Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Wake Forest defensive coordinator Brad Lambert has been tasked with reconstructing a defense that lost three of four starters in the secondary, the entire linebacking corps, and a pair of All-Americans. Only four starters return on defense from last year's 8-5 team, but with the season opener against Baylor now less than two weeks away, Lambert has reason to be confident -- his defensive line.
The leaders up front -- defensive tackle John Russell, nose guard Boo Robinson and defensive end Kyle Wilbur -- have been very active this summer making plays, and have set the tone for a defense that lost several players with true game-changing abilities.
"Our guys up front are really playing well, and you'd just die and go to heaven to have a guy like John Russell and Boo Robinson inside anchoring," Lambert said. "Those guys have played a lot of football, they're really active, they're good players, they're great kids. They study hard, they do all those things we talked about with Aaron (Curry), and Alphonso (Smith) and that crowd last year. So that's where your confidence is, and you need to be good up front. It doesn't matter if it's offense or defense, you need to win the line of scrimmage and so I feel real good about the guys up front right now."
He should, as this could be one of the best defensive lines in the ACC and will be a key component in the Deacons' chances at being the ACC darkhorse this year. Wilbur, a redshirt sophomore, was the youngest starter on the defense last year when he took over the top against Miami and started each of the final seven games. He finished fourth on the team with three sacks and has drawn the praise of the coaching staff this summer.
Robinson, a junior, has 11.5 career sacks and 25 career starts to build off of. Russell, a fifth-year senior poised to be one of the best defensive tackles in the conference, didn't become a full-time starter until last year. He finished second on the team with four sacks and third with seven tackles for loss.
"They created a lot of havoc for us, and that's where we're hanging our hat," Lambert said. "They've done that all camp, and they're our guys right now."