With the status of QB John Wolford up in the air for Saturday's game against Indiana, all eyes turn to freshman quarterback Kendall Hinton. He was thrown into the fire against Army last weekend and came up big, leading the Deacs to a 17-14 victory.
The true freshman used his legs as his primary weapon, going for 101 yards on 17 carries. In doing so he became the first Wake Forest quarterback to run for 100 yards since Cory Randolph in 2004.
Through the air Hinton finished 15 for 27 for 159 with no touchdowns and two interceptions. The interceptions are something to potentially keep an eye on, but overall he managed the game well. It was clear to me that as the game went on the coaching staff trusted him with more and more to get the offense going.
He also orchestrated the 12 play, 64 yard game-winning drive that began at his own 7 yard line and ended with a 47-yard kick by Mike Weaver as time expired.
Before we dissect his game a little more, let's learn a little bit more about where Kendall came from!
He enrolled at Wake Forest this January, choosing the Deacs over N.C. State, Boston College, East Carolina, Old Dominion, and several other schools.
At Southern Durham High School he led the Spartans to the 3A State Championship as a junior. He was named team captain as a senior, and did not disappoint, throwing for 3,528 yards and 30 touchdowns, while running for another 835 yards.
Rivals listed him as the 26th ranked dual-threat quarterback in the class, and was a unanimous three-star across all major recruiting sites.
With less than a full game to look at Hinton, there are a few things that stuck out to me, but sample size isn't necessarily our friend here. First of all, let's look at the (extremely accurate) breakdown that Rob provided us of Hinton back in June
Most discuss Hinton's ability to run, which is quite strong, but his passing is underrated. The Wake Forest coaching staff raves about his passing and believes that he can make all of the throws. He has outstanding arm strength, and has all of the physical tools to be an excellent quarterback at the college level. Hinton participated in spring practice, and as a result, has a legitimate opportunity to play as a true freshman. I expect Hinton to be utilized in certain packages.
Hinton beat Army a lot with his legs, particularly when plays broke down. I saw that he has 4.80 40 speed, but he sure as hell looked faster than that at times to me. Not only is he quick, he is evasive as well, and showed that a few times when the pocket collapsed around him, forcing him out.
In addition to his wheels, he also demonstrated great touch on his long passes. The pass to KJ Brent may have been a little bit lucky, but it was there to catch and Brent did the job. The throw to Cortez Lewis was another nice catch, but that was a bullet right on the spot as well.
There were several good out routes that he threw across the field, but a couple of times he short-armed the throw, including the final pass of the game that could have very easily gone for a pick-six to win it for Army.
One concern that I have is his inconsistency in the short and intermediate passing game. It seemed like he would make 2-3 good throws and then have one that was either a duck, or severely under-thrown.
Now I am not being critical at all of Hinton. He has had limited time to work with the first team, and if Wolford cannot go this weekend then I know he will get extensive time at practice with them this week. It was clear that he felt a rapport with Cortez Lewis, and he began to look to Brent and Serigne more as the game went on.
The first interception against Army I will cut some slack on because it looked like he got hit right as he was releasing the ball. Even if he got it off cleanly there was a lot of pressure that he felt and it was at the very least rushed to get out of his hand.
The second pick was a prime example of just trying to do too much and forcing a throw that wasn't there. I am glad that he has the confidence in his arm to try to make a big time throw, but that wasn't the spot to do it. Live and learn, hopefully next time he will throw it away or check it down to a safer option.
Regardless of whether or not John Wolford can go on Saturday (based on the way he was walking around on Saturday on TV it could be a tall feat for him), this is invaluable experience for Kendall Hinton to get out there at game speed and get the reps.
He did a great job of leading the Deacs to a victory this past Saturday, but the coaching staff will ask a lot more of him this weekend. The Indiana offense is no joke, and Wake Forest will likely need to put up 28-35 points to have a shot to win the game. It will be interesting to see how Hinton responds if he is called upon.
Based on what I have seen so far I have a lot of faith in him to answer the bell and come out with a lot of confidence. I have no doubt that Coach Clawson will devise a gameplan that suits his style of play. That probably includes rolling out of the pocket, showing a lot of zone read, and get started with some good short passes to establish even more confidence as the game goes on.