2007 Wake Forest Preview - Defense
Wake Forest Demon Deacons Defense
Preview 2007 - Defense
2007 Wake Forest Preview
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2007 Wake Forest Depth Chart
2006 CFN Wake Forest
What you need to know: The D
could be even better than last year when it was solid at bending
but rarely breaking finishing 12th in the nation in scoring
defense. There's not a Jon Abbate to rely on, and a few key
defensive backs need to be replaced, but there's plenty of
experience everywhere and lots of speed and athleticism in the
secondary. There needs to be more pass rush from the defensive
front and there could stand to be fewer big plays allowed
against the pass, but the overall production should be solid.
Aaron Curry, 83
Alphonso Smith, 4
Interceptions: Alphonso Smith, 3
Star of the defense: Junior LB Aaron Curry
Proven pass rush from the line
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior LB
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore NG Boo Robinson
Best pro prospect: Curry
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Curry, 2) LB Stanley
Arnoux, 3) CB Alphonso Smith
Strength of the defense: Secondary speed, outside
Weakness of the defense:
Projected Starters: The line did a good job of getting
into the backfield on a regular basis, but it has to replace top sacker
Jyles Tucker at one end. 6-5, 251-pound junior Anthony Davis will
give it a try after making ten tackles as a reserve. With his long
frame, he's tough to throw over and he has just enough experience to
become a major factor after getting the starting call in the final three
games. Now he has to get to the quarterback.
On the other side,
Jeremy Thompson hasn't quite developed into the pass rushing terror
he has the potential to become with just two career sacks and 66 tackles
despite starting 16 games. The 6-5, 264-pound senior spent last year
getting back on track after tearing his ACL in 2005, but now he has to
start generating more pressure.
On the nose, 6-2, 326-pound sophomore Boo Robinson appears ready
to become the anchor of the run defense. He's a big, active player who
made 35 tackles as a reserve to go along with 2.5 sacks and an
interception against Florida State. Strong enough to occupy a
double-team and quick enough to get in the backfield against average
centers and guards, he'll be a great one for the next three years.
Next to Robinson will be sophomore John Russell, at least to start out.
He's not big at only 6-3 and 250 pounds, but he's active making 19
tackles as a reserve. He's one of the team's fastest defensive linemen.
Projected Top Reserves: While Russell might get
the start, senior Zach Stukes, a starter throughout most of last
year until the Orange Bowl, will quickly get in. At 274 pounds, he's a
big, experienced body in the middle who led the defensive linemen with
42 tackles to go along with 2.5 sacks despite having a shoulder problem
early on. He has to get healthy after suffering a knee injury this
Ready to clog things up on the nose will be redshirt freshman
Michael Carter, a 6-3, 317-pound rock who's one of the team's
strongest players. He'll play behind Robinson to start out, but will
quickly see plenty of time in the rotation.
The pass rush should get a
big boost with the return of Matt Robinson after missing all of
last year recovering from a broken kneecap.
He was starting to blossom
in 2005 becoming a regular in the backfield before suffering the injury,
and now he'll either win back a starting job or turn into a key number
three end behind Thompson. 255-pound junior Antonio Wilson saw a
little bit of time in the rotation making two tackles, but he has the
potential to do so much more. He's the team's fastest most athletic
lineman with the quickness of a linebacker.
Watch Out For ... the tackles to turn into one of the
team's strengths. The foursome of Robinson, Russell, Stukes and Carter
should clog things up in the middle against even the best of ACC rushing
Strength: Experience. Two key starters might be
gone, but the newcomers have seen plenty of time and quality action in
big games and aren't going to be fazed by getting the start. Getting
Robinson back is a big boost.
Weakness: Sure-thing pass rusher. While everyone
can get into the backfield, the linebackers, along with Jyles Tucker,
generated the most pressure. Thompson and Davis have to get to the
quarterback early on or Robinson will quickly find himself in a starting
Outlook: If everyone's healthy, this should be an
even better line than last year when it was tremendously productive
against the run. There's enough speed and quickness along the front four
to be more active in the backfield, and there's enough bulk on the
inside to be strong against the run. This might be the best line yet in
the Jim Grobe era.
Projected Starters: The loss of Jon Abbate in the middle takes
away the heart and soul of the defense, along with 120 tackles. The
Demon Deacons will use the equivalent of a third defensive tackle to
replace him with 6-1, 288-pound junior Eric Berry stuffing the
middle after making 26 tackles and three sacks as a reserve. He runs
well for his size, but it would help a bit if he were around 270.
While he's not going to be a
sideline-to-sideline defender, he'll stuff everything up the middle.
6-3, 240-pound Aaron Curry is back on the outside where he was
second on the team with 83 tackles, three sacks, and 8.5 tackles for
Big, fast and experienced, he'll be in the mix for All-ACC honors
as a do-it-all defender able to rush the passer and handle himself well
in pass coverage.
245-pound junior Stanley Arnoux is also back to
his old spot on the outside after an active season making 69 tackles and
seven tackles for loss to go along with three fumble recoveries. Always
all around the ball, he has 4.6 speed and tremendous hitting ability.
Projected Top Reserves: When the defense wants to
go with a smaller, quicker option than Berry in the middle, it'll go
with sophomore Dominique Midgett. However, he's not that much
lighter at 242 pounds and isn't going to fly all over the field. He's a
former end who made the transformation to linebacker late in his high
219-pound junior Mike Simmons has mostly been a
special team performer making nine tackles on the year, but he'll play
more on defense behind Curry.
225-pound Chantz McClinic has also
spent most of his time on special teams to go along with a little work
at safety. The team's fastest linebacker with 4.45 speed, the junior has
to start making more of an impact.
Watch Out For ... the corps to miss everything about
Abbate. He's the type of special defensive player who doesn't just show
up on Wake Forest's doorstep every week. Berry and Midgett won't be able
to replace his production.
Strength: Curry and Arnoux to be tremendous. Two
fantastic outside linebackers who never got enough credit or recognition
last season, these two will be making big plays week after week.
Weakness: Speed in the middle. There's more than
enough size to hold up against the run, but anything on the outside will
have to be made by Curry and Arnoux.
Outlook: It's a good group that'll make plenty of
big plays and lots of tackles. As long as the experiment on the inside
works out and Berry is a true middle linebacker and not just another
defensive lineman who happens to be playing in the linebacking corps,
everything will be fine. In a perfect world, the line starts getting
into the backfield on a regular basis and the linebackers can focus more
on the passing game, but everyone will be sent from time to time to mix
Projected Starters: Junior Alphonso Smith started the
first three games and was supposed to be the team's number one corner,
but he gave way to Kevin Patterson and become a key reserve making 48
tackles, 2.5 sacks, three interceptions and eight broken up passes. Able
to do a little of everything well with great timing into the backfield
and great open field tackling ability, now he has to do a better job of
not getting beaten deep.
On the other side will be junior Kerry Major,
who made ten tackles as a special teamer and occasional corner. He has
all the tools with some of the best wheels on the team and decent size
at 5-11 and 179 pounds. Now he has to put it all together and become a
steady number two corner.
Senior Aaron Mason will get the first shot to star at strong
safety. Mason has
cornerback speed and decent potential, but he has to start producing
after making just nine tackles as a reserve. Able to run a 4.5 40, range
isn't going to be a problem.
At free safety, at least for the time
being, will be 6-2, 220-pound junior Chip Vaughn, who turned into
a key player midway through last year when Josh Gattis got dinged up.
While he finished with 41 tackles, he made his biggest play against Duke
with a blocked field goal to save the game. Watch out for him to become
a big-time player with 4.4 speed in a 6-2, 220-pound frame if he returns
fine after shoulder surgery.
Projected Top Reserves: Most of the reserves are
backups in name only. Junior Kevin Patterson started every game
at corner last season making 44 tackles with two interceptions and seven
broken up passes, and now he'll move to strong safety providing 4.4
speed experience behind Mason. He wasn't expected to start at the
beginning last year either and could quickly move back to corner or over
to free safety early on.
Sophomore Brandon Ghee might be the
team's fastest player running a 4.34 40. A bit bitter than Smith, Ghee,
who sat out last year to hit the books, could match up on the bigger
receivers after he gets a little bit of experience.
Alex Frye is 6-3, 190 pound former receiver, and can jump out of the
stadium. He'll see plenty of action combining with Vaughn at free
Sophomore Channing Schofield is another sub-4.4 runner
and could see time as a kick returner when he's not combining with Major
at one of the corner spots.
Watch Out For ... plenty of big plays. The secondary
will take plenty of chances, and they'll usually pay off helping the
team make 22 interceptions. There's enough overall talent and experience
to keep forcing turnovers.
Strength: Speed. Considering the overall talent
pool a school like Wake Forest has to choose from, it has the type of
speed and athleticism to match up with any secondary in the ACC.
Weakness: They will get burned. Even with all the
speed at all four spots, the secondary will give up big plays from time
to time. Occasionally, this is a high risk, high reward group that can
get caught from time to time.
Outlook: The coaching staff recruited raw speed
over the last few years with the hopes of turning it into production in
the secondary. The plan should turn out great coming into this year with
plenty of options and nice depth to go along with a promising group of
starters. The defensive backs do a great job at everything in front of
them at the expense of giving up the occasional bomb. Considering the
overall results, and compared to where the pass defense was a few years
ago, this is a strength.
Projected Starters: Junior Sam Swank might be the best
kicker in America, assuming he's back healthy after suffering a sports
hernia. He connected on 23 of 31 field goals last year
nailing bomb after bomb going ten of 16 from beyond 40 yards and five of
seven from beyond 50. Not just good, he's also tremendously clutch.
He'll also handle the punting duties again after averaging a solid 41.2
yards per kick while putting 19 inside the 20 and forcing a whopping 23
The return game was far better than it was in 2005, but it
could still use a little punch on kickoff returns after averaging just
20.03 yards per try. Kenneth Moore will likely handle the punt
return duties after averaging a great 13 yards per return.
Watch Out For ... Swank to possibly do an All-America
double-dip winning honors as both kicker and punter. He's good enough to
Strength: Swank. Actually, all the special teams
are terrific turning into a major strength and part of the reason the
team had the season it had. Having a weapon line Swank is a luxury.
Weakness: Kickoff return coverage. Swank forced 22
touchbacks, but the team still allowed 22.2 yards per kickoff return.
Outlook: If the Wake special teams are as good as
last year, they'll be the difference in at least two games. Sam Swank is a
sure-thing All-American, while the return game should be more than fine.
The emphasis on doing well in all areas will be a major key to the