There have only been three first-round picks in the NFL draft to come out of Wake Forest since the year 2000. Those players are linebackers Calvin Pace (2003) and Aaron Curry (2009) and cornerback Kevin Johnson (2015). The program has an excellent chance to make it four this week.
The 2021 NFL Draft is loaded with talented prospects at every defensive position, but there isn’t a defender that has the kind of athleticism, production, and versatility that EDGE rusher Carlos “Boogie” Basham Jr. has.
Basham put together a hell of a resume during his time at Wake Forest. Since becoming an every-down player in 2018, Basham recorded an astounding 33.5 tackles for loss, 19.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles, and a defensive touchdown. Basham began this pre-draft process with questions surrounding his athleticism. He squashed those concerns by running a 4.64-second 40-yard dash, leaping a 34-inch vertical, and clocking 4.25 seconds in the short shuttle at his Pro Day. All of those results are incredible when you factor in that Basham weighs 274 pounds. Basham’s stock continues to soar. On tape, he showcases the size, power, speed, effort, length, and versatility to impact the game in a variety of ways at the next level.
I had a conversation with Basham that detailed why he’s one of the top defensive prospects in this class. We talked about playing his college football just two hours away from home, his pass rush arsenal, which NFL EDGE defender he’d love to sit down and learn from, and why he feels he’s the most versatile player in this class.
JM: You were born in Roanoke, Virginia. You made the decision to play your college football just a few hours away at Wake Forest. You must have loved seeing so many familiar faces in the crowd at your home games.
CB: That meant everything to me. My transition from high school to college was such an easy one because I always had family around. I always had a lot of support in the crowd at our home games. It was just two hours away from home. That was a big reason why I decided to attend Wake Forest.
JM: You also played basketball in high school. I’m always interested in how a player’s experiences with other sports helped them develop as a football player. How do you think that made you a better defensive lineman?
CB: I would definitely say the coordination it takes to play basketball helped me out a lot. It made me a better athlete in general. It definitely helped me develop as a football player. Running around that basketball court is a hell of a way to stay in shape as a young athlete (laughs). That played a huge role in my development as an athlete in general.
JM: You had a terrific career at Wake Forest. You were so productive. Your resume speaks for itself. Now that you’ve had time to sit down and really reflect, how do you look back on your time as a Deacon?
CB: I had a great time at Wake Forest. I can’t complain at all. I came in at 18 years old. I was just a kid. I didn’t know what to expect. I left Wake Forest as a man at 23 years old. I learned so much during my five years there. I learned lessons that will stick with me for the rest of my life. I made friendships and relationships that will last a lifetime.
JM: You were the leader of that defense. How can that experience help you going forward?
CB: I’m coming from a winning program. I’m used to winning. We had a great defense. I’m hoping to go from one great defense to another. I’m gonna do everything within my power to make that happen. That’s nothing new to me. I’ve always played on a good defense. It’s an experience that should help set me up for immediate success in my rookie season.
JM: I want to talk about that Wake Forest defense. What did your coaching staff ask of you within their scheme?
CB: Our main front was a 4-3. We also had a couple of 3-4 packages that we mixed in. Our coaching staff expected me to make plays within the structure of our defense. We were allowed to take risks, though. They always told us, if you find an opportunity to take a chance, go ahead and take it. As long as we made the play, we could go outside the scheme and take a risk. They trusted us to identify opportunities. They never held us back from doing something like that. Take a chance and make a play. If we gambled and didn’t make that play, we heard about it (laughs). That’s how I played every single game. If I saw something, I followed my instincts.
JM: I love that. What can you tell me about your pass rush arsenal? I’m looking for go-to moves, counters, and so on.
CB: My main move is a speed rush. I like working things off of my long arm as well. As far as counters go, I love an inside scissor move. I have a great swim move that I use as a counter. I have a lot of power as well. I generate a ton of power as a pass rusher.
JM: What do you think you proved to NFL scouts at your Pro Day? You answered a lot of questions out there.
CB: I proved that I’m definitely an athletic player given my size. I can move all over the defensive line and play any position you ask me to.
JM: Speaking of your position, there’s been a lot of chatter and debate on that topic. Where do NFL teams see you playing at the next level?
CB: NFL teams aren’t sure where to put me. I can play all across the board. That’s the big question right now. Where am I gonna play? I can play the 3-technique position. I can stand up and play as an outside linebacker, or I can put my hand in the dirt and play as a defensive end. That’s what separates me from a lot of players. You can plug-and-play me anywhere.
JM: So, you haven’t heard much consistency from NFL teams on that topic?
CB: Yeah, exactly. There hasn’t been one consensus opinion.
JM: Interesting. What’s your favorite part of playing on the edge?
CB: You have a bit more time to react to things. That’s not the case on the inside. Everything pretty much happens instantly when you’re playing up the middle. You have a little more time to think and react as a defensive end.
JM: If you could sit down and talk football with one NFL defender, who would you choose and why?
CB: I would pick Jason Pierre-Paul. He’s my favorite player in the league. I love how he plays the game. I would love to learn more about how he approaches the game on a daily basis. I just love everything about his game. I’d love to pick his brain for a little bit. I’d take that opportunity to learn some of his techniques so that I can implement them into my toolbox.
JM: That’s a great choice. When I turn the tape on, the first thing that jumps out at me is how much power you play with. You talked about power being a big part of your pass rush arsenal. I feel like you have an excellent understanding of how to work angles as well. How did you develop those aspects of your game?
CB: We had a very strict and advanced strength program in high school. That’s when I started developing more power. We did a lot of squats and power cleaning. Those were some of our main lifts. We always did that. It was our two core workouts. It was the same thing when I got to Wake Forest. My legs and hips have always been incredibly powerful. When it comes to how I work my angles, it goes back to my basketball background. You have to beat a guy to a certain spot in basketball. That experience really helped me understand how I could work angles to my advantage as a football player.
JM: That makes a lot of sense. You also play the game with a ton of effort. I’ve studied a lot of your tape, and I can’t recall ever dinging you for taking a play off.
CB: That comes from me wanting to make every play. You never know what’s gonna happen. You can’t take this game for granted. If I miss a tackle, the running back or receiver might break it for a touchdown. I take that into account on every rep. If I miss a tackle because my effort wasn’t there, it may result in a huge play for the offense. I need to get off the block, find the ball, and kill the play in the backfield.
JM: As much as you get after the quarterback, you don’t neglect the run game either. You recorded 36.5 tackles for loss at Wake Forest. How did you become such an effective run-stopper?
CB: I love playing the run game because it allows me to be physical. I love playing with physicality. I love being aggressive off the line of scrimmage. The run game is personal. The offensive lineman is trying to embarrass me and I’m trying to do the same thing to him (laughs). I’m trying to embarrass the offensive lineman by beating him and making a play in the backfield. That’s a 2-for-1 right there (laughs). It’s great. I pride myself off of the work I do in the run game.
JM: It shows on tape. You’ve spent the last few months meeting with NFL teams virtually on Zoom. What’s that process been like for you?
CB: I’ve pretty much spoken with every team in the NFL. It’s a weird time right now. We’re doing everything virtually over Zoom. We’re talking football and jumping on the whiteboard. We’re talking about who I am as a person. I’m just soaking it up and taking this process day by day. I’m speaking with teams every single day. I’m enjoying the process and I’m gonna make the most of this opportunity. A team calls me every day and I’m learning something new every day. I’m loving this process.
JM: There’s a lot of interest in you and it’s easy to see why. Do you have a favorite moment in a Wake Forest jersey?
CB: I would definitely say my favorite moment was when we beat North Carolina during the 2019 season. The history behind that game is special. The rivalry is real. We felt so many emotions heading into that game. The experience after the game, celebrating the win in the locker room with my teammates was great. The feeling on the field and in the locker room was special.
JM: That makes sense. If you could choose the quarterback to be the victim of your first career sack, who would you choose and why?
CB: I would probably pick Lamar Jackson. I had a few opportunities to get after him in college but I didn’t get him on the ground (laughs). He did what he does best and evaded the pressure. I didn’t get him how I wanted to. I’m hoping to maybe make up for that in the NFL (laughs).
JM: He’s a tough guy to bring down. Who would you say are some of the best offensive linemen you played against throughout your time at Wake Forest?
CB: I’ve played against so many great offensive linemen. Christian Darrisaw definitely comes to mind. I’d also have to single out Jackson Carman. I played some 3-technique during my freshman year. We played against Notre Dame and I squared off with Quenton Nelson. He’s obviously special. Liam Eichenberg is another great player from Notre Dame. I’ve played against so many great talents.
JM: That’s an excellent list. Wake Forest has only had three players selected in the first round since 2000. I imagine you’re hoping to make it four this week.
CB: I’m definitely excited about that possibility. It would be a big moment for the program. I know everybody at Wake Forest would be so happy for me. It’s always been a dream of mine to be a first-round pick.
JM: I’ve really appreciated your time today. I feel like this conversation has showcased why you’re one of the most athletic and versatile defensive players in this entire draft class. In closing, you just talked about your dreams of being a first-round pick. Why should a team use a first-round pick on Boogie Basham?
CB: When you draft Boogie Basham, you’re getting somebody that loves football. I can play any position on the defensive line. You can move me around and take advantage of mismatches. I’m gonna go hard on every single play.