They say Year 3 is the best measuring stick of a new coaching regime’s progress, and if Dave Clawson’s recent recruiting is any indication, the Demon Deacons could be primed to make a jump after consecutive three-win seasons that could not have been any more different.
The Deacs have recruited above their heads, statistically speaking. They hauled in the ACC’s 10th-best recruiting class for 2016, a class that ranked 50th overall. As the smallest Power 5 school, that’s nothing to laugh at. Wake landed 22 players, 20 of whom are three-star prospects. They brought in players from nine different states, and six players already enrolled in January.
One telling stat that the program was pumping up on national signing day: All 22 of Wake’s signees served as captains at some point of their high school careers.
Biggest need going into NSD: Wake’s defense has more than held its own through the first two years of the Clawson era. The quarterbacks are young and promising. And the Deacs have recruited the offensive line like crazy. So the biggest need, if we are to pinpoint just one, has to be a game-breaking running back, as Wake still struggled in that department in 2015, despite a massive improvement from 2014.
How it was addressed: Wake signed three running backs in this class: Three-star Arkeem Byrd (Savannah, Georgia/Jenkins), three-star Cade Carney (Davidson, North Carolina/Davidson Day) and unranked back DeAndre’ Delaney (Morristown, Tennessee/Morristown-Hamblen West). Carney enrolled in the spring, and he could fight for playing time amidst a young rotation that includes underclassmen Tyler Bell, Matt Coburn and Isaiah Robinson.
Strongest position post-NSD: Is it crazy to say quarterback here? We’ll know more if the offensive line can hold up in the coming years, but rising junior John Wolford and rising sophomore Kendall Hinton have impressed under difficult circumstances. Wake added four-star pocket-passer Kyle Kearns (Pleasanton, California/Foothill) last season, and the Deacs signed No. 19 dual-threat QB Jamie Newman (Graham, North Carolina/Graham) in this class, a three-star prospect who was the Deacs’ second-highest rated recruit. Newman enrolled in January.
Biggest remaining need: The more skill players, the better. Wake said goodbye to second-leading wide receiver KJ Brent -- who had 42 catches last year for 583 yards and one touchdown -- but did sign three three-star receivers in this class. A deep threat would greatly enhance an offense that too often had to rely on the legs of its quarterbacks when things broke down.