First Look: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Despite some success under Dave Clawson, Wake Forest has lost 12 straight to the Clemson Tigers.

Clawson’s work at Wake Forest has been pretty good in ways, but not so great in others. The great part would be the fact that he’s led them to five straight bowl appearances, not bad for the program with the worst all-time winning percentage of all Power-5 schools.

The not so great part, is during the Demon Deacon’s five bowl game streak, they’ve began those seasons 25–13 and ended them 6–12, with 1–5 finishes the last two seasons.

One thing that should help the offense is having all of their starters returning, including quarterback Sam Hartman, who’s proven. When he gets time, he can be efficient but he’s no mobile threat. This means a a cleaner pocket will be needed.

Jaquarii Roberson averaged more than 100 yards per game receiving last year. They were hoping receiver Donovan Greene would help out but he will miss the season due to injury. Now Wake looks to Taylor Morin, along with the likes of graduate transfer Donald Stewart out of Stanford for help in the passing game.

Christian Beal-Smith, who averaged 5.2 yards a carry returns to the Demon Deacon backfield. Another rusher expected to help will be Christian Taylor, a transfer from Michigan. If Quinton Cooley can step up, that would be a big bonus as well.

The last time Wake had a solid defense was in 2016, and last season was more of the same. One of their few highlights, though, was the fact that they created 17 turnovers. This year’s defense does bring back a lot of experience, which is always a good thing.

The defensive line is expected to be strong for Wake Forest and anchored by Miles Fox. They also hope to get a big year out of Michigan transfer, Luiji Vilain. A big question for them will be at defensive end since they will be without Carlos “Boogie” Basham, who is now a Buffalo Bill. The Deacs expect Jacorey Johns to shine stepping into a bigger role.

The Demon Deacons linebacker corp will be another huge question mark for defensive coordinator Lyle Hemphill. Ryan Smenda Jr. will have to step up this season after dealing with injuries all of last season. Also expect former safety Luke Masterson to help out and Traveon Redd has shown a lot of ability and is believed to be the starter at the rover spot.

The secondary wasn’t very good last year either but they hope 2021 produces better results. Safety Nick Andersen became a third-team All-ACC player and Ja’Sir Taylor hopes to join him at cornerback. Meanwhile, freshman Caelen Carson has already locked down the other corner spot.

Wake Forest’s season begins with four of their first five games at home, which should help, but they end with five of their last seven on the road. They benefit from not playing Miami or Virginia Tech but they do have to deal with North Carolina and Clemson making the last part of the schedule brutal and means performing well early will be a must.

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