Opponent's Take: Duke v. Wake Forest

Ahead of Duke’s ACC Opener against Wake Forest we had the chance to sit down with Scout.com Wake Forest publisher Les Johns to get his take on the Demon Deacons and the challenges they will pose for the Blue Devils on Saturday.  

The Wake offense struggled at times last year and seemed to do so against Tulane.  In your opinion, what is missing from the attack and where does a potential spark come from?  

The level of struggle is relative. Wake was the most improved offense statistically last season, with a 54 percent increase in offensive production versus 2014. Wake gained 450 yards in last year’s season finale against the Blue Devils. They need to post another huge gain this season to get where they want to be, but the Tulane game showed no promise of that potential. 

They struggled moving the ball against Tulane for a couple of reasons: First of all, the triple option attack led to a 10-minute time of possession advantage for the Green Wave. The Deacs only had 56 offensive snaps on the night, and three of those were quarterback kneel downs. Secondly, quarterback John Wolford failed to establish the vertical passing game, as the Deacs went 0-for-6 on one-on-one shots down the field. Hit a couple of those and not only does the total yardage increase, but it probably opens up a few more subsequent running lanes.   

As much as the offense has struggled, the defense has been pretty good and seemed to be in Week One.  So, where are the areas you see the Wake D giving Duke problems, and where might they be vulnerable.

Wake is strong and deep up front this season, as evidenced by their strong play against Tulane while battling through injuries in their front seven. Senior defensive end Duke Ejiofor is the top Deac to watch in terms of pressuring Daniel Jones, and many believe senior Josh Banks is set for a breakout year. Sophomores Chris Calhoun and Chris Stewart have gotten quality fall camp reps when Banks and Ejiofor missed time because of injury. 

Senior linebacker Marquel Lee is a determined leader of the defense, and the Wake secondary is young, but deep and talented. Despite losing linebackers Brandon Chubb and Hunter Williams, the defense should be improved this season. 

3. How has the offensive line progressed?  Last year they allowed 40 sacks and only got 3 yards per rush.  Is it still an area the coaches need to scheme to overcome?

The presumption is that the offensive line will continue to improve, the question has been just how much. Wake allowed just one sack against Tulane, who had a legit NFL draft pick in Tanzel Smart patrolling its defensive line. Wake coach Clawson was also pleased the Deacs didn’t turn the ball over in the opener, after finishing -13 in turnover margin in 2015. 

4. What are the potential areas of emphasis when it comes to the Wake offense attacking Duke?  

That’s where it gets kind of weird, in my opinion. The Deacs really want to establish the vertical passing game, and it’s been effective in fall camp versus a solid Wake defense, but the Duke secondary looks to be both talented and experienced. Wolford has thrown for nearly 600 yards combined the last two years against the Blue Devils, but I have to believe the Deacs best chance of attacking Duke will be on the ground and via short and intermediate passes, attacking the relatively inexperienced Blue Devil front seven. 

I’m legit fascinated to see what sort of plan the Wake coaches put together for Saturday’s encounter. 

5. So, with all that said, what is your prediction?

I think the Wake offense shows improvement from week one (how could they not), but it still won’t be enough to pull off the road win against the Blue Devils. I’ve got Duke winning 21-17. 

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