4. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE WAKE FOREST DEFENSE
– Seven of the top 12 tacklers return from the ACC’s second-worst defense that allowed 459 yards and 33 points per game. The run defense was an issue, and the secondary struggled, but the pass rush wasn’t all that bad. Now the defensive front has to reload after losing three starters.
6-5, 270-pound junior Carlos Basham is the only returning starter after finishing fourth on the team with 64 stops with 4.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Star recruit Shamar McCollum is just 220 pounds on his 6-4 frame, but he’s a keeper who should emerge as a pass rushing playmaker at one end.
There was hope for a big boost for the interior from Old Dominion grad transfer Miles Fox, but he suffered a torn Achilles tendon in spring ball. It’ll be a work in progress to find the main men on the inside, but there are just enough options to come up with a good rotation.
– The linebacking corps is gets its star back with the return of leading tackler Justin Strnad on the outside. He’s been banged up a bit, but he’s a hitter coming off a 105-tackle season. However, losing 50-tackle DJ Taylor is out for the year after getting injured off the field, and the overall depth in the corps is lacking. The D needs several new options – like sophomore Jeff Burley, who missed all of last year with a knee injury – to rise up fast in August.
– The corners are set, but the safeties are a concern. Not only do the Demon Deacons lost the top three starting safeties from last year, but heir apparent at free safety, Peyton Woulard, was injured in spring ball.
It’s a thin safety group that needs the recruiting class to be a factor – starting with 6-1, 210-pounder Jeremiah Gray – and has to hope for the great corners to be fantastic. Senior Essang Bassey is a broken up pass machine on one side, and senior Amari Henderson is a good-sized veteran on the other.