CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Marquel Lee is a run-stopper for the Demon Deacon defense, putting a sudden and violent halt to opposing tailbacks, often before they even cross the line of scrimmage.
He’s led the Deacs in tackles for loss in each of the last two years, while gobbling up 172 total stops.
All-ACC linebacker Brandon Chubb has graduated and signed a professional deal with the L.A. Rams.
Now it’s up to Lee, as a newly minted team captain, to lead the Wake Forest linebacker corps that has been an integral part of their defensive stability in the first two years of the Dave Clawson era.
Demon Deacon Digest’s Les Johns was in Charlotte for ACC Kickoff last week, when Lee spoke to the media about the upcoming season.
On how the Deacs can make up for the loss of the graduating Chubb
Lee: “Not one person can make up for the loss of Brandon Chubb. He was a great player for us. We have to continue to move forward, and I believe we have the guys in our corps to do that, with Jaboree Williams, Demetrius Kemp coming off the edge, Thomas Brown at the rover position, and Zack Wary. I feel like those guys are dynamic. I feel like we can get the job done.”
On if it’s possible this group of linebackers may be deeper than last year
Lee: “I feel like it could be a deeper group. In past years, we didn’t really have a lot of development behind our linebackers, and I feel as this year has come along — (linebacker) coach (Clark) Lea has talked about the need to have linebacker depth. We’ve been bringing those younger guys up, and having great development in the spring, to where guys have played in games. Guys like Jaboree Williams have played in big games last year, and is experienced in situations like that.”
On not having as much of a dropoff in practice between the 1s and the 2s
Lee: “I felt that way too, and it’s a great feeling to have. We’ve seen that dropoff in year’s past, and having confidence that my brother can come in and spare me a little bit of time is invaluable — we all ball out the same.”
On if he senses momentum heading into coach Clawson’s third year at the helm
Lee: “Very much so. I like the direction we’re going. I feel this is our year to change people’s minds, and not be ‘little ole Wake Forest’ anymore. We can compete with anybody and we showed that last year. We just have to get over those humps, and win those big, close games that we lost last year.”
On looking at schedule with excitement, and seeing seven home games
Lee: “You always get excited looking at the schedule, but you have to refocus yourself, and come back to the fact we’ve got training camp first. That’s the first thing we have to get through. Our mindset is just taking it one rep at a time, and then getting to taking it one practice at a time, and then taking one game at a time. That’s our mindset — just taking one rep at a time, and making that the best rep that we can.”
On how the Deacs can change their fortune in those close games
Lee: “I can only speak for the defense, but I know we have to pay more attention to detail and play within our system like we know how. Just guys being in the right place at the right time, and having the mindset that we have to go win games. We can’t sit back and just stop people, and get frustrated when we have to go back out on the field. We have to create some turnovers. Coach Clawson preaches a lot that turnover margin is a great indicator of wins. Last year we didn’t do that very well, so this year we’re looking to create more turnovers. That will put our offense in a better position, or we can even score.”
On if the linebacker position has changed with teams spreading out so much of late
Lee: “I feel like in our recruiting and what our coaches are trying to do, is recruit a more athletic linebacker — one that can run sideline to sideline at all times, with a high motor. They also want someone who can play in coverage. I feel we have that this year with Jaboree Williams and Demetrius Kemp. Demetrius used to play safety, when he was a redshirt freshman, so he can cover. We focus on every aspect of the game, and you can’t take anything for granted. You have to train yourself to play in multiple sets. For instance, we play Boston College this year, and they are a heavy run team. We’ll have to switch up when we play Louisville or Indiana, who like to spread it out. You have to train yourself for both situations, because any team can play both.”
On if there’s been any movement to maybe drop a little weight to be able to react quicker
Lee: “Not at all. I feel great at my weight that I’m at. I’m still flying around like I usually do. Weight has never been an issue. You can be big and fast. That’s what we work at — being bigger, faster, stronger. I feel like we have to focus on both.”