The Spotlight Is On Wake Forest’s Defense.

Wake Forest wraps up the Spring
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If Wake Forest is to have any shot at repeating last season’s success, the defense is going to have to improve from last year. The offense has enough weapons back to rightfully be expected to perform at the same level as 2021. While the defense has to replace a few key elements, it is the change in staff that is what is being honed in on. Whether it is the personnel or the staff, the spotlight is on Wake Forest’s defense.

The Defense Is The Thing

The 2021 version of the Demon Deacons defense was ranked 91st in the country overall. The run defense was giving up a little over 195 yards per game. The pass defense was markedly better at 49th in the country, giving up 217 yards per game. Thus, the staff changes during the off-season. Brad Lambert takes over as defensive coordinator after a year as Co-DC at Purdue. The Boilermakers, by the way, were 43 spots better than Wake Forest when it came to total defense. Lambert brought along new linebackers coach Glenn Spencer and new safeties coach James Adams. The trio is going to be expected to produce significantly better results than what the Deacs got last season.

Head coach Dave Clawson likes what he sees through the first few days of Spring camp. “Right now, it’s going really well,” he said after practice Tuesday. “Right now, I think there is buy-in. To me, the enthusiasm and the excitement when a guy makes a play, you watch the sidelines. Those are all little indicators of buy-in.”

Which Board Game?

It is only the third work out of 15 this Spring so there is still work to be done. Part of getting to the desired result is adjusting the offensive tempo to allow the defense to get up to speed with the new schemes brought it in by Lambert. “We also at times slow down the tempo of our offense to help the defense get aligned,” Clawson said. “So we have different periods with different tempos.”

Clawson compared the progression through the camp to a game of checkers eventually moving on to chess. “The first seven to eight days is about installation,” he added. “Right now, we’re still playing checkers. In the next week or so, it starts becoming a lot more multiple, [the increase in installation], more complicated. That’s where you don’t want guys to slow down their tempo because they’re thinking and processing.” Clawson said the transition from checkers to chess should begin somewhere in the third week of the five weeks of camp.

One-on-One Chess

Two people who are already engaged in their own master chess match are receiver A.T. Perry and defensive back Caelen Carson. They have been going head-to-head on a regular basis. Under the old coaching adage of iron sharpening iron, the hope for the team is that they are making each other better through the daily competition.

Carson said on Tuesday, “He [Perry] got me today. When I’m going against him, I don’t even get mad or anything. I don’t get in my head because I know he is the best in the ACC. I’m not going to get competition like that other than at practice.”

Clawson said he talked to both of them about the advantages of competing against each other. “I told Atorian that one of the best things for you at Wake Forest is that every single day you have an opportunity to go against one of the best corners in the ACC. If you ever don’t show up, he’s probably going to embarrass you.” He gave the words of wisdom to Carson. He said he told them, “You two are the best things that you have going for each other, and you’re going to make each other better.”

The Competition

Clawson said there are times each of them is going to have the upper hand on any given day and he expects that to make each of them ready to face the ACC competition. “To me, if they are making plays consistently and getting open all the time, it’s probably too easy and they are not getting better.”

Carson is going to be expected to go against the best receiver on any of the teams throughout the schedule. It’s going to be a necessary step for the defense as a whole to get better. And it’s going to be necessary for the defense as a whole to get better if Wake Forest is going to have a chance to repeat the success of the 2021 season.

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