The marching band started its traditional five-tap cue to the fight song, the gates burst open to the sound of the Demon Deacon’s motorcycle and shiny helmets flowed through BB&T Field for the first time since November. The Wake Forest spring football game was finally upon us.
Unlike previous games, in which the Deacons would split into two different teams by color, Head Coach Dave Clawson decided to split the roster between offensive and defensive units this year. To make things even, the defense would be awarded points in situations like turnovers, drive stops and forced fumbles.
The offense got out to a great start in the first half, which saw them take a commanding 47-13 lead into halftime. Rising junior QB Jamie Newman had a great day, completing 15 out of 18 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns. Newman’s strong showing during the spring game will probably give him a little edge over rising sophomore QB Sam Hartman who had more discrete numbers, connecting on eight of 11 passes for 47 yards. However, do not expect Clawson to decide on his starting quarterback in 2019 anytime soon. Both players proved last season that they can be successful in leading the offense.
“I feel like I’m a better quarterback and I feel like Sam [Hartman] is a better quarterback as well,” said Newman after the game. “We both got a couple of games under our belt, so now that things are starting to slow down, [we’re] starting to add different dimensions to your game.”
The defense bounced back in the second half with a sequence of stops and an interception by redshirt freshman CB Kenneth Dicks III. Linebackers Chase Monroe and Ja’Cquez Williams led the team with seven tackles apiece. Depth at linebacker was a problem last year, and the development of players like Monroe and Williams can go a long way into establishing more of a constant presence alongside starter Justin Strnad.
True freshman defensive end Shamar McCollum showed that he is ready to make immediate contributions this upcoming season. He led all defenders with three tackles for loss and established himself as the potential starter opposite defensive end Carlos Basham, Jr., who finished the game with a sack.
“If I’m a quarterback and Shamar [McCollum] is on my blindside, I’m maybe a little bit quicker getting rid of [the ball],” said Clawson.
Despite their efforts, the defense fell short in what ended up being a 55-45 win by the offense. Yet, Clawson believes that just the fact of having a close score is a positive reflection of the strong balance between the two units in 2019.
“I think in the six years here, this will be the most competitive the offense and defense will be with each other. I think we had three years in which the defense was significantly ahead. Then the last two years, the offense was significantly ahead,” said Clawson. “I think next year the team has the opportunity to have the smallest gap between the two units.”
The Deacs also announced their five captains for the 2019 season. The group is composed of running back Cade Carney, offensive lineman Justin Herron, linebacker Justin Strnad, tight end Jack Freudenthal and cornerback Essang Bassey. Besides Carney, all the other players are being elected captain for the first time.
Wake Forest Football will now take a break for the summer and resume activities with fall camp in early August. Stay tuned for future updates ahead of the Deacs’ season opener against Utah State on August 30.