"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

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'Covers the campus like the magnolias'
"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

Mitch Griffis came under center at the ACC’s media day; here’s what we learned

The redshirt sophomore will be QB1 for Wake Forest this season
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Mitch Griffis, redshirt sophomore quarterback, takes the podium at 2023 ACC Kickoff in Charlotte on July 27, 2023 (Courtesy of the ACC).

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — For the second straight year, Mitch Griffis will be starting at quarterback in the season opener. The only difference is that this year, he’s ready to be Wake Forest’s QB1 for the entire season. 

Last year, Griffis rolled out of the spotlight just as soon as he was thrown in due to Sam Hartman’s sudden blood clot diagnosis and speedy recovery. The 5-foot-11 quarterback from Broad Run, Va., had a phenomenal performance against VMI on Sept. 1, 2022. Griffis threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns with a 72% completion rate, all while leading Wake Forest to a 44-10 victory. Hartman would return to the field the very next week and retake the keys to his “Ferrari” for the rest of the season. 

Griffis would play snaps here and there, appearing in five more games, mostly on clean-up duty. He went 8-for-12 for 60 yards, two touchdowns and an interception — a solid, but unremarkable finish to a season with a spectacular start. But now, with the departure of Hartman to Notre Dame, all eyes are on the redshirt sophomore Griffis. 

And he’s not shying away. 

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One of his first tests this 2023 season was the ACC Kickoff event in Charlotte on Thursday. While many questions alluded to the lack of experience Griffis has as an ACC-caliber starting quarterback, none of the quarterback’s answers lacked confidence. 

“When I came to campus as a freshman, my goal was to be a starting quarterback one day, and I prepared every single day like I was the starter,” Griffis said. “My preparation really hasn’t changed much. I’ve continued to adapt, but the effort and the intensity and the work ethic have not changed as I’ve been here.”

Head Coach Dave Clawson opened his portion at the podium with glowing remarks of his signal caller.

When I came to campus as a freshman, my goal was to be a starting quarterback one day, and I prepared every single day like I was the starter.

— QB Mitch Griffis ('24)

“When you talk about quarterbacks, they have to have more than one attribute,” Clawson said. “I think with Mitch there’s a very complete skill set. He is extremely accurate, he has good arm strength, he is athletic, he has really good instincts, a great work ethic, he’s a super teammate, and he is genuine.”

But as both coach and player would point out throughout the afternoon, there’s still much more room to grow. 

“He’s ready to go,” Clawson said. “I think what happened last year when he had to start the first game — that’s not anything that anybody wanted — but I think just having that experience of being the starter will help him this year. He’s smart. He knows doing it for one game and doing it for 12 consecutive games is a completely different challenge, but I think he’s ready to go.”

“I think I’ve maximized my skills up to today,” Griffis said. “There’s still room for me to get better as the days go on, but I think the room for me to grow the most is just through experiences.”

The quarterback continued: “I can only throw so many footballs in the offseason, you know, do so many walkthroughs and watch so much tape at this point. It’s really, for me, just going through games and getting hit and throwing a touchdown and staying even keel or throwing interceptions and staying on an even keel.”

Even if Griffis is not the most experienced quarterback now, he will be flanked by a veteran group at all offensive positions. Sixth-year Michael Jurgens and senior DeVonte Gordon, both 2022 All-ACC honorable mentions, will anchor the line at guard and tackle, respectively. Wideouts Jahmal Banks, Ke’Shawn Williams, Donovan Greene and Taylor Morin, who have a combined 40 career touchdowns, are all back streaking the sidelines. The man who Griffis calls “the most underrated player in the ACC,” Justice Ellison, will be at his side running the ball. 

I think with Mitch there’s a very complete skill set. He is extremely accurate, he has good arm strength, he is athletic, he has really good instincts, a great work ethic, he’s a super teammate, and he is genuine.

— Head Coach Dave Clawson

Truly a team leader, Griffis spoke highly of every teammate he mentioned, especially the ones with whom fans may not be familiar, but whom he has gotten to know after many second-team practice reps. Griffis rattled off the names and strengths of every running back with a smile as wide as the defensive holes through which they hope to run. 

“Demond Claiborne is a super electric redshirt freshman who’s got the potential to score on any time he touches the ball,” Griffis said. “Tate Carney — another awesome player who’s just a bruiser. He’s going to get you five yards, and he’s gonna hurt when you tackle him. Will Towns is another kid who’s just a thick back, who’s just a really hard worker and runs really hard. And then a freshman, David Egbe — I think he’d be a really good player. He’s such a good kid; he works really hard. A big, thick guy, swelled up — he’s fast and can run. He’s got it all, too.” 

When asked about the impressive Wake Forest wide receivers room, the former backup was quick to praise the lesser-known guys of the group — redshirt sophomore Horatio Fields, sophomore Wesley Grimes and junior transfer Walker Merrill.

“All three of those guys are right there with the other guys talent wise, so I’m excited for them, and we’re going to need them to step up in a game,” Griffis said.

For Griffis, the season opener against Elon on Aug. 31 cannot come soon enough. He’s been waiting in the ranks for a season like this. This season is about proving to himself, his teammates and his opponents that Griffis belongs where he is. 

“I’m a competitor,” Griffis said. “I wanted to play. I wish I could have played earlier, but again, there was no other group of guys I wanted to play with. It was well worth the wait, and I still have three years left, so my career is just getting started.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated Mitch Griffis’ class year in a pullquote. The pullquote now contains the correct class year, the Class of 2024.

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Cooper Sullivan, Sports Editor
Cooper Sullivan is a senior from Winston-Salem majoring in Communication with double minors in Journalism and Art History. He enjoys long walks on the beach, dancing like no one is watching and "committing to the bit".

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