1. Is there anything you learned about Wake Forest during the Clemson game, or was that matchup too lopsided to be instructive?
Yes and no. Wake was without 5 DTs and 5 DBs against Clemson. For a team where the margins aren’t as thin as Wake, that’s a death sentence. Some positives: Receiver will probably be fine even without Sage Surratt. In the slot, Jaquarii Roberson and Taylor Morin combined for a 13-185-1 line while both graded as top 15 receivers in the P5 at 13th and 7th respectively. Donavon Greene had a quiet 3 for 76, but didn’t grade too poorly himself. We also learned Zion Keith is a budding star as he graded out as the 12th best S in the FBS and the best in the country against the run. I think in terms of negatives, holes are apparent but there wasn’t anything new, so it feels like we just didn’t get the answers to the questions that were asked and that’s ok. It’s Clemson.
2. What do you expect to see change for Wake this week, in terms of personnel, play-calling, execution, etc.?
One huge thing is that most of the depth missing against Clemson will be back. Even getting 2 corners back is huge so Nasir Greer can go back to SS and not have to play corner. But the biggest addition is probably Tyler Williams at DT. The depth on the defensive line was supposed to be the biggest strength of the team and while Boogie Basham is the marquee name, Tyler Williams at DT was a quiet star. Williams was the 5th best interior defender in the nation against the run and 2nd in the P5. Getting him back alone gives Wake 4 starting caliber DTs against a good NC State OL. I also don’t expect as many breakdowns in the secondary with some guys back, and I don’t think A.T. Perry drops a sure touchdown again.
3. If there’s a glaring weakness for this Deacs team, what is it?
Depth at OL and CB. You don’t get better losing 3 OL starters to the draft. Wake had picked up a stud in Maryland transfer Terrance Davis, but lost him to a season ending injury. Zach Tom is one of the best linemen in the ACC and players like Loic Ngassam Nya, Sean Maginn and Je’Vionte Nash are working their way through growing pains, but if any one of them go down, there’s zero experience behind them. They’ve also had their issues run blocking, something that’s quietly been an issue for a couple of years, but this unit is built better for that than in previous years.
The CBs are just green. Amari Henderson and Essang Bassey played just about all of the snaps at corner last year. Now, both are in the pros and Senior Ja’Sir Taylor is the only player back with real (read: any) experience. Getting people back will make a difference, but just how much? We truly can’t say.
4. What concerns you most about NC State?
The offensive line to be blunt. Wake benefited a lot by NC State not being able to block a high school team last year. Wake was overall the better team, but things would’ve been a bit more competitive if the offense was a bit more competent/healthy. I have Ikem Ekwonu as one of the best offensive linemen in the ACC. If they are healthy and opening holes, the running game could be lethal.
5. How do you think Wake best exploits the Wolfpack, and how do you see this one playing out?
Defensively they have to force State to pass. If Wake can hold State to only a few chunk plays on the ground, then I think State will be in for a long day. Offensively, they need to win up front and establish a solid running game. If they can do that against a 3-3-5, it’ll allow Sam Hartman to work where he’s most effective, across the middle of the field and let Donavon Greene, Taylor Morin, and Jaquarri Roberson cook.
I have it Wake 31, State 20. I just can’t believe in State bouncing back just yet, Wake playing a game and State not 100% works in favor of Wake, and I think adding players like Tyler Williams and a stable of corners back boosts Wake a whole lot more than people will give them credit for.
(Also for the love of god SOMEONE hire Conor O’Neill.)