In what could quietly be a make or break game for Wake Forest’s season, on Saturday the Demon Deacons head to Raleigh to play the N.C. State Wolfpack.
While entering this on a three game winnings streak vs the Wolfpack, Wake has quietly lost 5 of their last 6 games dating back to 2019. However it’s a new season, a new team, with new challenges and strengths. What does Wake have to do to come out on top on Saturday?
- Establish the Run
Why: State is continuing to run a 3-3-5 defense. Just with that alone, they’re going to have issues containing the run. Alim McNeil is a standout DT who will cause issues for any OL. Michael Jurgens and Sean Maginn have to have better games. Those two were by far the 2 worst grading starting linemen last week, and Jurgens was the 5th worst graded Center in the country. It’s Clemson, so take it with a grain of salt, but you would want your maulers to open up holes. If they can hold McNeil at bay, Christian Beal-Smith and Kenneth Walker III should gash this defense, opening up the playbook a bit
2. Make them pay
Why: Running this 3-3-5, State is going to run some exotic blitzes. Whether it’s Double-Edge Fire(letting the OLB’s hit each Offensive Tackle, while the other LB comes up the middle and the FS rotates down to cover the middle of the field), or a Single Edge(6 bodies attack the boundary side(side closest to the sideline), the nature of running such a defense means you have to be creative in who, what and how you send pressure. With that being said, it should play into the strengths of Sam Hartman. I have been pounding the table for Wake to run faster developing plays and use the middle of the field more. With the emergence of Taylor Morin/Jaquarri Roberson in the slot, and players like Donavon Greene and Nolan Groulx being such clean route runners, it would be in Wake’s best interest to abuse this aggression and just hit quick slants while letting the receivers cook. This would easily set up a long ball for AT Perry to keep them honest.
- Control the LOS
Why: The strength of this Wolfpack offense is its running game. They have some really good backs and a couple of linemen that are amongst the top of the ACC. With that being said, the front 6(7 if you count the rover) is by far the strength of Wake’s defense and quite possibly the entire team. Getting back Tyler Williams(who was a top 5 DT vs the run in the FBS last year), Justin Williams and Mike Allen should bolster a group that had 5 playable DTs against a surprisingly up-tempo Clemson team, two of which that just aren’t ready yet. Adding in at least 2 of these guys puts the Wake defensive line as one of the best in the ACC and needs to force Devin Leary to beat them. Players like DJ Taylor and Ryan Smenda Jr have been some of the best run stuffers in the ACC, which allows a playmaker like Ja’Cquez williams to pin his ears back and get after the QB relentlessly. If they can’t force State into passing downs, it’s going to be a long evening.
2. Stop breaking down
Why: I shouldn’t have to explain why breakdowns in the secondary are bad. You can’t do that against anyone, but even with the down year NC State had, they still have some playmakers on the outside. Getting some corners back should help so Nasir Greer doesn’t have to play corner again, but regardless, there needs to be better communication. While players like Boogie Basham and JaCorey Johns are good, no lineman will win every single time and there needs to be a few coverage sacks here and there, or at the very least give the line a chance to get to the QB without seeing a WR with no player within 10 yards of them.