Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
The Wake Forest defense has done its homework. In addition to their routine study of game film, some of the Deacs looked up Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin on the internet.
They know he goes by RG3. They read he might be the fastest quarterback in FBS history. (He’s also a world-class hurdler.) And they know the dual-threat quarterback will present a legitimate early challenge to a group that graduated seven starters on defense, including some of the most talented players to ever come through the program.
Wake Forest traveled to Baylor last year for the season opener and won, 41-13. Griffin came off the bench and made his collegiate debut in the second quarter, and remained the starter for the rest of the season. As an 18-year-old true freshman, Griffin was the youngest starting quarterback in the country, and he quickly matured into one of the best. With Griffin now more seasoned, and the entire team entering its second season under coach Art Briles, nobody in Winston-Salem is expecting an easy opener, especially considering the question marks that loom on defense.
Wake Forest is confident in its defensive line, but this year’s Baylor team will keep every unit on the Deacs’ defense honest, including a completely rebuilt linebacking corps, and a secondary that had to replace three starters.
“They present a lot of problems because they’re so athletic,” said Wake Forest defensive coordinator Brad Lambert. “It all starts at quarterback. … We played them last year, so that helps us, obviously, but we caught Robert at a good time. Last year was his first college game. He’s got 12 games under his belt now, so he’s going to be a different player coming in here than he was last year when he came in the game. We’ve had to focus on that a lot. I don’t know that you can ever stop him. You try and slow him down a little bit, keep him under control and avoid those big plays. That’s going to be the challenge for us.”
Griffin accounted for two-thirds of his team’s touchdowns last year (a school-record 28 of 46). He scored 13 rushing and 15 passing with just three interceptions. He set an FBS record 209 passes without an interception to start his career, and didn’t throw a pick until the ninth game of the season. Add on his 843 rushing yards, and it doesn’t seem like there’s much Griffin can’t do.
“He can definitely challenge all aspects of our defense,” defensive end Kyle Wilbur said. “He can throw the ball, as everyone can see. I just read something talking about him being the fastest quarterback to ever play college football, so it’s going to be a big challenge for us.
“I don’t think you can just contain one person. They’re starting to call Robert Griffin RG3 now. If we just surround him, then the wide receivers will have a breakout day on us, or the running backs will have a breakout day. I think we have to come with a balance and shut down everything.”
Linebacker Jonathan Jones, who has the daunting task of taking over for Butkus Award winner Aaron Curry, agreed.
“This is definitely, definitely an early test,” said Jones. “In one sense it’s a blessing we get to play them in the first game so we’ve had a little longer to prepare for them. They do a lot of things, throw a lot of things at you, and with Robert Griffin being the dual threat that he is, you have to have everybody have all eyes on him. Everybody has to be focused and in tune. This is not a game that’s going to be won by the front, or won by the defensive backs. We need a collective team effort on defense to try to contain this offense.”
And without the star-studded defensive cast of last year, it will likely take a collective team effort all season.