Les Johns

Fit system to recruits, or fit recruits to system? Clawson answers

Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson takes questions from the media during his weekly press conference.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. —  Wake Forest (6-5, 3-4) looks to celebrate senior night and a winning season Saturday with a victory over Boston College (5-6, 1-6).

Wake coach Dave Clawson answered questions from the media Tuesday during his weekly press conference.

On the seniors getting recognized finally getting a ‘payoff’ for their contributions

Clawson: “I’m grateful for the seniors and everything they’ve done. Those seven guys have played over 3,000 snaps of football this year. On offense we have Josh Harris and Tyler Hayworth. We have some very talented young offensive linemen. Those two are the glue that have kept it together. Ty and Josh are smart players. I don’t think Phil Haynes and Justin Herron have the years they’re having if they aren’t playing next to Josh Harris and Ty Hayworth. It’s not just that they’re good players — they’ve been good leaders. When we struggle on the offensive line, those two stayed the course. Our offensive line is so much better than it’s been in my three years, and probably before that. A lot of it has to do with those two and their leadership.

“On defense, Marquel Lee will certainly leave as one of the better linebackers to ever play here. He’s one of the best linebackers in the ACC. Josh Banks finally did it. It took him to his senior year, but he’s had an awesome year for us. We talked about Josh being hot and cold — inconsistent. You just kept hoping that he would finally put it together. He has. He’s had a great year for us as a senior. I’m proud of him. He did it. He has to do it two more games.

“Thomas Brown has done everything for us, safety, linebacker, special teams, nickel package. Brad Watson has become, we lost KJ (Kevin Johnson) and Bud (Noel) and he stepped in and became a top corner. Ryan Janvion has had an impact on this program that will last a long time. Four year starter, three year captain, Campbell Award Finalist. He’s about as much of a model student-athlete as you’ll ever find.

“This group means a lot to me. This is a group that I didn’t recruit and our staff didn’t recruit. But they bought in. Without them, we’re not going to a bowl.”

On the non-seniors being recognized Saturday

Clawson: “It’s in flux. We have those meetings after the season, but we have no guarantees until afterwards. We give those fourth-year guys the option of walking if they want. Some of them said they would like to, others didn’t. We usually wait until the end of season, but some know they are coming back and others have decided they’re going to move on. We have those conversations before the year.”

On trying to establish the offensive line against a quality defense

Clawson: “This will be a challenge. They’re an elite front. They’re right with Clemson, Florida State, Louisville and N.C. State defensively. Look at their numbers. Some of their scoring numbers against some of those teams are a little off, because they’re on the field so much. Over the last two or three years, this is one of the best defenses. They’ver No. 2 in the conference, and they’re in the same division we are.”

On if he would say he recruits players to fit the offensive system, or would he say he tailors the offensive system to fit the players recruited

Clawson: “We fit the system around the players. We take the best players we can, and devise the system. When I met after last season with (offensive coordinator) coach (Warren) Ruggiero, I said these are the things we have to see this season offensively:

“We have to cut down turnovers. Last year, we didn’t win games more than any other reason because we turned the ball over 24 times.

“We can’t have as many negative-yardage plays and take as many sacks. Especially taking sacks and having turnovers in the red zone.

“The third part of it was that we needed to run the ball better, and we couldn’t have as many penalties. For two years, I think we beat ourselves. We had so many penalties, turnovers and negative-yardage plays that we weren’t giving ourselves a chance to win. I say where is the offensive improvement this year? We’re not doing those things.

“Turnovers, we’re ten less than a year ago. Sacks are eight less than a year ago. We’ve gone from the worst turnover margin team to the best. We are the second least penalized team in the ACC. We are blocking people better. We are not making plays in the perimeter, but we’re running the ball better, Instead of 100 yards a game, we’re close to 150 yards in rushing. Those are all the things I thought we had to do to win games.

“Then you say what haven’t you done? We’re not beating ourselves, but we’re not making enough explosive plays and scoring enough points to be an 8, 9 or 10-win team. That’s the next step we have to take. I’m confident we will take it. We have thrown the ball this year as well as I thought we would. We haven’t made as many plays on the perimeter as I thought we would after camp. In some cases, we have young guys who got on the big stage and their eyes got a little wide. Sometimes, that happens with redshirt freshmen and sophomores. Clearly, that’s a step we’re going to have to take next year if we’re going to get past the six or seven win, just get to a bowl. We want to keep moving this thing forward and that’s clearly an area we have to get better, but in terms of what happened with our offense this year in terms of not turning it over, not turning it over in the red zone, running the ball better — a lot of those things we’ve done. We have not made enough plays on the perimeter in the passing game to be a team scoring 26-28 points a game. Both years, we’ve gotten about a field goal better.”

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