It’s been a long but promising off-season for the Demon Deacons. Cornerback Kevin Johnston was drafted 16th overall to the Houston Texans in the 2015 NFL Draft, and coach Clawson and his staff managed to sign the highest ranked recruiting class in program history for the high school class of 2015. Take a look at this brief analysis of the season’s first six games this fall, breaking down the Deacs’ chances of winning and highlighting ways they can improve from last season.
Sept. 3: Wake Forest vs. Elon
Wake Forest will begin the second season of the Dave Clawson era on Thursday, Sept. 3 at 7:00 p.m. as the Deacs take on Elon, a team that managed to win just one game a year ago. This should be an easy win for the Deacs, hopefully serving as a check-up on the constantly improving offensive line, undeniably the weakest link last season. Sophomore quarterback John Wolford will certainly appreciate a more experienced offensive line of greater depth this season, as he was sacked 45 times last season, more than any other quarterback in the NCAA. Wolford has the opportunity to put forth his best offensive performance in his young career against the Phoenix. Wake will win this game 34-10.
Sept. 12: Wake Forest at Syracuse
In 2014, the Deacs hosted the Orange in Winston-Salem and embarrassed themselves in a 30-7 effortless loss. Wolford was knocked out in the second quarter of last year’s game, forcing backup quarterback Tyler Cameron to take over the offense. Like Wolford, Cameron struggled and threw for just 27 yards in the game’s final half. While we should not necessarily expect a victory from the Deacs in Syracuse, I anticipate a more competitive game. Wake Forest will lose 24-20.
Sept. 19: Wake Forest at Army
The Deacs came back from a seven-point halftime deficit last season to defeat the Black Knights of Army to win 24-21 in Winston-Salem. It was in this game coach Dave Clawson labeled Wolford a “cool-headed customer,” praising his maturity in just his third career start. Wolford finished the game with 238 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winning drive. Army is a team that exclusively runs the ball, so the Deacs front seven will have to bring their best. With the leadership of the likes of seniors Brandon Chubb, Hunter Williams and junior Marquel Lee, Wake Forest will leave West Point with a 30-17 victory.
Sept. 26: Wake Forest vs. Indiana
Indiana’s head football coach Kevin Wilson had strong words this offseason at an Indiana athletics dinner on June 3. When asked about playing Wake Forest, Wilson said, “I’m a Southern Baptist, but I don’t like the Deacons. We’re going to kick their ass.” These are strong words for a coach who has won just 14 games in four years as the leader of the Hoosiers. I think the Deacs will take those comments to heart and let their playing do the preaching. Wake Forest will defeat Indiana 23-20.
Oct. 3: Wake Forest vs. No. 10 Florida State
For the first 29 minutes of last year’s game Wake Forest was either leading or tied with then-ranked No. 1 Florida State on the road. It was truly an incredible first half for the Deacs who were over-matched at virtually every position. But then the second half came along, and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston threw for a touchdown and finished with over 300 yards of total offense. Despite a Winston-less Florida State this season, mismatches remain constant and I see the Deacs falling to the Seminoles 38-20 in Winston-Salem on Family Weekend.
Oct. 10: Wake Forest at Boston College
By the time the Deacs travel to Chestnut Hill, Mass., they will have both played Florida State, perhaps giving each team a perspective of how the game will fare. The Eagles traveled to Winston-Salem last season and left with a 23-17 victory. Had the Deacs had an extra quarter to play, they may have completed the comeback which began halfway through the fourth quarter. If the Deacs can avoid digging themselves in a hole like they did last season, expect this to be one of the more entertaining games of the season. I actually am going to go out on a limb and give the Deacs a 27-17 victory, stealing their first ACC road victory since 2012. Giving the Deacs a 4-2 start may appear to be quite ambitious for a team that won just three games last season. Unfortunately for the Deacs, they need to win this many early because they will more than likely be clear underdogs in their final six games.
Words from Coach Clawson
Head coach Dave Clawson shed some light on the speculations and questions for the Wake Forest faithful on Wednesday, Aug. 26, at Bib’s Downtown with Stan Cotten of the Wake Forest IMG Sports Network. Fans submitted questions on topics ranging from projected depth charts to coach Clawson’s personal handshake with wide-receiver Cortez Lewis. In Wednesday’s interview Clawson recognized the fact that 75 percent of Wake Forest’s roster consists of freshmen and sophomores, a number far larger than the average ACC school.
“We got to get our young guys to play old,” Clawson said. Yet despite the youthfulness of the roster, the head coach remains optimistic. “This year we have more speed, more talent and more depth. This year will be fun to watch.”