Wake Forest LBs want to be the best

Wake Forest linebackers coach Warren Belin knows who he has coming back in Brandon Chubb, Marquel Lee and Hunter Williams.

So he has issued a challenge to them this offseason.

“We've got to go prove it every day that if we work at it, we can be the best linebacker core in the ACC,” Belin said recently. “That is a dream and a vision that our guys set. They have a burning desire and passion to get there. They want it bad.

“In my experience, coming from coaching Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Jon Beason, the experience I had coaching at the Carolina Panthers and the NFL, when I turn that film on, those guys see I've had an opportunity to coach some really good players, and I'm coaching them the exact same way at Wake Forest. We're going to be detailed, we're going to hold you accountable, and you've got to play within the confines of the system.”

They hype has already started to build: Chubb is considered a favorite to make the preseason All-ACC team. Phil Steele had Williams on his fourth team. The trio combined for 270 tackles, 25.5 TFLs and eight sacks last season. Chubb had 109 tackles; Lee 101.

“We have to go out and play 13 games at a high level of competition and one-up what we did last year,” Chubb said. “I talk to them all the time about, ‘Hey we did good last year and Hunter had a good season, Marquel had a good season, but you can't hang your hats high on that.”

What has pushed all three players is a common backstory. None of them were heavily recruited out of high school. Chubb was committed to Appalachian State before Wake Forest came in with a last-minute offer days before signing day; Lee only had one other FBS scholarship offer from Maryland, and it was contingent on another recruit's decision; Williams walked on in 2011, earning a starting job two years later.

They each believe they have something to prove, even now.

“We never had hype. We never had that big push as far as college offers or anything like that,” Chubb said. “We want to do what we can to prove everybody wrong. That's how we all three play. Hunter gets after it more than anybody. Any coach scouting us wouldn't think he started out as a two-year walk-on. I wasn't supposed to be here, let me show I belong. Marquel plays the same way.

“We all have that stigma. We didn't get it on the silver platter like a lot of guys did. We're going to prove we should have. I'd rather be underrated than overrated. It's a motivating factor when we wake up Saturdays in the offseason, and we could be sleeping in until 12, but at 10 we’re doing ladder drills. That is going to take us a long way.”

Maybe all the way to the best linebacker group in the ACC.