WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — After finishing the 2016 season with a thrilling Military Bowl victory over Temple, the Deacs are getting set to forge ahead with the building process with spring camp starting Tuesday.
Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson chatted with the media earlier this week. This is the second installment of that Q&A.
On the changes to the coaching staff
Clawson: “Obviously, Mike (Elko) had an opportunity he felt he couldn’t pass up. That was tough. I hired Mike when he was 23-years old. He’s been with me for the better part of the last 16 years. Clark (Lea) and Mike are close. You hate to say it, but that’s part of the only negative of having success. When you’re 3-9, 3-9, not a lot of people want to hire your coaches. I think people recognized what a good job we were doing on defense, and Mike certainly deserves a lot of credit for that. As do our players. He had opportunities before, but he felt that this was one he had to take. The good thing for us is that our program is at a point now personnel and facility-wise, that we are probably able to attract people we couldn’t have in the past.
“We got a guy who had been a Power 5 coordinator, and truth be told, his defense was better than ours. Statistically, anyway, we were a top-40 defense and they were a top-25 defense. I’m thrilled we got somebody of Jay’s (Sawvel) background. Another thing I liked about Jay, is that in head coaching circles, you become friends with certain guys. (Former Minnesota coach) Jerry Kill has always been a guy who I’ve had a lot of respect for. Look at all the Power 5 coaches in the country, and very few of them have climbed the ladder the way Jerry Kill and I have. He was Division II, 1-AA, MAC. Most coaches, their career progression isn’t that way. When we were in the MAC together, Jerry and I always got along. I like the fact, similar to Mike Elko, Jay is a guy who has worked his way up. He GA’d at Notre Dame, but Ferris State, Southern Illinois, Northern Illinois, Minnesota — he had been with Jerry at almost every step along the way of building programs. There’s an appreciation for what we’ve done here, how long it’s taken, where we are and how to build on it, which would be different than if you hired someone from an Ohio State or Alabama.
“I’m really excited about Jay, and I’ve also hired two guys who were successful coordinators at the FCS level. Everybody in our defensive room has been a successful defensive coordinator.”
On the pros and cons of having new faces and voices on the coaching staff versus the consistency they had the first three years
Clawson: “The negative is that you love having continuity. This is the first time as a head coach at a school where I’ve had a system change (as an aside, we follow up on this comment later in the Q&A, but it will likely be in the installment published Saturday). Never had a system change before. The positive is that we’re getting four coaches who are very bright, have been successful, who will bring ideas into the program. Sometimes, the negative of stability is that you’re so used to doing things a certain way that maybe you’re ignoring trends in football. When you hire new coaches, who bring in new ideas — sometimes you forget why you do what you do. It’s just the way you’ve done it. Most of the things we do, we do for a reason. It’s very intentional and thought out. But sometimes it’s good to have those thoughts challenged. We’re going to go through spring, even in terms of how they ran camps or how they ran junior days. There’s always these little tidbits and different ideas that we try to use to make our program better. For eight straight years, (Warren) Ruggiero, (Adam) Scheier, Elko — we were all together. Sometimes it good to get new ideas and a fresh perspective on things.