WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — For the disruptive Wake Forest defense, it all starts up front.
The 1st-string starters on the Demon Deacon defensive line have accounted for 111 tackles, 29 tackles for loss, 15 sacks, nine quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles.
Those 11 passes picked off by the Demon Deac secondary? Those have typically started with pressure from the Wake defensive line.
“As a D-line, we come into every game with a chip on our shoulder, no matter who we’re playing and what we’re playing for,” Wake junior defensive end Wendell Dunn said. “Others would say that because we’re down safeties, we played harder, but it felt to us like ‘Okay. Let’s just keep doing what we’re doing.’ If our team needs us, we’re going to do what it takes.”
Dunn was referencing last week’s performance against Louisville, when the Deacs were down safeties Cam Glenn, Ryan Janvion and Traveon Redd. They figure to be in pretty much the same spot Saturday against Clemson.
“We have Duke Ejiofor, Josh Banks, Willie Yarbary, Chris Stewart, Chris Calhoun — all of us just stepped up,” Dunn said.
Dunn said the defensive line is a special unit, and that their mindset comes from the top — defensive line coach Dave Cohen.
“I see the d-line being something special, even now. If you can’t see that, you must be going blind. Our defensive line — we take pride in what we do,” Dunn said. “Our coach (Cohen), he coaches with a chip on his shoulder. Sometimes it’s like, ‘Coach. . . are you alright?’ He trains us that way. He tells us we’re not going to be underdogs to anybody, regardless of what others say or think”
Dunn said the personalities on the defensive line are diverse and varied, yet they all come together on the field for a shared goal.
“Josh Banks is a guy of little words, but when he’s on the that field, it’s a wrap. Duke Ejiofor is the same way. Duke is a humble guy. Chris Stewart is energy,” he said. “We have a defensive line with so many personalities, but we love being out there with each other. You can tell we love it. We’re not the same guys, but when we’re out here on the field it’s family. It’s a brotherhood. I got your back, you got my back. Let’s go.”
The Deacs are up against it for the second week in a row, hosting No. 5 Clemson. Wake hasn’t knocked off a Top-10 ranked team since 1946, but it’s a game the team is fired up to play.
“You can get this education and play the top teams in the nation at the same time. These are the games we live for,” Dunn said. “These are the games we came here for, to play these top teams, and compete and actually win against these top teams. We’re never okay with losing against these teams, no matter where they stand.”
Though the Deacs are 6-4 and bowl eligible, they aren’t putting a bow of the season with pride just yet. There’s still much left on the table, according to Dunn.
“We don’t want anybody to think that Wake Forest is just out to get to a bowl game. We’re not trying to prove that to anybody. We want everybody to know Wake Forest is out here to play with anybody,” he said. “We’re out here to beat anybody, and it’s not just about a bowl game for us. It’s about an ACC Championship and a National Championship at some point. We want these big wins, so we can show people we’re about business. We’re not the Little ‘Ole Wake Forest that everybody claims to think we are. That’s not us.”