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Wake Forest Offensive Film Preview: The Clawfense

Florida State v Wake Forest Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Dave Clawson’s programs have a habit of breaking out in year four. At Fordham, Richmond and Bowling Green his teams hit ten years or more the fourth year of his tenure. The man is a noted program builder, telling 247sports “I've approached it that I may be here forever so I've built it so I wouldn't have it slip”. Wake Forest has had the defense to compete in the ACC the last four years, but has complimented that with an offense that finished 127th, 120th and 118th in points per game. The advanced stats weren’t prettier. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Wake First dropped thirty-four points on Temple in the Military Bowl. Unlike so many other teams that perform well for a bowl game they’ve managed to keep that hot streak alive, averaging thirty-four points per game over their first five contests. The offense, littered with so many underclassmen last year, emerged experienced after spending time taking some lumps. The Demon Deacon’s haven’t been as hot of late, scoring only twenty and nineteen in a close win against App. State and a heartbreaking loss to FSU. With that said this is a program hungry for a signature win and significantly better than your average homecoming team. The Tigers are coming off a win against a ranked team. Kickoff is at noon, you can see the reasons for concern.

Everything starts and ends with John Wolford. The four year starter looks leaps and bounds ahead of the inconsistent passer he was early in his career. Wolford also leads the Demon Deacons in rushing yardage. Clawson’s offense typically gives Wolford at least one passing option on any given run play, screens and RPO’s supplement for a pretty lacking quick passing game. For example on this play Wolford can either follow the pulling tackle or throw the screen, leaving the weak side linebacker caught in a bind.

Wake Forests runs a lot of inside zone with a bubble screen or post route attached, often to freshman phenom and leading receiver Greg Dortch.

Dortch, as well as freshman running back Arkeem Byrd, give Wake Forest a pair of home run threats they’ve lacked lately. Clawson prefers to redshirt players, they’re only on the field because they can help the team win now. The Demon Deacons run quite a few jet sweep motions either to outflank the defense or set up constraint plays. The Demon Deacons typically operate out of 11 personnel but will run 12 or 10 fairly frequently.

Clawson’s teams run a lot more outside zone than most college offenses, but with Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell setting the edge Clemson seems well positioned to shut that down.

Really the entire battle in the trenches isn’t in the offenses favor, the Demon Deacons rank 81st in tackles for loss allowed.

Wolford is a brilliant scrambler and can create something out of nothing occasionally, but Wake Forest is still giving up a sack about 6% of the time it passes.

Some of that is by design. Wake Forest prefers to be a balanced offense, typically throwing less than thirty times a game. When Clawson does elect to throw (screens excepted) the ball is going downfield aggressively. Wolford hasn’t turned the ball over much this year, with his only interception hitting his receiver in the hands.

Clawson, especially with the defense he has to rely on, is willing to sacrifice efficiency in order to get a big play. Tight end Cam Serigne may only have six receptions this year but four of them are touchdowns, he’s a go to guy if they need to make a play. Sophomore Scotty Washington has shown a lot of potential as a go up and get it receiver. Wake Forest does have some weapons worthy of concern. With that said, this is an offense that doesn’t really have a plan B if they’re being dominated up front. Clemson should be able to shut down this team reasonably well.

Tigers 31 - Deamon Deacons 13