Wake Forest Demon Deacons 2016 Preview and Prediction
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#64 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
ACC Atlantic PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Dave Clawson, 6-18 (2 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Warren Ruggiero | DEF. COORDINATOR: Mike Elko
Previewing Wake Forest’s Offense for 2016
Any chance that coach Dave Clawson had to turn Wake Forest around in his first two seasons slipped through the cracks in his offensive line. Over that time, the line has managed to top only one other FBS program in sacks allowed (SMU) and rushing yards (Washington State).
The good news is that the five starters, including three sophomores, now have 70 combined starts. “Last year, guys who had never played college football before — we were trying to get them ready to start,” Clawson says. “Now, they’re young, but they’ve played so many snaps.”
The Deacons struggled to keep quarterbacks John Wolford and Kendall Hinton healthy, and they combined for 16 interceptions. Wolford, a junior, is the more accurate passer, but Hinton showed a bigger arm and explosiveness with his feet as a true freshman.
“I’m not in a rush to make a decision,” Clawson says. “I don’t want to have a two-quarterback system. At the same time, right now it’s hard to imagine that we’re going to go 12 games and only need one.”
True freshmen Tyler Bell and Matt Colburn took 80 percent of the tailback carries with Bell gaining 451 yards and catching 18 passes. Wake will add redshirt freshman Rocky Reid, who has created a lot of anticipation as a decommit from Tennessee. First-year players Cortez Lewis, Tabari Hines and Chuck Wade combined for 112 catches, and the Deacons will get Jared Crump (32 catches in 2014) back from a knee injury. Tight end Cam Serigne is one of the ACC’s best, with 100 grabs in his first two seasons.
Previewing Wake Forest’s Defense for 2016
The defensive line is the most experienced unit on the team with four upperclassmen projected to start. Wendell Dunn and Duke Ejiofor are dangerous off the edge, with Ejiofor returning from a concussion to post 7.5 tackles for loss, including a safety, in seven games.
The Deacons’ best unit last season, the linebacking corps, loses two starters, including All-ACC pick Brandon Chubb, and they’ll be replaced by four players with two combined career starts (none at linebacker). One player Clawson doesn’t have to worry about is senior Marquel Lee, who’s led the team in tackles for a loss for two straight seasons. “If we’re going to be good on defense, Marquel Lee will be an All-ACC player,” Clawson says.
Cornerback Brad Watson led the ACC in passes defended, and he’s paired with Dionte Austin, a highly touted recruit who started the last four games as a true freshman. Ryan Janvion returns at safety, and while he’s finished first or second on the team in tackles for three straight seasons, he’s also been bothered by myriad injuries. The Deacons don’t have much experience around Janvion.
Previewing Wake Forest’s Specialists for 2016
Wake Forest will move from a four-year punter to a true freshman in Dom Maggio, a top-rated recruit. Kicker Mike Weaver will be a three-year starter, and he’s proven accurate under 40 yards, but he was only 1-of-6 on longer kicks last season. Clawson has failed to revive the return games, which has struggled in recent seasons.
Clawson knows exactly what the expectations are for his third season. Hired to take over a program that has been to one bowl game since 2008, he’s gone 3–9 in each of his first two seasons. “I’d be very disappointed a year from now if we are not preparing for a bowl,” Clawson said after last season. “I think that’s very realistic and very attainable.”
The Deacons played 31 underclassmen in their two-deep last season, and it showed in many ways — like a minus-13 turnover margin. Clawson’s improved recruiting classes now have experience, and with a very manageable schedule, he needs that to start translating into wins.