Veteran Secondary Anchors Deacon Defense
Safety Anthony Wooding Jr. played in 10 games with four starts last season after transferring from Air Force.
Safety Anthony Wooding Jr. played in 10 games with four starts last season after transferring from Air Force.

2014 Wake Forest Spring Football Central

April 15, 2014

By Emma Lingan, WakeForestSports.com

Wake Forest has several question marks it is trying to answer this spring, but one area the Demon Deacons are more than set in is the secondary, where a veteran group is expected to shoulder much of the defensive load this season.

Despite losing significant talent up front on the defense, the Deacons can rest assured that the secondary is more than ready for the challenge.

"I definitely believe that we can be the best secondary in the country," said senior cornerback Kevin Johnson. "I'm excited to get out here with the boys, grind through spring and summer training camp, and work toward that goal."

Fellow senior Merrill Noel also brings experience at the corner, which has the potential to benefit the defense now more than ever.

"We have some great defensive players right now," Noel said. "We all have game experience, but it's up to us to go out there and prove ourselves."

Wake Forest will also return two veteran safeties in senior Anthony Wooding, Jr. and sophomore Ryan Janvion, who each started last season for the Demon Deacons.

"It's definitely a challenge learning the new defense, but we have great coaches and they're constantly on us to know our stuff," Janvion said. "We're putting in the extra work to get it in our playbooks. It's definitely a learning curve, but we're getting better and better each and every day, and that's the most important thing."

After redshirting his first season, Janvion led the Deacs with 95 tackles to earn All-ACC honorable mention honors in 2013, as well as a spot on the All-ACC Academic Team. He welcomes the opportunity to further define his role as an indispensable defensive player.

"I want to be the guy that's out there on the field leading the defense," Janvion said. "I kind of had to do that last year when A.J. Marshall went down, so I'm a little used to it. But I'm excited about being a returning starter now and not being considered a rookie. Now it's expected for me to play well, and I wouldn't have it any other way."

Wooding, who transferred from the Air Force Academy prior to the 2013 season, is also looking forward to establishing his role as a defensive leader.

"Being the safety, I want to be like the quarterback of the defense," Wooding said. "I just try to know as much as possible so if someone's wrong I can oversee everything. I'm way in the back, so if they don't see something and I see it I can let them know."

In addition to providing stability on the defensive side of the ball, the returning secondary faces the added challenge of adapting to a new, more intense coaching style.

"It's been a different transition, especially getting the coaching change in here," Johnson said. "[We're] really getting the different mindset that we're going to be a championship-level football team and doing what it takes to get there."

This championship-oriented mentality has the coaches holding every player to high standards, particularly veterans who have already proven their potential on the field.

"[Defensive coordinator Mike Elko] definitely expects a lot from me," Janvion said. "He wants me to be that leader on the field who's commanding the defense and making sure everyone knows what they're doing. Right now it's a little bit of a struggle because I'm still trying to figure out my position, but I'm excited about that role, and that's a role that I want to put myself in."

The Demon Deacons feel that the ultimate goal of being a championship team is well worth the extra effort, and they are excited to live up to the high expectations of their coaches.

"It's definitely been a big change," Janvion said. "I personally had never had to go through a coaching staff change before, but this change was definitely for the better. It definitely sharpened us. It's definitely a higher standard that they are setting for us, and we couldn't be happier."

Despite all the changes the program is experiencing on and off the field, the Deacs believe their ability to play as a team has eliminated much of the added pressure.

"I still think we're a confident group," Wooding said. "A lot of people are playing different positions, but everyone's just doing whatever they can to help the team." Members of the secondary in particular plan to use their experience playing with one another to their advantage.

"We're going through it together, helping each other out, and making sure all of us know what we're doing," Janvion said. "We're communicating out there on the field so we can get to the level we need to be at come fall."

As the defense continues to grow up front, the secondary is responding to the increased demand for stability in the back. Yet rather than viewing it as a burden, these players are embracing it as part of the responsibility that accompanies the position.

"All of us are football players, so those guys up front are going to have to step up this year and play ball," Noel said. "As a secondary, we're just going to hold our ground because we're the strongest part of the defense right now. [We're] going to make it run smoothly and try to win games."

Although Johnson, Noel, Janvion, and Wooding provide stability on the backline, the strength of the defense is ultimately the sum of all of its players. The veterans have confidence not only in themselves, but in the rest of their team to rise to the challenge of becoming a championship-level program.

"I trust in the coaches, the scheme, and the guys up front," Johnson said. "All we have to do is come out here as a secondary and do what we do, and we should take care of business."

 

 

 

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