The Demon Deacons try to keep their offensive momentum going.
Prior to 2017, Wake Forest was mostly known for a weak offense and a relatively stout defense. Last season, the defense fell off a bit, but the offense absolutely exploded, finishing ranked 21st in the nation, culminating in a bowl victory over Texas A&M. Losing QB John Wolford to graduation will certainly hurt though. A suspension to starting QB Kendall Hinton to start the year will do them no favors either, as Wake plays Boston College in week three.
Prestige Ranking: 3 stars
The Deacons had a few very dark years, but Coach Clawson has turned them into a solid team that can’t be underestimated in the ACC. They will never have the ability to be an “elite” program, but they could be very much like David Cutcliffe and Duke.
Last Year’s Record: 8-5 (4-4 ACC)
Projected Returning Starters:
RB Matt Colburn, WR Greg Dortch, WR Scotty Washington, LT Justin Herron, LG Patrick Osterhage, C Ryan Anderson, RG Phil Haynes, RT Jake Benzinger
Dortch was torching the ACC last year before a punctured small intestine sidelined him for the year, while Colburn rushed for over 100 yards in four of the final six games. The big takeaway here is the offensive line, which returns every starter and should help keep an inexperienced QB upright and comfortable.
The biggest question is Kendall Hinton, who is taking over for Wolford. Hinton is more of a dual-threat than Wolford was, but his accuracy is much more suspect, and there is the aforementioned suspension. Hinton was the starter in 2016 before suffering an injury, so he has some starting experience.
If the offense can survive the suspension and Hinton can acclimate when he returns, they should keep pace with last year’s numbers. Of course, if Hinton cannot get his accuracy under control, the offense will struggle to match the passing numbers that Wolfrod afforded them.
DT Willie Yarbary, NT Zeek Rodney, MLB Demetrius Kemp, CB Amari Henderson, CB Essang Bassey, SS Cameron Glenn
While the lack of linebacker experience will be a concern, the interior of the defensive line should be stout against the run. Kemp struggled in coverage last year, so the short passing game may hurt the Deacons. Another year of experience and three returning starters should help the back end, which struggled mightily at times.
The star of the defense should be BUCK linebacker Justin Strnad, who totaled 4.5 sacks and 3 interceptions, making him the returning leader in both categories. Corner Essang Bassey had three interceptions last year as well, and should be the team’s #1 corner.
Safety Chuck Wade is the sole newcomer to the secodary, and has the athleticism to play the position. However, he is a senior who converted from receiver, so disaster has potential to strike there if he cannot grasp the position.
Special Teams: 0
After losing their All-ACC kicker, the Deacons will be forced to start all over, with punter Dom Maggio expected to take over both the kicker and punter spots. Dortch should be electric in the return game once again.
Tyroil Smoochie-Wallace All Name Team Member: LaRonde’ Liverpool
Key Losses: John Wolford, Cam Serigne, and Duke Ejiofor
QB Wolford was the ringmaster in what became one of the most dangerous offenses in the country. His mastery of the RPO (29 TD passes, 683 yards on the ground) will be sorely missed. Seringe was one of the more dominant TE’s in the ACC, and was #1 option with Dortch out. Ejiofor’s pass rushing ability will be missed on a young D-line.
Five Year Recruiting Ranking (Bill Connelly): 62
Obviously it is going to be hard to recruit in the ACC. Wake Forest also has to contend with Clemson and Florida State in their division as well. All of this comes on top of being in the same state as UNC, Duke, and NC State. Couple that with being a private institution, and recruiting is never going to be ideal. OT Mike Edwards headlines the class, but is unlikely to see much field time with such a deep offensive line.
Alcohol Prediction for Fans by Season’s End: Fainting Goat Spirits Tiny Cat Vodka
Distilled in North Carolina, this vodka will be perfect for the fine folks in Winston-Salem to mix their cocktails with. Plus, if the offense sputters under a new QB, they will want to make like a fainting goat: freeze up, look away, and fall down.
While the defense and lack of QB experience are concerning, Clawson dealt with the same thing last year with Wolford. The talent is there, especially on the offensive line, but lack of depth on defense makes any injury concerning. Wake Forest may not win the division anytime soon, but they have carved out a respectable spot for themselves in the ACC’s middle class. Another 7-8 win season and an upper-level bowl berth will be key in the development of Clawson’s program.