Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson calls Nico Marley a "heat seeking missile"

Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson broke down the key areas the Deacs must focus on to come out on top Thursday against Tulane during his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon.

WINSTON-SALEM — Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson addressed the local media Tuesday morning in the first of his weekly luncheons.

Clawson’s Deacs are looking to improve on back-to-back 3-9 seasons, and believe they have a good shot of making a bowl game this season.

Video of Clawson’s opening statement was posted earlier, so here’s the question and answer portion of the event.

On lack of preseason games

Clawson: “It makes you very uneasy. You can have an inter-squad scrimmage, but if you give up a big play or a sack, you just put the ball down and play the next play. Now it counts. We’ll have a number of guys playing for the first time. First games are never clean. These games often times come down to who makes the least mistakes, in terms of turnovers, the kicking game. In the first game it’s important you don’t beat yourself. It is what it is. I don’t care how many years you’ve done this, the first game the stomach is buzzing and you have the butterflies. If you didn’t feel that way, you’re probably in the wrong field.”

On Cade Carney coming on and starting as a true freshman

Clawson: “Part of it was he was able to stay healthy through spring and through camp. We had Tyler Bell and Isaiah Robinson go down. Matt Colburn has missed some time this spring. Cade was there every single day. What happens when you’re younger, and you’re in a position like that and get reps. Sometimes you take advantage of it and other times you prove you’re not ready. Cade learned from the reps, and became consistent and reliable. Even though he’s young, he did enroll mid-year. He’s gotten so many reps. It won’t be perfect and it won’t be clean, but he’s ready to go. He’s well prepared and very conscientious. He can do all the things we want our backs to do — he can carry the football, pass protect and has great hands.”

On the offensive line improving and helping the run game

Clawson: “A year ago, we started two or three offensive linemen. Now, everyone on our offensive line that we expect to play regularly has been in our program at least three years. I’ve said it many times: we’re bigger, stronger and more experienced. I expect us to be improved. How improved we are, we’ll find out in the next 12-13 weeks. I talk to our defensive linemen, and they will tell you how improved they are. But we need that to show up this week. From where we started to where we are, I know we’re way ahead, but we’re still not where we need to be. I think this year will be a nice step forward in that way.”

On having a consistent five guys on the offensive line and building continuity

Clawson: “It’s like piano keys. They all have to be playing the same tune. They have to work together. You can roll guys in there a little bit. But a double team with a guard tackle is a little bit different with whoever does it. Josh Harris, Tyler Hayworth — we’ve got a lot of guys back that have played a lot of snaps. We’re still relatively young there when you consider we’re starting three sophomores. The next three guys are a sophomore and two redshirt freshmen. But, like I said, a year ago at this point we were going to start two-to-three freshmen. All the reps of last season, the spring reps and the camp reps — they’re good players and good players get better with reps and work. There’s no doubt in my mind that they’re improved. But again, we have to show it.”

On winning the close games that they were in quite often last season

Clawson: “We’ve been in them, now we have to find ways to win them. It’s kind of like progression. When you have a rebuilding job, at times it gets ugly. Last year, we were more competitive. There were seven games that were one-score games going into the fourth quarter. We won two of them and lost five. If you win three more of them, you’re in a bowl. There’s no question, I think last year there was progress in that we were in more games. This year, the progress has to be we find ways to win those games. I think we’re better, but we have to execute in one-score games in the fourth quarter better than we did a year ago. I’m confident that we’re better, but we still have to do it.”

On Duke Ejiofor and Dionte Austin

Clawson: “Those guys practiced today and looked good.”

On what Nico Marley does well

Clawson: “He is a heat-seeking missile. He just has a nose for the football. He’s one of those guys that you can’t be fooled by his size. He just has a knack of getting to the football. He’s a playmaker. He’s a really good football player. To have as many tackles the last three years. He’s smart, instinctive and can run.”

On if turnovers are important playing a triple option team

Clawson: “Turnovers are important every game. If they’re able to stay on schedule, they can really control the time of possession, and that’s what they will try to do. They’re not a go fast, hurry up offense. They’re going to be very methodical and move the chains. The toughest thing about defending this stuff is everything you teach on defense is pursuit and angles, and getting guys to the football. Then, in week one, bang. . . you better keep your eyes there and your eyes there. It becomes playing assignment football. If you just pursue and run, they could end up with the quarterback running the pitch or the dive. Then if your eyes aren’t in the same place, it’s a 40-50 yard play.”

On the last time he faced a team like that

Clawson: “Certainly what Army does is similar conceptually. How they do it is different. Army is under center and the ole wishbone out a different formation. Tulane will present similar dilemmas under different formations.”

On getting pretty much everyone through camp unscathed

Clawson: “Yeah. Pretty much, You never get through camp really clean. Knock on wood, I think most of our guys will be ready to go on Thursday.”

On Tulane’s starting quarterback, Glen Cuiellette

Clawson: “It sounds to me that he’s the older guy that can manage the game. He throws it well. With this offensive system though — last year Georgia Southern played two quarterbacks, and one of them was a true freshman. Their older kid got hurt. With the reads, you always want experience at quarterback, but it sounds to me that they are going to play two or three of them. The other two are freshman, and Glen is a redshirt sophomore that played a snap. Obviously, he was the best fit for their system. Two other quarterbacks left their program because they were not a good fit for what they were doing. Obviously Glen was. He was a guy they felt fit their system and was athletic enough. From what we hear, he’s very good throwing it as well, so he’s a true dual threat quarterback.”

On if will pose problems to see multiple quarterbacks from Tulane

Clawson: “No. We go back and watch these guys on high school film to get a sense of what their skill set is. They’re athletic guys and were recruited for this system. They’re there for a reason. You have a head coach who knows what he’s doing, knows what he’s looking for and these guys were specifically recruited to run his offense.”

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