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September 29, 2011
First quarter progress report: defense
Part two of Wake Forest's early season grades centers on the defense, a unit that has struggled to consistently put four quarters of good football together, but showed promise in the final minutes against N.C. State and in the Demon Deacons 48-5 win over Gardner-Webb.
Now for the scores of the individual position groups on defense:
Aside from nose guard Nikita Whitlock the front four have not produced at a high enough level to be recognized as competitive.
Whitlock is the only lineman to have registered a sack this season, and the line as a whole only has five tackles for loss. This group is not getting any penetration.
Scott Betros and Riley Haynes are two of the main catalysts on defense, providing leadership. However, like the defensive line the linebackers are also getting very little penetration into the opposition's backfield.
Kyle Wilber has the only sack of the group, and as a corps the linebackers only have nine tackles for loss.
They also need to improve on pass-coverage. The defensive backs cannot do it all by themselves, which is certainly obvious.
All things considered this group is holding up admirably. With no pass rush from the front seven, which also has a tendency to give up big runs i.e. Antwon Bailey 53-yard touchdown run in the season opener, this group is hanging tough.
The stud of the secondary, and maybe the cornerstone of the defense along with Whitlock is strong safety Cyhl Quarles. The senior from Georgia leads the Demon Deacons in tackles with 27.
Regardless of how impressive this is it is a bad sign for a defensive back to lead the team in that category, meaning the other team is often getting too far downfield.
As a redshirt freshman Merrill Noel, affectionately known as Bud, has jumped right in, not letting his inexperience hold him back. The Florida native is tied for the team-lead in pass breakups with two.
The only real knock against this group is its inability to find and stay with a team's go-to receiver. Syracuse's Van Chew, N.C. State's T.J. Graham and even Gardner-Webb's James Perry III found ways to burn the Demon Deacons.