Way too early look: Wake Forest

With the football season less than 11 weeks away, it is never too soon to begin to look at the opponents that will try to derail the Clemson Tigers’ quest for a second-consecutive national championship and their third appearance in the College Football Playoff in as many years. Today, we continue our series with the Tigers’ fifth opponent—the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

Head Coach:

Dave Clawson led his Wake Forest Demon Deacons to a 7-6 record last season, including a victory over the 10-win Temple Owls in the Military Bowl—the Deacons’ first bowl victory since 2008—and was quickly rewarded with an eight-year contract extension. 

However, the last time the school rewarded a head coach with a significant contract extension it backfired. It was following the 2007 season, after the Demon Deacons lost to Louisville in the Orange  

Bowl, that they rewarded then head coach Jim Grobe with a 10-year extension. They went 40-47 in the seven years following the deal, before Grobe resigned in 2013. 

For Clawson, the extension—while providing him with a sense of security—will surround him with some added pressure to win. 

“Now the challenge is to take the next step,” Clawson said. “We’re in a conference and division that that next step is a very difficult step. There are no easy steps in the standings in this conference. There are some other teams that are getting better as well. 

“But every year is a new year. Just because you got into a certain point the year before, there are no guarantees you’re going to get there again. Our guys enjoyed going to a bowl and enjoyed winning the bowl game and all the things that go with it, but it’s hard to get back there. Especially in this conference with our schedule.” 

Wake Forest Offense:

To say that the Wake Forest offense was difficult to watch last season would be an understatement.

The Demon Deacons ranked 118th in scoring offense (20.4 ppg), 101st in rushing offense (145.77 ypg),113th in passing offense (165.7 ypg) and 124th in total offense (311.5 ypg). The one positive for the  

Demon Deacons is that when you are ranked near the bottom of every offensive ranking there is only one way to go—up. 

The Demon Deacons return quarterback Kendall Hinton, who suffered a knee injury against Delaware, and John Wolford, who led the Deacons the remainder of the season. Also returning to the program is their entire receiving corps (189 out of 190 receptions last season), along with running backs Matt  

Colburn and Cade Carney—giving the head coach a sense of optimism that he hasn’t had.

“For the first time ever we’re starting to—since we’ve been here, we’re starting to get experienced and have a lot more fourth-year juniors, third-year sophomores, young guys that have played a lot of football for us that are starting to get older and have a lot of game experience,” Clawson said. 

Wake Forest Defense:

Wake Forest’s defense was not an issue last season, which led to defensive coordinator Mike Elko leaving the Demon Deacons for Notre Dame and led Clawson to bring in new coordinator Jay Sawvel from Minnesota.

The challenge for Sawvel will be a larger one that he had hoped for, as they will look to replace four of their top six tacklers off of last year’s team.

And while the Demon Deacons will continue to be who they are defensively, opposing offenses are sure to have to deal with some new wrinkles this season.

“Well, our base is very similar. We’re still based out of a 4-2-5. There are some crossovers with what we did and what we’re doing in terms of terminology,” Clawson said. “But there are some tweaks too. You have to let a coordinator do the things he believes in and the things they’re comfortable coaching.”

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