Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson has plenty of respect for the fourth-ranked Clemson Tigers as the Deacons prepare to host Clemson Saturday in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Clawson’s transcript for his teleconference with the ACC media earlier this week follows:
“We had a good bounce-back win this week playing Rice at home. Played well on offense. I thought our quarterback, Sam Hartman, really improved. He was very efficient. Defensively, at least in the first half, we played much better.
“Don’t like how we played in the second half. Had a little bit of a let-up. But we got to play a lot of people and our guys, our starters didn’t play too many snaps. And those are all little things that help when you have the challenge that we have this week playing Clemson one of the elite programs in the country — first in the ACC in offense, second in defense.
“I know people talk a lot about their “D” line and how good they are and all that is true. But just what a complete football team they are, at linebacker, in the secondary, on offense. Their “O” line is really good, their backs are elite. They have more depth at receiver than any team we’ve played in my time here.
“And they have two quarterbacks and both of those kids can throw it. So this is one of the elite programs in college football right now. And it’s a great opportunity for our team. But it will be a big challenge for us.”
Q. If I may veer away from Clemson for a moment and talk about a game he’s already played this year. You’ve played Notre Dame three times since you’ve been at Wake Forest. When you are up against a team with their history, are you playing more than just a team? Are you playing an aura that the team brings in? Is that something you have to be on guard against, and maybe it’s something you have to think about Clemson this week as well?
COACH CLAWSON: “Well, I think as coaches, you try to focus on your football team and the execution it requires and the matchups and all the things you do in a normal game week. But when you play a team like Notre Dame with their tradition and their history or a team with Clemson, like Clemson, I mean, this is a week that you know the players are excited. There’s a little bit more hop in their step. And if they’re competitors, they love these games.
“And we never try to downplay it. We don’t try to overplay it. But the players know. And they know what the opportunity is and they also know what the challenges are.”
Q. That’s with Notre Dame as well as Clemson, you’re saying?
COACH CLAWSON: “Yeah, at the end of the day those programs are what they are and their records are their records because they’ve got really, really good players. And our players are smart. They watch the film. I mean we can tell them ignore the color of the uniforms and the emblem on the helmet, but when you’re watching Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence and you’re watching Renfrow and their backs and all their receivers, and Mitch Hyatt, I mean our kids know when they’re playing good players. And I would say the same for Notre Dame.
“Notre Dame is a very talented football team. And I think we’re playing two of the most talented teams in the country within three weeks here. So we had a huge challenge at Notre Dame that we didn’t handle well. And we’re hoping the challenge against Clemson this week we handle better than we did Notre Dame.”
Q. Might want to talk to whoever put your schedule together this year.
COACH CLAWSON: “It’s called the ACC.”
Q. I know that it’s only one game since the firing of the defensive coordinator, but just what you can say you saw defensively on film in this game against Rice and just how you how the team has responded now that they have the game under their belt?
COACH CLAWSON: “It’s hard to make a comparison when you’re defending Notre Dame, what they do and their personnel. It’s a lot different than defending Rice with their personnel and what they do.
“But the one thing that I was concerned with after the Notre Dame game was our inability to get lined up. Just so many snaps, we did not have 11 guys on the same page.
“And the front and the coverage weren’t matched. And so more than anything last week I just wanted to see us get lined up and be sound and have the kids play fast and play with energy and play with emotion and play with excitement.
“And we did that for 30 minutes. And then the second half we had a big lead and we got some backups in, and there was let-up, which is concerning.
“But the let-up was more, to me, in terms of physical mistakes. We were still getting lined up. We were sound with alignment and stances and our eyes were in the right place, we just doesn’t execute as well. If you don’t get lined up you don’t give yourself any chance at all. But that was improved.
“Then you play a team like Clemson and you can get lined up correctly and it’s still tough to defend them. But that’s step one. If you don’t get lined up you don’t even give yourself a chance. And in terms of that we did much better.”
Q. And as far as offensively with Sam Hartman, what can you say from him these first few games, first few weeks? As you’re trying to right the ship on defense, what has he done to lead the charge on offense, in your opinion?
COACH CLAWSON: “Forget the opponent. He played better. Against Notre Dame, I mean, the ball wasn’t going where it should go. He was handing it off when he should have thrown it. He was throwing it when he should have handed it off. He was keeping it when he should have handed it off.
“I don’t care who the opponent was, if he played like he did against Notre Dame against most teams, we wouldn’t move the football. And I thought just last week he settled down. He made good decisions. The ball went where it should go. He was very accurate. He put the ball in tight spaces.
“I think he hit his last 12 passes in a row. I don’t care who you play, that’s not easy to do. Sometimes you don’t do that on air. So he’s a true freshman playing quarterback. He’s going to have good games and he’s going to have games that he struggles. And we just gotta make sure we keep getting him better.”
Q. Is Trevor Lawrence any different type of quarterback to prepare for than when you’re preparing for Kelly Bryant in the past?
COACH CLAWSON: “Their offense is their offense. I think Kelly — they appeared a little bit more willing or wanting to run him if they need a critical play. Trevor 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.
“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. So there’s a reason they’re undefeated. There’s a reason they’re as productive as they are.
“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. So they’re very efficient, well-coached and their scheme is very well-thought out. They know what they’re doing.”