WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Despite the 6 a.m. start time, the Deacs were energetic and excited for the first day of fall camp Friday.
Moving through segment after segment at a quick pace, Wake worked out for more than two hours on the new turf installed right outside McCreary Field House.
With it being the acclimatization period, they competed in shorts with helmets, but no shells or pads. Those, along with increased physicality, are still yet to come.
Wake coach Dave Clawson met with the assembled media after the first practice of fall camp.
On getting started so early in the morning
Clawson: “We still have summer school and our kids still have class. That’s one of the reasons we go early in the morning. The other reason is I love seeing Dan Collins get up early and have his early morning cup of coffee. I know he likes these early mornings. I think a side benefit of that is that we avoid the heat. That helped us get in good work. Practice No. 1 is in the books. I think we’re certainly further along athletically than we’ve been, but certainly a long ways to go.”
On if he liked what he saw
Clawson: “It’s like any practice — there’s things you like, and things you have to get cleaned up. Again, I thought the enthusiasm was good and the energy level was good. Guys wanted to be out here. They were enthusiastic. We just have to clean up some of the execution stuff.”
On if the pace was what he expected on day one of camp
Clawson: “The key is your ability to sustain it. Every team in the country is excited on day one. Four months from now, we want to be excited too. That means you’re having a good year. That’s what happens with good teams — the energy level is sustained and it keeps building, and every practice becomes important. When you’re struggling and things aren’t going well, that’s going to die off. My goal is the Thursday before the Boston College game, we have the same energy level.”
On first impressions of some of the new guys on the roster
Clawson: “As you can tell, I’m working closer with the tight ends. A lot of those things is the great coaches’ cliche — I’ll look at the film. I’ll know better tomorrow. I’m going to go up there and watch the film now and see how Arkeem (Byrd) and those other fellas did.”
On the dynamic of the running back position
Clawson: “Even with Tyler Bell there, it’s wide open. I think all of the offensive skill positions have been highly upgraded. We have a lot of young, very talented players. Whether it’s Cade Carney, Arkeem Byrd, Matt Colburn had a really good summer, Rocky Reid is back off an injury. We’re just looking for guys that can sustain a level of performance. They’re all going to have their nice plays and their big runs, but who can go out there snap-in and snap-out and execute the offense, and do the best job in pass protection? Arkeem is going to make good runs, and Cade and all those other guys, but who are the guys that can do it consistently. That’s the marathon of camp. I’m sure in one practice, a guy will flash or two practices later another guy will flash. Who is consistently grading out high, snap-in and snap-out? That is one of those positions where you can’t have too many. I’ve been in years where we’ve played our fifth and sixth tailback. That is a position at every level of football, where if you stay healthy there for a whole year of football, you’re very fortunate. I think we’d like to have a rotation of three, but if something happens to one of the three, you have to have a fourth. Because of how young those guys are, aside from Tyler Bell I don’t know that we’ll have a guy capable of playing 65-70 snaps. That’s not our goal. We’d like to have three guys somewhere between the 20-40 rep mark.”
On having a lot of competition at the skill positions
Clawson: “The quarterback position has certainly been well-documented. At running back, it’s one of those things — I have no idea who our starting running back is going to be. If we played today, it probably would have been Cade Carney, based on the spring he had. Rocky Reid, Arkeem Byrd, Tyler Bell, Matt Colburn are going to be pushing for time, and any one of them could be the starter. At tight end, Cam Serigne is the starter, but my hope is that we can play Devin Pike a lot more this year and give Cam more of a break. Devin had a great off-season. At receiver, there’s seven or eight guys. Even if Cortez Lewis starts — last year Cortez had to go in and play every single snap. That hurt his production as the year went on. Can Scotty Washington play 20, 30 or 40 snaps a game. Another thing it does, is that it frees up Cortez where you can use him on special teams. Tabari (Hines), Chucky Wade, Alex Bachman, Steven Claude, Jared Crump is back healthy, Jalen Latter — those are all good athletes and good football players that if they practice well, they’re going to be competing for playing time.”
On how the competition helps
Clawson: “I think that naturally helps set the energy level for practice. I think anytime you have a program where the players know that if they don’t do their job there’s someone that can take their job — that’s a great motivator. That’s something we haven’t had the last two years. Two years ago, Matt James was going to play. Last year, Cortez and K.J. Brent were going to play. We didn’t have depth. We didn’t have competition. Now, having that many guys capable of playing with high-end ability, it helps the energy level at practice and helps make you 2-reps better. Now, when our 1s and our 2s are going, and the 2d are out there, those are guys that are going to be playing for us. At times in the past, we had guys we knew were going to redshirt in with the 2s. This is all building the base, building the program and building the depth. The exciting thing is that in all those skill positions, with the except of Jared Crump, every single one of those guys is a freshman or sophomore. All of those seven receivers I named, except Crump, is a freshman or sophomore, and every one of the running backs is a freshman or a sophomore. That’s exciting.”
On if it’s that way on both sides of the ball
Clawson: “No. Defensively, Brad Watson, Marquel Lee, Josh Banks, Ryan Janvion are all seniors. That side of the ball, the depth chart looked like a depth chart is supposed to look from year one. Year one we had Kevin Johnson, Bud Noel and Anthony Wooding. Last year we had Brandon Chubb, Hunter Williams and Tylor Harris. We’ve always had that side of the ball with it’s seniors, juniors and younger players on the two-deep. The offensive side we’ve had to start from scratch. Last year, we started seven freshmen, and probably played 15 freshmen. The benefit is that now those guys have played football.”
On how the weight room has factored into the development of the program
Clawson: “There’s a minimum strength and speed level you have to reach to even have a shot. Those things are hard to hide. Two years ago, when we started the season, we had 24 guys that could lift 1,100 pounds and we only had 13 guys that could run a sub 4.7 40. In the ACC? Good luck.
"Now we have 60 guys that can lift over 1,100 pounds and over 30 players that run a sub 4.7 40.”
On Zack Wary not being on the roster or on the field
Clawson: “Zack Wary, we have to formalize the paperwork. He’s made a decision with the doctors that he’s not to continue playing football. He’s going to be medically — the doctors have advised him that he should not continue to play. It was a really hard decision for Zack. He’ll still be involved in the program in some capacity, and he’ll still be on scholarship. Zack wants to be a doctor. He’s taking a difficult pre-med track. It was a difficult move for him. We were hoping he would be out here. He had some injury issues, and the doctor advised that he stop playing.”
On the impact on the team
Clawson: “Zack was probably No. 4 inside for us. Going into it, we were thinking Marquel (Lee), Grant (Dawson), Jaboree (Williams), then Zack were going to be the four guys inside. The impact on the team is that it gives Justin Strnad a chance to enter the two-deep. We’re also going to make Jacquez Williams a BUCK linebacker and give him a chance to play. It will limit how much we can use Marquel, Grant and Jaboree on special teams. Maybe instead of being in three units, they will only be on one or two.”
On if you can get anything from Nate Mays and Kalin McNeil
Clawson: “Oh yes. Kalin is going to stay at Rover, but Nate is a guy we’re counting on coming along. We’d love it if he became No. 4. I think you’d say right now that inside linebacker Marquel, Grant and Jaboree are No. 1, 2 and 3. The competition is for No. 4 and 5. That competition will probably come down to Nate Mays, Justin Strnad, and Jacquez Williams.”