July 3, 2012

The War Room part two: Defense

Wake Forest has glaring needs to address in recruiting on the defensive side of the ball.

In part one of "The War Room" Deacons Illustrated broke down some of Wake's top offensive targets; now it is time to switch to the other side of the ball.

Defensive Line

The Demon Deacons have had limited production in the trenches aside Nikita Whitlock's stellar contributions the past two seasons, so the mission for Wake Forest is to find players who can provide a much-needed pass-rush and support against the run.

With its radars up and nets cast wide Wake has been in pursuit of some the Sunshine State's talents. A hot name for the Deacs is Jacksonville (Fla.) Mandarin's Kingsley Opara.

The 6-foot-4, 275-pound defensive tackle has Wake Forest in his top three with Maryland and West Virginia. The Mountaineers appear to be his leader.

Opara, who is rated as a three-star recruit by Rivals.com, claims scholarship offers from Connecticut, Florida A&M, Furman, Georgia State, Middle Tennessee State, Temple, Tennessee State and Western Kentucky along with UMD, WVU and Wake, while Duke, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami (Fla.), Minnesota, Rutgers, South Carolina, South Florida, Syracuse and UCF are also showing interest.

He would like to choose a school sometime in either July or August, but said that is unlikely. September appears to be a more realistic possibility.

Tom Elrod and Ray McCartney are recruiting Opara for the Demon Deacons.

Opara on Wake Forest in a prior interview with Deacons Illustrated: "It's [Wake had 30 players from Florida on its roster last season] definitely something to think about. Maybe I can go check it out."

Staying south, but in the Palmetto State, Wake Forest is high on Gaffney (SC) defensive end Jaylen Miller.

The 6-foot-3, 265-pounder, who is rated by Rivals.com as a three-star recruit and the No. 13 overall prospect in South Carolina, claims nine scholarship offers, including one from Wake, while Clemson, Florida State, Miami (Fla.), South Carolina and Tennessee have shown interest.

He attended, but did not participate in Wake Forest's football camp Saturday, June 2. During his visit Miller spent time with McCartney and freshman quarterback Tyler Cameron.

Maybe the prospect with the most untapped potential left on Wake's board is Memphis (Tenn.) Harding Academy's Mack Weaver, who does not turn 17 years old till July 20.

Weaver recorded 78 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, four passes defended, three blocked punts and a defensive touchdown to go along with eight receptions for 215 yards and two touchdowns last season.

The Deacs are pursuing the 6-foot-6, 240-pound athlete, who is rated as a three-star recruit and as the nation's No. 20 tight end by Rivals.com, for defensive end.

He claims at least 16 scholarship offers, including one from Wake Forest, while Duke and North Carolina are also showing interest.

McCartney is recruiting Weaver for the Demon Deacons.

Weaver on his relationship with McCartney and on his visit to Wake Forest in a prior interview with Deacons Illustrated: "He's a good guy. I really like him. He's a funny guy, and my parents love him also."

"We got a tour of the facilities. I loved the campus and I got to talk to some of the players also, just hang out with them for a few minutes and that was really cool. I really loved that campus and everybody that I met."

With the hope of adding depth and talent to its defensive line Wake also needs some beef in the middle, and at 6-foot-2 and 310 pounds Monty Nelson fits the bill.

Nelson, who is rated as a three-star recruit by Rivals.com, claims 13 scholarship offers, including one from Wake Forest, while Boston College and North Carolina have also shown interest.

McCartney is recruiting the Plantation (Fla.) product for the Demon Deacons.

Nelson on Wake Forest in a prior interview with Deacons Illustrated: "Wake Forest is a great school academically, and that's one thing I really like about them. Just to get a degree from their school, it's like gold. You can do anything if you get a degree from Wake Forest."

Other DL's left on Wake's radar …
Glen Bethel, James Looney, Reggie Miles, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Devyn Salmon, Kyle Shortridge and Tray Watkins.

Linebackers

Despite losing the leadership and experience of Kyle Wilber this corps of players will be one of the strongest and most-veteran position groups for the Demon Deacons fall. However, it is important for Wake Forest to maintain a reliable stable of young, developing talent, especially as seniors Scott Betros and Riley Haynes enter their final campaign with the Deacs.

It would be ideal for Jim Grobe and his staff to pick up at least three more linebackers in this recruiting class.

Here are some of Wake's top linebacker targets …

--- Justin Bridges-Thompson[/db], Spartanburg (SC), 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds. Rivals.com rates him as a three-star recruit, the nation's No. 32 safety and as the No. 6 overall prospect in South Carolina.

He spent last season at inside linebacker and free safety before that, but will move to outside linebacker for his senior season. Bridges-Thompson recorded 155 tackles and three fumble recoveries as a junior.

The Palmetto State product claims scholarship offers from Arizona, Hampton, NC State, Pittsburgh and Wake Forest, while Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Duke, LSU, North Carolina, Oregon and South Carolina are showing interest.

Lonnie Galloway is recruiting Bridges-Thompson for the Deacs.

Bridges-Thompson on Wake Forest in a prior interview with Deacons Illustrated: "I really think highly of Wake Forest. If you get a degree from Wake Forest you can get a job basically anywhere. You can really develop as a person there."

--- Rayfield Dixon, Loxahatchee (Fla.) Seminole Ridge, 6-foot-3 and 196 pounds. Rivals.com rates him as a three-star recruit.

He claims 14 scholarship offers, including one from Wake Forest, while Cincinnati, Florida Atlantic, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Miami (Fla.), Oklahoma State, South Florida, UCF and Vanderbilt have shown interest.

Dixon is friends Wake freshmen Tyler Cameron and Dominique Gibson.

McCartney is recruiting him for the Demon Deacons.

Dixon on Wake and his relationship with McCartney in a prior interview with Deacons Illustrated: "He [McCartney] told me they had 30 [players] from Florida. That means to me that they're real serious about recruiting the kids from down here. It shows that I'm one of the people that they liked from Florida."

"He's a real good coach. He's real cool. We have a real good connection."

--- Marvin Gross, Baltimore (Md.) Dunbar, 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds. Rivals.com rates him as a three-star recruit.

He claims 11 scholarship offers, including one from Wake Forest, while Maryland, Miami (Fla.), NC State, Virginia and Virginia Tech are showing interest.

Jonathan Himebauch is recruiting Gross to play outside linebacker for the Deacs.

Gross plans to visit Wake later sometime this month.

Other LB's on Wake's radar …

Kanyia Anderson, Grant Dawson, Jalen Forrest, DaeSean Hamilton, Skai Moore and Darrell Songy.

Defensive Backs …

Wake Forest's secondary is in good hands with the return of Kevin Johnson, A.J. Marshall and Merrill Noel despite the departure of stud safeties Josh Bush and Cyhl Quarles.

Duran Lowe and Daniel Mack look to fill those voids along with the additions of Dominique Gibson and Ryan Janvion, while James Ward will add depth at cornerback.

At the same time Wake Forest would jump at the opportunity to snag a couple of more quality defensive back commitments to join Brad Watson for its 2013 recruiting class.

Wake is in the top two for Bastrop (Texas) cornerback Aneas Henricks (tied with Texas Tech) and Clearwater (Fla.) Central Catholic cornerback Michael Stevenson (tied with UCF), top four (along with Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and West Virginia) for Delray Beach (Fla.) American Heritage athlete Marcus Davis and the top five (along with Maryland, Miami (Fla.), NC State and Vanderbilt) for Charlotte (NC) Mallard Creek cornerback Anthony Covington.

--- Rivals.com rates Stevenson as a three-star recruit and the nation's No. 59 cornerback.

The 6-feet, 175-pound Florida prospect claims 11 scholarship offers, including one from Wake Forest, while Duke and Wisconsin are showing interest.

Tim Duffie is recruiting Stevenson for the Demon Deacons.

--- Henricks claims scholarship offers from Rice, Texas State, Texas Tech and Wake, while Baylor and TCU are showing interest.

Duffie and Derrick Jackson are recruiting the 6-feet, 168-pound Henricks for the Deacs.

Henricks on his relationship with Duffie and Jackson in a prior interview Deacons Illustrated: "They talk to me a lot. They keep up with me a lot, and make sure I'm doing good and making sure I work hard. They're real cool. My relationship with the coaches is real cool. They keep me updated with a lot of stuff. They talk me real frequently, giving me updates on Wake Forest and how they're doing, what the season is looking like, the depth chart. I definitely want to go up there and see the campus [and] how things work on game-day, and see I can really see myself playing for them."

--- Rivals.com rates Covington as a three-star recruit, the nation's No. 52 cornerback and the No. 23 overall prospect in North Carolina.

The 5-foot-10, 185-pounder claims scholarship offers from East Carolina, Georgia Tech, Minnesota, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Virginia and Wake Forest, while Auburn, Clemson, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech have shown interest.

Galloway is recruiting Covington for the Demon Deacons.

Covington on Wake in a prior interview with Deacons Illustrated: "Obviously Wake Forest I've built a pretty sturdy relationship with all of the coaches. I love the fact they are obviously a smaller school. I love the education part of it. I love the fact they compete and try to win ACC titles regardless of the size of their school in general."

Other DB's on Wake's radar …

Evrett Edwards and Jalen Latter.

Stay tuned to Deacons Illustrated for more in-depth analysis and coverage of Wake Forest football recruiting.

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