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100 Days to Kickoff: 2017 Opponent Previews - Wake Forest Demon Deacons

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Wake went to a bowl game last year - should the expectations be raised in 2017?

Wake Forest v Indiana Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Countdown to Kickoff: 27 days

As our 100 Days to Kickoff continues on, we begin our opponent previews to provide a quick look at each of the teams coming up on our schedule this season. Each team has changed and provides new challenges than in years past, so this week is all about learning about those changes and learning exactly what Georgia Tech’s opponents have to offer.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Who’s Gone?

Wake’s offense only lost three starters, but its production was abysmal in 2016, ranking 118th nationally in scoring offense.

Wake Forest loses six starters - and four of its top six tacklers - from its defense which mostly carried the team in 2016, including LB Marquel Lee, FS Ryan Janvion and CB Brad Lee. Additionally, the Deacs lost their defensive coordinator Mike Elko to Notre Dame.

Who’s Back?

Wake Forest returns quarterbacks Kendall Hinton and John Wolford, both of whom have played but neither of whom has been particularly impressive. Hinton missed most of last season with a knee injury, but appears poised to be the starter in 2017. Backs Matt Colburn and Cade Carney return in 2017 after combining for just over 1,200 rushing yards last season.

On defense, DE Duke Ejiofor is the key returnee for Wake. Ejiofor tallied 10.5 sacks in 2016, good for fourth in the ACC. Wake Forest lost most of its defensive talent on the back end, so SS Jessie Bates will be key for the secondary. Bates made 100 tackles and picked off five passes as a redshirt freshman in 2016 en route to Second Team All-ACC honors.

Who’s New?

Wake shouldn’t have to rely on many freshmen in 2017, but there are several who could contribute.

Our friends over at Blogger So Dear surmised several guesses, including RB Christian Beal, WR Sage Surratt and LB Chase Monroe. If Wake Forest is playing more than a couple freshmen this season, it probably means injuries have plagued the team and the Demon Deacons’ lack of depth has surfaced.

Season Outlook

Dave Clawson took the Deacs to - and won - a bowl game last year for the first time since 2011. So you may think the next logical step is to improve upon a 7-6 record and get to a better bowl in 2017.

But couple Wake’s loss of defensive talent with a much tougher schedule in 2017 and it doesn’t necessarily equate to a step forward.

In addition to playing Florida State, Clemson, Louisville and Georgia Tech in ACC play, Wake Forest travels to South Bend to play Notre Dame in November and plays Appalachian State on the road in Week 4. Why any Power 5 team would want to travel to Boone, N.C. to take on the Mountaineers is beyond me.

After the first few weeks, there really isn’t any breathing room in Wake’s schedule. The Demon Deacons currently have a win probability greater than 50% in just four games, and only one after Week 3. The schedule intertwined with Wake’s loss of talent and one of its coordinators will haunt the Deacs in 2017.

Projected Record: 4-8 (2-6 ACC)