Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson looking for clean, balanced football in Saturday Scrimmage

Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson laid out his vision for a successful scrimmage when he spoke with Demon Deacon Digest after fall camp practice no. 8 Friday at the Doc Martin Football Practice Complex.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Just eight practices into fall camp, and it’s already that time.

The Deacs scrimmage at 2 p.m. Saturday with two-deep depth chart considerations all over the field. With just two scrimmages on the fall camp slate, Saturday is the day for players to make an impact.

Demon Deacon Digest spoke with Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson as the Deacs finished fall camp practice no. 8 Friday afternoon.

On Jack Freudenthal

Clawson: “Every day he grades out higher. When you get a ton of reps and you see the same plays over and over, it allows you to play faster. You anticipate looks. You know your assignment and you’re not processing what the signals are. I would say there are three steps to it. Number one, you need to know what to do. Number two, you need to learn how to do it. And the third part is, how do you apply it to all the different things you see on defense? I think most freshmen come in and just try to figure out what to do, then in the spring they start to figure out how to do it, and then by that second year, they can apply it against all the different things a defense can do. That is kind of the three steps. That’s why when you’re young, it’s hard, because the kids are somewhere between step one and two, they’re not at step three. I think we have more guys that are working at step three.”

On if that’s when you show the most growth, as you get to step three

Clawson: “Oh yeah. Any team. . . we have our plays. How do you handle and man blitz? How do you handle a zone blitz? How do you handle a show, no-go look? How do you handle versus cover zero? How does the play change in the red zone? When kids have to think and process that stuff, it’s almost impossible to do in live time and speed. Now for a lot of these kids, it’s the third time they’re hearing it. This is how we handle an A-Gap Show. This is how we handle a blitz. This is how we handle a corner fire. This is how we handle a safety blitz. Those things are hard to see and hard to execute. You see it, bang, you have a call and it’s gone. Now those calls are quicker and quicker, because they’ve been doing it for three camps and two springs. That’s one of the advantages to having continuity on the staff. The terminology hasn’t changed.”

On what to expect in the scrimmage

Clawson: “We’re going to keep it very vanilla and let the guys play. To me, the first scrimmage is about evaluating players. You don’t do a lot. You keep it very simple. You keep it very vanilla. You’re trying to figure out who your best 47-55 football players are. Then your second scrimmage is much more — who can handle the volume? That’s where we’re at. We’re going to let the guys play.”

On if there is more weight on the two-deep in the first scrimmage than the second

Clawson: “I think in camp, there is more weight on the first scrimmage, because the second scrimmage is much more situational. In spring football, both scrimmages are the same. The second scrimmage of the fall camp is much more situational, so I think in terms of starting to settle the two-deep, there won’t be anything official until after the second scrimmage, but the first scrimmage goes a lot toward determining who you feel is trending toward being the starter. We’re inside of three weeks.”

On if the quarterbacks will float between both the 1s and the 2s Saturday in the scrimmage

Clawson: “Yeah. They’re both playing well. I’m happy with both of them. They’re both better than they were in spring and better than they were a year ago.”

On if Arkeem Byrd will play in the scrimmage

Clawson: “I don’t know. I think we’ll have (Matt) Colburn. He was able to practice today in a yellow jersey. As long as that went well, he should be cleared for tomorrow. Byrd we may have him, but it would be limited. I’d be shocked if he played more than 8-12 snaps. You want it to be 8-12 healthy snaps. You get to the point in camp where you don’t want to have anything happen that sets somebody back.”

On if Phil Haynes is still progressing well

Clawson: “Phil is doing good. He was out here watching practice. We’ll get him on a bicycle today and may do some individual parts of practice tomorrow and not scrimmage. We may get his shoulder pads on and get a sweat. If that goes well, hopefully we get him back Monday.”

On what a good scrimmage looks like for him

Clawson: “Clean football. I say the same thing every year — I want it to be balanced. When one side dominates, it’s usually not because they were that good. It’s because the other side was bad. I believe if you’ve watched our practices, every segment we’ve been here, they’ve become a little more balanced. I think you see more offensive plays now being made than you’ve seen in the last two years. I want balance. The coordinators want their side to dominate, I want to see good things on both sides of the ball. Good scrimmages for me are lots of 2-6 yard plays. You don’t want to see TFLs and if we have an explosive or two on offense, that would be good, but I don’t want to give them up on defense.”

On it being a big scrimmage for guys like Essang Bassey, Jessie Bates and Traveon Redd

Clawson: “ I would say I don’t know for Bates. Bates is going to play. He’s in the rotation. For Bassey? Yeah. Is he the third corner, or is he a guy that can roll? He’s staying healthy, and half of having a good camp is staying healthy. He’s getting reps every day and getting better. Luke Masterson and Traveon Redd — I think we’d like to play one and redshirt the other. We don’t have to make that decision for another two weeks. Two weeks from now, one of those guys will be playing on special teams and the other is going to redshirt. How they do in the scrimmages will dictate that.”

On Justin Strnad, Nate Mays

Clawson: “I think right now, it’s Marquel (Lee) and Jaboree (Williams) are 1 and 2. Grant (Dawson) makes three. Then, who’s no. 4? Grant has the ability to play both. So if Strnad is 4, then Grant would be the MIC and Strnad would be the BUCK. If it’s Nate, Grant can play the BUCK and Nate can play the MIC. We’ve cross trained Grant, and that gives us flexibility with who the four and five. We don’t have to have those guys play different positions.”

On if he saw anybody stand out in the 7-on-7 red zone drills

Clawson: “Yeah. Here would be three positive takeaways. Right now on defense, Brad Watson got tested by Cortez (Lewis) and tested by Scotty (Washington) and he came up every time with a play. I think Chucky Wade won down there and had nice moves and catches. Greg Dortch comes out there every day and does something where you’re just like, ‘wow.’ The one-handed catch he had in the corner.”

On Dortch

Clawson: “We’re three weeks from the game, so a lot of things can happen. If we played today, you have Tabari (Hines) and Chucky (Wade) healthy, and those guys have played. How many snaps could we get Greg? I don’t know. Four or five days from now, things can be different. I always say, ‘don’t be in a rush to make a bad decision.’ So we’ve got two weeks and six days before we play a game, and there’s still a body of work and more information to collect. We’ll take the time to watch and collect information.”

On eight conference games versus nine conference games

Clawson: “I think what’s my preference versus what is real. A lot of coaches would like to keep it at eight, because with nine, five is away and four is at home. But the issue is you have to play 10 (Power 5) and if everybody else is playing nine (conference games) and you’re only playing eight, then how much inventory is out there to get games? My understanding is that part of the new deal is we have to play 10 against Power 5. Now you have 14 teams trying to find a total of 28 games against Power 5 teams. How real is that? Is everybody really going to find two teams that want to play them?”


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