ACC: Kevis Jones

Weak and strong: Wake Forest

June, 17, 2013
6/17/13
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There’s a weak link on every team, but there is also a strength that could help mask it or overcome it entirely. This series will take a look at the strongest and weakest position groups for each ACC team heading into the fall. We’ll go in reverse alphabetical order, starting today with Wake Forest:

Strongest position: Linebackers

Led by Justin Jackson, the linebackers are a good mix of experience and young talent. Jackson and Mike Olson are two returning starters, but the staff has also been impressed by Teddy Matthews, a redshirt freshman who is a potential starter, and Kevis Jones, another redshirt freshman recruited out of Florida.

Jackson last year led the team with 81 tackles, and 8.5 tackles for loss. He also had four sacks, two pass breakups, four quarterback hurries, one fumble recovery and a blocked kick. In March, Wake Forest announced the hire of Warren Belin, a 1990 Wake Forest graduate, to coach outside linebackers. He was most recently with the Carolina Panthers. With nine starters returning on defense, the entire group should show improvement, but the linebackers were the highlight this past spring.

Weakest position: Offensive line

This is likely the key to Wake’s entire season, as those within they program have said that if they can keep the offensive line healthy and develop some depth, the team should run the ball much more effectively and in different ways than it did last season.

That wasn’t possible this spring, though, as the Deacs barely had a two-deep to practice with.

Guard Antonio Ford broke his leg in three places last fall at Maryland, and he was out this spring, along with tackle Steven Chase, who was out with a torn ACL. The projected lineup includes senior Whit Barnes at center, senior Frank Souza at right guard, and Ford, a junior, at left guard. Wake will likely depend on a freshman or sophomore at right tackle, but the staff was pleased with its recruiting efforts up front.

“We feel pretty good about our starting five, but we said that going into last year,” offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke said. “We said as long as we can stay healthy, we like our starting five. You feel good going in, but depth is always a problem and the depth is still all freshmen and sophomores. We’re not afraid to pull the shirt on a couple of guys there, either. We’ve recruited four that we like. We feel we need to have eight we trust: two centers, three guards, three tackles. We’d like to have 10, but we’ll settle for eight if we can find them."

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WAKE FOREST

If you’re just joining us, this series is categorizing the unranked teams in the ACC as either contenders or pretenders heading into the 2013 season. We’re leaving out Florida State and Clemson because they are the only two teams from the ACC expected to be ranked this preseason. Those rankings automatically qualify them as contenders. The Deacs? That’s debatable.

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What do you expect out of Wake Forest in 2013?

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Let’s have at it:

Why they’re a contender: A great linebacker corps. This will be the strength of the team, as it blends experience with young talent. Redshirt juniors Justin Jackson and Mike Olson are the veterans of the group, but the staff is also very encouraged by redshirt freshman Teddy Matthews, who is a potential starter, and Kevis Jones. Overall, this group will lead a noticeably improved defense, which will give the Deacs a fighting chance against the ACC’s best.

Why they’re a pretender: The offensive line has been ravaged by injuries and it has yet to prove it has the depth to handle it again. Starting tackles Steven Chase and Colin Summers are expected to miss spring drills, along with starting guard Antonio Ford. Even with veteran quarterback Tanner Price returning, along with star receiver Michael Campanaro, the Deacs won’t go very far without a dependable line blocking for them.

Final verdict: Contender. Consider the Deacs a dark horse in the Atlantic Division race. Last year wasn’t the norm for the program, as it had both injuries AND suspensions to key players. The staff has recruited well the past two seasons and it has one of the best coaching staffs in the ACC. The schedule is favorable, and it has open dates before Duke and Maryland. Overall, the team has more depth. If the Deacs can stay healthy, they have a chance.

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