ACC Preview: Wake Forest

ACC Preview: Wake Forest

Football

ACC Preview: Wake Forest

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Head coach Dave Clawson’s first season with Wake Forest proved to be a difficult one, as the Demon Deacons went 3-9 and 1-7 in the ACC last season. Their only ACC victory came in overtime against Virginia Tech when they defeated the Hokies, 6-3.

“I thought our kids competed hard last year, and that was important, but I also think there was a significant gap in a lot of areas between us and the rest of the ACC,” Clawson said.

The 2015 season will return 13 starters from the previous year, however last year’s offense ranked last in the ACC. The Wake Forest offensive line allowed 48 sacks, which was the most allowed by any team. They also ranked last in the nation with an average of just 3.4 yards per play.

Although the 2015 offensive line could feature three starting redshirt freshmen, Clawson believes that is an area that the Demon Deacons will improve upon from last season. Having young and inexperienced offensive linemen is not ideal, but Clawson was pleased with the improvement he saw in the spring.

“When you’re as young as we are, you can’t get enough reps. You can’t get enough experience. That was good about our spring. We got a lot of young players, a lot of repetitions,” he said. “Our players continue to make measurable gains in our strength and conditioning program. I thought our spring practice was very productive.”

Sophomore John Wolford will return as the starting quarterback for the 2015 season. Wolford had a rough start in his first year at Wake Forest and threw 10 interceptions in his first five games. He also only completed two passes for over 35 yards against ACC opponents. However, he improved throughout the season to only throw four interceptions in his last seven games.

The remainder of Wake Forest’s offense features mainly underclassmen talent. Both returning running backs, Dez Wortham and Isaiah Robinson, will be entering their sophomore year. Neither one of them recorded a run over 20 yards, but Clawson saw some improvement after spring.

True freshman Tabari Hines and redshirt freshmen Tyree Harris and Cortez Lewis will all see some time at wide receiver, however one of Wolford’s main targets may be redshirt sophomore tight end Cam Serigne. In 2014, Serigne emerged as the team’s leading receiver.

The defense should be in better shape as seven starters return, but the Demon Deacons will be missing standout cornerback Kevin Johnson, who was selected 16th overall in the 2015 NFL draft by the Houston Texans. Wake Forest will also be missing their other star cornerback Merrill Noel, who signed with the Buffalo Bills.

Both of the projected cornerback replacements had to miss spring practice due to injuries, so that position could pose some questions for 2015.

Luckily for Wake Forest, the defensive line and linebacker positions are more solid and fortified with experienced veterans.  Last season, senior linebacker Brandon Chubb racked up 109 total tackles, while junior Marquel Lee had 101. On the line, senior tackle Tylor Harris will return to make an impact alongside redshirt juniors Josh Banks and Shelldon Lewinson.

Clawson also spoke highly of the younger backup defensive linemen and their development throughout their redshirt year and off seasons.

“Duke Ejiofor is really developing into a good football player for us. We’ve got a bunch of young freshmen defensive linemen that we red-shirted a year ago;  Willie Yarbary, Chris Stewart, Rashawn Shaw, that these guys I think are all going to be good players in time, they just don’t have any experience,” Clawson said.

Clawson’s second year as head coach for Wake Forest will be a difficult one, but it should not be as difficult as the first. With thirteen remaining starters having experience playing under him for a year, some improvements should be made.

“We’re not going to go from one of the worst teams in the country to one of the best in one year, but I’d be very disappointed if we don’t make a significant gain this year,” he said.

Wake Forest will face a challenging October, facing five big ACC opponents back-to-back before taking off to face Notre Dame on the road Nov. 14 , followed by a trip to Clemson on Nov. 21.

“We will be an extremely young football team next year, but I think we have some talented young men that will start to develop into really good ACC players,” Clawson said.

 

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