2014 Wake Preview: What You Need To Know
Wake Forest CB Merrill Noel
Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About Wake Forest (Getty Images)
What You Need To Know...
Wake Forest Preview
2014 Depth Chart & Unit Rankings To Come This Summer
What You Need To Know About The Offense: Wake Forest was home to one of the worst offenses in America last season, averaging just 18 points and 291 yards per game. There's absolutely no evidence to suggest similar results won't be repeated in 2014. Beyond the obvious challenges of learning a new system from a new staff, the Deacons are painfully light on proven players. The quarterbacks are inexperienced. The likely running back, Orville Reynolds, played flanker last season. And the wide receiver with the most seasoning, E.J. Scott, recently transferred over from Virginia. Dave Clawson and coordinator Warren Ruggiero will get there at some point, as they shift from the old spread to a new no-huddle attack. But it's going to take a lot of time and patience. In the meantime, Wake will spend this season installing the new playbook, while remaining on the lookout for playmakers capable of sparking a moribund offense in 2014 and beyond.
What You Need To Know About The Defense: Offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero ought to get battle pay this fall for the task he's undertaking. Mike Elko, his counterpart on defense, won't have quite as daunting a challenge this season. The Deacons were underrated defensively in 2013, ranking 31st nationally in total D and 38th in scoring D. Yeah, the unit must replace key players, none more important than perennial All-ACC NG Nikita Whitlock. But Elko proved while at Bowling Green that he's an up-and-comer in the coaching ranks. His 2013 Falcons were the consummate overachievers, grinding out a national top 10 finish in both total defense and scoring defense. Elko's unit will move from a 3-4 to a 4-2-5 that tries to exploit the program's range and athleticism. In 2014, Wake Forest will get progressively stronger going from front to back. While the D-line will not be ACC-caliber, the defensive backfield will be sneaky-good. Just about everyone returns to the secondary, including all-star candidates Kevin Johnson, Merrill Noel and Ryan Janvion.
Players You Need To Know
1. CB Kevin Johnson, Sr.
Johnson has continuously improved while in Winston-Salem, a trend the program hopes will culminate in a 2014 season that attracts NFL attention. He's coming off his best season in a Deacon uniform, turning 58 tackles, three interceptions and a team-high dozen pass breakups into honorable mention All-ACC recognition. Johnson breaks nicely on throws and his fundamentals in coverage are sound. Plus, at 6-1 and 175 pounds, he has the length needed to neutralize the taller receivers on the league.
2. CB Merrill Noel, Sr.
Noel has one more year to recapture his 2011 form, when he was named Freshman All-American and the ACC's Defensive Newcomer of the Year after getting his hands on 21 passes. In 2012, he didn't play at full strength, and opposing quarterbacks tried to avoid him last season. But he's entering 2014, and there aren't many free passes elsewhere in the Wake Forest secondary. The ball-hawking 5-10, 180-pound Noel started all but one game a year ago, chipping in with 53 tackles, 2.5 stops for loss, six pass breakups and team-highs with three picks and three forced fumbles.
3. LB Brandon Chubb, Jr.
Chubb took a big step forward in his development last season, excelling as a 12-game starter at middle linebacker. He finished second on the team with 88 tackles, including three behind the line, to lay the groundwork for what should be a productive second-half to his Deacon career. Chubb is a solid 6-1, 240-pound hitter, with the instincts to sniff out running plays. He's capable of reaching 100 tackles this season as one of the leaders of the front seven.
4. S Ryan Janvion, Soph.
Early indications are that Wake Forest mined a real gem out of Penbroke Pines, Fla. two years ago. Janvion didn't just start every game at strong safety as a redshirt freshman. He led the Demon Deacons with 95 tackles, including a career-best 14 versus hometown Miami and Vanderbilt, to earn honorable mention All-ACC. While only 5-11 and 190 pounds, he roams the secondary like he's a linebacker. Now that Janvion is a year older, the staff is looking for more big plays from its precocious second-year starter.
5. RB Orville Reynolds, Sr.
Reynolds is arguably the most dangerous offensive weapon on the roster, but the former staff struggled to maximize his breakaway speed and shiftiness. Jim Grobe had him at flanker in 2013, but Dave Clawson is relocating him to his original position, running back. The 5-9, 185-pound Reynolds started six of the nine games he appeared in last fall, rushing for 36 yards and making a dozen receptions for 166 yards and two touchdowns.
6. OT Dylan Intemann, Jr.
Now that Steven Chase and Frank Souza have graduated, Intemann is Wake Forest's new veteran of the offensive line. The former three-star recruit started the final four games of his rookie year and all 12 games last season. Intemann is 6-5 and 310 pounds, with the arm length and the footwork to hold up against quality pass rushers. Like his fellow Deacon blockers, he'll need to up the ante this fall to support the remade backfield.
7. C Cory Helms, Soph.
The Deacons went young at the pivot last season, starting Helms as a true freshman in 11 of 12 games. Since his competency grew as the season progressed, the lineman and his offense are going to benefit in 2014. Helms possesses good size for the interior of the line, a stout 6-4, 290-pounder, with the smarts to quarterback the front wall. It won't happen this season, but he has the potential to vie for All-ACC honors before he's through in Winston-Salem.
8. WR E.J. Scott, Sr.
Wake Forest is pleased by the signing of Scott, who has already earned his degree from Virginia. With the Cavaliers, he lettered as a slot receiver the past two seasons, peaking in 2012 with 29 receptions for 390 yards and three touchdowns. Scott, who is friends with former Deacon star receiver Michael Campanaro, instantly becomes the most experienced pass-catcher in Winston-Salem. The 5-11, 185-pounder made enough clutch plays in the spring to be in line for a starting assignment this September.
9. LB Hunter Williams, Jr.
From unheralded walk-on in 2011 to nine-game starter last season, Williams has been a pleasant surprise for the Demon Deacons. Although he's not going to wow anyone with his speed or his 6-0, 230-pound frame, he's a hard-working defender on the outside, who'll always play to the whistle. Williams is bucking to reprise his starting role in 2014, while improving on last year's 39 tackles, 2.5 tackles behind the line and pair of fumble recoveries.
10. WR Tyree Harris, Soph.
Now that Michael Campanaro has used up his eligibility, Wake Forest is in the market for pass-catchers. Harris performed in his rookie year as if he's capable of upping his role and his responsibility this fall. In his debut out of Marietta (Ga.) High School, he finished second on the team with 23 grabs for 225 yards, despite missing four games with an injury. While an unfinished product, the 6-2, 180-pound Harris has the length and the athleticism to provide a spark in the passing game this year.
2014 Wake Forest Preview