The Wake Forest Demon Deacons finished the 2014 campaign with a 3-9 record, including a 1-7 ACC record. Spring practice opens today with several key questions. The answers to those questions will tell Wake fans just how much they can expect their team to improve in 2015. Without further ado, here are my five biggest questions headed into spring practice. If you have others, let me know in the comments.
How good is Kendall Hinton?
I have talked this kid up, as has our coaching staff. He has dominated North Carolina high school football, but now it is time to see how he performs at the college level. He is an early enrollee, which means he has been at Wake Forest since January and will be a full participant in spring practice. In my opinion this gives him a tremendous advantage over fellow freshman quarterback Kyle Kearns.
What about John Wolford? Wolford won the starting quarterback job last season, despite not enrolling at Wake until May. Coach Clawson admits that the competition was not much of a competition. Still, Wolford steadily progressed last season and is currently the team's starting quarterback. This should be a great battle to watch all Spring. If Hinton is as good as I think he is, and Wolford still wins the job, then that will tell Wake fans a lot about the quarterback situation headed into the Fall. I feel very good about this position moving forward.
How good are the offensive linemen?
It's no secret to anyone who watched Wake Forest play football last season that the offensive line was very poor. Wake loses starting left guard/center Cory Helms as well as starting left tackle Antonio Ford from last year's unit. It seems that Wake will start A'Lique Terry at center, along with Josh T. Harris at right guard and Dylan Intemann at right tackle. The left side is where the real competition will be.
Who could emerge? I think the best candidates to fill those roles are mostly redshirt freshmen. There are Justin Herron, Phil Haynes, Patrick Osterhage and Ryan Anderson. Redshirt juniors Will Smith and Ty Hayworth are also likely candidates to contend for a starting role or be rotation players. I still expect this to be a position of weakness in 2015 (though it should improve), but there is a strong foundation to build on from that 2014 recruiting class.
Who starts at cornerback?
There are some major injury developments at this position. Check out Deacons Illustrated ($) for the details.
Wake did not have much older talent on the 2014 roster, but it did have an excellent pair of senior corners in Bud Noel and Kevin Johnson. The two combined for nearly 80 career starts and Kevin Johnson is a likely 1st round draft pick. Who replaces those two? This question will probably remain open until the Fall when freshmen Amari Henderson and Dionte Austin arrive on campus.
Bryant Gross-Armiento, a transfer from Rutgers, is a player to watch at this position. He came to Wake last Fall, so has been with the program and is familiar with the schemes. Juniors Jalen Latter and Brad Watson are also legitimate candidates to compete for the starting roles.
Which receivers/big play threats emerge?
Wake had very good possession receivers last season in slot E.J. Scott and tight end Cam Serigne. Scott has graduated, so the Deacons will be looking to replace his production. The Deacs also only had one play of 40 yards or more last season, so the question is if any receivers will emerge and help the Deacs make explosive plays on offense.
Jared Crump should be a solid possession receiver for the Deacs on the perimeter. Tyree Harris demonstrated a lot of talent as a true freshman in 2013, but redshirted in 2014. He is an x-factor heading into the season. Jonathan Williams has shown big play potential in the past. Can he emerge as a more consistent player? Also expect graduate transfer K.J. Brent to see playing time.
Cortez Lewis redshirted last year and also suffered an injury. Clawson likes the prospect from Alabama, so his progress throughout the Spring will be one to track. True freshman Tabari Hines enrolled early, and is an ideal slot receiver. Steven Claude will join the team in the summer and has a very real chance to play as a true freshman.
Which defensive linemen emerge?
Wake Forest was 72nd nationally last season in sacks against FBS opponents. They lose their sack leader Zachary Allen. I expect defensive tackle Zeek Rodney to have an improved sophomore season. I loved his high school film and believe he would have greatly benefited from a redshirt season last year. Unfortunately, there just weren't that many options on the line. Defensive end Rashawn Shaw did redshirt, and has the potential to be very good for us. I could easily see him stepping into Allen's role and start this season.
Defensive tackle Willie Yarbary is another player I really liked on film coming out of high school. He has a nice frame at 6'2" 280 pounds and was a good flip from Indiana. Defensive tackle Josh Banks had a strong sophomore campaign. Can he further develop as a junior? Finally, Shelldon Lewinson could be another x-factor. He was the #1 overall pick in the #aWAKEning draft. I don't know how much that translates to football, but I will be keeping an eye on him this Spring.
The Spring Game is scheduled for April 11th at 3 p.m.
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