WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Wake Forest kicks off the 2016 season with a 7 p.m. contest Thursday at BB&T Field against Tulane.
Both squads are coming off 3-9 campaigns, with the Green Wave turning to former Georgia Southern coach Willie Fritz to take over on the sidelines.
Cade Carney is set to become the first true freshman running back to start in his first Wake Forest game in at least the last 65 years, according to Wake Forest media relations.
“He’s well prepared and very conscientious,” Wake coach Dave Clawson said at his weekly press conference Tuesday. “He can do all the things we want our backs to do — he can carry the football, pass protect and has great hands.”
The Deacs will probably be able to go eight or nine deep on the offensive line, but will likely use the established starting five of Justin Herron, Tyler Hayworth, Josh Harris, Phil Haynes and Ryan Anderson all together when possible.
“It’s all about trust, because we are five guys as one unit,” senior offensive lineman Hayworth said. “When all five guys can trust each other and we all know that the other guy is going to get the job done, that’s when your offensive line is the best. I believe we’ve built that trust, and we’re prepared. We’ve worked so hard to get where we’re at. This will be the best group since I’ve been here.”
Senior safety Ryan Janvion is entering his third-straight season as a captain for the Deacs, and has 282 career tackles, which is good for 21st all time at Wake Forest.
Linebacker Ed Stetz (1969-71) hold the all time career tackle record at Wake with 460. Janvion needs 44 tackles in 2016 to reach 10th place, which is currently held by Brandon Chubb (2012-15) with 326.
Janvion has seen the transformation of the Wake wide receiver position first hand, having to cover them every day in practice. The Deacs tied TCU last season for most receptions by freshmen by 131, and have added a few more guys to the rotation (Scotty Washington, Steven Claude) this season that should have an impact.
“That’s probably the position that’s changed the most on our team in terms of competition, ability and depth. Now, our receivers are quick and fast. Small and fast ones, big and tall ones that can go get jump balls like Scotty (Washington),” Janvion said. “I’m expecting them to do some serious damage. They’re really good, and it’s not just one or two of them, it’s the group of them. I’m expecting all of them to make plays, and it’s helped us get better by having to cover those receivers.”
According to Wake Forest media relations, the Deacs return 100 percent of their rushing yards, 99.3 percent of their passing yards and 76.4 percent of their receiving yards.
K.J. Brent contributed 19 yards passing and 583 yards receiving last season as a grad student transfer.
Wake had 25 offensive line starts from freshmen in 2015, but return an experienced group. Of the five slated to start Thursday, they have 71 total starts under their belt. Though redshirt freshmen Jake Benzinger and Nathan Gilliam are in the mix for playing time this season, they aren’t expected to start unless injuries push them into duty.
“We all have experience now. We all know what it’s like to play college football. There’s not going to be a single guy on the starting offensive line that is going to have those big eyes because they’ve never played college football before,” Hayworth said. “That’s huge, especially at our position. You get in there and it’s 100 mph in the trenches. You have to be ready to go for it. If you’re wide-eyed for any second, you’re going to get beat. We’re experienced, we work hard and we trust each other.”
Wake quarterback John Wolford and wide receiver Chucky Wade, as well as Tulane freshman cornerback John Helow are all graduates of Bishop Kenny High School in Jacksonville, Florida.
Senior safety Ryan Janvion has a message he shares with the huge group of freshmen and sophomores on the Demon Deacon roster.
“Enjoy it before it’s over. You’ll never get a time like this again. No one will ever care more about what you do in life than what you’re doing right now,” he said. “Nobody is going to run up to you and ask for your autograph if you’re an accountant or at a big law firm. Just enjoy playing football. At the end of the day, we’re so blessed to be here. This is a big stage, and we get our school paid for to do it.”