Wake Forest Football Live

Wake Forest Football: Team Defense Preview

Under new leadership, the Demon Deacon defense will rely on experienced veterans


Considering the fact that Wake Forest boasted the 4th highest scoring offense in the nation, it’s conspicuous that the defense was the weakest part of last year’s team. The Deacs gave up at least 35 points in six different games last season and largely failed to make the necessary in-game adjustments to turn the tide.

New defensive coordinator Brad Lambert has been bounced around in his 33 year coaching career. His most recent stop before joining Dave Clawson’s staff was a co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach position at Purdue. Getting this unit to take a step forward this season is a challenging ask for Lambert, with key players such as Luke Masterson, Ja’Sir Taylor, Traveon Redd, and Luiji Vilain no longer on the team. Nonetheless, plenty of experienced talent remains on the roster.

Defensive Line:

This unit has looked exceptional based on what I’ve seen in camp this year. 6’4” 265-pound star defensive end Rondell Bothroyd really broke out last season with eight sacks. The team captain is the leader of this defense, and his ability to get to the quarterback is invaluable. He’s looked lightning quick off the edge in the most recent live scrimmages. Starting alongside Bothroyd is redshirt sophomore Jasheen Davis. Davis is looking to build off of a promising freshman season that saw him rack up 5.5 sacks and earn Second Team Freshman All-America Honors from The Athletic. Kobie Turner has transferred in from Richmond (FCS), where he was CAA Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the 2021 spring season. The rise in competition level could be an adjustment, but Coach Clawson has raved about Turner’s play and leadership so far.  Other important pieces on this line include Dion Bergan Jr., Jacorey Johns, and Tyler Williams. The veteran trio have all been Deacs since 2018 or earlier (2017 for Williams). Bergan has seen the most action of the three, chipping in 25 tackles last season across 11 appearances.


Head Coach Dave Clawson has made it clear that the starting linebacker spots belong to veterans Ryan Smenda Jr. and Chase Jones, who notched 83 and 47 tackles last season respectively. However, the appeal on Smenda’s targeting call from last year’s Gator Bowl was denied, meaning he’ll be out for the season opener against VMI. Look for transfer Eldrick Robinson II, who totalled 74 tackles for Georgia Southern last season, to pick up the slack in his absence. Also in contention for added playing time are sophomore Jaylen Hudson and redshirt freshman Quincy Bryant. The two combined for just 15 tackles last year.


Keep an eye on sophomores Caelen Carson and Gavin Holmes, along with senior Isaiah Wingfield here. Carson is one of the more experienced players in the unit, appearing in 9 games last year (31 tackles, 2 interceptions). He was a mainstay at outside corner throughout camp. Holmes appeared frequently at the other corner spot in recent live scrimmages and is coming off a 2021 campaign in which he played in all but 3 of the Deacs’ games (19 tackles, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble). Wingfield appeared in 7 games last year and brings more experience to the unit. J.J. Roberts should find himself in the mix as well; he forced two fumbles last season and had a huge interception in the NC State game.


This one is a little tougher to gauge with Nick Andersen still being held out of practice due to injury. Malik Mustapha, Brendon Harris, Coby Davis, and Evan Slocum all saw action with the 1s during the most recent live scrimmages, but at this point, there’s no way to tell how the rotation will change once Andersen returns. Mustapha saw action in all but two games last season and had three games with five or more tackes; his experience will come in handy for this unit. Harris, the Vanderbilt transfer, totaled four or more tackles in six games last season playing in the SEC. Slocum made an impact his freshman year, getting the starting nod in the UVA game, and finishing the season with 20 tackles.


Junior Chelen Garnes, who started his college career at Navy, was solid in five games of action last season, and has been getting plenty of first team snaps during live scrimmages. Coby Davis, in his sixth collegiate season, will surely be in the mix as well. He started four games at the rover spot last year.

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