By Gray Gardner.
Wake Forest is hoping to bounce back in 2011 after a disappointing 3-9 season in 2010. Crucial to their success will be the play of their defense, which ranked 101st in the nation in total defense a year ago.
“We’re trying to get it back right now,” linebacker Kyle Wilber said. “We made a change – we want the ways of Aaron Curry and Alfonso Smith to get turnovers and score on defense.”
It’s a reasonable desire for Wilber and the Demon Deacons, considering Curry and Smith’s teams won a total of 28 games over three seasons, including an ACC title in 2006.
Wilber said the difference with their teams was exceptional leadership.
“I think the best leaders we ever had were Aaron Curry and Alfonso Smith,” he said. “As a senior class we’re just trying to provide that kind of leadership again and get back to our winning ways.”
Wilber said Curry and Smith led by instilling “more fire, more understanding, (and by encouraging) more young players in the right mindset.”
“Usually after a loss guys were disappointed and it would translate into the next practice,” Wilber said. “Guys like (Curry and Smith) – after a loss – were like, ‘It’s okay. We’re going to go watch film. We’re going to see the mistakes we made. We’re going to change something. We’re not going to dwell on the past, we’re going to win this next game.’”
Kyle Wilber said the senior class is doing their best to instill this “team-first” mindset in the minds of the younger players.
“The thing I see is that individuals like to take credit for themselves, while teammates give credit where credit is due. They say, ‘The only reason I got that sack is because my defensive tackle was double teamed – he created a one-on-one opportunity with me and the tackle.’ Just stuff like that.
“It’s just letting other people know that it’s a team effort and not an individual effort.”
Wilber said he believes his defense has a responsibility to help the offense by putting them in situations to succeed.
“We can’t leave all the pressure on our offense to score. We have to put our offense in the best situation we can because it’s a team – offense and defense and special teams have to contribute to win games.”
The majority of Wake Forest’s opponents in 2011 will be more talented on the field. But head coach Jim Grobe has made a name for winning with lesser talent, and if the Demon Deacons can learn to work together to make plays in 2011, they should fare better than last year’s 3-win season.
Kyle Wilber’s leadership will be essential to this success.