Wake Forest will begin its regular season in less than two weeks when they host the Tulane Green Wave. While Wake has yet to play a game, they are still suffering from the injury bug. In Dan Collins’ latest piece for the Winston-Salem Journal, he outlines the injuries that the Wake Forest cornerbacks are dealing with in camp.
Collins reports that Amari Henderson, Dionte Austin, Amari Henderson, Josh Okonye, and Thomas Dillon are currently sidelined with various injuries, though Clawson expects to get most of them back by Monday. In the meantime, Jalen Latter, who converted from defensive back to wide receiver in the spring, is now taking reps at corner, and will play corner in Saturday’s scrimmage. Of the injuries I am most concerned about Amari’s because he’s missed so much of camp, and is missing out on very valuable reps.
Corner was definitely an area of weakness for the Deacs last season. Brad Watson did his job, and should be even better this year, but graduate transfer Devin Gaulden left so much to be desired. He was actually replaced by then true freshman Dionte Austin mid-way through the season. Austin struggled a bit at first, but he competed very hard, and showed a lot of promise towards the end of the season, which was against some excellent competition. It was expected that Henderson would compete for the starting spot along with Austin, and at the very least provide excellent depth. This should be a position of significant improvement, but that improvement is capped if the team does not have appropriate depth.
Personally, I think that Latter should be permanently moved back to corner. Clearly Clawson knows infinitely more about football than I do, but it seems to make a lot of sense given Wake’s personnel. Latter moved to wide receiver, which is going to be Wake’s deepest position this season. Even though he played well in the spring game and scored a touchdown, I just don’t see that much of a path for him getting many snaps this season. At corner, he could at least contribute situationally. He’ll still mostly contribute on special teams, but at least if he converts back to corner he’ll be more prepared if he is needed. I wasn’t sure that the depth was there, and is a reason I wanted Wake to bring in one additional corner in the 2016 class.
Is there good news in this? Some. Wake Forest is currently a 17.5 point favorite against Tulane, and the Deacs don’t play at Duke for 3 more weeks. Tulane also lost its top two receivers from last season. If they are going to deal with injuries, now is the best time. The hope is, obviously, that they don’t linger throughout the season. Hopefully the hamstring injuries will heal and Wake will have its full complement of corners. In the meantime, this means increased reps for someone like Essang Bassey, who will now almost surely play as a true freshman. The former Class 5A first team all-state corner from the state of Georgia has been very impressive this fall, and he will be a major help. He is benefiting from these early reps, and I believe he’ll have a very solid career for Wake.
The depth problem could be no big deal at all, but these nagging injuries are definitely things to monitor during the early part of the season. I applaud Clawson for taking some precautionary measures and holding the players out for now, and hope they are back onto the practice field before Wake’s season opener against Tulane.