Well, yesterday was the first day of camp for Wake Forest football before they open the season at home vs Clemson on
While to open camp there won’t be any media access, TBD on if that changes, that doesn’t mean there aren’t questions to be answered before the presumable first snap.
- Does Wake have a capable and complete Offensive Line?
Wake has come a very long way from 2014 where the OL was well... it was bad. However, in the last 2 years that position group that unit has been one of the strongest consisting of players like Justin Herron, Phil Haynes, Ryan Anderson, Nate Gilliam, Jake Benzinger, among other pursuing pro aspirations. Wake has also been on the rough end of the spectrum with that group: Mike Edwards was a top 500 recruit but was medically disqualified and transferred. Things never really got going for Orlando Heggs and he is now at Florida A&M, Spencer Clapp just can’t seem to stay healthy and should be out for the season. Left to right: Zach Tom was one of the best linemen in the ACC last year and is naturally a tackle who was playing Center, so will be taking over where Justin Herron left off.
Zach Tom career at Wake Forest:— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 23, 2020
QB sacks allowed: 0
Only returning P5 center to not commit a penalty in 500+ snaps pic.twitter.com/VdJI6LsGza
Loic Ngassam Nya and Sean Maginn rotated just about all year last year, and while my money is on Nya to take the next step as Maginn seems more vertaile which could be valuable around the line, either one could be a serviceable LG. At center, Michael Jurgens has seemed to make the staff comfortable enough. Getting Terrance Davis from Maryland was one tremendous pickup as he was a top 100 recruit out of high school and a monster when healthy so RG will be more than fine. Je’Vionte Nash will be a 5th year senior at RT and has not started a game. So to recap we have 3 locked in starters in Davis, Tom, and Jurgens. You’d ASSUME one of Nya/Maginn starts(both had their struggles last year) and you have no idea what to do at RT just yet, and that’s before getting to the unproven depth there to.
The largest elephant in the room is that last year, this unit was not good at run blocking. Yards be damned, a considerable chunk of yards on the ground were Jamie Newman, Cade Carney, Christian Beal-Smith and Kenneth Walker III making something out of nothing, versus the OL opening up easy paths for them. The addition of Terrance Davis should help, but if Wake wants a productive season, they need to get the running game going to take some pressure off of Sam Hartman and company.
2. Who separates themselves at RB?
Under Dave Clawson, Wake will never have a bell cow running back. It’s not in his or Warren Ruggiero’s style, with the amount of plays Wake runs it doesn’t make sense, the only time Wake last did it was a stretch in 2017 where Matt Colburn was the only healthy playable(that word means a lot) running back on the roster at the time.
Kenneth Walker has seemed to be the popular option for fans and the media, but he has to get better at doing things without the ball in his hands, something Clawson has repeatedly said about Walker. Remember CBS was suspended down the stretch and Cade wasn’t(isn’t ever) healthy. Even in the Pinstripe bowl he only had 8 rushes, Syracuse 10, Duke 17. Compare that to games where both Cade and CBS were both healthy. Elon: 9 carries for 91. BC: 2/8. Louisville: 4/10. FSU: 1/-1 VT: 3/11 Clemson: 6/16.
In regards to CBS, he also needs to lock in as well. He got pulled from the BC game because he wasn’t doing the right things in pass protection. He got upset and went out and had a 14 carry 123 yard game against Louisville(and recovered an onside kick, yes I am still mad.) Kendrell Flowers has been my dark horse to break out, as every year it feels like the 3rd string RB pops off, but I think he has the vision and the running style to really make a difference.
The Deacs have a great 1-2 punch at running back this season with Christian Beal-Smith and Kenneth Walker III.— Les Johns (@Les_Johns) July 27, 2020
ESPN's David Hale here making the case that Walker could be among the best in the entire ACC, and he makes a good point! https://t.co/qIVcW14Tai
3. Pass catchers, what do we have?
So, we all know about Sage Surratt and I don’t need to spend 100 words on him. Donavon Greene is an absolute monster.
If Greene was your WR1 you’d be ecstatic but now you get him as your WR2, roasting CB2s after spending the last 4 games taking on teams best corners. Outside of those 2, things are a bit of a mystery for Wake.
The Deacs landed grad transfer Donald Stewart from Stanford, a big bodied, sure handed receiver that just never seemed to figure out where he fit in either behind getting the ball to players like JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Bryce Love, or last year where Stanford’s QB situation was an absolute dumpster fire. Jaquarii Roberson has had solid spring and fall camps the last few years but just hasn’t seemed to put it together for stretches in games. Granted, with Kendall Hinton and Greg Dortch shoring the slot position the last few years, he hasn’t been needed, but now he’s being thrust into the spotlight and is going to have to produce.
I have BIG expectations for A.T. Perry this year. I think he has the tools and the hands to be a stellar receiver, and being 6-5, 190 doesn’t really hurt giving Hartman another big target. But players like him, Stewart, Isaiah Isaac, Nolan Groulx, Taylor Morin, there HAS to be more than just the Sage and Donavon show if Wake doesn’t want the drop off they saw at the end of last year.
4. DB(Who are yo)u?
There is no secret that the secondary is the unit for Wake that has the most question marks. Corner and Safety are question marks, but for different reasons.
At corner, Essang Bassey and Amari Henderson are in the NFL now, so Wake has to replace 1,095 and 869 plays respectively at both starting corner spots. Enter Ja’Sir Taylor and Isaiah Essissima. Taylor played a bit over 600 snaps last season but mostly at nickel. Essissima saw action in 10 games and while it felt like a lot more, he was only on the field for 98 plays all season. Wake also has Kenneth Dicks III and Tyriq Hardimon. KDIII is someone when you watch out on the field, he is a physical specimen and looks like one of the best athletes on the team. He’s mostly been on special teams duty but got to fill in at Rover with Luke Masterson out for the season and Traveon Redd being banged up here and there. 3 true freshmen look to also steal time. A speedster out of Louisiana: Gavin Holmes, the West Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year: JJ Roberts, and a physical corner from Maryland: Caelen Carson. The farther away you are from the line of scrimmage, the easier it is to play, but still very green.
At safety, everyone knows Nasir Greer. After missing the last few games of the season and the abbreviated spring, he looks poised to build on a season that he served as the “eraser” for the defense. Past him, a lot of question marks lie. Trey Rucker started 9 games last year and seemed to be all over the field against Syracuse and in the Pinstripe Bowl, but had a LOT of times where he looked like a freshmen, especially against the run. Coby Davis has just not looked the same since coming back from injury, where before it looked like he was one of the bright young stars of the defense. Do one of those two take the next step? Behind them are question marks in Peyton Woulard, who missed last year due to injury, Zion Keith and AJ Williams, all very unproven. Does someone like Hardimon slide over to safety to help out?
5. 2nd Year Blooms or Blues?
Freshmen aren’t really asked to produce for Dave Clawson, so when players like Donavon Greene and Kenneth Walker III burst onto the scene it’s very encouraging. But what about the other 18+ members of the recruiting class?
Shamar McCollum will be asked to play a large role yet again. He started off extremely strong in the beginning of the year, but adjusting to the tolls of college football alongside the emergence of Jacorey Johns dropped his snap count mightily as the season wore on. After a year to adjust, the touted recruit should keep his foot on the gas.
One out of Nolan Groulx and Taylor Morin will be making an impact. Morin seems to be carving himself a role out as a returner but was closer to being a playable receiver at the end of the year. Groulx was the 2nd highest rated recruit from Wake in 2019(behind Greene) and has the feet and hands to compete, but needed to put on more weight and truly adjust to playing in college.
Clawson has raved about Chase Jones and how he’s learned and shown so much as a freshmen, but also shouldn’t forget about Jaylen Hudson and Zach Ranson(perhaps a future Strnad clone) in what should be Wake’s most loaded LB room in years.
Speaking of loaded rooms, the DL is one of the deepest and most talented in the ACC with the like of Boogie Basham, Sulaiman Kamara, Johns, Miles Fox, etc. Let’s not forget about Justin Williams and Will Smart. Will Smart is able to play both inside and out, and Williams played himself into some time during the Pinstripe Bowl.
Time will tell if Wake’s (on paper) best recruiting class under Dave Clawson will have a sophomore slump or be twice as good in year 2.
6. Will the Real Sam Hartman Please Stand Up?
It wouldn’t be a Wake Forest fall camp if someone doesn’t ask a question about the QB. While there wont be a competition this year like every other year, it’s absolutely critical to find out what Sam Hartman Wake will get this year.
Will it be the Louisville game Sam Hartman, who after Jamie Newman went down with a shoulder injury, came in for an admirable: 9/15 for 2 TDs and no ints, 2 rushes for 4 yards and 1 TD on the ground in roughly a quarter and a half? Outside of 1 throw, Hartman was absolutely electric and showed every bit of why the camp battle between him and Newman was neck and neck.
Will it be the FSU game Sam Hartman? The one that tells you counting stats don’t really mean all that much to performance as him and Dave Clawson both spoke up about how he “didn’t play great”, which is coach speak for, “what on earth was what?” The eye test basked it up with certain routes that should have been free touchdowns being missed, throws to the right side of the field being anywhere but accurate, it taking Cade Carney in the “Wild-Cade” for Wake to get into the end zone, but somehow Sam would pull a big play out of his hat to make you go “are we able to bench him if he can do that?”
Will it be the Syracuse game Sam Hartman? Starting off very slow, turned it into a pretty decent performance that showed both the highs and lows of his game but was very collected for the majority of the time he was behind center? If one throw is a bit lower, the season is looked at differently, but that’s just how things go and you learn.
If Wake gets Sam number 2, it will be a rough year. With the offensive line being what it is, Wake can’t afford extremely low lows from the QB position, having the QB not step into throws, and have one side of the field be a huge question mark.
If Wake gets Sam number 1, all bets are off and Wake’s offense is the most electric it’s been, even with the Wolford video game year.
If Wake gets Sam number 3, the Sam I think they get, then things get interesting. There’s something to having control and not always the BIG PLAY guy in football. Sometimes you need to just sit back, get the ball to your playmakers and let them go to work.
I’m interested to see how all of these and more play out during fall camp.
Wear a mask.