Wake Forest Football: 2014 Spring Practice Preview

Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE

New coach, new attitude? Wake looks to tackle a tough 2014 ACC schedule and claw its way back to respectability without former head man Jim Grobe.

We continue our "Behind Enemy Lines" series by taking a look at our next-to-last regular season opponent and ACC opponent-for 2014: the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

From the "What Had Happened Was" File:

Overview Wake finished the 2013 season at 4-8 with a 2-6 ACC mark. They finished in the basement of the ACC Atlantic Division, just above the winless-in-conference NC State Wolfpack.

vs. the Hokies The Hokies and Deacons did not play each other in 2013. They last met in 2011 and the Hokies won that matchup 38-17, behind 4 TD's (2 rushing, 2 passing) from then-rSo. Logan Thomas in his first full season as VT's starting quarterback.

Losses Boston College (24-10), Louisiana-Monroe (21-19), Clemson (56-7), Miami (24-21), Syracuse (13-0), Florida State (59-3), Duke (28-21), Vanderbilt (23-21)

Signature Win Wake didn't really have a signature win in 2013. In addition to their ACC victory over NC State, they did beat Maryland (34-10) in their ACC Farewell. However, Maryland finished only one spot above them in the ACC Atlantic at 3-5.

Postseason Wake Forest won only 4 games and therefore was not bowl-eligible in 2013.

From the "Must Be Nice..." File

Let's peep Wake's upcoming schedule:

Date


Opponent


13 Record


13 Conf.


Aug. 28 (Thurs)


@ULM

6-6

4-3, Sun Belt

Sept. 6


Gardner-Webb (FCS)

7-5

2-3, Big South

Sept. 13


@ Utah State

5-7

2-7, Pac 12

Sept. 20


Army

8-5

3-9, (Ind.)

Sept. 27


@ Louisville

12-1

7-1, AAC (now ACC)

Oct. 4


@ Florida State

14-0

8-0, ACC

Oct. 11


BYE


Oct. 18


Syracuse

7-6

4-4, ACC

Oct. 25


Boston College

7-6

4-4, ACC

Nov. 1


BYE


Nov. 6 (Thurs)


Clemson

11-2

7-1, ACC

Nov. 15


@ NC State

3-9

0-8, ACC

Nov. 22


Virginia Tech

8-5

5-3, ACC

Nov. 29


@ Duke

10-4

6-2, ACC

Wake Forest has a ridiculously weak out of conference schedule-even more of a giant, fluffy cupcake than Pitt's. That's just what you need when you have a new coach and a young, inexperienced team. However, the ACC scheduling gods clearly aren't Wake fans in 2014. Not only do they have to meet regular divisional foes FSU and Clemson and deal with permanent cross-divisional "rival" Duke-who returns many key pieces coming off their 2013 ACC Coastal champion team-but they also draw Virginia Tech as their cross-divisional rotating opponent. On the bright side, they get a handful of key ACC teams while they're in flux after losing their starting quarterback: Louisville post-Bridgewater, Boston College post-Rettig, Clemson post-Boyd, VT post-LT3.

Bottom line: 2014 is set up to be rough for the Deacons, but it could be worse.

Two Biggest Question Marks for 2014

Begin the Dave Clawson Era

After the departure of longtime big whistle Jim Grobe, the Demon Deacons are set to start with a  new face at the helm for the first time since 2001: Dave Clawson. Who is Dave Clawson? J.P. Mundy over at SBNation's "Blogger So Dear" asked the same question here when Clawson was hired in December. Let's snag a couple key answers Mundy received:

From Matt Daley, Bowling Green writer, Hustlebelt.com

Dave Clawson is the epitome of a team-builder.  He's been successful in that role at three different stops during his career.  At Bowling Green, he took a team playing with fewer than 50 scholarship players to MAC champions in just three seasons.  He makes the most out of the pieces he has available and is excellent at making adjustments.  This year, in the third quarter, BGSU allowed just three touchdowns in 13 games.  Clawson is also a fantastic motivator and is a players' coach.  Fans of Wake Forest will need to be patient for a season or two, as he builds the roster, but if they are, that patience will be paid off with winning seasons.

From Zach Ragan, lead editor, AllforTennessee.com (on the much talked-about 2008 disaster at Tennessee)

It's really hard to judge Dave Clawson based on his one season in Knoxville.

On the surface it looks like Clawson did a terrible job at Tennessee. 2008 was one the Vols' worst offensive seasons ever, but that actually had little to do with Clawson's ability as a coach.There were several factors that went into Tennessee's poor offensive performance in 2008, that had nothing to do with Clawson. The Vols had a large number of disciplinary issues, in addition to uncertainty at QB. Jonathan Crompton didn't live up to his status as an elite QB recruit, and his play was very erratic at times. That, combined with the installation of a new offensive system, was a recipe for disaster.

Clawson was never able to prove himself in Tennessee, as Phillip Fulmer was let go and Clawson wasn't retained by Lane Kiffin. Unfortunately it's hard to gather much from Clawson's one season at Tennessee due to factors that were out of his control.

From Brett Friedlander, Wilmington Star-News

Dave Clawson doesn't chug energy drinks. He doesn't profess to light up scoreboards with a high-octane, high-scoring offensive attack. He's simply a roll-up-your-sleeves, not-afraid-to-get-dirty kind of guy who specializes in renovation projects, which makes him a great fit for Wake Forest and potentially, the right man at the right time to get the Deacons heading back in the right direction.

Way Too Early Prediction:

Judging by his track record, it appears the powers-that-be down in Winston-Salem made this hire thinking about their program in the long-term rather than trying to make an immediate splash. And frankly, Wake/Clawson is a good match: he needs a school that will be patient and not expect him to turn things around immediately, and Wake is very patient and seemingly realistic about the fact that they want to have a successful football program, but they aren't hemorrhaging cash to make it happen.  I believe Clawson will be successful at Wake, given time. First, Clawson has to figure out a way to draw recruits to Wake. As we well know, North Carolina has a solid amount of talent; however, Clawson will be going up against the likes of UNC, NC State, South Carolina, Clemson, Duke, and even Virginia Tech for in-state talent. What's his sell? He certainly can sell playing time; however, that party can spiral out of control quickly (ask Mike London up in Charlottesville). Even then, the question of whether Wake will realistically be able to see steady on-field success with heavy-hitters FSU and Clemson within their division will remain.

Wet Behind the Ears?

Last year's roster consisted of largely seniors and freshmen for the Deacons. Graduation dealt a huge blow, as Deacons lost many key contributors, including: 4 year starting quarterback Tanner Price, leading rusher, running back Josh Harris, leading receiver Michael Campanero, and starting defensive linemen Kristopher Redding, Nikita Whitlock, and Zach Thompson. How seriously thin are the skill position ranks in Winston-Salem? Dan Collins of the Winston-Salem Journal explains in this nifty article:

"At quarterback, Tanner Price exhausted his eligibility after starting four seasons, redshirt junior Patrick Thompson will not return for a fifth season, and freshman Michael Radford was not medically cleared. That leaves redshirt freshman Tyler Cameron to compete with redshirt sophomore Kevin Sousa and walk-ons Pat Long and Brendon Wood until the two quarterbacks who signed in February, John Wolford and Travis Smith, arrive this summer.

At running back, starter Josh Harris has exhausted his eligibility, redshirt sophomore Deandre Martin and redshirt freshman Joshua Wilhite have left the program, and freshman Dez Worthan will miss spring practices while recovering from a torn Achilles tendon."

Yikes.

But, Clawson went out and signed 26 players out of the class of 2014, good enough for the #62 overall class, but the lowest-ranked class in the ACC. Well, at least he's got bodies...

Way Too Early Prediction:

There are so many moving parts, it's hard to tell what Wake Forest is going to look like in 2014. They won't win many games; but, if they can stay the course and let Clawson work his magic, this class could be the beginning of a turnaround for them.

\

The Final Word-Fun Fact Edition

Virginia Tech is 24-11-1 all time against Wake Forest, scoring an average of 22.8 points per game to WFU's 11.3. The Deacs haven't beaten the Hokies since 1983, dropping 5 straight to VT since then.

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