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."