Know Your Enemy: Wake Forest Season Preview

We continue our season preview series with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

We continue our season preview series with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Last season Wake went 4-8 and 2-6 in the ACC and was one of the most inconsistent teams in the country, playing Miami, Duke, and Vanderbilt very close, but getting blown out by Florida State and Clemson to go along with an embarrassing loss to UL Monroe.

Florida State obliterated the Demon Deacons 59-3 last season in one of the most dominant defensive performances ever as the Wake Forest quarterbacks combined for a 0.0 QB rating. No other team in FBS was held to that rating last season. The Florida State defense forced 6 interceptions and a fumble, returning two of those for touchdowns.

Breaking Down the Schedule

Win Probability

Aug. 28 at Louisiana-Monroe

.69

Sept. 6 GARDNER-WEBB

1

Sept. 13 at Utah State

.52

Sept. 20 Army

.85

Sept. 27 at Louisville

.27

Oct. 4 at Florida State

.01

Oct. 18 Syracuse

.44

Oct. 25 Boston College

.6

Nov. 6 CLEMSON

.27

Nov. 15 at NC State

.49

Nov. 22 Virginia Tech

.48

Nov. 29 at Duke

.24

Overall

5.86

Like NC State, Wake Forest appears to understand proper scheduling for their program, as the season starts off with four extremely cupcakes before starting their ACC schedule. Finding two wins after that will be tough. At Louisville, at Florida State, home against Clemson, and at Duke are close to guaranteed losses.

That means to be bowl eligible, Wake Forest will likely have to find two wins from Syracuse, Boston College, NC State, and Virginia Tech. The Simplified Football formula has them right under the six-win mark; we think they’re more likely to wind up closer to five wins, with a win in one of those four games. Two, however, seems like a big task for new head coach Dave Clawson.

Breaking Down the Offense

Exactly what offense Clawson runs at Wake Forest will be interesting, as he tends toward shaping his system based on personnel rather than pushing a specific approach. Wake’s lack of offensive talent will make success difficult regardless.

Projected Starters

Quarterback

John Wolford

Running Back

Orville Reynolds

Full back

Jordan Garside

Wide Receiver

Matt James

Wide Receiver

Jared Crump

Tight End

Zach Gordon

Left Tackle

Antonio Ford

Left Guard

Will Smith

Center

Corey Helms

Right Guard

Josh Harris

Right Tackle

Dylan Intemann

Key Players

QB John Wolford: True freshman Wolford beat out veteran Tyler Cameron for the job in the fall, as new head coach Dave Clawson is going with the player he recruited over guys who have been in the Wake program three or four years. Wolford was a three star recruit and the 63rd rated quarterback last season.

OT Antonio Ford: Ford is a Pahokee product and an outstanding athlete who spent last season at guard after a catastrophic leg injury in 2012. He’s probably the one NFL prospect currently on this offensive roster, and it will be interesting to see his transition to tackle.

Weaknesses

Nearly everything. The running game struggled mightily last season (116th nationally) and now turns to RB Orville Reynolds, who is projected to win the starting job despite only carrying the ball 9 times last season.

The Receivers: Wake had one real weapon last year in receiver Michael Campanaro, and his departure is a big blow to this unit, which returns only two receivers who have caught a touchdown in college. No remaining receiver had over 250 yards receiving last season. Getting some help from TE Cam Serigne, who has never caught a pass in his career, would also be big for the Deacons. Clawson will need this unit to prove themselves early to help get the freshman quarterback some confidence.

Overall

Wake Forest had the worst F/+ offensive rating in the ACC last season at 112th, so it’s hard to imagine them being any worse despite adjusting to a new offensive system, quarterback, running back, and the loss of the best receiver in Wake Forest history. It will be very interesting to see how the team grows around Wolford. If he plays poorly his first few games will Clawson pull him in favor of the more experienced Cameron? We expect marginal improvement on the offensive side, but an offense around the 100 mark is most likely.

Breaking Down the Defense

Projected Starters

Defensive End

Zachary Allen

Defensive Tackle

Taylor Harris

Defensive Tackle

Josh Banks

Defensive End

Wendell Dunn

Buck Linebacker

Marquel Lee

Middle Linebacker

Brandon Chubb

Rover

Hunter Williams

Corner

Merrill Noel

Strong Safety

Ryan Janvion

Free Safety

Anthony Wooding Jr.

Corner

Kevin Johnson

Key Players

CB Merrill Noel: Florida State fans should remember this name. Noel was a one-time Florida State commitment from Pahokee. Now he is the Demon Deacons’ top corner and led the team in interceptions last season with three. He also forced a team high three fumbles last season. Definitely the best athlete on the defense.

SS Ryan Janvion: As a freshman last season Janvion led the team in tackles with 95 and had an interception. He got better as the season went on and finished last season with a 14-tackle performance against Vanderbilt.

Improvement Needed

The Defensive tackles: After what seemed like a decade, Nikita Whitlock moved on to the NFL leaving an undersized hole at the defensive tackle position. Whitlock had 9 sacks last season—more than the entire returning roster didn’t have that combined. Banks and Harris will have a lot of trouble filling that role.

Overall

The defense actually wasn’t that bad in 2013, finishing the season ranked 41st in the F/+ defensive rankings—ahead of teams like North Carolina, Georgia, and Miami. That ranking will likely go down slightly as the best player on the team has moved on to the NFL. Combine the overall lack of talent with a new head coach and defensive coordinator and it’s a clear rebuilding situation in Winston-Salem.

Breaking Down the Special Teams

Projected Starters

Kicker

Chad Hedlund

Punter

Alexander Kinal

Punt Returner

Jared Crump

Kick returners

Tyree Harris

John Armstrong

Improvement Needed

K Chad Hedlund: Hedlund made just 8-12 field goals last season. He was also the kickoff specialist, but produced a touchback under 20 percent of the time.

P Alexander Kinal: Kinal averaged 7.2 punts per game last season with a terrible average of 39.69 per punt. Wake will need him to flip the field more often as they will likely be punting quite a bit this year.

How They Match Up With FSU

Hard to believe it’s not that long since Wake Forest was an FSU nemesis and even harder to believe that Wake Forest had more talent on the field in 2009 than FSU did. Since the 2011 loss Florida State and Wake have gone in exact opposite directions, as Florida State has won two BCS bowl games—including a National Championship—while Wake has failed to make a bowl game and now has an entirely new coaching staff.

Florida State is now on an entirely different talent level, and this one shouldn’t be competitive. FSU won last years match up 59-3, and this year’s game should be similar.

Wayne’s Prediction: 56-3 (Win Probability: 99%)

Jason’s Prediction: 52-0 (Win Probability: 99%)


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