Preview 2017: Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Previewing and looking ahead at the Wake Forest Demon Deacons season – and what you need to know.
– 2017 Wake Forest Preview: Nothing Ugly About Winning
– 2017 Wake Forest Schedule Analysis
– Wake Forest Previews: 2016 | 2015
What You Need To Know About The Wake Forest Offense
Nine starters return to an attack that wasn’t efficient, wasn’t explosive, and didn’t really do any one thing well. The O was 124th in the nation in total yards – equally mediocre on the ground and through the air. So why is there hope and promise for far more production? There are options.
For the first time in a long time, the Demon Deacons have decent depth, and reliable veterans who at least will know what they’re doing. Now they all need to be a lot better.
QB Kendall Hinton is back from a knee injury, but John Wolford should be part of the mix after leading the team to a bowl game. All the pass catchers are back – 189 of the 190 receptions from last year are accounted for – led by TE Cam Serigne and solid No. 1 wideout Tabari Hines.
The top rushers are back, too, with Matt Colburn and Cade Carney serviceable enough to grind out the years if the line gives them more room to move. The front five was young, and it still needs some tinkering, but it’s experienced.
Biggest Key To The Wake Forest Offense
The passing game has to be more efficient. The formula is about ball control, good defense, and running well. There won’t be too much bombing away, and no one will confuse the Demon Deacons for Texas Tech, but the offense can’t be the third-least efficient in the country throwing the ball. The quarterbacks combined for just nine touchdown passes and 13 picks, averaging a mere 6.1 yards per throw.
What You Need To Know About The Wake Forest Defense
There were a few issues against the big boys – Clemson and Louisville were too much to deal with – but the defense came up with a big year allowing just 370 yards and 22 points per game. Considering how lackluster the offense was, if the D didn’t shine, nothing happened.
It’s going to take a little work to be close to as good with three of the top four and four of the top six tacklers gone, but there are all-star playmakers to work around.
Jessie Bates is one of the ACC’s best young safeties, finishing second on the team in tackles with five picks – taking two for scores – in his freshman campaign. Duke Ejiofor is one of the nation’s top pass rushers, and the run defense should be okay in time up the middle, but the tackle rotation has to be strong.
Linebacker is the big issue after losing Marquel Lee and Thomas Brown, but Jaboree Williams and Grant Dawson are veterans who can hit.
Biggest Key To The Wake Forest Defense
The plays behind the line have to come early and often. When the run defense stunk, the Demon Deacons didn’t have a chance – going 0-4 when allowing 200 yards or more. But when the front seven was frothing at the mouth and making big things behind the line, everything else seemed to work.
The D has to dictate the tempo and the game, and it has to come up with timely big plays. It destroyed Temple in the bowl win with 13 tackles for loss, with the Owls finishing with -20 net rushing yards. When the Demon Deacons cranked it up and generated double-digit stops in the backfield, they pulled off big wins – doing that against Duke and Syracuse.
Wake Forest Will Be Far Better If …
The offense is far stronger on third downs. Everyone needs to own the turnover margin, and everyone needs to be solid on third downs. But for a team as offensively challenged as the Demon Deacons, keeping the chains moving and playing stallball means everything. On the year, the offense converted just 35% of their third down chances, going 7-0 when converting 40% or more, and 0-6 when converting fewer.
Best Wake Forest Offensive Player
TE Cam Serigne, Sr. – One of the few bright spots in 2015 – he caught 46 passes for 562 yards and four scores – his workload was reduced a bit last season with 30 grabs for 426 yards and three scores. Even so, the 6-3, 250-pound is still one of the ACC’s most reliable targets, he’s a good-enough blocker, and he can get deep and be like a big receiver.
2. QB Kendall Hinton, Jr.
3. PK Mike Weaver, Sr.
4. QB John Wolford, Sr.
5. WR Tabari Hines, Jr.
Best Wake Forest Defensive Player
DE Duke Ejiofor, Sr. – The 6-4, 270-pound pass rushing star could’ve left early for the NFL, but he’s back as the main man up front everything will work around. He showed a glimpse of what was coming as a sophomore with 4.5 sacks and 28 tackles, and then he was shot out of a cannon with an All-ACC 50 tackle, 10.5-sack, 17 tackle for loss season with a pick and two forced fumbles. He has the right size and speed combination, owning Duke with three sacks and cranking up steady play throughout the year.
2. S Jessie Bates, Soph.
3. P Dom Maggio, Soph.
4. LB Jaboree Williams, Sr.
5. DE Wendell Dunn, Sr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
QB Kendall Hinton, Jr. – Or John Wolford. Hinton was the starting quarterback last year before suffering a knee injury, but now the 6-0, 200-pounder is back and being all but handed the gig again. Maybe.
He was solid in his true freshman season running for 390 yards and throwing for 929 yards and four scores and five picks, and was solid in the rotation early on before getting hurt. However, Wolford saw time as the better passer and led the way to a bowl season – finishing with 1,774 yards and nine touchdowns. But interceptions were a problem – he threw ten – and he’s not quite as dynamic as Hinton. Even so, he ran for 521 yards and six scores.
The Wake Forest Season Will Be A Success If …
It gets back to a bowl game. 2007-2008 was the last time the Demon Deacons went to back-to-back bowls as part of a run of three straight bowl appearances. That’s the only time the program went to post-season games two years in a row. The schedule is just manageable enough – at least early – to get to six wins, but it’s going to take an upset to get there. After what happened last season, anything less than a six-win season is a step back.
Key Game To The Wake Forest Season
Sept. 9 at Boston College – After a rough end to the regular season, the Demon Deacons need to get off to a hot start. That’s what worked last year – starting 4-0 with a win over Duke on the road setting the tone. They lost to Boston College in a 17-14 fight in the regular season finale, but this time around a win in the ACC opener is a must with Florida State and Clemson up next in conference play.
2016 Wake Forest Fun Stats
– 1st Quarter Scoring: 44 – 2nd Quarter Scoring: 118
– Fumbles: Opponents 25 (lost 15) – Wake Forest 14 (lost 6)
– Field Goals: Wake Forest 21-of-27 – Opponents 10-of-17