Looks can be deceiving

CLEMSON - After a two-game stretch against two of the ACC's top-scoring offenses, a quick look at Wake Forest might lead one to believe that Kevin Steele can enjoy a bit of respite this week.

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A comparison of the raw numbers indicates that Saturday's game in Winston-Salem should be a breeze for the Clemson defense, which leads the ACC in scoring defense (17.4) and ranks fourth in total defense (335.8).

After all, Wake Forest is 11th in the conference in scoring offense (22.9) and total offense (312.4).

But looks can be deceiving, especially to a defensive coordinator.

"They're a little bit of a magic puzzle, because they came out Maryland and were in four wide receivers the whole game, I think 38 snaps," Steele said. "They came out against N.C. State and ran 29 snaps of two tight ends, one wide receiver. Then, they come out against us last year and they were two backs, one tight end, basically 40-something times.

"Then, they play somebody else and they're all one tight end, three wide. It's kind of, where do you throw at the dart board? It's a lot to prepare for."

One thing is for certain, it's going to start with the run. Wake Forest has the fifth-best rushing attack in the conference (162.2).

Josh Adams, who's ninth in the ACC in rushing, leads the Demon Deacons with 544 yards on the ground and five touchdowns.

Josh Harris is second with 266 yards rushing and a pair of scores.

Freshman quarterback Tanner Price has completed 110 of 197 passes for 1,125 yards with seven touchdowns and eight interceptions.

He's also an effective dual-threat option with three rushing touchdowns and 115 yards rushing.

Wake Forest has a pair of receivers with at least 30 catches. Devon Brown has 32 for 258 yards and a touchdown. Chris Givens has 31 and team-highs in yards (484) and touchdowns (four).

"Wake Forest is a typical Wake Forest football team," Steele said. "They're extremely well coached. They're not always the most heavily recruited players. They're not always the biggest. They're well-coached. They play hard. It's a very good scheme."

Linebacker depth may be put to the test again this week.

Brandon Maye, the starter on the weak-side, was sidelined after sustaining a concussion against Florida State. His status for Saturday is still up in the air.

If need be, Corico Hawkins could work as a backup to Jonathan Willard, who would start in Maye's place. Steele said Quandon Christian could also slide over from the strong-side.

The ideal scholarship total at linebacker is 11-12. Right now, Steele has seven.

"I guess you could use that as an excuse, but it's not even a factor. I don't even look at it like that," he said. "You have who you have."

The play of the defensive line has made life much easier for the linebackers.

Steele credited the improve play up front to the coaching from ends coach Chris Rumph and tackles coach Dan Brooks.

And he's thankful to have those two assistants.

"They've done an unbelievable job…the way that front's playing, it ain't real hard," Steele said.


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