Sitting in on the interview with Wake Forest head football coach Dave Clawson you get the sense he is not the kind of guy that is afraid of a little hard work. Clawson and his staff will definitely have to put their hard hats on this season: Wake finished 3-9 last year, 1-7 ACC. The Deacons are predicted to finish last in the Atlantic Division and will have to fight many uphill battles in a division where Clemson and Florida State are the big bullies on the block.
Wake Forest enters the season a young team, really young. “Of the 103 players, I think 76 are freshmen and sophomores. They’re talented. They’re good, young players. They’re going to have a chance to play earlier than maybe at most places because of where we are development-wise,” said Clawson.
Entering his second year at the helm, Clawson will have plenty of trial and error situations to build upon. When asked about his take away from his first season Clawson replied “Yeah, there is a plan in place to build the program. I think a lot of times when you go year one into a new program, a new ACC, at least for me, a lot of it is assessment. What are the strengths of the school? What is our recruiting strength? Where is the current level of the team? Then you go through the whole season, the conference schedule, nonconference schedule, and you develop a much clearer plan of what needs to be done to get the program to the level you need to get it to.”
The offensive and defensive outlooks are different for the Deacons. Clawson sees the potential for the offense to be freshman oriented. “We may end up starting 5-6 freshman game one, most are redshirts,” he said.
Offensive ineptitude would be a nice way to sum up the Deacons last year. Averaging 14.8 points per game and 39.9 rushing yards per game is not going to beat many Power 5 schools. When asked about how much of an offensive jump he expects his team to take statistically, Clawson said “Yeah, I mean, that’s a hard question. We’re going to start camp in two weeks. I expect us to be improved. I expect us to be more explosive. Are we going to go from where we were last year to averaging 45 points a game and 500 yards of offense? Probably not. But we need to make a good, solid, incremental jump.” The group playing this year will be thrown into the fire, but the positive is they will pretty much be together the next three years. “Whatever jumps we make are going to keep growing every year after that.”
On the defensive side of the ball the focus is more on making adjustments. “Defense is more tweeking. A year ago we were extremely skilled at corner: we had arguably the best corner combo in the ACC(Kevin Johnson and Bud Noel). Both guys graduated but now the front is better.” Defensively the front seven will be the strength of the team, led by senior Brandon Chubb.
Last year’s defense spent a lot of time on the field because the offense could not keep them on the sideline. “I thought it was amazing last year how well our defense played despite the fact that time of possession was never good, we weren’t working first downs. They were stuck a lot of times defending a short field,” said Clawson.
Building the program at Wake will not happen overnight, and getting the student body and fans to believe will take time. When asked how he plans to restore enthusiasm “You win football games. We got to win. We got to put a product on the field that there’s a demand and people want to see. We will do that. I think fans will start seeing that start to come together this year.”