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2019 Football Preview: Wake Forest Outlook

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Wake Forest will have to prove the doubters wrong again after a surprisingly disappointing preseason ACC poll.

NCAA Football: ACC Media Days Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Wake Forest will have to prove people wrong again after a quite disappointing ACC preseason media day. Although we covered it here, it leads the preview for the Demon Deacons. Granted, many people were disappointed with the results as even Clemson wasn’t unanimously chosen as the ACC Champion.

Wake Forest was picked sixth, yes, second from last, in the ACC Atlantic for this season.

The Wake Forest fans feel disrespected, especially after three straight bowl game victories. In addition, just seeing teams like Georgia Tech (with a new coach and system) get a first place division vote or North Carolina and Duke getting a better vote result has to be frustrating. In the end, like RB Cade Carney said, Wake has always outperformed projections, especially preseason ones that don’t matter.

Wake Forest Offense

On offense, the biggest question still remains. Who will be the starting quarterback? Coming off a stellar run is QB Jamie Newman while the freshman who initially won the job in Sam Hartman is also back from injury. While Coach Clawson has still be tightlipped about the competition to date, there are other questions as well.

The wide receiver group looks to be significantly different this season as well. Gone are electric playmakers in Greg Dortch and Alex Bachman. Dortch will likely be missed most due to his versatility not only on offense but also on special teams. The Deacs have a pair of stud freshmen who will likely get time in Donavon Greene and Nolan Groulx while Scotty Washington and Sage Surratt are likely entrenched as the outside receivers.

Running back will look somewhat similar as Cade Carney returns for his senior season while being the first 1,000 yard rusher since 2005. Matt Colburn graduated paving the way for Carney to be the bellcow with Christian Beal-Smith as the change of pace back.

Tight ends will likely look the same with Jack Freudenthal and Brandon Chapman both back. While both split time, no one can forget Freudenthal stepping up big time in the North Carolina State contest last year.

Last but not least, the Beef Boys (offensive line) will be a bit different. Jake Benzinger and Nate Gilliam are back but there will likely be a new center in Zach Tom. Left guard is where there could be competition between Tyler Watson, Je’Vionte’ Nash, and Loic Nya. Perhaps the best news was that Justin Herron was granted a medical redshirt year.

Wake Forest Defense

The Wake Forest Defense had an up and down year, which even led to a change at defensive coordinator. As David Hale pointed out, the DC change was bigger than expected.

That being said, there are plenty to replace as Zeek Rodney, Willie Yarbary, Chris Calhoun, Cam Glenn, Chuck Wade, and Demetrius Kemp have all graduated. Glenn’s leadership will be sorely missed but the Deacs defense will still have a few key returners, especially in the secondary.

The Deacs have depth in the secondary, especially at cornerback where Amari Henderson and Essang Bassey are back as starters. Ja’Sir Taylor likely is going to play a lot at corner. At safety, Nasir Greer returns after filling in well while playing a lot as a true freshman last season. Coby Davis returns from ACL injury and Luke Masterson should have a big role after playing basically every position on defense last season.

At linebacker, the Deacs are lead by Justin Strnad who led the Deacs and second in the ACC with 105 tackles last year. DJ Taylor and Ryan Smenda Jr. return with tons of experience while Ja’Cquez Williams likely mans the “rover” position again. Unfortunately for this group, Jake Simpson was medically disqualified which hurts the depth here significantly.

In the defensive trenches, while the Deacs lost Yarbary, Rodney, and Calhoun, Carlos Basham returns as the full time starter. Mike Allen, Tyler Williams, Sulaiman Kamara, and Dion Bergan all come to compete after playing plenty of snaps as young players. Manny Walker is the likely starter at the end spot opposite of Basham but keep an eye out for true freshman Shamar McCollum who has constantly turned heads in the spring.

Wake Forest Special Teams

On special teams Dom Maggio returns as punter while Nick Sciba returns after making 19 of 22 field goals and 50 of 50 PATs last year.

Wake Forest Prediction

Wake Forest has been a consistent bowl team over the last three years. While the program isn’t going to be knocking on Clemson’s door for the ACC crown, a bowl game and competing for a top half Atlantic division finish should be realistic. I believe the Deacs will finish with 8 wins for the season, meaning a fourth consecutive bowl game berth.