Robert Reinhard of Blogger So Dear joins us today to give us some insight into the football program in Winston-Salem.
STS: Dave Clawson is now in year two and Deacons sit at 3-7 after a respectable loss to Notre Dame. How do you feel about still fairly new head coach Dave Clawson? Do you think that mirrors the general sentiment of the Deacon fan base? Is there anything behind the record that is encouraging to you?
BSD: I'm still a believer in Dave Clawson. He has won a conference championship everywhere he has been, and had built all of those programs from the bottom. He is building an excellent foundation at Wake Forest. He finished the 2014 recruiting very strong, and the 2015 class was the highest rated class in Wake Forest history.
This year's team, while it will probably finish with a similar record to the 2014 team, is much younger, and also much more explosive on offense. Wake will return essentially the entire offense next year, so the fact that our team has gotten dramatically younger, yet still better, is very promising moving forward.
STS: The 1945 Gator Bowl was the first bowl appearance and bowl win for the Demon Deacons. They beat the Gamecocks who were also making their first bowl appearance (they'd lose eight straight bowls before finally winning one in 1992). The Deacs have participated in nine other bowl games with half coming after 2000. With that historical context, what's the near-term (let's say next five years) goal for this program?
BSD: I believe Dave Clawson is building the program to the point where it will be in bowl contention most of the next five years. In the future, these teams will have more experienced players playing, and the reserves will be high caliber underclassmen. Now, we're essentially just playing those higher caliber underclassmen with no experience.
Our non-conference schedule is much more favorable over the next few years. Next year we play Delaware, Tulane, Army, and at Indiana in the non-conference, plus get Virginia at home as one of our Coastal opponents. If Wake doesn't make a bowl game next year, then I'll lose confidence in the program, but Wake should definitely be able to go 3-1 or 4-0 in non-conference games, and then win a handful of ACC games. We play Notre Dame in 2017 and 2018, so that will be tough, but we should still go 3-1 those years. I look at what Bowling Green (where Dave Clawson came from) is doing now, and I'm very excited about the future.
STS: Which happens first, Wake football to a bowl game or Wake basketball to the NCAA tournament?
STS: On to this game specifically, can you tell us about some of the strengths or individual players inspire some confidence that the Deacons can be competitive? Who should Tiger fans keep an eye out for?
BSD: I'm a fan of our young receivers. I like Tabari Hines, Chuck Wade, and Cortez Lewis. I also like the experience of KJ Brent and Cam Serigne. Our passing game can have some success if Wake has time to throw. I worry, however, that Clemson's defensive line will overpower Wake's offensive line. This was very similar to when Wake played Louisville, and Wake couldn't pick Louisville apart for a few yards at a time. I expect Wake to take some deep shots early, and hope to make a few big plays.
STS: Will the game be close enough that Deshaun Watson has to play in the fourth quarter as he did at Syracuse?
BSD: Honestly, probably not. This is going to be the most difficult environment that Wake Forest has faced all season. I will say, that the game against Notre Dame was much closer than the score indicated. We had 4th and goal from the 1, and failed to convert, and also had another drive that had goal to go and we failed to convert. That said, I really worry about how much Watson and his group of receivers are going to torch the Wake Forest secondary. I can easily see Clemson scoring in the first 5 minutes and never looking back. I'll take Clemson to win 45-10.