Q&A with Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson

First-year Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson signed 26 players in his first recruiting class, a group that was assembled in about two months. The class includes three freshmen who enrolled in January as well as the addition of a graduate transfer. While the class didn’t make any headlines nationally, it did set the foundation for a new era in Winston-Salem, N.C. I spoke with Clawson recently about his first class. Here are the highlights of our conversation:

What were you aiming to get in this recruiting class? What were your priorities?

Dave Clawson: Honestly, we wanted to sign a football team. We wanted to sign one player at every position on our football team. If you look at our list, we’re basically a 4-3 defense, and we recruited four down linemen, three linebackers and four in the secondary -- two safeties and two corners. We recruited five O-linemen, three receivers, one tight end. We doubled down at quarterback and tailback because we think that those are anticipated needs and positions that we don’t have a lot of depth. We recruited one kicker who’s also a punter.

I’ve made the mistake before, when I got to Bowling Green, the coaches on the staff said, ‘Hey, we just recruited a great offensive line class. We’re all set there, we’ve got good depth, you don’t need to sign that position.’ We didn’t sign that position, and of those five players, only one of them was even decent. Now we really had two years without the position which killed us. Having not been through a spring practice, having not been through a season with these guys, we basically just wanted to recruit a football team so we have one-deep at every position in the freshman class.

Are you happy with it?

DC: Yeah, I think we made very good progress from the time we were hired to signing day. I really would agree with Dave [Doeren] that probably your second class is always, you feel a little better about it because you know the kids better and you know what your needs are better. That’s just part of the profession and part of taking a new job.

How do you think these guys will figure into this season? Do any have a chance for immediate playing time?

DC: Honestly I don’t know. I know the recruits better than our own team. I’ve spent more time with them than our own team, so for me to project that is really hard right now. I’m very anxious to start working with our players here, and start meeting with them, and getting to know them, and see them work out and work with them at spring football. It’s probably a better question for me after I get through spring.

Fair enough. Do you know what your running back situation looks like though?

DC: If you have any eligibility left, you’ll get the carries.

You don’t want that, trust me.

DC: That’s real. We are very thin there. With some of the players who left, who graduated, we’re moving Orville Reynolds back from receiver there. We’re moving James Ward from safety. [Dominique] Gibson is the one guy who played there last year who’s back, and then we brought in two. That certainly is a huge question mark for us going into spring football.

And you’ll have a new quarterback, too.

DC: Yeah, the offensive skill positions and the D-line are really where we’re going to be inexperienced going into the season. It’s really hard. I don’t know what we have. There’s no film on these guys, they didn’t play.

This is going to be a pretty big spring for you just in terms of getting to know you.

DC: Yeah, and a lot of it is just establishing the culture of your program. Your first spring is so important. You’re getting your schematic systems installed -- offense, defense and special teams -- you’re installing the way you practice, the way you do everything. How you handle academics, how you run study hall, how you handle discipline. That’s as big of a challenge as anything when you first come in, just getting your systems up and running and installed and maintaining them.