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Opponent Breakdown: Wake Forest Defense

Wake has already fired their Defensive Coordinator. Can Louisville finally get their offense going this week?

Clemson v Wake Forest Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Dave Clawson did something this year that I know a lot of UofL fans would like Bobby Petrino to do. He fired as assistant coach due to poor performance. Wake lost Mike Elko to Notre Dame two years ago and the defense has been trending the wrong way ever since. It’s reached a new low this year and Clawson decided that it was time to move on from his defensive coordinator. The one thing that didn’t really make sense is that he never named a replacement. His defensive staff is coaching the defense as a group and things haven’t improved at all.

The defensive front is where the problems start for this defense. The pass rushers that they’ve relied on in the past are all gone and the guys that have replaced them just haven’t been able to produce. Wake ran a system that was built on havoc under Elko but that aggression and unpredictability is completely gone now. Willie Yarbary and Zeek Rodney are the two guys up front that need to be the players to get some of that old mojo back. Both are veteran guys that can make plays behind the line. They just have to be more consistent. Louisville’s offensive line will need to have a good game inside to make sure these guys don’t kill early down plays.

Wake was down to one scholarship linebacker last week against FSU and it showed as the game went on. The Noles are the worst rushing team in the conference but they were able to find success on the ground in the second half. DJ Taylor might be back this week as he has/had mononucleosis. That can last a short time or be an issue for the rest of the season. Justin Strnad is a guy I expected a lot from this season but he hasn’t made very many impact plays this season. He’s a guy with great speed so I expected him to make a lot of plays behind the line and it just hasn’t happened. The same could be said for Demetrius Kemp from his “Rover” spot. These were the key guys they returning in the front seven and they just haven’t played well enough.

The secondary is another group that I expected do be really good this year, but they have been picked apart so far this season. Essang Bassey and Amari Henderson were two of the top returning cornerbacks in the conference but they haven’t played as well this season. I think most of that is due to the lack of a pass rush. Wake really got after the quarterback in the past and they made a lot of plays behind the scrimmage. That led to longer passing situations and these guys were able to capitalize. Without that help, they’ve been somewhat exposed. Though, not too many corners can look good without help from the guys in front of them.

The safeties haven’t played well either. Cameron Glenn is a very good one and he’s been good against the run. He isn’t overly great in coverage but he is pretty solid as a deep safety. He’s a guy that could make some plays with Jawon Pass routinely staring down receivers. Chuck Wade hasn’t really done much of anything after his move from wide receiver. He does have a pick six on the year, but he hasn’t made many other impact plays and his speed hasn’t really been as helpful as I expected in coverage. Louisville should have a very good day on offense and it should start with the passing game.