the offense made the job unnatractive to some. Lambert’s track record of development and fixing defenses are double pluses to me, and even with the needed roster upheaval, he should shore up the defense even a little. This isn’t a fall back hire, Clawson went out and got his guy. Now lets see what he can do in the portal and on the field.

Welcome back home Brad!