When head coach Dave Clawson arrived at Wake Forest, the Demon Deacons were among the bottom feeders of the ACC. Heading into his 5th year as head coach, they are beginning to demand some respect. Wake Forest is coming off of an 8-win season, and historically one of the best offenses they have ever had. With plenty of experience returning, the Demon Deacons should continue to take steps forward.
Any offense can only be as good as it’s offensive line, and Wake Forest has an exceptional one. Their entire offensive front will be returning, including 3 that received All-ACC honors last year. OG Phil Haynes and OT Justin Herron were named to the 3rd team and C Ryan Anderson on the 2nd team. This could arguably be the best offensive line in the ACC. QB Kendall Hinton will be back at the helm of the offense. However, true Freshman Sam Hartman is poised to take the job as well. Hinton originally beat out last season’s starter, John Wolford, before getting injured in 2016. Wolford took the job over from there. Hinton seems to have more ability as a scrambler, but has struggled in being consistently accurate. Hartman also seems to have the most potential at the position, so keep an eye out for him.
RB Matt Colburn fell just short of the 1,000 yard rushing mark last season. However, with this offensive line coming together, he fully expects to pass that this season. Cade Carney will be backing up Colburn and brings a different kind of style to the table. Carney is more of a bruising type of back that doesn’t go down easily. RS freshman Christian Beal is also expected to get some touches, and he seems to be the best catching the ball out of the backfield.
After being sidelined because of a punctured intestine(What?!?), WR Greg Dortch will be returning. Dortch was very successful until the injury, and looks to pick up right where he left off. Although he missed some time, he still managed to catch 53 balls for 722 yards and 9 TDs. The Demon Deacons will have to find a way to replace All-ACC TE Cam Serigne, as he was outstanding for them. Junior Jack Freudenthal looks to be up to the task after learning under Serigne for several years.
In order for this Wake team to take the next step, this defense will need to seriously improve. They were ranked 113th in overall defense in the country and 119th in the passing game. Jay Sawvel will be entering his second season as defensive coordinator, and the Deacs are hoping his second year will be much better. The strength of this defense looks to be the interior lineman. Fifth year seniors Willie Yarbary and Zeek Rodney will be the starting DTs and bring plenty of experience. Sophomore Carlos Basham is taking a starting role at the DE position and the staff has a lot of faith in him. They believe he can bring the pass rush that they have been missing.
Clawson believes that the linebacker position could be the biggest question mark. Demetrius Kemp is the lone returning starter, and he often struggled in passing situations last season. Because of this, the staff have moved him to the MLB position in order to better suit his strengths. Justin Strnad at the “Buck” position showed some promise last year and is really the only other ‘backer with experience, however limited it may be.
If the defensive line struggles to put pressure on the QB, this secondary will definitely have a long year. Over the last half of the season, the Demon Deacons gave up nearly 380 passing yards a game. However CB Essang Bassey brings some big play potential to the defensive backfield. The coaches seem to believe he has All-ACC capabilities. With 2 JRs and 2 SRs filling the starting roles, experience will be the name of the game.
Since Dave Clawson has taken over as head coach, the Demon Deacons have been the untold success story of college football. Wake has proven that they can hang with the big boys after beating TAMU in their final bowl game last season. A game that ended in a final score of 55-52 and was one of the most fun games to watch. I believe that QB Kendall Hinton is more than prepared to take over this offense. He has big-play ability and can get it done in the air or on the ground. However, being in the ACC Atlantic does not play to their advantage. Having to face Clemson, FSU, and Louisville in a 3 game stretch will be difficult, and coming out of that with 1 win will be considered a success. If this defense can pull it together this will be a dangerous team to watch.