WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The Deacs sprinted into McCreary Field House, jumped up and down, and began loudly humming the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.”
Then they attacked their last conditioning drill of fall camp, and they did so with the same energy and enthusiasm showed the first day of practice.
This is a team that’s stayed strong and focused through 22 practices, and seem ready to attack game prep. . . then eventually some actual opponents on the gridiron.
We spoke with Wake coach Dave Clawson after the team was finished walking over hurdle barriers, performing calisthenics and pounding gigantic tires with sledgehammers.
On the way his team closed out camp
Clawson: “I thought our energy level was good. I think there’s a maturity level and sense of purpose with this team. We certainly have some challenges, but I like the way our football team works and we’re excited to get the season started.”
On how he would assess the overall camp
Clawson: “I’m going to sound like a broken record. I think the level of football we play is better. I think we’re stronger and faster. I think the kids understand the systems better. But when the season starts is when the rubber meets the road. You can say all these things, but we’ll find out for the first time on Thursday what type of progress we’ve made and if we can carry it from the practice field to the game field.”
On if he saw more enthusiasm sustain through the end of camp this year than the two prior
Clawson: “We have more guys here now that love football, and they enjoy working out and talking football. It’s just the nature of transition. The first year, there were probably a lot of guys on that team that if you told them they could keep their scholarship and not play football, probably a lot of them would have taken it. I think a lot of players now love to play football. They enjoy the practice and preparation. They enjoy the grind of what it is. If you don’t like that part of it, you don’t enjoy football, because that’s what it is. We play 12 games a year, and there’s a lot of hard work that goes into it, whether it’s training camp, weight lifting or early morning runs. There’s got to be a part of you deep within your soul that loves that and enjoys that.
“That was always the challenge of the first and second year. You had so many guys that didn’t even enjoy the game. Now I would say that most of those guys aren’t here. Now, we had some great kids in that group too. Guys like Kevin Johnson, Zach Gordon, Brandon Chubb, Hunter Williams, Jordan Garside - there’s a long list of those guys. There’s a lot of those guys that enjoyed football, but there was a number of them that didn’t. You always want to keep those numbers to a minimum in your locker room. That’s part of what we say in recruiting — if you don’t love football and don’t love the work that goes into it, please don’t come here.”
On what players ‘flashed’ early, but also maintained throughout camp
Clawson: “I thought Jessie Bates flashed and maintained. I think Jack Freudenthal flashed and maintained. Chucky Wade, Scotty Washington — a bunch of those guys. I thought Paris Black. I thought Essang Bassey. That’s not talking about the guys you were already counting on like Marquel Lee, Josh Banks, Justin Herron and Ryan Anderson. But those (listed earlier) are guys that clearly took the next step in the direction to help us win.”