ACC Football: Wake needs to upgrade defense
WINSTON-SALEM ó Wake Forestís defense last season was consistent ó consistently bad.
The Demon Deacons say theyíll be better this year, if for no other reason than they canít be much worse. Wake Forest ranked 101st in the nation in total defense and 110th in scoring defense.
They finished last season 3-9, lost nine games in a row and for a while held the longest losing streak in the Bowl Subdivision. Wake Forest will try to show progress when it visits Syracuse for a Sept. 1 opener.
ěWe have to use what happened last year as motivation,î linebacker Riley Haynes said Saturday. ěWe werenít stopping anybody. As a unit, we have come together and said this is not acceptable.î
Improvement could come with added familiarity with the 3-4 alignment that they switched into midway through the 2010 season.
ěWe can go into the season knowing what weíre doing,î nose guard Nikita Whitlock said. ěNow itís kind of second nature.î
Coaching staff members Tim Billings and Brian Knorr have moved into the role of co-defensive coordinators after the departure of Brad Lambert, who left to become the first coach of a new program at Charlotte.
Thereís plenty of fixing to do. Perhaps the most disturbing part for coach Jim Grobe was that Wake Forest played too many fourth quarters last year that werenít meaningful because of lopsided scores.
ěOur best teams have really been when weíre best on defense and on special teams,î Grobe said.
The Demon Deacons wonít be overly big on defense. Grobe said heís counting on growing depth to compensate for the lack of size.
Some of that could come from experience gained last year, when at times the Demon Deacons had as many as seven first-year defensive players on the field.
ěTheyíre a year wiser and a year tougher,î Grobe said. ěThey have a different look to them. They have a different demeanor.î
Cornerback Kenny Okoro says theyíre ěon a mission to change.î
Grobe said most of the defenders came from successful high school programs. So even with last yearís struggles, thereís a built in confidence that has been increasing through the preseason.
Tristan Dorty, who bounced around in several roles last year, is back on the line as an end. Haynes has returned after missing the latter part of the 2010 season because of knee surgery.
Witnessing the defense getting torched wasnít any fun either.
ěWatching it go down was not a good feeling,î Haynes said.
If nothing else, the Demon Deacons were an equal opportunity defense, with all areas needing an upgrade.
ěWe got beat as a defense,î Haynes said. ěIt wasnít one area. Everyone needs to get better. If not, weíre going to have a repeat and nobody wants that.î
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