#55 Wake Forest Football 2017 Preview

Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Overall Rank: #55
#10 ACC
Dave Clawson took a nice step forward in his third season in Winston-Salem in 2016. He led Wake Forest to a bowl bid and win over Temple in the Military Bowl. The job of coaching the Demon Deacons is arguably the toughest in the ACC as it has a rigorous academic school and does not have unlimited resources to work with on an annual basis. So, if the Demon Deacons can reload defensively they will be a tough out again.
2016 Record: 7-6, 3-5
2016 Bowl: Military Bowl vs. Temple, 34-26
Coach: Dave Clawson (13-24 at Wake Forest, 103-103 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Warren Ruggiero
Defensive Coordinator: Jay Sawvel
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Matt Colburn, RB, 626 yards
Passing: John Wolford, QB, 1,774 yards
Receiving: Tabari Hines, WR, 447 yards
Tackles: Jessie Bates, FS, 100
Sacks: Duke Ejiofor, DE, 10.5
Interceptions: Jessie Bates, FS, 5
Other Key Returnees: RB Cade Carney, TE Cam Serigne, RG Phil Haynes, C Ryan Anderson, LT Justin Herron, WR Alex Bachman, DE Wendell Dunn, OLB Jaboree Williams, CB Amari Henderson, K Mike Weaver, P Dom Maggio, QB Kendall Hinton, WR Cortez Lewis
Key Losses:  LB Marquel Lee, LB Thomas Brown, DB Brad Watson, OL Josh Harris, OL Tyler Hayworth, DB Ryan Janvion
Offensively, the Demon Deacons were very challenged to the say the least. They finished the 2016 season ranked 124th in the nation in total offense. Quarterback play will be crucial to Wake Forest’s success in 2017 as Kendall Hinton should be back from a knee injury and John Wolford has battled well but has thrown 35 interceptions. Matt Colburn leads the running back position once again after rushing for 626 yards, but he will be pushed by Arkeem Byrd who could provide some game changing type of speed this season. The offensive line does return three starters who will be juniors this season, led by Ryan Anderson at center. Now, if any of these three starters get hurt then things will become very dicey as the Demon Deacons don’t have a lot of depth. Tabari Hines is back at wide receiver and caught 38 passes for 447 yards and three touchdowns last season. Hines will need to find a way to make some more big plays to force opposing defenses to play more honest.
There will be some transition for the defensive unit heading into the 2017 season. Four of the top six tacklers are gone from last season, along with defensive coordinator Mike Elko who left for Notre Dame. Duke Ejiofor is a very good pass rusher and recorded 10.5 sacks last season to lead a defensive line that has some very nice depth. Linebacker is going to take some time to sort itself out as Jaboree Williams is the only returning starter and there is limited depth at the linebacker position. In the secondary, Jessie Bates will return at free safety and will look to build upon his 100 tackles and five interceptions in 2016.
The Bottom Line:
September will be a tricky one to navigate for Wake Forest as the Demon Deacons will go to Boston College in week two and Appalachian State in week four. If Wake Forest can sweep those two road games, they can head into a home game with Florida State on September 30th with a 4-0 record. The stretch of the schedule that will swing the direction of the season is a five-game stretch starting on October 7th at Clemson that will have the Demon Deacons on the road for four out of five games. November is a little more forgiving as a road trip to Syracuse and home games with NC State and Duke are winnable if things break right. Look for some very tightly played games by Wake Forest and kicker Mike Weaver will probably have a hand in winning a couple key games late to keep the Demon Deacons a threat for another bowl bid.
Projected Bowl: None
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 145.8 (101st in nation, 12th in conference)
Passing Offense: 165.7 (113, 12)
Total Offense: 311.5 (124, 13)
Scoring Offense: 20.4 (118, 13)
Rushing Defense: 142.4 (33, 9)
Pass Defense: 228.2 (66, 8)
Total Defense: 370.5 (40, 8)
Scoring Defense: 22.2 (23, 3)
Turnover Margin: +0.62 (18, 2)
Sacks: 3.15 (11, 5)
Sacks Allowed:3.00 (116, 12)
Madness 2018 NFL Draft Rankings:
#88 Duke Ejiofor