Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson believes fourth-ranked Clemson will be the biggest challenge his team has faced yet, especially for his defense when the Tigers invade Groves Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C., on Saturday.
Despite the fact the Tigers are down to one starting quarterback, Clemson led the Atlantic Coast Conference in the first five weeks of the season in total offense, averaging 497.6 yards per game. The only difference Clawson sees in the Tigers’ offense now that Kelly Bryant has left the team is that Clemson isn’t as willing to run its quarterback in critical situations as it did last year.
And that can be a good thing, Clawson explains.
“I think with Kelly, they appeared a little bit more willing or wanting to run him if they need a critical play,” the Wake Forest head coach said. “Trevor (Lawrence) to me is just a very gifted thrower, passer. He’s accurate. He has great velocity on the ball. He’s got a quick release. And Clemson can play the game either way. They’re good up front and when they had to win that game last week they ran it.”
The Tigers ran for 293 yards against Syracuse, led by Travis Etienne’s 203 yards and three touchdowns. Etienne scored the game winner with 41 seconds left.
However, Clemson (5-0, 2-0 ACC) isn’t just a running team. Last week they leaned on the run after Lawrence was knocked out of the game in the second quarter. But, the freshman practiced all week and is expected to start for the Tigers on Saturday.
Lawrence has plenty of weapons to throw too as well. Besides Hunter Renfrow, there is Tee Higgins, Amari Rodgers and Justyn Ross to name a few.
“But with what they have on the perimeter and some of the matchups they present, if you cheat too much against the run, there’s a lot of bad matchups on the perimeter and they have a kid who is very accurate throwing it,” Clawson said. “So, there’s a reason they’re undefeated. There’s a reason they’re as productive as they are.”
It also does not help Wake Forest (3-2, 0-1 ACC) that is defense is bad. The Demon Deacons rank last in the ACC, allowing 461.2 yards per game. They have allowed 271.6 yards per game, including 7.5 yards per attempt.
In their two games vs. Power 5 opponents, they gave up 97 points and both games were at home.
They have also allowed 14 touchdowns, which ranks last in the conference. Knowing all of that, plus the talent the Tigers have at quarterback and wide receiver, is not helping Clawson sleep at night.
“They’re not a football team that you can say, well, if you just take this away you’re in good shape. They have the ability to run it, throw it, spread the field, hit every zone in the run game and hit every zone in the passing game,” he said. “So, they’re very efficient, well-coached and their scheme is very well-thought out. They know what they’re doing.”