Wake Forest Defense

Mississippi State plays Wake Forest in the Franklin American Mortgage Company Music City Bowl game Friday beginning at 5:40 pm. In a two-part article, Gene's Page looks at the Wake Forest defense and offense. In this first part we look at the Wake Forest defense.


Wake Forest runs a three-man front - two defense ends and a nose guard. The three starters are redshirt senior defensive end Tristan Dorty (6-2, 255), redshirt sophomore defensive end Zach Thompson (6-5, 255) and redshirt sophomore nose guard Nikita Whitlock (5-11, 260). Whitlock, at his nose guard position, is fourth on the team with 58 tackles, leads in tackles for loss with 12.5 and also is tied for the most sacks with 3.

MSU's Take On the Defense Line:

Head Coach Dan Mullen - "They are a much more active front. They aren't just going to be taking on one-on-one blocks. They are going to be moving a lot. A lot of teams that we have played put three of the biggest guys that they have in there and they just stand still. These guys are moving, blitzing and coming from a lot of different directions."

Offensive Coordinator Les Koenning - "Their defensive line is very, very fast. It is undersized compared to what we play in the SEC but they are very, very fast. They are always moving, which allows them to get into position to make plays."


Wake Forest utilizes four linebackers - redshirt senior Kyle Wilber (6-5, 240), redshirt sophomore Mike Olson (6-3, 230), redshirt sophomore Justin Jackson (6-1, 220) and redshirt junior Joey Ehrmann (6-4, 220). Wilber and Ehrmann have started all 12 games while Olson and Jackson have started the last three. Wilber, who has started 26 straight games and 35 total during his career, is second in total tackles with 65, second in tackles for loss with 10.5 and first in sacks with 3.5. Jackson is third in tackles for loss with 6.5 while Olson is tied for fourth in tackles for loss with 6.0.

MSU's Take On the Defense Line:

Offensive Coordinator Les Koenning - "They are big kids who run real well. They also have a lot of quickness."


Wake Forest starts redshirt freshman Merrill Noel (5-10, 180) and redshirt junior Kenny Okoro (6-0, 190) at the two cornerback positions, redshirt senior Josh Bush (5-11, 205) at free safety and redshirt senior Cyhl Quarles (6-3, 210) at strong safety. All four of the players have started all 12 games up to this point. Bush, who was named 1st team All-ACC this season, leads the team with 6 interceptions. His 6 picks are 2nd in the ACC and 6th nationally. Noel leads the nation in passes defended with 20.

MSU's Take On the Secondary:

Offensive Coordinator Les Koenning - "They are very sound and always in good position. They interchange zone and man a lot to keep you off balance. So, they create some problems due to that."

Scouting.com the Wake Forest Deacons Starting Defense:

Here is what Scout.com ranked each Wake Forest starting defensive player in high school. Offers are also included.

  • 2 Star - DL Tristan Dorty - Offers: Wake Forest, Virginia
  • 2 Staar - DL Nakita Whitlock - Offer: Wake Forest
  • 3 Star - DL Zach Thompson - Offers: Wake Forest, Maryland, North Carolina State, Syracuse, Virginia, West Virginia
  • 2 Star - LB Kyle Wilber - Offers: Wake Forest, Colorado State, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Nebraska, Central Florida, Wisconsin
  • 3 Star - LB Mike Olson - Offer: Wake Forest
  • 3 Star - LB ustin Jackson - Offer: Wake Forest
  • 2 Star - LB Joey Ehrmann - Offers: Wake Forest, Duke, Iowa, Syracuse
  • 2 Star - DB Merrill Noel - Offers: Wake Forest, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Tennessee, West Virginia
  • 2 Star DB Josh Bush - Offer: Wake Forest
  • 3 Star - DB Cyhl Quarles - Offer: Wake Forest
  • 2 Star - DB Kenny Okoro - Offers: Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Marshall

  • Follow Me On Twitter

    Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

    Gene's Page Top Stories