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Opponent Breakdown: Wake Forest Demon Deacons Defense

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 22 Boston College at Wake Forest Photo by David Jensen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Each year I write this post and talk about how much Wake Forest’s defense has fallen off since Mike Elko moved on from the program. Well, it seems like Dave Clawson has found the guy to get his defense back on track in Brad Lambert. This defense is playing better all-around and they make plays to force turnovers and negative plays.

The front of this defense is where they really excel with Rondell Bothroyd and Kobe Turner playing at a high level. Turner is the top defensive lineman in the country in PFF’s metrics while Bothroyd is among the leaders in the conference in sacks and tackles for loss. The group as a whole is a bit inconsistent but these guys can create havoc for this offense when it comes to stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback.

Ryan Smenda is the one player that I can make a joke about when it comes to how long he has been there. The veteran linebacker has been one of the team leaders in tackles for five years now and he is such a sound player who gets the job done while not being a major playmaker. Every team needs guys who can play good assignment ball and Smenda excels in that area.

The secondary is the area of this defense that appears to be the most improved from what I’ve seen. They have gotten after the football in coverage in a way that I don’t know that they showed before. Wake is one of the top teams in the country in PBUs and they followed up a pick-six against Vandy with three interceptions against Liberty. There may be opportunities to push the ball down the field for Louisville, but this secondary will be sticky in coverage.

Calen Carson and Gavin Holmes are both very good corners who have played well in this matchup before. J.J. Roberts leads the team as the replacement for Carson while he’s been out with an injury. So Wake now has four guys who should have no issue in coverage on the outside or in the slot. Lousiville looks to attack safeties and slot corners, so this is an area to keep an eye on.

The safeties for Wake are solid as well. Malik Mustapha is third on the team in tackles while also putting up 2.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. I expect him to be a big factor in the run game. Chelen Garnes hasn’t put up many impact plays this year but he has been a strong tackler as he has the highest tackling grade per PFF. I think UofL can target these safeties in the passing game, but I’m not sure Wake will give them the opportunity.