Wake Forest has been blessed to have some great Defensive Coordinators over the last handful of years but they have had a hard time hanging on to those guys. Now in the third year of Lyle Hemphill’s tenure running the defense, it feels like they finally have all the guys to fit his system and the defense is back to causing havoc up front and get takeaways in the back end.
Wake doesn’t have a key player up front like they have in the past but they really seem to have a better overall group this year. Rondell Bothroyd has taken over for Boogie Basham at Defensive End and he is off to a good start to the season with 3.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks. Ja’Corey Johns has matching statistics on the opposite side of the line from Bothroyd and Luiji Vilain has 3.5 sacks on the year. Wake has guys up front that can get after the Quarterback and Louisville will have to account for them.
The key player up front is Miles Fox as he makes it hard to run the football up the middle. Fox does a good job of being disruptive and he gives the Linebackers space to make plays. Fox had a big game against UofL last year with 4 tackles for loss but the Cards adjusted and had a lot of success running the ball up the middle in the second half. Something to keep an eye on this year is how Louisville goes about handling things if Fox is disruptive again.
The group of Linebackers for Wake are all very experienced and they can run well. Luke Masterson is a former Safety who has found a home in the box over the last couple of years. He plays alongside Ryan Smenda who is a very speedy guy in the middle of this defense. This group plays very aggressively and they can run well and get to the ball very quickly. UofL may have some success with the misdirection and speed sweep plays that we haven't seen as much this season.
I’ve been really impressed with the Wake secondary. Jasir Taylor is a stud at one corner spot and Caelen Carson is one of the national leaders in passes defended so far this year. These guys play the ball very well and they are also sticky in coverage. Wake will run some man and some zone so it will be important for Malik Cunningham to see the coverage before the snap so that he doesn’t give these guys an easy one.
Wake has some solid experience at Safety as well with Nasir Greer back for his 15th season. Greer is paired up with Coby Davis who has also played some Nickel this season with Nick Anderson replacing him deep. Anderson made waves last year as a walk-on freshman when he had 3 interceptions against Virginia Tech. He was hampered by an injury early but Wake is able to get their five best Defensive Backs on the field now.