CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It’s the start of a football revival at Wake Forest.
McCreary Field House is a beautiful addition to the landscape, but even that is just the start of what should put the Deacs near the top of the ACC in term of facilities.
Then there’s the back-to-back program-best recruiting classes hauled in by third-year head coach Dave Clawson.
The missing ingredient?
Wins on the field.
The Deacs invaded the Westin Hotel in downtown Charlotte last week, where Clawson spoke to the media about the goal of reaching a bowl game in 2017 and the importance of building the Wake Forest program for the long haul.
Here’s the final segment of Clawson’s break out session with the print media from last Friday.
On how much he expects the offense to improve in 2016
Clawson: “I expect us to be better, and it’ll be a nice step. Our offensive production increased by 54 percent (last year), and if we make that next jump and make some more explosive plays, I don’t know — can we score five or six more points a game? I don’t want to put a limit on it. I know we’re more talented. I know we’re better up front. Now we have to go out there and execute in the red zone and not turn the ball over. It’s those little things. If we can do that, I think we’ll have a nice jump.”
How does Wake Forest compare in relation to some of his other ‘turn around’ jobs
Clawson: “I think we’re kind of right on target and right on track. We’ve got a good nucleus built. We’re still a young team. We’re very much a sophomore-dominated team in terms of our two-deep. It’s an experienced sophomore group though. I love our buy into the program. Certainly in this league, the mountain to climb is very high. People who just look at our records say we made no progress from year one to year two. People who actually watched us play would say, ‘Wow. You were in it until the end with Florida State, Indiana, Duke and Louisville.’ Five games were one-score games in the 4th quarter. Again, the end result wasn’t what we wanted, but the year before we were out of games a lot earlier.”
On how important it is to have the improvement shown last year show up this year in terms of the won-loss record
Clawson: “It’s very important, because that’s the affirmation and reward players need. You can keep showing them the ways they’re getting better — increased strength, GPA, speed and execution, but ultimately for them it comes down to how many games we win. So that’s very important. Any program at some point there needs to be results and you’re winning. I think we’re a better team. We know it, and I think the results will show that on the field this year.”
On making a bowl game
Clawson: “That was a goal last year. Was it a realistic goal? Probably not. For this football team, that’s a very realistic goal. I don’t think there has to be miracles that happen or a lot of breaks take place for that to happen for our football team. Now, we were in five games last year that were one-score games in the 4th quarter that we didn’t win. How many can you turn? If you can turn three of them, you’re a bowl team. If you only turn two of them, you’re probably not.”
On using the two quarterbacks that are ‘so different’ - referring to John Wolford and Kendall Hinton
Clawson: “People try to describe those guys as two different guys, but they’re not that much different. John Wolford is a 4.6 40-yard dash, and everybody looks at him last year and says his immobile because he played with a high ankle sprain. People say Kendall can’t throw the ball because he played the last eight games last year with a bruise on his back that wouldn’t even allow him to warm up and throw the ball. When those two are healthy, their skill sets are more similar than different. All the questions I get are ‘well you have a thrower and you have a runner.’ But when they’re healthy, they are much more in the middle than people see. Now if you just watched the games last year, it’s fair to say that, but I think when people watch us (practice) they realize Kendall is a much better passer and John is a much better runner.”
What has to happen for the middle to lower tier teams to make an impact in the Atlantic Division of the ACC led by Florida State and Clemson
Clawson: “Right now, they’re the class of the conference, and not just in our division, but in the whole conference. They are the bar. Right now, they’re ahead of us program-wise, they’re ahead of us in a lot of ways, and we want to catch them. I think it’s one of those things, that if we can continue our development, can we get ourselves to a place where we can be competitive with those teams and win a game in the 4th quarter against them. Last year at Clemson that didn’t happen. Last year at Florida State that did happen. We had the ball with a minute left on the 20-yard line with a chance to still win the football game. Certainly, the goal is that we’re an older and experienced team and the kids know the system better. People ask if that’s a pipe dream. It’s been done before. Jim Grobe led Wake Forest to the Orange Bowl and won the ACC in 2006. When that happened Florida State still had a football team and Clemson still had a football team. Right now, people look at those two teams being unattainable. That’s been attained. People have done that, and Wake Forest did that. It’s certainly our goal to get there again. It’s certainly going to take a lot of work and a lot of discipline, and a lot of recruiting and development to get there. But that’s the ultimate goal.”