WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson talked about the 2017 football signing class at a press conference on campus Wednesday afternoon.
Clawson: “Fourth signing day, and excited to have another signing day in books as we welcome 20 new student-athletes. In terms of approach to the class, I think it’s a little bit different than two or three years ago, when we were just trying to build a roster. It’s much more specific in our needs. Clearly on defense, the linebacker and secondary were critical needs. On defense, eight players were either linebacker or secondary players. Obviously, we’re losing Marquel Lee, Thomas Brown, Brandon Chubb and Hunter Williams over the last two years. And next year Jaboree Williams and Grant Dawson will be seniors. We had to bring in the next generation of linebackers in this class, and we got four of them. Then, in the secondary we got four. That’s losing Brad Watson and Ryan Janvion. We were thin at corner this year. Of the guys we brought in the secondary, I think three can play corner and I think three can play safety.
“Clearly the offensive line was a big recruiting need and we signed five of those guys. We’re now recruiting ahead. This is because in 2019 we’re going to lose four offensive linemen in that class. So this is to get that next group ready as Justin Herron, Ryan Anderson, Patrick Osterhage and Phil Haynes all become juniors next year we have to get that next group ready to take over the team. Some of those guys are in the program, but we brought in five offensive lineman.
“The next thing is we wanted size at wide receiver. We’ve played with some undersized quick guys, and being in this league for three years everyone else walks out with 6-3 and 6-4 receivers. There’s certainly a role for slots and guys like that, but we just felt — Scotty Washington was the only receiver in the program who was over 6-foot-3, so this year we signed three guys that I think give us size, strength and speed.
“If you look at the class, looking at linebacker, secondary, offensive line and the size at receiver — that’s 16 of the 20 commits. We’re going to take a quarterback every year. We have Christian Beal as a running back. I think we’re really good on the defensive line. The bar at that position was very high. If we were going to take anybody, they had to be a difference maker. I think at tackle and end, we did that. We’re excited about our quarterback commit. We’re thrilled with Christian Beal.
“I think it’s another solid class. The size of the class is bigger than we anticipated. In the summer, we were targeting having right around 15 or 16. Because of medical and injuries, the class could have gotten as large as 23. We kind of settled on 20, for this reason — most of the recruiting is done off the previous season. The previous seasons, we were 3-9, 3-9. Most of these commits happened last summer. We have a very small senior class. We only have nine seniors in the program. Our thought was maybe rather than grab someone late we were on the fence with and not sure about. Our feeling was this summer we’re going to be recruiting off a bowl championship year with new facilities. And, it’s going to be a smaller class, so we took two-or-three of the scholarships and just rolled them over to next year. That gives us room to take a graduate transfer or two if those become available.
“I’d like to see where we are in the spring, and there’s a possibility to take a grad transfer or two. We didn’t have room for that a year ago because we were full going into the summer. This year, we’re not full.
“Geographically, it’s a huge concentration on the five-to-six hour radius. We have five of our kids from North Carolina. We got six out of Georgia. I think the last few years, it’s been a quarter from North Carolina, then half of it being from Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia. Last year was a big Virginia year. This year it just happened to be a big Georgia year. Then, we’ll cherry pick guys from all over the country based on their interest in us. In my fourth recruiting class, I don’t know that there’s a geographic area that we can just bury the flag and say, ‘this is Wake forest territory.’ We look at it toward a certain type of kid. Our kind of guy loves football, loves academic challenge and the opportunities Wake Forest is going to give them, and they have to be high-character guys to fit in our locker room.
“We have a couple guys that are considered medicals, Rashawn Shaw and Zack Wary. We had a few guys that wanted to transfer down so they can play more.”
On the caliber of recruits they got out of North Carolina
Clawson: “I think our class represents the school. If you look at Wake Forest University, we draw about one-quarter of our students from the state of North Carolina. I don’t know if it’s ironic or coincidental, but about 25 percent of our scholarship players are from the state too. We want to inside-out recruit. The neat thing about Wake Forest, is you get kids like Christian Beal and Chase Monroe that get a whole bunch of offers , but they wanted to come to Wake Forest. We were their type of school, and they were our type of guys. Sometimes you have a guy 10 minutes down the road that don’t have interest because they’re not up for the accountability we have here. I’ve said this many time — the size of the school, the size of the classes, the individual attention you get here is our greatest asset. It’s not for everybody. But the players that it’s for, love us and love this.
“How do you get a Michael Allen, Chase Monroe or Christian Beal? We’re what they’re looking for. There are times you can’t get involved with a guy an hour down the road, because this isn’t what they’re looking for. We have to get our type of guys. Guys that value what we are. Thankfully Chase, Christian, Jaquarii, Christian and Sage — this is what they wanted. All guys that turn down large state schools, because they value what we are.”
On what led them to Texas for Waydale Jones
Clawson: “When the year started, we were only going to take one receiver. That was it. We were going to take one receiver, we got Jaquarii and we were done at receiver. Then some things happened. Really two things happened. Jeremiah Brown told us he’s going to transfer. Steven Claude had a family issue where he had to go home and take care of family. That opened up two scholarships at receiver. Sage called us out of the blue and told us he had a great interest in Wake Forest. At first, we couldn’t take him. We didn’t have room. We’ve been tracking Waydale, and coach Higgins went down and watched him play basketball. We fell in love with the kid. Great student. Great test scores. He was looking at all academic schools, come up here, fell in love and committed.
“If you look at what we did at the skill positions in terms of Christian Beal, Sage, Waydale and Jaquarii, I couldn’t be happier. We got three big receivers and Christian Beal, who I think is as good as any running back in the state of North Carolina this year. What are we lacking? We lack the ability to go up and get the ball to make big plays. We lacked making big plays at running back, and we addressed that.”
On how many of the commits have a chance to see the field in 2017
Clawson: “I’d say it’s the same formula. I don’t try to say this guy will and that guy won’t. I learned that lesson in 1997, 20 years ago. I don’t like to talk about who I think will play. I will say this — if history holds true, we will try to redshirt as many linemen as we can. I would like to try to redshirt every offensive linemen. Tyler Williams and Mike Allen might be ready made. Who knows? They may have a chance to play. For your second and third level players — your receivers and running backs, linebackers it’s probably 50/50. We’d like to play half of them, and like to redshirt half of them. We came up short at linebacker last year, so we really recruited two classes of them. We took four linebackers for two spots. In a perfect world, we play two of them and redshirt two of them to separate the classes.”
On the offensive line commits
Clawson: “It’s taken us so long to develop an offensive line here. You develop it and then you’re two years away from losing all those guys. You don’t want to rush and not have the reinforcements there. Last year we brought in three good offensive lineman in Watson, Suhren and Nash. We brought in five this year. That is a developmental position for us. For whatever reason, we don’t get the ready-made 6-foot-6, 320 pound guy. Florida State and Clemson get those guys, but we don’t. If we’re going to sacrifice something, I want it to be weight. I don’t want to sacrifice athleticism or height. If we can take a guy like Phil Haynes and now he’s 295 and still a really good athlete. I’d rather take the lighter, more athletic guys and build them up. Coach Hourigan and his staff has done a great job of developing those guys.”
On signing day lack of drama
Clawson: “There’s not a lot of drama for us on signing day. Last year, we sent out 22 letter and we got 22 back. Today, we sent out 19 letters and 19 of them were back by 8:30 in the morning. The only reason it was that late is because two of them were in the central time zone. We’re not a circus type place. The players we get make very well informed, very smart strategic decisions for their future, not just on the field. Those generally aren’t the guys that need the whole parade of picking a hat on signing day. It’s not that we would turn those guys down, but I don’t think someone sleeps on it, has a good night and suddenly decides to pick Wake Forest. I think guys that pick us make very well informed decisions for their future.”
On 16 of 20 commits being team captains
Clawson: “I think last year when it was 22 of 22. I mean, 16 of 20 — if you’re getting an ACC Division 1 scholarship, usually those guys are the captains. I think that percentage is always going to be 50-60, and the nature of Wake Forest and the type of person we attract, those guy are usually the better students and that’s why they become captain. Guys like that are naturally attracted to Wake Forest.”
Of if defensive back might be a position where he looks at a graduate transfer
Clawson: “Yeah. We’ll get through spring, but right now we’re really thin at corner. We’re very thing in the spring at corner. That why we signed three guys that can play corner. If we had found the right fit — sometimes we had interesting guys, but maybe they weren’t the right fit for us or we weren’t the right fit for them. Yes, if we have a chance to add a grad transfer at corner in the secondary, we might do that, but it’s got to be the right fit. It’s got to be the right player that fits our locker room.”
Any other possible grad transfer positions
Clawson: “Maybe linebacker. The offensive line. Those are the three positions. Right now, I feel very good at where we are at quarterback and tailback. I think our receiver position is finally balanced in terms of older guys and younger ones. We’re still a little thin on offensive line. That might be a position we consider if it’s the right guy. I think we’re in good shape on the defensive line. I really like where we are at safety. At linebacker, we’re really old and we’re really young. We wouldn’t mind getting another guy in there, even if that just allows us to redshirt a guy. Certainly the same at corner. Those might be the three spots we would consider, if it’s the right fit.”
On if it’s certain Bowers will be here in the fall
Clawson: “As long as his rehab goes well, we’d like to get him here in the summer. A lot of it with him is just his rehab. If his rehab is going well, we’d like to get him here in the summer and have him be part of this class. But if he can’t do anything, we don’t want to waste the year.”
On the key to cultivating Georgia so well
Clawson: “We’ve made a commitment to that state. Right now we have two coaches, Dave Cohen and John Hunter — that’s their entire area. Those two do nothing else. If you look at Wake Forest, when they had that run from 2006-08, they had a lot of players from Georgia. It’s just a natural area for us. There’s a lot of good academics in Georgia, and there’s some great football for most of the state. It’s not too long of a drive. We’re able to get a lot of those guys here in the summer.”