As we continue our march towards the beginning of the college football season, here's a look at our upcoming opponents. Today we look at a road matchup, and another installment of #therivalry, the Wake Forest Demon Deacon.
The Wake Forest 2013 Season In Review
2013 was a tough final year for Jim Grobe and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. They started the year off with a pretty easy win against FCS foe Prysbetarian, but followed that up with losses to Boston College and Louisiana-Monroe. The Deacs season wasn't a complete loss as they still were able to manage three more wins (Army, NC State and Maryland), but they still struggled to put points up on the board, finishing 116th in points (18.3 a game). The low point of the season had to be the 56-3 drubbing they received from Jameis Winston and the Florida State Seminoles, this was the game where Wake completed one forward pass to the Deacons and six to the Seminoles. Quarterback Tanner Price finished with a flounder throwing for over 2,000 yards with just 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, Michael Campanaro a very talented wide receiver missed four games due to injury, and Nikita Whitlock anchored a defense that was actually pretty respectable last season (finishing 38th in points allowed). At the end of the 4-8 season, Wake fired Jim Grobe and hired Dave Clawson from Bowling Green, who looks to revitalize the program.
The Wake Offense
Dave Clawson is not a system type of coach, he is going to go out and use the personnel in front of him to try to be as effective as possible. He has used systems that are heavy on the pass, while others run the ball effectively, it all depends on what the strengths of his team look like. Unfortunately for Wake, they lost a ton of talent including their top quarterback, top two wide receivers, top two running backs and two offensive linemen.
The starting quarterback race is wide open going into summer camp and it looks like whoever the hot hand is at the end of practice/scrimmage is going to get the nod. According to SBNation's Blogger So Dear, it's a four person race right now between Travis Smith, Kevin Sousa, John Wolford, and Tyler Cameron. Cameron was predicted as the starter before the summer, but apparently struggled during spring practices. Going into summer not knowing who your starting quarterback is going to be is just another sign at how tricky this season is going to be for first year coach Dave Clawson.
In terms of running backs, the picture is equally as confusing as Orville Reynolds (2013 wide receiver) looked to be the starting running back going into spring ball, but Clawson moved safety James Ward moved to RB, and there is a pair of true freshmen that are going to be vying for time as well in Tyler Henderson and Isiah Robinson. Just like quarterback though, this is going to be a position battle with the hot hand getting the nod.
Just like Boston College, Wake is going to need to find a way to replace their star wide receiver's production after graduation. With Campanaro gone, Wake is going to have to look to a trio of young wide outs who started to show some talent during the season. Tyree Harris, Jared Crump, and Jonathan Williams all had over 10 catches last year for the Deacs, but will need to step up their value to the team if Clawson wants to see them fill in the production left behind by Campanaro.
In terms of their offensive line, the most talented and anchor of the line has to be Corey Helms at center. A sophomore he showed the most consistency after the 2013 season. The other two returning starters will be Ty Haysworth at left guard and Josh Harris at right guard. The two tackle positions are going to be wide open in terms of starting time, not knowing who your tackles are going to be has to be a little disconcerting for the offense though.
The Wake Defense
Mike Elko has taken over as the defensive coordinator for the Deacs, and will be bringing a whole new style of defense. Gone is the standard 3-4 that Grobe had utilized for years, and instead they are bringing in the 4-2-5 (sort of like what NC State is doing). Paul Myerberg dissects why this is a good idea for Dave Clawson: "Wake's Florida-centric recruiting style typically yields athletic prospects along the back seven but struggles landing big-bodied interior linemen, so rolling out a scheme predicated on speed, athleticism and aggressiveness".
However it's results will be questionable after this season for a few reasons. One, the Deacons are going to have to replace one of their most talented defensive linemen in years in Whitlock, and two they just lost their projected starting nose tackle Johnny Garcia for the year due to an ACL tear. That is a massive amount of loss on one line just to begin the year. Junior Desmond Floyd will be a starting end, along with Zachary Allen who missed all of last year due to injury. I have no idea how they are going to replace Garcia, possibly true freshman Zeek Rodney.
Luckily in the 4-2-5 defense, you don't need a lot of depth at linebacker, which is good because Wake is thin at the position. Marquel Lee is going to be the best fit for the new defense as he plays more as a tweener, someone who can go back into pass coverage and still support the run. On the other side it's either going to be Teddy Matthews or Brandon Chubb who will get the playing time.
Wake's most talented group on either side of the ball has to be their secondary. With senior cornerbacks Merrill Noel, and Kevin Johnson anchoring the edges, they bring a wealth of experience and six interceptions from the previous season. Anthony Wooding Jr., also a senior will most likely start at free safety, a year removed from a season where he had 26 tackles.
Where BC Should Be Successful
This is a matchup that should be very favorable for the Eagles. Wake is going to struggle up front on defense, so a steady pouding of Myles Willis and Tyler Rouse should wear them down and allow BC to maintain ball possession kind of like what we saw between the Eagles and Wake last season. On defense the Eagles are going to have to bring the heat on whomever the quarterback may be. Wake is going to be trotting out a QB with very little experience, and a healthy dose of blitzes from all over the field could cause mistakes and turnovers which should play right into the Eagles hands.
Where BC May Struggle
BC hasn't shown me yet that they are a good road team. They struggled all over the place last year on the road (barely beating New Mexico State), so there is a part of me that worries that might be a factor. BC's depth at wide receiver worries me against a talented upper class group like Wakes. If Tyler Murphy tries to do too much and throws a few interceptions or turns the ball over, and gives Wake good field position, that could be enough to get the crowd back into it and turn the game on it's head.
Wayyyyyyy Too Early Prediction
Boston College 28 Wake Forest 20. Wake is a mess right now on both sides of the ball. BC has enough depth and talent to overcome their road brain farts to win this one. I expect BC to come out sloppy and keep Wake in this one, but for the Eagles to eventually pull away with the power running game.