Defense should be the Wake Forest Demon Deacons' stronger side in 2014 with most of the secondary returning and a productive linebacker core emerging.
First year head coach Dave Clawson and defensive coordinator Mike Elko bring a new system from Bowling Green with them, and the first task will be covering up an inexperienced front line with their 4-2-5 scheme.
Given the inexperience of the line coupled with the strength of the secondary, look for linebackers Brandon Chubb and Marguel Lee to play downhill in an effort to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Playing with only two true linebackers in this system means Chubb and Lee would normally roam free in both pocket pressure and coverage, but the dynamic cornerback tandem of Kevin Johnson and Merrill Noel will be relied on heavily in this transition year.
There's no shortage of confidence in that unit either. "So I’m extremely confident in our defense. In the secondary, we’re trying to push to be the best we can possibly be," Johnson told ESPN's David M. Hale.
He'll get help in that quest from Ryan Janvion, a returning All-ACC Honorable Mention free safety. With all of the experience in the back of the defense, Clawson's 4-2-5 could look more like a 6-5 system, especially at the start of the season as the defensive line gets in-game reps under its belt.
That line will have to replace Nikita Whitlock, who anchored the unit the last four seasons and had nine sacks in his senior campaign. Josh Banks had one of the best springs on the team at defensive tackle.
He should get a starting job and must make an immediate impact by containing the run game.
Next to Banks, sophomore Zachary Allen looks to be a perfect fit for the new scheme. Clawson has favored speedy defensive ends in the past, so Allen and Lee should provide the explosive first step off the line to hurry the quarterback in passing situations.
On special teams, Wake Forest has been dead last in return yards in the ACC for six straight years. Clawson and new assistant Adam Scheier will work with running back and return man Orville Reynolds to change that shortcoming, and the past makes the outlook favorable.
Bowling Green returned seven kickoffs for touchdowns in five seasons under that coaching pair.
Clawson will likely give kicker Chad Hedlund more chances than the last staff from outside of 40 yards as well. Hedlund was just 1-of-3 from such distance last year, but the Deacs will need to grab points each chance they get if the offense is going to keep the team in games.
The defense in year one of the new era has a nucleus of talent and experience, and both it and the special teams will need to help out the Demon Deacons' offense for the team to win games.
With the transition comes opportunity, and playmakers will have to rise along the front line to help out a well-tooled secondary.
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