No position group had as much stability in the 2015 season for the Deacs than linebacker.
Three positions, three starters — all 12 games. But Brandon Chubb has departed for the NFL and Hunter Williams is presumably starting his own successful business somewhere (we’ll have to catch up with Hunter sometime this season), leaving a major hole in the Wake Forest defense, that statistically was one of the best in the ACC.
Returning starter and team captain Marquel Lee is such to hold down the MIKE position at LB again this season. He finished fourth on the team last year with 71 tackles and earned 11 All-ACC Preseason Team votes from the media. He’s also led the Deacs in tackles for loss each of the last two seasons.
But how do the Deacs go about replacing Chubb?
“Not one person can make up for the loss of Brandon Chubb,” Lee said at ACC Kickoff. “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.”
And Lee’s right. Despite losing Chubb and Williams, the Deacs return potentially more depth at the linebacker position.
At Rover, where Williams started all last year, expect to see a stiff competition between senior Thomas Brown and sophomore Demetrius Kemp. Brown played in 10 games in 2015, securing 24 tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks and a pass break up. Kemp participated in all 12 games and had 18 tackles on the season.
Kemp started his Wake career as a defensive back, and both he and Brown add a level of athleticism that gives them a chance exceed the production Williams had in 2015.
Junior Jaboree Williams and Redshirt junior Grant Dawson will be competing for the BUCK linebacker spot held down by Chubb last season. They both played in all 12 games as backups and special teams players, combining for 29 tackles on the season.
Redshirt sophomore Zack Wary, who had 12 tackles in eight games played last year, could compete for a 2-deep spot, potentially spelling Lee.
Redshirt freshman Justin Strnad has been singled out by Wake coach Clawson as being someone that impressed him, and fellow redshirt frosh Nate Mays is a big hitter. They both should have opportunities to contribute this season, but are unlikely to press for a starting role.