Wake Forest football coach Dave Clawson focused heavily on both sides of the line with his first recruiting class, but brought in a large group of skill players the second go-around.
Those skill players are now ready to make a difference on the field.
There’s no position group for the Deacs more deep and talented than at wide receiver, which is our No. 5 top position battle to watch in fall camp.
In 2015, 14 different targets caught passes for Wake, with eight of those players being wide receivers.
Clawson will rotate guys in and out during the games, and second-string wideouts will get plenty of reps — so depth is important, and thankfully for the Deacs they have it.
The bad news for Wake is that they had multiple injuries during spring camp, sidelining at times likely starters Jared Crump, Tabari Hines and Cortez Lewis.
The good news for Wake is that those injuries allowed others to get valuable spring practice reps, and the even better news is that many of those players were productive.
The only wide receiver starter missing from last season is K.J. Brent, the sure-handed grad transfer who finished with 42 catches for 583 yards and a touchdown.
That leaves two returning starters, redshirt sophomore Cortez Lewis at the X, and sophomore Tabari Hines at flanker. Lewis led the team with 611 receiving yards with four touchdowns on 47 grabs. Hines caught 32 passes for 366 yards and three scores last year. Both essentially started every game last year, except when the first play formation deemed it necessary to have a fullback (Charles Argenzio) or extra tight end (Devin Pike) in for the opening snap.
The leader for the final starting position, replacing Brent at the “S” spot, is redshirt senior Jared Crump, who missed all of last season after suffering an ACL tear in practice during fall camp. Crump is 6-foot-3, and had 48 catches in his Wake Forest career for 515 yards and a pair of scores.
But it’s still uncertain if Crump will be physically ready to contribute that steadily, according to an interview with Wake offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero by the Winston-Salem Journal’s Dan Collins.
"Now Crump’s like an 80-year-old man now. He’s been hurt so many times and is coming off another serious injury. We’ll just be careful with him,” Ruggiero told Collins. “You might not see him out there as much as you would think, rep-wise, just because we’ve got to make sure he can make it through and that he is really 100 percent.”
Spelling Hines at flanker last season was Chuck Wade, former high school teammates of quarterback John Wolford. Wade finished fourth on the team with 33 catches for 348 yards and one score.
Then that leaves a trio of guys that were impressive filling in during the spring, sophomore Alex Bachman, and redshirt freshmen Scotty Washington and Steven Claude.
Bachman played in 11 games last season, with a lot of special teams duty, catching just one pass all year. But he caught hundreds in the spring. He was the one receiver that stood out the most, consistently getting open, always making the grab, and then often making moves after the catch to chew up positive yardage. Bachman may not get the starting nod, but he will make plenty of catches in 2016.
At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, Washington is the guy you can see in the end zone catching gorgeous fades. His athleticism and size make him an attractive target, and if Crump isn’t back 100 percent, Washington will push for the starting spot replacing Brent.
Looking for speeed? Claude is your guy. He will extend the defense and get behind the secondary quicker than a blink of an eye.
Early enrollee Jeremiah Brown is one freshman who could potentially see the field this season, just because of the experience he gained in the spring. Most freshmen who come early at Wake contribute early, but the Deacs did need help at wide receiver in the spring just to field enough players, considering the multiple injuries.
Greg Dortch is another guy who could potentially be used. The speedy Virginia 5-A Player of the Year last year is sure to compete for special teams play, so there would be little surprise to see him line up occasionally on offense.
That’s nine players who have legit opportunities to compete at wideout this season for the Deacs. With this amount of talent and depth, the competition in fall camp will be fun to watch.