#70 Wake Forest Football 2016 Preview

Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Overall Rank: #70
#13 ACC
Coach Dave Clawson is in year three of a massive rebuilding project at Wake Forest. After back-to-back three win seasons, the project continues. The three victories were not all that impressive though. The Demon Deacons beat Elon in their opener and slipped past Army 17-14 a couple weeks later. The lone conference win was a 3-0 game at Boston College. A win is a win, but that one is not making anybody’s highlight reel. The promising thing about last year was the fact that Wake Forest did not get blown out all that much. They lost to Florida State by eight, Louisville by one and Duke by six.
2015 Record: 3-9, 1-7
2015 Bowl: None
Coach: Dave Clawson (6-18 at Wake Forest, 96-99 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Warren Ruggiero
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Elko
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Tyler Bell, RB, 451 yards
Passing: John Wolford, QB, 1,791 yards
Receiving: Cortez Lewis, WR, 611 yards
Tackles: Ryan Janvion, S, 72; Brad Watson, CB, 72
Sacks: Duke Ejiofor, DE, 4.5
Interceptions: Brad Watson, CB, 2
Other Key Returnees: QB Kendall Hinton, TE Cam Serigne, WR Chuck Wade, WR Tabari Hines, LB Marquel Lee
Key Losses: WR KJ Brent, LB Brandon Chubb, DB Zach Dancel, LB Hunter Williams, P Alex Kinal
The defense kept Wake Forest in most games last year and will do so again this time around. Despite the offense constantly putting the defense in tough situations, the unit still ranked sixth in the ACC in scoring defense and seventh in total defense. That is quite impressive and the rebuilding on the defensive side of the ball has gone very well. The front four is the most experienced unit heading into the 2016 campaign. Duke Ejiofor led the team with 4.5 sacks and he did that in just seven games. Fellow junior Wendell Dunn will start on the other end after recording a single sack and 7.5 tackles-for-loss. Marquel Lee is the star of the linebacking corps. For the second straight season, Lee led the team in tackles-for-loss and he will feel the pressure to replace the leadership lost with All-ACC linebacker Brandon Chubb. The secondary is brimming with potential. Senior cornerback Brad Watson broke up 16 passes in 2015 and safety Ryan Janvion totaled 72 tackles. The big potential comes with cornerback Dionte Austin. He showed a lot of promise as a freshman and started the last four games opposite of Watson.
If the offense can do anything, Wake Forest will start to make progress in the win column. A very young and inexperienced offensive line was the root of all of the problems last year. Three freshmen were thrown into starting roles and the result was not good. Those freshmen are still young sophomores, but they have experience and showed some improvement as last year progressed. With five starters back, it literally cannot get any worse. That is good news for a ground game that ranked 122nd in the FBS. Running back Tyler Bell rushed for just 451 yards and one touchdown on 129 carries, while Matt Colburn added 239 yards on 66 carries. Wake Forest will attempt to establish the run, but there is a long, long way to go. The quarterback situation is not any more settled. John Wolford and Kendall Hinton split time under center last year, yet threw 13 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Wolford did complete 60.9 percent of his passes and is the much more accurate passer, but Hinton has a stronger arm and is more dangerous with his feet. The coaching staff wants to find one starter, but it seems likely that both will get their chance.
The Bottom Line:
Every year under Coach Clawson, Wake Forest is getting more experience and more depth. It is a step in the right direction, but the offense just has so far to go before this team can be competitive. Winning games 3-0 is just not going to happen very often and the offense has to at least keep the turnovers down and punch a few balls into the end zone before the Demon Deacons can be a threat to beat any decent ACC teams. But it literally cannot be any worse for the offense and they do return enough experience to begin to turn things around. Five wins is a very reachable goal with home games against Tulane, Delaware, Army, Syracuse and Boston College. If the Demon Deacons can steal a win somewhere else, they could be fighting for bowl eligibility and that would be a huge step for a program that is already eyeing 2017 as the year when everything comes together.
Projected Bowl: None
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 105.2 (122nd in nation, 14th in conference)
Passing Offense: 228.3 (60, 8)
Total Offense: 333.4 (113, 12)
Scoring Offense: 17.4 (119, 13)
Rushing Defense: 161.3 (52, 9)
Pass Defense: 202.5 (32, 6)
Total Defense: 363.8 (38, 7)
Scoring Defense: 24.6 (43, 6)
Turnover Margin: -1.08 (120, 14)
Sacks: 1.67 (94, 11)
Sacks Allowed: 3.33 (122, 13)


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