Wake Forest opens as a 31 point favorite against Old Dominion on Friday and around 3pm today we’ll get an official depth chart. After scouring through notes on practice from both Conor O’Neill and Les Johns, I put together my own take on what the depth chart might look like.
Quarterback: Sam Hartman
Backup(s): Mitch Griffis OR Michael Kern
I also forgot how much I loved Warren Ruggiero and Sam Hartman just not giving a SINGLE care in the world and running the same play twice in a row after it got called back for holding pic.twitter.com/tVYFfhYldf— DeColdest Debro (@CamLemons_) January 31, 2021
Sam Hartman is the unquestioned starter at quarterback going into the season and will have quite a long leash, barring injury, before the team looks to turn to another quarterback. I’m personally going to give the ever so slight nod to Griffis be the first name listed behind Sam, but it will come with an ‘or’ designation, and it will be continuous battle as there wasn’t much separation between the two throughout camp.
Running Back: Christian Beal-Smith
Backup(s): Justice Ellison OR Christian Turner
Fun nugget as I work on Wake Forest's projected depth charts ...— Conor O'Neill (@ConorONeillFA) August 26, 2021
Christian Beal-Smith is 303 rushing yards away from cracking the program's top 20 (he's got 1,267). If he has 1 more yard than he had last year (732), he'll hit 2,000 career yards.
CBS is the unquestioned starter, and quietly had a very good year on the ground last time out, even if the touchdown variance didn’t go his way.
What’s behind him might even be more exciting. Justice Ellison has built off of a strong spring, and shown to be an explosive option while keeping up with pass protection. Christian Turner came in from Michigan and looked every single part of an ACC-level running back and should evenly split time with Ellison spelling CBS.
A note: I was very close to adding Ahmani Marshall to this depth chart, and I think we probably see more of him, Quinton Cooley, and Will Towns if/when the first two games get out of hands, especially to keep the top three guys fresh for conference play.
Receivers: A.T. Perry(X), Taylor Morin(Z), Jaquarii Roberson(Slot)
Backup: Jahmal Banks(x), Donald Stewart(Z), Ke’Shawn Williams(Slot)
AT Perry had 4/36 against NC State and it felt like he had 8/90.— DeColdest Debro (@CamLemons_) January 31, 2021
After that drop against Clemson he was really putting together a quietly good season until the foot injury. I'm buying more stock here pic.twitter.com/SvVWiIS42K
A.T was a guy who absolutely showed out during the spring and continued it for the first week and a half of the spring. While he wasn’t blowing the doors off of anyone to finish the camp, it wasn’t like he became a terrible player, just stayed steady. He’s my pick to be the guy that replaces Donavon Greene this season.
Behind him is one of the better players of fall camp, second-year receiver Jahmal Banks. He continuously made highlight after highlight catch. It seemed like he really just started clicking this fall and will be a good body to have on the field, especially in goal-to-go situations with him standing at 6-4, 208 pounds.
Taylor Morin has been a dependable receiver and looks to continue that this year, even while sort of playing out of position with the pieces they have in the slot. While not the biggest receiver, he isn’t prone to drops, he’s a very good route runner, and can even go up and get it if he absolutely has to.
Behind him is transfer Donald Stewart, who seems like the light has come on to do what he was brought in last year to do. The idea with Stewart was to offer depth and someone who’d be reliable when he got his number called. We saw that on display against NC State, before he got injured and essentially missed the rest of the season.
Do I need to talk to you about Jaquarii Roberson?
Tight End: Brandon Chapman
Backup: Blake Whiteheart
Extensive notes from Wake Forest Fall Camp practice No. 8 - including thoughts on Caelen Carson, Sam Hartman, Blake Whiteheart, Donald Stewart and many more. https://t.co/gKqoSlkDCa pic.twitter.com/kXMFpNu8Le— Les Johns (@Les_Johns) August 13, 2021
The tight ends haven’t really been a major factor in the passing game, but this is a year that it seems that their understated impact may help more than we think. Chapman and Whiteheart are much closer to blockers that are options lower in the pecking order for targets, but with the loss of Je’Vionte’ Nash, it would not surprise me if they used these two in order to bolster that side of the line as people will more than likely try to overload that side of the line.
Offensive Line: Zach Tom(LT), Sean Maginn(LG), Michael Jurgens(C), Loic Ngassam Nya(RG), DeVonte Gordon(RT)
Backups: CJ Elmonus(LT), George Sell(LG), Luke Petitbon(C), Terrance Davis(RG), Spencer Clapp(RT)
The word on the street is that DeVonte Gordon will be the replacement for Spencer Clapp to open the season, but the job is still not yet fully decided as we could see some snaps for Clapp the first couple of games. This is ok, as the first two should be blowouts, you don’t want to risk any unnecessary injuries and can tinker as much as you want as long as you take care of business.
The interior depth on this team intrigues me. I was close to putting an ‘or’ between Nya and Davis, but will wait to see how that one plays out. George Sell and Luke Petitbon are probably the fastest offensive lineman have ever been “ready” during Nick Tabacca’s tenure, and that speaks volumes to how the recruiting and development has taken an uptick recently at that position.
Can this group be better about opening holes for the guys on the ground?
Defensive Line: Rondell Bothroyd(Field End), Miles Fox(NT), Dion Bergan Jr.(DT), JaCorey Johns(Drop End)
Backups: Jasheen Davis(Field End), Kevin Pointer OR Justin Williams(NT), Sulaiman Kamara(DT), Luiji Vilain(Drop End)
Wake Forest defensive coordinator Lyle Hempill applauded the early-camp work from Demon Deacon defensive ends JaCorey Johns, Luiji Vilain, Rondell Bothroyd & Jasheen Davis: "They’re wrecking stuff."— Les Johns (@Les_Johns) August 10, 2021
Full Q&A here: https://t.co/vlqgV6GNPr pic.twitter.com/xZ3tvmKWje
Rondell Bothroyd has slimmed down almost 20 pounds, the light has come on for second-year and former 4-star Jasheen Davis, and the position that one Boogie Basham used to man has suddenly become two absolute wrecking balls.
Dion Bergan had an absolute monstrous spring and looks to supplant Sulaiman Kamara to lead in that time share next to Miles Fox. The hope right now is to bolster the depth so when Tyler Williams eventually comes back, this could be a terrifying defensive front.
A lot of eyes will have to be on the drop end with Johns and Vilain. More production in terms of QB hits and sacks needs to be seen if this team wants to be as good as we know they can be, but they are in “show me” mode right now.
Linebackers: Ryan Smenda Jr.(Mike), Luke Masterson(Buck)
Backups: DJ Taylor(Mike), Chase Jones(Buck)
The defensive group with the most questions from the fans!
Chase Jones had a fantastic camp and looks to be essentially a third starter spelling Luke Masterson. DJ Taylor seems to have finally stayed healthy and put things together to find himself on the two-deep behind Smenda.
Not too much to say here but these guys have to both be put in the right places in order to succeed and actually produce. Kind of put up or shut up here. I’ll be intrigued to see if Jaylen Hudson, Dylan Hazen, or Quincy Bryant can crack the two-deep as the season goes on, but we’ll definitely see them to start the year, just not on the chart.
Cornerback: Ja’Sir Taylor(Boundary), Caelen Carson(Field)
Backups: Gavin Holmes(Boundary), Isaiah Wingfield(Field)
Landing on Bruce Feldman's "Freaks" list was a surprise for Ja'Sir Taylor -- though he also wished his state championship in long jump made it into the description.— Conor O'Neill (@ConorONeillFA) August 12, 2021
That and more camp notes after WF's 7th practice:
There’s no secret on who the top 4 corners are on this team, and it honestly might be the best group on the team. Taylor will be in the NFL next year, Carson was a true freshman success story and has only built on that. Gavin Holmes has continued to flash in camp, and it sounds like the Harvard transfer Wingfield has brought in just a different intensity to this group.
The sky is the limit for this group, but it’ll be even better if/when the team can start getting some pressure up front.
Safety: Traveon Redd, Nasir Greer
Backups: Evan Slocum OR AJ Williams, Nick Andersen OR Chelen Garnes
The Nasir Greer timeline is unreal:— Conor O'Neill (@ConorONeillFA) August 5, 2021
- Nov 30, 2019: Torn ACL at Syr.
- Sept 10, 2020: Told to play CB against Clemson. Never played it before.
- Sept 12: Play CB against Clemson
*held out of all four Oct 2020 games*
- Nov 14: Season-ending knee injury at UNC
... (1/2) https://t.co/aFdmmgh6SZ
There is no secret that I am pro Nasir Greer. He’s finally back in form, so the duo of him and Traveon Redd is going to be an absolute nightmare for people to deal with.
We... have depth behind them and it’s a scary thought. After literally running out of safeties against UNC, this team has at least 9 playable safeties, we’ll get to the other two in a second and when Malik Mustapha gets back from injury, they’ll be closing in on double digits. Including(!!) a true freshman in Evan Slocum, who has really looked the part.
Zion Keith is a notable omission here, and he is a playable body, but this isn't a team that will go with 5 different ‘or’s at a position like some programs.
ROVER: JJ Roberts OR Coby Davis
Wake Forest 2nd-year freshman defensive back J.J. Roberts on his role this season: "Anywhere they want me to be. I’m just excited to play. Football is back.”— Les Johns (@Les_Johns) August 29, 2021
Full story here: https://t.co/gaz6vf4daN pic.twitter.com/OdaoDWiK8X
So this position was the hardest. It sounds like this position will be a true safety position, but with so much mixing and matching anyone can slide here. There are times you might see Andersen move here, Zion Keith, Chelen Garnes, the list goes on. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Gavin Holmes come in and be the 11th guy on the field.
This is the year of depth and from all reports, they’re actually able to mix and match to have different looks and personnel out there based on what they what to do against whatever look the offense is giving them, not just throw whatever healthy bodies they have out there and pray.