We're pleased to welcome Riley Johnston of SB Nation's Blogger So Dear to answer some questions about the Wake Forest football team. The Hokies and Demon Deacons meet Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem, NC.
GC: How have the team and fans responded to Dave Clawson in his first season as head coach?
BSD: There is no way to assess the season other than calling it an unmitigated disaster, especially on the offensive side of the football. Most fans knew that a hard year was coming, but the cupboard was left (almost to an intentional fault) excessively empty. The way we have tried to look at it is to judge the growth from game-to-game, but even on that front it is hard to say that we are coming along. The talent level on the offensive side of the ball is not up to par with any other Power 5 team, and probably worse than a lot of "mid-major" teams as well.
Defensively there have been some bright spots, especially in the secondary, but in the 4th quarter when the game has been on the line they have failed to stop several opponents.
I think most people are frustrated with the offense and the play calling overall, but it is really hard to be too upset about the record given the lack of talent overall across the board. Most feel like Coach Clawson was a solid hire and time will tell if his recruiting and offensive philosophy will work in the ACC.
GC: Wake has been bad on offense to put it politely. What's been the biggest issue?
BSD: I touched on this above, but the biggest problem has been lack of talent and play calling. When you are limited from a talent standpoint it is difficult to run an effective offense based around delayed runs, especially when the offensive line is as poor at blocking as ours is up front. The passing game has been hard to get going because the receivers don't catch the ball at a reliable clip, and when they do it is not for enough yards to advance the ball.
Honestly, the running game is as bad as I have ever seen out of a college team. Even bad teams somehow figure out a way to gain chunks of yard at a time over the course of a season, but the Deacs average 34 YPG, and as nearly everybody has seen by now got out-gained on the season by Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon in just two quarters.
Editor's Note: Gordon gained 408 yards against Nebraska last week. On the season, Wake has gained 341 yards as a team.
GC: Tech's D-Line versus Wake's O-Line isn't a favorable match up for the Deacons. Is there a way for Wake to protect their young QB?
BSD: Not really. We have made a few changes in recent games to the offensive line to try to get some better blocking, but the struggles that have been there all season won't be fixed by the time the game is played on Saturday. The pass protection has been a little better than the run blocking, but it's still a pretty serious problem to overcome.
GC: Wake has lost a number of close games this season. How have the Deacons hung in despite the obvious struggles?
BSD: The Deacs have shown good fight despite the talent discrepancy between the teams they have played. The second half of Boston College and most of the Clemson game is indicative of this. I don't think any fans are disappointed in the effort, and expect as better players come in to get more W's in that column.
GC: The roster I looked at appeared to have over 40 freshman and a lot of sophomores. I take it this is a team built for the future?
BSD: There is a lot of good young talent in the program right now. As with any new coach, optimism is pretty high in the fan base right now to get to a respectable level on the gridiron. For Wake Forest that is competing for bowls each and every year, with a cyclical chance at 1st or 2nd in the Atlantic Division.
GC: Who are some players Tech fans should keep an eye on Saturday?
BSD: Most of these players are on the defensive and special teams sides of the ball. As strange as it sounds, our punter and kicker are probably the best players relative to par on the team. Alex Kinal is a phenomenal punter who will kick the ball more than any other player in NCAA history by the end of next season. Mike Weaver has done a great job as the placekicker this year as well. Bud Noel and Kevin Johnson are also two of the better cornerbacks in the conference. Johnson will be one of the highest senior CB's taken in the NFL draft next spring.
GC: What's your prediction for the game?
BSD: I have little confidence in the Deacs after travelling to Raleigh last Saturday to watch that beatdown at the hands of the Pack. I don't think Virginia Tech is extremely impressive, but they certainly have enough talent to take care of Wake.