2014 Wake Forest Demon Deacons Team Preview
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Head Coach: Dave Clawson
2013 Record: 4-8 overall, 2-6 ACC Atlantic
2013 Bowl Result: None
2013 Returning Starters: 5 offense, 5 defense
Odds to win 2015 College Football Championship Game: field 30/1
Odds to win 2014 ACC Championship Game: 200/1
Odds to Win 2014 ACC Atlantic Division: 100/1
Regular Season Wins: over 3.5 -175 / under 3.5 +145
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Jim Grobe retired as the head football coach at Wake Forest last year after 12 seasons at the helm. The Demon Deacons hired Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson to take over for Grobe. It was a forgettable campaign for Wake Forest in 2013 with a 4-8 record. The wins came over Presbyterian, Army, NC State and Maryland. All losses were to bowl teams except for a home upset to Louisiana-Monroe. The Demon Deacons ended the season on a five game losing streak. Wake Forest had a chances to be bowl eligible as they had 4 losses by seven points or less.
It will be tough in Clawson’s first season as Wake only returns 10 starters combined on both side of the ball.
Wake Forest was one of the worst offensive teams in the country last year. They couldn’t run or pass to much effect. The passing game was #99 out of 125 teams at 197 yards per game. The running game was #119 at 94 yards per game. The Demon Deacons only scored 18 points a game. New coordinator Warren Ruggiero has his work cut out for him with only five starters back.
Wake Forest must replace four year starter Tanner Price at quarterback. Price threw for 2,233 yards with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last year and also rushed for 239 yards and five touchdowns. There is a four way battle for the quarterback spot between last year’s back-up Tyler Cameron, converted wide receiver Kevin Sousa, and true freshmen Travis Smith & John Wolford. Cameron took only 24 snaps last year and three three interceptions with no touchdowns. Sousa was originally recruited as a quarterback at Michigan. Smith was Mr. Football in Michigan. Wolford was a Parade All-American.
Leading rusher Josh Harris is now with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He had 125 carries for 470 yards and 4 touchdowns, plus 15 catches. Price’s 123 carries must also be replaced. Former defensive back Dominique Gibson is the only returning back. He rushed for 138 yards with a touchdown, and also had 8 catches with a touchdown. Just before fall camp opened Gibson was suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. Receiver Orville Reynolds and safety James Ward both moved to running back to help fill the void at the position.
Star receiver Michael Campanaro is now with the Baltimore Ravens. Campanaro had 67 catches for 803 yards and 6 touchdowns. No other receiver had more than 23 catches for Wake last year. Tight end Spencer Bishop made 19 catches, including 2 for touchdowns but he is gone as well. Last year as a freshman Tyree Harris had a great season with 23 catches for 225 yards. He looks to be the go-to receiver in 2014. Jared Crump and Johnathan Williams combined for 33 catches last year and both will get more targets. E.J. Scott transferred from Virginia and will help in the slot.
The offensive line struggled in run blocking and pass protection, and must improve drastically or the Demon Deacons will struggle again. Most of the returning starters on offense are on the line though.
The defense was ranked in the top 40 last year allowing 366 yards and 24 points a game. The defense did their best to keep the Demon Deacons in games but the offense was so inept it was difficult. New coordinator Mike Elko gets five starters back from that unit.
Wake Forest loses five starters in the front seven. However, they have an influx of young talent and the Demon Deacons will be deep and talented.
Sophomores tackles Josh Banks and Shelldon Lewinson look to replace All-ACC tackle Nikita Whitlock. Converted linebackers Zachary Allen and Wendell Dunn will be pass rushers at the ends as will Duke Ejifor.
Linebacker Brandon Chubb was the team’s second leading tackler last season. He headlines a strong if inexperienced group of linebackers that includesMarquell Lee and Steve Donatell who returns from injury.
Cornerbacks Kevn Johnson and Merrill Noel have combined for 60 starts and 11 interceptions in their career. Safety Ryan Janvion led the team in tackles last season.
Kicker Chad Hedlund is back but he doesn’t have the strongest leg. Punter Alex Kinal set a dubious record for most punts in an ACC season because of the anemic offense. It isn’t clear who will return kicks and punts but Wake has been last in the ACC in returns for six seasons.
Outlook / Schedule
Wake Forest has non-conference road games at Louisiana-Monroe and Utah State along with home games against Gardner-Webb and Army. In the ACC, Wake Forest travels to Louisville, Florida State, North Carolina State and Duke. The Demon Deacons host Syracuse, Boston College, Clemson and Virginia Tech. If the offense improves, this team might win four or five games, but I really can’t see anything more than that.
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