The Wake Forest football team officially began practice for the 2016 football season on Friday at 6:00 a.m. at the Doc Martin Football Complex and McCreary Field House. It is now year three of the Dave Clawson era and it’s the most anticipated season for the Demon Deacons since 2013, which ended up being Jim Grobe’s final season on the Wake Forest sideline. I examine why the expectations are high and what Dave Clawson has accomplished during his tenure at Wake Forest.
Wake Forest fans have high expectations because of Clawson’s rightly earned reputation as a program builder. In each of Clawson’s first three stops has head coach, his teams have won at least seven games by year three. In his three previous year fours, he has a winning percentage of .725. Will he keep that streak alive at Wake Forest? It’s entirely possible.
Wake has already seen the recruiting efforts produce on the field. Anyone who watched the team last season knows what promise this team has at the receiver position. He also placed a strong emphasis on recruiting the offensive line in the 2014 class, so I would expect (desperately hope) that the line is much improved in 2016 and physically ready to compete at the ACC level. The line was inexperienced last season, but this season the projected offensive line will combined for 69 starts. I also expect the recruiting efforts to show at running back, cornerback, and safety.
Wake’s schedule is another major reason that Wake fans have optimism. Wake must have one of the easiest schedules in all of college football this season. Wake’s non-conference schedule includes home games against Tulane (122), Delaware (FCS) , and Army (124), with a road trip scheduled to Bloomington to take on Indiana (56). Those rankings are the initial S&P ratings for the 2016 season. With that schedule, Wake should go no worse than 3-1 in the non-conference.
The Demon Deacons do face some extremely formidable opponents in conference play, as they host Clemson (3), and travel to play at Florida State (5) and Louisville (20), but a number of conference games at home are extremely winnable. Wake should be no worse than a pick ‘em against Syracuse (44) , Virginia (68), and Boston College (50).
The Deacs have gone just 3-9 during each of Clawson’s first two seasons at the helm, but those following the program know that this program and this team is so much better than it was when he inherited it in December of 2013. The team he inherited truly did not have a college running back, and the quarterbacks he inherited are now at other college programs and neither is playing quarterback. Wake Forest has at least 4 players who could start at running back, and all 4 quarterbacks on the roster were highly regarded coming out of high school. There is legitimate depth at most positions on the roster.
Wake Forest now has an indoor practice facility, to go along with improved weightlifting equipment. The program has better numbers across the board in the weight room and in the classroom, and Clawson has also helped sign the two best recruiting classes (on paper) in school history. The 2017 class is ranked even higher, and could wind up being the best yet.
Wake Forest’s game against Tulane is now just 27 days away. Clawson and his staff have meticulously and relentlessly been creating a culture a establishing a process for success since the moment they arrived at Wake Forest. The people around the country may just now take notice of the #aWAKEning this season, but those following the program know that this “overnight success” is a result of the process. It’s a proven one that should be trusted, and I believe that we will see tangible results this season. Go Deacs!