Since his arrival at Wake Forest, Dave Clawson has worked hard to make the Demon Deacons a respectable team in the ACC. And by all accounts, he’s been immensely successful. Although his first two seasons yielded just six wins, he has led the Deacs to winning records and in all but one other season and seven straight bowl games.
He has turned Wake Forest into a consistent team to watch for in the ACC. Where he has lacked, though, is taking Wake Forest to the next level. Yes, the Deacs have been incredibly consistent in Clawson’s tenure, but they’ve won more than 8 games just once in 2021. Further, that’s the only season the Deacs finished above .500 in conference play.
All of this to say that I think Dave Clawson is a phenomenal coach who has done a phenomenal job at a difficult place to win, but he has not gotten them to a place where Wake is consistently competing for an ACC title. Overall, I think that’s a nice place to be in, at least compared to what we’ve been through the last several years.
Now, let’s key in on Clawson’s team last season. Wake finished 8-5 (3-5 ACC) with a win over Missouri in the Gasparilla Bowl. While that ACC record looks bad, it’s worth noting that all but one of those losses came by less than 10 points, including a 6-point loss to Clemson in double-overtime.
I imagine Wake fans probably want to forget the 48-21 loss to Louisville last season, but I want to be thorough, so I’ll mention it here.
Coming into this season will be a bit of a transition as the Deacs are forced to replace quarterback Sam Hartman. Following a successful season last year, Hartman entered the transfer portal and made his way to Notre Dame. In his stead, Mitch Griffis appears poised to take over the role.
As a redshirt-freshman last season, Griffis played well, going 29/41 for 335 yards, 5 touchdowns, and just one interception. He also averaged 0.26 EPA/dropback (a couple notches higher than Hartman at 0.24, though with a much larger sample size). Griffis continued to play well during the spring game, going 19/29 for 315 yards and two touchdowns.
Wake also loses its leading receiver last year in AT Perry, who had over 1,000 yards receiving and two touchdowns. The return of Donavon Greene should help ease the transition, though. Greene suffered a knee injury in 2021 and was limited at times last season. Coming into this season, though, he seems to be back at full strength and could be a problem for opposing defenses. Last season, he and returning receiver Jahmal Banks showed off explosiveness, both averaging over 11.7 yards per catch.
Along the offensive line, Wake loses three starters, but they also return two All-ACC starters in Michael Jurgens and DeVonte Gordon.
On defense, Wake is replacing a handful of starters, but most of them are up front. In total, Wake returns one starter from its defensive line last season: DE Jasheen Davis, who finished last season with 7 sacks. Kendron Wayman looks to be the starter at the other DE spot, and he started there in the bowl game for Wake last season. He finished with 3 sacks. Notably, Wake also adds Villanova transfer DT Bryce Ganious. He had 10 TFL across his two seasons at Villanova and should be a solid depth piece.
In the Back 7, Wake is replacing just two starters: one linebacker and one safety. With all the experience returning, they should be able to adequately support the new starters along the defensive line.
This is the game that I’m really excited for because I think it will give us a good idea of just how good Tech will be this season. With Louisville being the first game of the season, conclusions should not be drawn. I think there will be lessons learned from the Ole Miss game, but Wake is generally a more comparable team to Georgia Tech. It will be far from an easy test for Georgia Tech, but it’s the game I think we will be able to draw reasonable conclusions from.
How do you see Tech performing against Wake this season?