After missing a Q&A with NC State last week, it's nice to get back in touch with our blogger friends over at Wake Forest to get an inside view of our opponent from people that watch them every week. Thanks to Bart Johnston for his answers to our questions.
STS: In Wake Forest's last two games against Louisiana Monroe and Army, the Demon Deacons run/pass balance was 15/48 against ULM and 45/17 against Army. Both games were close into the 4th quarter, so it's hard to pin the discrepancy on the score. Which one is closer to Wake Forest's offensive philosophy? And was there a concerted effort to run the ball more after the loss to ULM?
BSD: I think the game against Army was more representative of our actual offensive philosophy in that we're definitely a team which wants to go for the run first. In the first three games we came out and tried to install a variant of the option offense, but it resulted in our running game being absolutely pitiful. Against ULM I think the coaching staff panicked a little bit and it looked like they were stuck in a transition phase between adding more pass plays while eliminating some option plays from the playbook. The result was we got behind and then just tried to throw it because we didn't really have many run plays up the middle that could be used. I don't think the offense will typically be like what we saw against Army, but we ran the ball a lot in the second half because we just wore down the Army defense.
STS: As a follow up to my first question, Josh Harris is only averaging 3.4 ypc so far this season. Is that a function of the offensive line, or Harris eyeing the homerun rather than taking what is there?
BSD: Even though Josh Harris has been known to swing for the fences in the past that's not really the issue this year. I'll say it's probably 65-70% play calling and 30-35% offensive line issues. Harris ran really well against Army when we ran more traditional run plays instead of option/misdirection type stuff to the outside. The plays to the outside were just getting gobbled up and the coaching staff had to make a change. Harris looked great last week and hopefully it carries over. He had 96 yards and two touchdowns while acting as the motor for our offensive effort.
STS: Clemson's defense has played fairly well the past two games, but they are still susceptible to big plays. We know Wake Forest has their version of Wes Welker in Michael Campanaro, but are there any deep threats that can take the lid off the defense?
BSD: Look for Orville Reynolds to be used over the top a little bit to stretch the defense out while guys like Jonathan Williams, Spencer Bishop, and whoever else is healthy/out there (Matt James, Brandon Terry, Sherman Ragland, Tyree Harris) act more as possession guys on shorter routes. When Camp didn't play in the opener against Presbyterian, Williams stepped up and caught five passes for 143 yards in his college debut. He didn't catch any passes last week but a lot of that is because Tanner Price went 6-17 and 4 of those completions were to Campanaro. If we can keep the safeties from creeping up by sending Orville deep a couple times early I'll be interested what Camp can do in space from the slot.
STS: In Wake Forest's 3 games against Division 1-A teams, they have given up 5.2, 4.1, and 4.9 yards per play, respectively. Those are pretty good numbers, regardless of the strength of the opponent. Has the defense exceeded expectations so far?
BSD: Entering the season I really thought this defense had a chance to be a special unit. We return a lot of talent throughout the sector and it is probably one of Wake's most talented defenses ever. They are still prone to making a few mistakes and the rush defense is a little bit susceptible to a big game as we sit in the 3-4 defense. Nikita Whitlock was an absolute beast at defensive tackle last week against Army and I expect him to be in the backfield a lot this week as Clemson has some issues on the offensive line. I don't know how well we will be able to contain y'alls speed and general athleticism, but I hope we get aggressive and don't let Sammy Watkins lull us to sleep with a thousand screens where he gets five to ten yards a catch.
STS: Clemson runs a HUNH offense, but even Clemson's OC Chad Morris would have to be impressed by ULM running 104 plays against Wake Forest. In watching that game, did you see noticeable signs of the defense fatiguing as the game progressed?
BSD: The defense definitely looked a little bit tired as the game progressed against ULM and the reasons were two-fold. First of all they couldn't get any stops on third down. ULM went 15-28 on third down and the 28 total third down chances was a Wake Forest school record. They came right out and charged down the field on a drive that lasted something like 17 plays and we just couldn't get the offense out there. The second reason is our defense couldn't get anything going so the defense was constantly out there. The more the game dragged on, the less push we got up front, and the more Browning was able to exploit our fatigued defense. I don't expect anybody to run 104 plays on us again anytime soon though.
STS: Right now, Vegas has Clemson as 28 point favorites at home. Do you find this line to be too high/low? And what's your prediction?
BSD: I think this line is a little bit high. I said before the line came out that I thought it should be somewhere around 23-24 points. It's just really difficult to come into Death Valley and get anything going. Wake has traditionally struggled in Clemson and while history doesn't have any impact on this game I don't expect this game to be anything different. If you guys come out hot and score a couple early touchdowns like last year it's going to be ugly. I don't see anybody hanging 50 points or anything like that on our D, but I could see a game where we turn it over a couple times, make dumb mistakes and end up losing 38-10. My original prediction was 38-14, but being a realistic Wake fan I took four points away from us. I wouldn't touch this game in Vegas though because of the opportunity for a backdoor cover.
As always thanks for having us on to talk about the game! Good luck to you all the rest of the season.