Personnel Preview: Wake Forest Defense

A review of Wake Forest's defensive starters and key reserves for Saturday night's matchup with the Irish. The Demon Deacons boast a disruptive 260-pound nose guard and the nation's leader in passes defended in their secondary.

Only one player, backup cornerback A.J. Marshall, has not received the developmental benefit of a redshirt-season among Wake Forest's two-deep defense (22 players).

Front Seven

The Demon Deacons rush defense ranks 49th nationally, allowing 3.94 yards per carry and 13 rushing scores. The Irish rush defense ranks 62nd (4 rushing scores) though Notre Dame has played more run-heavy foes than has Wake Forest.

LOU #40 Joey Ehrmann: – 6'4" 220-pound OLB will make his 12th straight start and 23 of his career. The redshirt-junior ranks ninth on the squad in tackles (30, including 2.5 for loss) and also has a 50-yard interception return to his credit.

DE #55 Tristan Dorty: – The redshirt-senior is expected to make the 27th start of his Demon Deacons career, 8th this season. Dorty has two QB hurries, a pass break-up and a tackle for loss to augment his 30 tackles this fall.

NG #50 Nikita Whitlock: – Undersized but cat-quick, the 5'11" 260-pound nose guard is one of the defense's top players, leading the squad with 12 tackles for loss including three sacks. A redshirt-sophomore, Whitlock ranks third on the team with 41 tackles in eight starts. He's started 20 consecutive games dating back to the season opener of his redshirt-freshman season last fall.

Said Irish head coach Brian Kelly of Whitlock: "He's not going to stay blocked. He can't. At his size, he's not going to lockout and throw linemen around. He's just always moving; he's always on an edge. They do a lot of things that we don't do in our 3-4 relative to pressures. So there are a lot of pressures where he's not staying on that nose. He's moving a gap. They do a great job of utilizing his strengths within their 3-4 defense."

DE #98 Zach Thompson: – Three of Thompson's 21 tackles have resulted in yardage; the 6'5" 255-pound redshirt-sophomore has added two pass breakups and a QB hurry in eight starts this season. Thompson has started 13 consecutive contests up front.

ROB #97 Kyle Wilber: – The defense's most experienced player, Wilber has started 22 consecutive games and 31 in his Wake Forest career. A 6'5" 240-pound redshirt-junior, Wilber ranks second on the squad with 7.5 tackles for loss and first with 3.5 sacks.

MLB #32 Scott Betros: – Second on the team in tackles with 44 (3.5 for loss), Betros is in his first season manning the middle of the Demon Deacons D. At 6'1" 240 pounds, the redshirt-junior played extensively in a reserve role last fall.

WLB #45 Riley Haynes: – Ranks third on the team with five tackles for loss an fifth in total stops (39). The 6'1" 220-pound redshirt junior has started each of the Demon Deacons eight games this season; he missed time last fall due to a torn meniscus in his knee after starting the season's first three contests.


Wake ranks 89th nationally in pass defense though the more-telling pass efficiency metric has them at 51st overall. Seven Demon Deacons have started at least 20 collegiate games including three members of its secondary.

Cornerback #7 Merrill Noel: – The redshirt-freshman has made a splash in his debut season, leading the nation with 16 passes defended including an interception in eight games (the Notre Dame record for passes defended in a season is 13). The 5'10" 180-pound Noel has 40 tackles this fall and was just the 68th-rated cornerback by in 2010.

Free Safety #4 Josh Bush: – Leads the team with three interceptions while adding 29 tackles (one for loss) and two passes defended. The 5'11" 205-pound redshirt-senior has started 23 games including each of the team's eight contests this season.

Strong Safety #5 Cyhl Quarles: – The 6'3" 210-pound redshirt-senior has paced the team with 69 tackles through eight games, adding three passes defended and a fumble recovery. He's tied for second on the defense with 27 career starts including nine straight.

Cornerback #6 Kenny Okoro: – Another veteran backfield starter (24 including nine consecutive), Okoro ranks second on the team with six passes defended including an interception he returned for 36 yards. The 6'0" 190-pound redshirt junior led the team in pass breakups last year (5) in eight starts.

Cornerback #17 A.J. Marshall: – The 5'11" 180-pound sophomore has posted 26 tackles and two passes defended in a reserve role (started once in 2011 and twice as a true freshman last fall). As noted previously, Marshall is the only member of the contributing Demon Deacons defenders to avoid a redshirt season. The Durham, NC-native was one of three true freshmen to see action for Wake Forest last season. Top Stories