The Wake Forest football team now has five wins halfway through the 2016 season, which is just one shy of the number of wins the program had over the previous two seasons combined. That’s critically important because it legitimizes the Wake Forest coaching staff’s recruiting pitch to prospects.
Ever since Dave Clawson and his coaching staff have been at Wake Forest, we’ve heard of “#theaWAKEning.” It’s a fitting hashtag that has grown to be popular on social media, and truly represents what Clawson and his staff are trying to accomplish. Wake Forest had a very good run under former head coach Jim Grobe. He won an ACC title, took the program to a number of bowl games, and produced NFL talent. Still, the program was headed in the wrong direction and needed a new face.
Enter Dave Clawson stage right.
From the very beginning he brought a new hunger and passion for taking the program to becoming relevant again in the ACC. For the first few classes the staff was able to recruit on potential and a vision. The staff was selling recruits on the vision of the program, but hadn’t actually realized results at Wake Forest - yet.
The staff had good reason to sell recruits on a vision because Clawson has been successful everywhere he’s been. I outlined this in a piece on Sunday, but Clawson has successfully rebuilt programs at every one of his stops. He has won a conference championship at every one of his stops, and this is despite him taking over when programs were near the cellar of their respective conferences.
The selling of this vision has been very successful so far. Both the 2015 and 2016 recruiting classes were the highest rated recruiting class (on paper) in school history. The current 2017 commits also make up a very good class, and Wake Forest currently has the 51st best class in the country. They’ve done an outstanding job of focusing on players who value both academics and playing in a major conference with a family like atmosphere, and that’s Wake’s best pitch. However, on field results were needed in order to maintain that recruiting momentum.
There’s no evidence to suggest that any of the current verbal commits would have decommitted, but it’s very logical to follow that recruiting for the 2018 classes and beyond get much harder if the staff didn’t start producing results on the field. To be clear, I place very little blame on the current staff for the on field results in 2014 and 2015. They just didn’t have enough talent on the roster to win. I’m just saying that one has to think that recruits would start expecting actual results instead of promises from coaches.
That’s why the 2016 season is so vital to sustaining that recruiting success. It’s year three, recruits were going to start expecting some tangible results, and that’s exactly what has happened. Wake is 5-1, with 3 very winnable home games remaining, and also has 3 (long shot) opportunities to land signature wins.
The Wake Forest rebuild is firmly on schedule, and I would even argue that Wake Forest is ahead of schedule. Wake has benefited from a light schedule, and has won all of the toss up games, but you only play those games once, and Wake was on the plus side every time. It now becomes cyclical, as these wins translate to improved fan enthusiasm, which leads to increased investment in the football program, which leads to more wins, which leads to better recruiting, which will ultimately lead to even more wins.
The coaching staff preaches #theprocess and what I just described is the process. This team is still young, and is getting better. The depth chart still has a lot of underclassmen starting and in the two-deep. In an ideal depth chart, there are a lot of redshirt juniors and seniors starting, and the talented underclassmen are impact rotation players.
The staff did not take many short cuts with graduate transfers, and instead have built a very solid foundation of talent moving forward, that will continue to be built upon with further recruiting efforts. The #aWAKEning is real, and it’s ahead of schedule. Let’s roll.