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Offensive Film Preview: Wake Forest

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Wake Forest has a bad offense, full stop. The unit has managed to score nineteen touchdowns, only five on the ground. The depth chart is littered with freshman and sophomores and the offense, while showing flashes of potential, is at least a year away. At least four of the offensive line starters will be underclassmen, as is every running back and wide receiver of note. Tight end Cam Serigne is a matchup problem being wasted in one of the worst passing offenses in the ACC.

Wake Forest knows who they are on offense, running the ball more than average on passing and standard downs. The running game is built around inside zone, power, counter and the occasional sweep play. Quarterback John Wolford is an extremely limited passer, but he’s a threat on the ground, leading the team with 593 pre-sack yards. At running back, the Deacons rotate between Matt Colburn and Cade Carney, both of whom are capable of breaking off a long run.

Inside Zone with TE seal backside

The Demon Deacons struggle to keep teams out of the backfield while rushing the ball, with their stuff rate coming in at 101st. The offensive line also struggles to pick up linebackers at the second level, such as on this counter run.

Wake prefers to align either in 11 personnel or 12 personnel, using second tight end Devin Pike (six receptions) as a blocking back. One tight end will almost always be off the line of scrimmage. Inside zone serves as the primary run with the occasional zone read called as a change of pace. Wolford is agile and quick enough to make something out of nothing on keepers.

Occasionally a slot receiver will be motioned into the backfield to give a true triple option look.

Wake Forest tends to have more success running the ball inside, however they do carry a buck sweep.

After inside zone Wake’s preferred scheme is power, here paired with a run/pass option to the lone WR on a hitch route.

And here they run power for Wolford with an attached bubble screen.

Most of Wake’s quick passing game consists of bubble screens or hitches attached to the running game, especially if it’s a called QB run.

QB sweep away from a flare screen

Wolford is not an accurate or quick enough passes to often be of a threat on these plays however, and they rarely account for positive yardage through the air. Other than this Wake will throw a handful of basic quick passes a game, typically to keep defenses from loading up the box.


The other main component of the Demon Deacon’s passing game consists of deep passes downfield. While not particularly accurate (56.7 percent completion rate) or careful (seven interceptions) Wolford is capable of throwing the ball very far. There’s a reason why the top three receivers in this offense average ten or more yards per catch.

Wake Forest does a fantastic job making play action passes look like runs for long enough to mess with defensive reads, as they do faking power on this pass.

When Wake is forced to throw a drop back pass the passing game will show the same vertical focus. However, this is a team that has won both games it attempted single digit passes and lost all three games they’ve thrown more than 30. If the Deacons have to pass things are grim. Wolford does at least add something as a scrambling threat.

The drawback of relying on deep, slow developing passes with a sub-par offensive line is your quarterback will be hit quite a bit. One in ten Wake Forest passing attempts this year has ended in a sack. This is a team with an inconsistent and occasionally explosive rushing game, and a passing game that is less efficient and less explosive. The Demon Deacons offensive line should struggle up front all game, and play action passes require the threat of the run. If this team goes behind early, and their defense is extremely underrated, this is not an offense that is built to get them back into the game. Clemson should be able to match up with their skill players outside and make this a long night.