2010 Wake Forest Preview – Defense

Posted Aug 3, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Wake Forest Demon Deacon Defense

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Preview 2010 - Defense

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What You Need To Know: The Wake Forest D has fallen. Coordinator Brad Lambert's job is to make sure it gets back up in 2010. The Deacons had a predictably difficult time replacing stars Aaron Curry and Alphonso Smith a year ago, allowing more points than at any point in the previous four years. The stifling, ball-hawking crew that was the catalyst for the program had been reduced to utter mediocrity. A complete turnaround is unlikely. The Deacons return seven starters, but no star power and not a single all-star. In place of greatness, they harbor a handful of good players, like DE Kyle Wilber, LB Hunter Haynes, and FS Cyhl Quarles. True growth requires the kids to grow up quickly and a leaky run defense to plug the holes without last year's two best interior linemen. The onus falls on NG Ramon Booi and DT Frank Souza, a pair of unproven underclassmen being asked to guard the middle of the line.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Cyhl Quarles, 62
Sacks: Joey Ehrmann, 3.5
Interceptions: Kenny Okoro, 3

Star of the defense: Junior DE Kyle Wilber
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore NG Ramon Booi
Unsung star on the rise: Junior FS Cyhl Quarles
Best pro prospect: Quarles
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Wilber, 2) Quarles, 3) Senior LB Hunter Haynes
Strength of the defense: The ends, the safeties
Weakness of the defense: Takeaways, run defense, the tackles, third down defense, red zone D

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: While the ends bring a lot of promise and potential, the tackles are faced with uncertainty, trying to replace gifted starters John Russell and Boo Robinson. It could be just the type of situation that propels NG Ramon Booi into a prominent role on the defense. One of the gems of the 2008 recruiting class, he's a classic space-eater, stuffing the run and making those around him better. After making seven tackles and earning a letter as a reserve, he's eyeing becoming an anchor up front.

The outlook at defensive tackle is quite a bit murkier. For the time being, 6-4, 285-pound redshirt freshman Frank Souza appears to have won the job with a solid offseason in the weight room and on the practice field. Heavily recruited coming out of high school, he brings a blue-collar work ethic and non-stop motor to the defense. A classic Wake Forest recruit, he's smart and tough, and willing to do whatever's necessary to make the play.

On the fringe, the Deacons can take comfort in multiple players with starting experience. Junior Tristan Dorty was in the opening lineup for all 11 games he played in 2009, making 41 tackles, six tackles for loss, and three sacks. While only 6-2 and 250 pounds, he compensates with a quick first step off the snap and the closing speed of an outside linebacker. Besides continuing to get pressure, he also plans to be more effective on running plays.

Junior end Kyle Wilber was on his way to becoming one the program's defensive stars before he broke his leg, limiting him to five games, 16 tackles, and three tackles for loss. A year earlier, as a rookie, he gave a better indication of his potential, making 42 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and three sacks. An explosive all-around athlete, he augments his physical ability by bringing it on every down.

Projected Top Reserves: How bad is the situation on the interior? Junior Will Wright is now the senior member of the backups after lettering with 14 tackles in 11 games. The problem is that he's only 6-4 and 230 pounds, hardly ideal size to lock horns with 295-pound guards and centers. A scrappy player, he needs to avoid getting bowled over on north-south running plays.

Off the bench, the Deacons' most dangerous situational pass rusher will again be 6-1, 225-pound junior Gelo Orange . When he can pin his ears back on third and long, he has the speed and sudden first step to get around the tackle before the quarterback has finished his drop. The replacement for Wilber following the injury, he contributed 32 tackles, four stops behind the line, and three sacks.

Watch Out For … Souza. Yeah, he's going to have some rough Saturdays and make some mistakes, but he's the type of worker that Jim Grobe has built this program around. If he can develop quickly enough, the Deacons have the supporting cast around him to get better in the trenches as the season progress.
Strength: Outside potential. While Wake wasn't all that scary in the pass rush last fall, it was also without Wilber for three-quarters of the season. Now that he's healthy, Dorty is a year older, and Orange and Kevin Smith can provide a spark off the bench, the potential is there for this group to be substantially more disruptive.
Weakness: Stopping the run. Even when it had access to Russell and Robinson, Wake Forest still finished No. 10 in the ACC against the run, yielding 4.5 yards a carry. As the defense regroups with unproven parts, things could get worse in 2010.
Outlook: If all things go as planned, this could be a very feisty defensive line ... in 2011. The Demon Deacons are still a year away from controlling the line of scrimmage, which ought to concern the back seven. Stopping quality running teams will be an issue, and it's incumbent upon Wilber and Dorty to transform all of that athleticism into steady production.
Unit Rating: 6.5


Projected Starters: Now two years removed from the graduations of Aaron Curry and two other starters, Wake feels its better prepared to forge ahead at linebacker. In the middle, the Deacons are turning to 6-2, 240-pound senior Hunter Haynes , who started the first half of 2009 at weakside and made 41 stops. Though he failed to peak as expected a year ago, he has the overall strength and instincts to double his production and make a slew of stops in run defense this fall.

One of last season's big surprises was sophomore Joey Ehrmann , who worked his way into the lineup and made enough of an impression to take over at strongside. Feeling his way through as a rookie, he made 25 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks, showing a nose for the ball and the range to make a lot noise behind the line. At 6-4 and 210 pounds, he has the kind of frame that will fill out over time, allowing him to be even more effective in run defense.

The starting unit will have a fraternal feel now that 6-1, 225-pound sophomore Riley Haynes , Hunter's younger brother, has risen to the top of the depth at weakside. While ideal size escapes him, most ballcarriers will not. Well-coached and fundamentally sharp, he does a great job of squaring his shoulders, wrapping up in the open field, and being in the right spot at all times. As long as he's not matched with a lineman, he'll be an asset on the field.

Projected Top Reserves: Pushing Ehrmann at strongside is 6-2, 230-pound junior Kyle Jarrett, who earned his first letter with 17 tackles and two sacks. He's gotten bigger and stronger since arriving, yet maintains the quickness that allows him to be an effective pass rusher coming on the blitz.

The Deacon staff has been so pleased with the development of 6-1, 230-pound sophomore Scott Betros that he's already being pegged as the successor to Haynes in the middle. A heady, read-and-react type defender, he got some valuable reps on defense and special teams in 2009, making 15 tackles and recovering a fumble. If he keeps learning, he'll be in the lineup in 2011.

Watch Out For … Hunter Haynes to approach 100 tackles in his final season. The talent is there and now the opportunity is as well. As the new middle linebacker, he's going to get plenty of chances to read the development of the play, take the right angle, and zero in on the man with the ball.
Strength: Depth. Matt Woodlief and Lee Malchow are a pair of seniors, who combined to make 74 tackles and a dozen starts last season. Both were listed as third-stringers coming out of spring, an indication of how well the Demon Deacons have regrouped at a position that was ravaged by graduation in 2009.
Weakness: Run-stuffers. Hunter Haynes will be fine in the middle, but on the outside, Ehrmann and Riley Haynes still lack the girth and muscle to handle the rigors of an ACC schedule over a three-month period. They'll get there, but right now, those two starters could be liabilities versus physical running teams.
Outlook: While Wake Forest has moved in the right direction, with the help of a lot of young players, this remains a marginal group that isn't likely to produce an all-star in 2010. Hunter Haynes was the only senior on the two-deep coming out of spring, so the trend should continue to be positive into next season.
Unit Rating: 6.5


Projected Starters: The Deacons lose just one starter from a year ago, but it's a big one. Brandon Ghee was the team's best cover corner and a third round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals. His absence puts pressure on 5-11, 195-pound junior Josh Bush to become the next lockdown defender of the secondary. He was rolling along nicely through 10 games last year, making 25 tackles and starting games at free safety, before injuring his collarbone and then suffering a blood clot and infection in the hospital. Fortunate to be back, he's looking to pick up where he left off last November.

Joining Bush at cornerback will be 6-1, 170-pound junior Michael Williams , who started the month of September, played in eight total games, and wound up with 16 tackles and a pick. While there's no question that he has the straight-line speed to handle the job, he has to sharpen his cover skills and do a better job of getting his hands on the ball.

The safety position looks to be in good hands, with starters returning to both positions. Strong safety belongs to 6-3, 205-pound junior Cyhl Quarles, who started every game and finished second on the team with 62 tackles. He remains raw and in need of fine-tuning, but on sheer triangle numbers alone, he has an exciting future. Built like a linebacker, yet as fast as most cornerbacks, he's often the first man to the ball and the last one opposing receivers want to see.

Over at free safety, 6-3, 195-pound senior Alex Frye was in and out of the lineup a year ago, making 32 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack, and an interception. Like Quarles, he has an abundance of raw physical ability, but needs to put it all together, add a few more pounds, and actually start to be more of a playmaker from his spot on the field.

Projected Top Reserves: The first man off the bench at cornerback and a candidate for nickel packages is 6-0, 190-pound sophomore Kenny Okoro . He exceeded all expectations in his debut, making 38 stops and producing team-highs with three interceptions and 11 passes defended. He'll allow a receiver to get behind him at times, but can compensate by making a momentum-changing play.

Behind Frye at strong safety is 6-0, 195-pound junior John Stamper , who has earned a letter on defense and special teams in each of the last two seasons. A good all-around athlete, he got in on nine tackles a year ago and could see his playing time increase in 2010. While not all that big, he's tough and plays with the mindset of a former high school linebacker.

Watch Out For … Quarles to begin getting noticed. No, he's not a candidate to be leaving early for the 2011 NFL Draft, but don't be surprised if he starts getting noticed by pro scouts. He's got the right body type to play on Sundays and enough time left in Winston-Salem to smooth over the rough spots in his game.
Strength: Athleticism. The Deacons continue to do a great job of attracting outstanding athletes from across the Eastern seaboard and turn them into ACC defensive backs. The safeties, in particular, are big and fast, covering large chunks of the secondary in the shortest possible time.
Weakness: Turnovers. Wake Forest had just 15 takeaways all season, including nine interceptions, to rank next to last in the ACC. With the playmakers and ball hawks it has roaming around the defensive backfield, there's no good reason why this group can't be producing more money plays.
Outlook: Wake has enough talent on the two-deep to improve on last year, when it was just 68th nationally in pass efficiency defense. Sure, it won't be easy replacing a player of Ghee's caliber, but the healthy return of Bush helps and Quarles, Frye, and Okoro have yet to play their best football.
Unit Rating: 7

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Junior Shane Popham was supposed to pull double-duty a year ago. This season, the honor might fall to sophomore Jimmy Newman. A heralded special teams recruit out of Alabama, he took over as the team's placekicker in his debut, yet connected on just 11-of-17 field goal attempts, including a mere 5-of-11 beyond 30 yards. Worry not. He has a tremendous leg, has gotten noticeably stronger, and is coming off a solid offseason. An All-ACC ceiling is there for the taking if he can improve his accuracy.

For the time being, Newman is the lead punter as well. Popham fell behind by missing the spring with an injury, more discouraging news after he only averaged 39. 2 yards last season. He's expected to be healthy again in the summer, but has an uphill climb to catch a more physically gifted competitor.

Out of sophomore Lovell Jackson, junior Devon Brown, sophomore Chris Givens, Wake Forest will cobble together a return game. Jackson was the best of the bunch a year ago, averaging more than 24 yards on kickoffs.

Watch Out For … Newman's trajectory. Listen, no one denies he has a high ceiling. That's obvious to anyone watching him punt or kick. However, reaching his peak will require more consistency and a higher degree of accuracy.
Strength: Leg strength. Right now, Newman is like the quarterback who can sling it a country mile, but needs to develop more finesse on the intermediate stuff. If it comes, he has the pop to reach from beyond 50 yards on field goals and boom 60-yard punts. He's a weapon, which simply needs to be pointed in the right direction.
Weakness: The return game. Jackson provides a spark on kickoffs, yet the Demon Deacons still ranked just 53rd nationally. The team was far worse on punt returns, averaging less than five yards a chance and ranking last in the ACC and 110th nationally.
Outlook: After rebuilding in 2009, Wake Forest might be ready to stabilize the special teams unit this fall. Newman, naturally, is the key. If he can turn the corner and begin straightening out his kicks, the Deacons could be harboring their next all-star specialists. Unit Rating: 7

- 2010 Wake Forest Preview | 2010 Wake Forest Offense
- 2010 Wake Forest Defense | 2010 Wake Forest Depth Chart
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