ACC: Desmond Floyd

Wake Forest spring wrap

April, 29, 2014
Apr 29
4:30
AM ET
Three things we learned in the spring for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons:

1. Clawson means business.

When Dave Clawson replaced Jim Grobe as head coach, it was with an understanding that the culture had grown stale at Wake Forest and the Demon Deacons needed a fresh start. It hasn’t taken long for Clawson to shake things up. He’s instituted strict rules for his players, changing everything from workout routines to practice habits to film study. It’s a demanding approach, but it’s also won over a hefty chunk of the roster already. For now, Clawson knows he’ll need to tailor the playbook to hide some serious talent gaps, but off the field, the expectations he’s setting are immense.

2. The offense needs a lot of work.

The silver lining for a team that lost its starting quarterback, top tight end, best receiver and leading rusher is that, even with all those players around, Wake was still among the worst offenses in the country last year. Still, there’s no doubt that the Deacons are thin at nearly every skill position on offense. Clawson had to do some position-swapping just to fill out a depth chart at tailback before the spring. Although Clawson hopes more answers will be found before fall camp opens, it seems clear that points will be at a premium for Wake this season.

[+] EnlargeDave Clawson
AP Photo/Chuck BurtonDave Clawson is trying to change the culture at Wake Forest.
3. Few jobs are safe.

Clawson said there’s not a position on offense that’s playing at an acceptable level. On defense, the cornerbacks are about the only established starters. Incoming freshmen will get a chance to win jobs this fall. The bottom line: It’s a new era at Wake, and Clawson isn’t handing a job to anyone. There’s a lot of work to be done before the Deacons are ready for ACC play, but that also means there’s a lot of opportunity for youngsters to win jobs.

Three questions for the fall:

1. Who’s playing quarterback?

Tyler Cameron was last year’s No. 2, but his spring was a mixed bag, ending with an ugly spring-game performance in which he completed just 9 of 26 passes. Kevin Sousa fared a bit better in the spring game and adds the option of picking up yards with his legs, but Clawson didn’t exactly offer a ringing endorsement of him, either. For now, the QB battle remains up in the air, which seems appropriate given how many other questions Wake has on offense.

2. Who’s running the ball?

Orville Reynolds had a 33-yard run in the spring game that underscored why Clawson believes he can be a good fit at tailback after spending his early career at Wake playing receiver. But, of course, Reynolds’ other 20 carries netted a grand total of 20 yards, so the enthusiasm only went so far. James Ward was also moved from safety to tailback, but he suffered a leg injury in the spring game and his status for summer workouts is murky. Dominique Gibson is the only other scholarship running back. He had 24 yards on 15 carries in the spring game.

3. Can the front seven jell quickly?

The spring offered some optimism in this department, highlighted by the impressive spring game performances from linebackers Marquel Lee (9 tackles) and defensive end Desmond Floyd (3.5 TFL). But replacing Nikita Whitlock and a host of veterans up front won’t be easy. The upside for Wake is that the secondary returns plenty of talent, but the Deacons will need to develop quickly on the D line.

One way-too-early prediction:

Odds are it’s going to be a rough first year for Clawson in Winston-Salem, but he also isn’t likely to be judging his team’s progress simply on wins and losses. Clawson is trying to change the culture at Wake Forest, and that’s a long-term project. In time, he’ll be able to sell recruits on that culture, restock a barren roster and get the Deacons back on track. But for now, Clawson will have to make the best of what he’s got — which means six wins is likely a long way off.
The rest of the ACC wraps up practice this weekend. Here is a look at what to watch at each spring game.

BOSTON COLLEGE

When: Cancelled.

UPDATE: Boston College decided to cancel its spring game, set for Saturday, because of the tragic events that unfolded in the area this week. Though there is no game, these are still three keys for the Eagles as they move into the offseason.
  • Chase Rettig. Rettig has been through one coordinator too many during his career with the Eagles, and now he has to learn a new system that is not exactly the pro-style brand more suited to him. Coach Steve Addazio has said he will not force Rettig out of his comfort zone this year, but how Rettig handles yet another change is definitely something to watch.
  • The run game. Addazio has placed a heavy emphasis on the run game this spring. Does he have the talent and depth to improve the dreadful numbers from a year ago? With Rolandan Finch gone, senior Andre Williams has been the guy left to shoulder the load this spring. He says, "Bring it on."
  • More aggressive D? This will be a good chance to see how Don Brown has gone about revamping the defense. We have all heard how he wants to be more aggressive this year. Let's see it.
GEORGIA TECH

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m. (Note: There is a threat of rain so a decision on whether the game will be played as scheduled will be made later today. As of this morning, the game is still on.) NC STATE

When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m., ESPN3
  • The quarterbacks. Starting to sound like a theme, right? Coach Dave Doeren has said he will not name a starter after spring practice. Pete Thomas and Manny Stocker are still learning the new system, and Doeren says, "They're getting better. I told somebody the other day: I just don't think it's fair to make a decision on a guy that doesn't know your offense yet. I think we've got to give those kids a chance to play football without thinking. We're not there yet."
  • The secondary. This group will have three new starters when fall rolls around, and much less game experience. Juston Burris is listed as the starter at the cornerback spot David Amerson leaves behind, while Hakim Jones and Jarvis Byrd are set to take the open safety spots.
  • The defensive ends. There is still open competition at both defensive end spots, according to the depth chart the team released ahead of the spring game. Art Norman and Forrest West are battling for one spot, while Mike Rose and Darryl Cato-Bishop are competing for the other.
SYRACUSE

When: Saturday, noon.
  • Terrel Hunt vs. Charley Loeb. Hunt has reportedly gotten more of the first-team reps as the spring has gone on, but this is a good chance for both quarterbacks to make an impression on their coaches -- especially with Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen headed to Syracuse in the summer.
  • Defensive line. There is no question Syracuse has to work on building depth here because of several losses the group has taken. One player to watch is Iowa transfer John Raymon, who has worked at both tackle and end this spring.
  • Quinta Funderburk. Funderburk sat out last season after transferring in from Arkansas. He has made a few highlight catches during the spring scrimmages to catch some attention, and with Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales gone, Funderburk has an opportunity to become a go-to receiver on this team.
VIRGINIA TECH

When: Saturday, 3 p.m., ESPN3
  • Logan Thomas and the offense. So, how does Thomas look under new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler? His rebound from a mediocre 2013 is going to be huge for the Hokies this season.
  • The running backs. Nobody has really stepped up to take the starting job, although Trey Edmunds has had a good spring, including 86 yards and two touchdowns in the last scrimmage. JC Coleman, also vying for the job, is not expected to play because of a leg injury.
  • Brandon Facyson. It's no secret the Hokies need some help in the secondary, and every single report out of Blacksburg points to the freshman cornerback as being the next star on defense.
WAKE FOREST

When: Saturday, 1 p.m., ACC Digital Network
  • The receivers. One of the big goals this spring has been to find another receiver to complement Michael Campanaro. Orville Reynolds, who moved from running back, has so far turned some heads with his performance, so keep an eye on him.
  • New faces. Two players who have drawn raves on defense this spring are defensive linemen Desmond Floyd and Johnny Garcia. In fact, coach Jim Grobe believes his defensive line has been a bright spot this spring because the group has been able to develop some depth.
  • Competition. This will actually be a scrimmage, not a game, because the Deacs simply do not have enough offensive linemen to split the team in two. At last check, Wake had seven healthy offensive linemen after Cody Preble injured his ankle in the last scrimmage.

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