BTP: Now in year two of the Dave Clawson era, the Deacs have already matched last season's overall win total. What's the general consensus among the fan base about the job Clawson and his staff have done so far?
GK: The fan base is thrilled with the direction of the team. The cupboard was empty when Dave Clawson arrived last season. In one full season, he totally rejuvenated a program that was fading quickly and built a stable foundation. This year, he brought in the best recruiting class in school history. This season, Wake starts only one senior on offense and three on defense. Compared to last year, this team is competing admirably and clearly improving. Last season we had the worst offense in the nation BY FAR! Thus far, we have moved the ball in the air in intermediate routes. The running game... still a work in progress. But overall, Clawson is getting these guys to fight and compete 100 percent of the time. Fans believe in the coaching staff and are confident that this youthful crew will reach a bowl game in 2016 and slowly work up the ACC pecking order.
BTP: Given some of WFU's offensive struggles so far this season, how important is it for the Deacs to come out and start this game strong, and who do you see as being the catalyst for making that happen?
GK: Wake needs to make a statement early and often against this experienced and wily Wolfpack defense. The Demon Deacon offense is clearly not explosive enough to put up points in a hurry. If this ever gets beyond a one-score game, Wake is in trouble. On another note, the sustaining drives will give the far-superior defense time to rest. This has resulted in some second-half meltdowns earlier in the year. And two names to keep an eye on: KJ Brent and Kendall Hinton. At 6-4, Brent provides elite size and hands for John Wolford. The grad transfer from South Carolina is explosive and gives Wake a downfield target that opens intermediate routes for tight end Cam Serigne and move-the-chains wide out Cortez Lewis. Hinton, the back-up quarterback, is a greater threat as a runner than a thrower. In limited time, the true freshman has run for 255 yards and four TDs. Hinton will see some time under center to provide the Wolfpack with a vastly different look from the accurate intermediate pocket passer that is John Wolford.
BTP: Not something you see every day, but Wake followed up a pretty huge road shutout win over Boston College by giving up 50 points to UNC in a road loss. Out of these two games, what did you learn most about the Deacs' defense?
GK: This Wake defense is tough and gritty and plays with heart and emotion. In the 3-0 shoot-out over BC, our offense had a total of FIVE first downs! FIVE! This is the least amount of first downs in a win in over 20 years. The defense fought and grinded to keep the Deacs in the game and eke out a win. Our linebacking core of Brandon Chubb, Hunter Williams and Marquel Lee, arguably the best in the ACC, is feisty like a cat and powerful like a battering ram. On the flip side, the secondary is prone to letting up big plays. If Wake falls down by more than a score, the air deflates from their heart. Frankly, I don't blame them. With the current state of our offense, we won't come back if trailing by more than a score. The defense keeps Wake competitive, so when the game is no longer competitive, they lose their competitive spirit.
BTP: Which player on the Pack concerns the Deacons the most, in your opinion?
GK: This is absolutely Jacoby Brissett. He is accurate, doesn't make mistakes and can extend the play with his feet. This sounds like a potential nightmare for a team with a shaky secondary and a meager pass rush (10 sacks in seven games). Finding a way to keep the veteran quarterback in the pocket and getting hands in his passing lanes keep Dave Clawson up at night. With the strong linebacking core, Wake has had success containing the run. Teams beat the Deacs (contrary to Merrill Hoge's famed ideology) by using the throw to set up the run, not vice versa. If Brissett has time to make his progressions, Wake is in trouble.
BTP: Any major injuries to report heading into the weekend?
GK: Like all season, our two quarterbacks are not at full strength. Both played last week but were not at 100 percent. Both John Wolford (the starter) and Kendall Hinton will see time this week. Hinton is elusive and should see some running, wildcat-style packages. But I won't bore you guys too much because Steven wrote about it yesterday.
BTP: Let's get a prediction on the game.
GK: We both are pessimists. Maybe because we have watched our respective teams too much and not enough of our opponents...? I say this because Will picked the Deacs on BSD. Me? NOT SO FAST! I don't think the Deacon offense will have enough fire power to sustain drives. This will be a low scoring game, but the Wake defense wears out in time. The experience of Jacoby Brissett will make the difference. NC State 20 Wake Forest 16.