Wake Forest football is on its way to wrapping up another season of spring football. The team hosted its 12th practice of spring camp on Tuesday, and with the spring game set to happen Saturday, fans will have the opportunity to have a first glimpse of the 2019 roster. Here’s what you should look forward to on Saturday’s game.
The battle between sophomore Sam Hartman and redshirt junior Jamie Newman for the starting quaterback gig has been in full swing over the past few weeks. Newman started over the last four games of the 2018 season, leading the Deacs to an impressive 3-1 record over that stretch, including a victory against a ranked NC State squad in Raleigh and winning the 2018 Birmingham Bowl against Memphis.
Hartman, on the other hand, has been showing improvements throughout spring camp, including a strong showing during the first scrimmage practice of spring camp held at BB&T Field on Friday. Hartman finished the day with 10 pass completions on 15 attempts for 149 yards and two touchdowns. Both touchdowns were in connections with slot receiver Jaquarii Robertson. Expect this battle for the starting quarterback spot to drag down all the way through fall camp. Last year, Head Coach Dave Clawson only made a decision after Newman went down with an injury that prevented him from playing the first few games of the 2018 season.
Another big debate heading into the 2019 season is over who is going to be the starting slot receiver in place of Greg Dortch, who opted to leave the program early to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft. It seems unlikely that any player will have as high of a usage rate as seen from Dortch in 2018; rather, Clawson will probably look to take a committee approach with the position in 2019.
“I really think we have three or four [slot receivers] who are capable of playing and helping us win,” said Clawson after the scrimmage practice. “You’d like to keep the first two healthy, but if it’s a typical season, then at some point we’ll need three or four.”
Robertson had an impressive first scrimmage with five catches for 55 yards and the only two touchdown receptions of the day. Another player to keep an eye on is former four-star recruit Nolan Groulx, who enrolled earlier this semester and has been getting reps at the slot. Redshirt senior Kendall Hinton, who made the transition from quarterback to receiver last season, is also an interesting option given his athletic abilities. Losing a player of Dortch’s caliber is never a good thing, but the slot position is full of exciting options heading into the 2019 season.
However, the same can’t be said about the safety position. On top of losing last year’s starters in safeties Cameron Glenn and Chucky Wade — both graduated — the Deacs will enter the spring game with four players injured at the position.
“Right now, we’re so thin in the secondary. I looked up before practice, and I see Coby Davis, Zion Keith and Nasir Greer [out]. Those are three of your top four or five safeties. Then you have Peyton Woulard out too. We’re just so thin,” Clawson said. “We’re trying to get as much work as we can, but we didn’t want to extend the scrimmage. We didn’t want to risk injuries, and we want to have a spring game.”
Last season, the Deacs faced a similar problem at the linebacker position with redshirt senior Justin Strnad as the only player healthy at the position throughout the season. One can’t help but think if the bad luck will strike again, this time at safety.
“We’re at a point at linebacker and safety where we’re not going to be able to have a traditional spring game,” said Clawson on the current injuries on defense. “It’s going to be more of a spring scrimmage. We’ll work some special teams in there. It’ll be offense versus defense.”
Regardless of the format, this should make for a fun showing by a Wake Forest football team with high expectations for the 2019 season. The spring game will occur on Saturday, April 6 at 3 p.m. at BB&T Field.