Wake coach Dave Clawson explains defensive system change

Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson goes in-depth on defensive schemes in this installment of his Q&A with Demon Deacon Digest.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Part three of Wake Forest football coach Dave Clawson’s Q&A with the media this week about the start of spring camp.

On potential weak areas on the defense returning

Clawson: “As good as we were on defense last year, we didn’t play very good defense with the lead. Whenever we had a lead, we gave up chunks of passing yards. Our defense almost played better when our offense didn’t play well. We gave up leads. Duke threw the ball all over against us. Indiana came roaring back. Even in the bowl game. It was almost like teams wanted to be balanced against us, couldn’t run the ball, but then if they had to throw it they had success.

“I don’t think we covered people a year ago as we needed to. We were really good at defending the run. I think our defense kept us in a lot of games. If there was a negative, it was that we didn’t seem to play with a lead very well. I think we have to get improvement at corner. That’s a position we were exposed at. When you have Duke Ejiofor — the good thing last year is that we were able to get a pass rush with four people for the first time since we’ve been here. There are times we gave up really big plays at corner, and there are times where if we didn’t have Duke Ejiofor we would have given up more big plays. There are a number of plays on film where if Duke don’t get there we’re in trouble. I’d say right now I probably feel best about the depth we have on the defensive line. We have a lot of guys who have played a lot of productive football for us there.

“Linebacker depth is a concern. Safety depth is a concern. The depth at corner is a concern. We don’t have a lot of healthy corners going into spring. Brad Watson pretty much played every snap. The other spot was a big of a revolving door for injury and production reasons.”

On what ‘system change’ he referred to earlier in the interview

Clawson: “We’re still going to be based (defensively) out of a 4-2-5. Just a little background. When I was at Fordham, as the head coach I was also the offensive coordinator, so the offense never changed. Dave Cohen was my defensive coordinator, and when he left I promoted from within. Then at Richmond, I was the offensive coordinator, so that never changed. My defensive coordinator the whole time was Russ Huesman.

“This will be a new coordinator, not promoted from within. The system will still be 4-2-5, but three of the four defensive coaches in the room weren’t here. I can’t tell Jay (Sawvel) ‘run our system.’ There’s only one person in the room who knows the system. We have to let him call it. One of the reasons I hired him is that he was based out of the 4-2-5. We’ve recruited for this system. We’ve recruited for a 4-2-5.

“There were some excellent coaches who were interested in coming here, but if they ran a 50 we aren’t set up to run a 50. Jay uses a 4-2-5, but there will be differences. He calls things a little different. You have to let him do things the way he wants, because that’s how he’s had success.”

On corner depth

Clawson: “We’re going to move Malik Grate over to corner for the spring. We’re not sure if Thomas Dillon will be available in the spring. He’s still injured. We’re hoping Thomas will practice, which will give us five corners. But if we didn’t move Malik and don’t have Thomas, we’d only have three.”

On Rashawn Shaw

Clawson: “He’s medically disqualified.”

On Grate long-term

Clawson: “He’s being moved and the intention — Malik saw how thin we are there. We also have a lot of guys back who have played at receiver for us. Malik is a good athlete, and he played defense in high school. We met with Malik and told him he didn’t have to move, but that he’d get a lot more reps and a lot more opportunity to play over there. He said he wanted to give it a shot. He’s going to play there through the spring and learn the defense. The hope is that it takes foot and he stays there. If it doesn’t work out, he can play offense here. Sometimes you get hurt at receiver. We think Malik is going to be a good player. He’ll just see an earlier opportunity at defense.”

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