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Changes on defense dominated Wake Forest's spring

Wake Forest wraps up its spring practices Saturday, and unlike in the past few years, the biggest questions are actually on the defensive side of the ball. Jay Sawvel has taken over as coordinator for the departed Mike Elko, and the unit is working to get acclimated to the new system. To see how far the Demon Deacons have come, we talked with defensive back Jessie Bates.

What’s the spring been like for you guys on defense?

We’re running a new defense, so it’s just getting the young guys with the playbook down so we can play at a fast level like we did last year, getting the defense ready to compete.

Have the changes been big, or is it more a matter of just new verbiage for the same basic concepts?

You can’t really change a lot of coverages. You’ll always have some things. You don’t change the Cover 2. It’s just calling it different things, getting guys lined up in different places, different terminology and having the younger guys understand you haven’t changed the coverage, just terminology and technique. Everything else is fine.

Wake has had so much success defensively the past few years. Was it a big concern for you that you’d have to make these big changes in the wake of a really good season?

Once you’re playing under a new staff or with a new playbook, you’re always worried about not knowing it right away. We talked about that as a defense -- as players and with the staff -- that it’ll take time to get the defense down and play fast. But you can’t really change a lot, and we’ve really focused on effort and getting the details down slowly.

The past few years, it’s been the defense that’s been sharp and the offense has grown slowly. As you’ve gone up against that offense this spring, does it seem a lot more competitive?

I think the offense is doing great things. I like what I’ve seen, and it’s had us on our heels a little bit sometimes. We don’t know our plays as well. I feel like our offense is making huge steps, and as the defense, we’re trying to do the same thing. We just have to get the playbook down, find leadership and believe in our coaches that they know what they’re talking about.

What are you hoping to see in the spring game?

In the spring game, we’re not really splitting up into two teams. We’ll be running our defense against our offense. I don’t have individual goals for that, but I want to see our team come together for this last practice and get after it and play fast. We only have 20 more practices before our first game, and it’s coming very soon. At the beginning of spring, it’s more like it’s alright if we miss assignments and stuff. But now, we’ve cracked down on that, and we don’t want to see a lot of that. We can’t keep repeating the same mistakes. We need to keep growing as a team.