Football season is drawing near and to get you ready, we’re going to run through the schedule and take a brief glimpse at each opponent the Deacs will be facing this season. Wake is coming off an incredible 11-win season—the second in school history—so expectations should be pretty high this year, even with the uncertainty surrounding starting QB Sam Hartman and whether or not he will be able to play this season (Get well soon Sam). I think most fans are excited about the return of a high-powered offense with plenty of weapons that can run up points in a hurry (who doesn’t love lots of scoring?) while also looking forward to seeing what changes and improvements Brad Lambert has made on the defensive side of things. We won’t have to wait long to find out! Let’s get things started with the first opponent, the VMI Keydets.
- Opponent: VMI
- Date: 7:30 PM Thursday, September 1st, 2022 (ACC Network)
- Location: Truist Field, Winston Salem, NC
- Vegas Insider Total Wins: N/A
- 2021 Record: 6-5 (4-4)
- Previous Matchup: Wake 38 — VMI 7 (1944)
- All time vs Wake Forest: 2-3-2
The VMI Keydets finished last season with a 6-5 record, giving them their first back-to-back winning seasons since 1962. They finished in 6th place in the Southern Conference with a 4-4 record. In their one game against an FBS opponent last season, VMI got stomped by the Kent State Golden Flashes by a score of 60-10.
On offense, VMI uses a very similar tempo to that of Wake Forest. They ran about 77 plays per game last season, which would put them in around the top 15 in the nation if they were an FBS team. From the game footage I have seen, they are able to get lined up and ready for the next play in about 10 seconds. That should give Brad Lambert and the defense a nice early test in their ability to communicate the coverage and get lined up quickly.
In terms of scheme, the Keydets are incredibly balanced with 38.3 rushes per game and 38.7 pass attempts per game last season. Like most teams in college football these days, VMI runs an almost exclusively spread system out of the shotgun (that is based on the 1 game from last season on YouTube I watched, so take it with a grain of salt). They use mostly 3 wide receiver sets with 1 running back and 1 tight end (also known as 11 personnel if you want to sound fancy) with the tight end moving around everywhere from the back field to the slot to out wide. The ground game is pretty typical zone read style plays and inside runs, with the occasional speed option to the outside. Redshirt Senior Korey Bridy (654 yards, 8 TDs) gets most of the carries, but the underclassman Rashad Raymond (507 yards, 3 TDs) and Hunter Rice (7 TDs, All-Freshman team) both had very good seasons for the Keydets last year.
The passing game consists of a lot of quick hitting outs and crossers, but VMI will take deep shots if they get single coverage with a matchup they like. Quarterback Seth Morgan really spreads the ball around, which resulted in the Keydets having 5 players with over 20 receptions last season. VMI did lose two All-SoCon 2nd team receivers off of last year’s squad in Michael Jackson and Jakob Herre—the duo combined for 98 catches for 1,195 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. That is going to be some tough production to replace, but the Keydets do get back Leroy Thomas (55 rec, 557 yards, 3 TD) and Max Brimigion (28 rec, 333 yards, 1 TD).
Defense is a little harder because I basically know nothing about coverages or scheme, but to my eye, it looked like VMI runs a 3-3-5 base with 2021 SoCon Defensive Player of the Year Stone Snyder anchoring the linebackers. Stone finished last season with 120 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, and 3 fumble recoveries. Even with the Defensive Player of the Year, the Keydets had a lot of trouble stopping the run last season. They allowed teams to rack up 233 yards on the ground per game and 5.2 yards per carry for the season. It’s hard to stop teams from scoring when the defense is giving up 5 yards on every run play. In the secondary, a couple of guys to watch out for are junior defensive back Alex Oliver (2 Int, 14 Pbu) and senior defensive back Aljareek Malry (4 TFL, 2 Sacks, 2 Int, 9 pbu).
On special teams, VMI is apparently a wagon, because they have the SoCon preseason 1st team placekicker, punter, and long snapper. Kicker Jerry Rice (not that one) made 17 of his 19 field goal attempts last season, including 6-6 from 40-49 yards. Punter Jack Culbreath averaged 44 yards per punt and landed 8 inside the 20 yard-line.
If we’re being honest, this game should not be close. Wake Forest is returning most of their production from an 11-win team and looking for another double-digit win season. The Deacs should have a size advantage at almost every position, but especially in the trenches. A quick comparison of the team’s roster pages shows that Wake’s offensive line outweighs the VMI defensive line by an average of almost 50 pounds, so even with a young, inexperienced quarterback making his first start, Wake should be able to do just about whatever they want on offense. Of course, FCS teams seem to be beating FBS teams quite regularly now, and VMI has the special teams to pull it off if the game is close late. Hopefully this one will be out hand by the end of the first half and the starters can grab some rest.