This week I caught up with Cameron Lemons Debro of Blogger So Dear to discuss Wake Forest while trying not to feel too jealous of Wake Forest. Lousy no-good quarterback-having jerks! Ugh, I don’t mean that. I answered some questions for BSD that’ll be up on their site this week too.
BTP: Does 2019 feel like a peak season for Wake under Dave Clawson, and if not, where is the ceiling for his program, anyway?
BSD: I don’t want to say yes here and I don’t want to say no. Record wise, this feels like it. Wake has a very good chance, as things stand now, to be the ACC’s representative in the Orange Bowl. Jamie Newman and his plethora of star wide receivers in Sage Surratt, Scotty Washington, and Kendall Hinton have been putting up absurd numbers. However, personally, I still feel like there still is a lot left to play but also a lot left on the table. The Louisville game hurt. There was so much emphasis on not coming out slow, and what do we do? Come out slow, give up 230 yards on 7 kick returns and a TD, coughed the ball up in our own territory, committed the most penalties we have all season by a wide margin, had an extremely controversial onside kick not go our way, and we still almost won the football game. If just one of those things didn’t happen this is a top 15 and undefeated Wake team. We also have a brutal schedule to go. State, @VT, @Clemson, Duke, @Syracuse. A lot of good football left.
BTP: On that note, how did Clawson so effectively turn around the Wake program? Finding good quarterbacks always makes a difference, but what else has been a factor?
BSD: Development and under the radar recruiting. When I got to Wake as a freshman in 2014, it was like watching a bad car wreck. The OL couldn’t pass or run block so offensively nothing could get going and the defense would just tire out. As the years have come and go we’ve seen the #BeefBoys come alive and be not only one of the best units in the ACC, but in the country. The second part is recruiting and getting the team to buy in. Sage Surratt and Jake Benzinger (one of our best offensive linemen) were both set to go to Harvard. Sage is now getting Heisman talk from ESPN and Benzinger has done a fastastic job protecting Newman, Hartman and Wolford. Greg Dortch only had one other P5 offer. Justin Strnad didn’t have a wealth of P5 offers. Jessie Bates was committed to Toledo before flipping to Wake. Clawson and company have done an excellent job of finding these guys who aren’t your highly touted recruits but have all the tools and have gotten this team to buy in.
BTP: This is not a question, I just wanted to express my appreciation for a job well done in beating UNC. Thank you for your service.
BSD: I heard Mack was back? Can you confirm or do you need a second to think about it?
BTP: How much do you expect Justin Strnad’s absence to affect the Wake Forest defense? Are there other significant injuries we should know about?
BSD: Clawson pretty much summed it up in his press conference yesterday. He will be missed. You don’t take the best player on the defense off and expect them not to miss a beat. Do I think the team craters? No. But certain people are going to have to step into that role(Looking at you Ja’Cquez Williams and Ryan Smenda Jr.) and everyone has to get on the same page.
In terms of other injuries, losing Luke Masterson at linebacker hurts. It feels like year after year we NEVER have healthy LBs for the entire season and it stinks. He was more of a swiss army knife and could fill 3 different positions and was playing at an extremely high level this year.
Also, who’s starting at QB? AHAHAHAHHAHA
BTP: Tell us about a few guys who might be flying under the radar a bit this season.
BSD: As the leader of the Kendall Hinton fan club, while the hype around Sage Surratt has been warranted, Kendall Hinton has arguably been as important. While missing a couple of games he has racked up almost 40 catches, this includes the game-winning touchdown on 4th down against Utah State, a few crucial catches in the game-sealing drive against Boston College, and just being all over the place against FSU.
Defensively: I want to give a shoutout to Trey Rucker. A true freshman coming in and for the most part has been taking the right angles, making the tackles he’s needed to, jumping in front of the ball and taking the spot from Coby Davis who isn’t a slouch himself. The kid is having himself a season.
BTP: How do you expect to see the game play out on Saturday?
BSD: Cop out answer: Depends on the QB. If Jamie Newman is going and isn’t limited I think the 8 points or so are completely fine, but it still is a stressful game from wire to wire because State needs this way more than Wake does, but the better team would still come out on top. I just have so many questions offensively for the Wolfpack and as to how they will try to stop down a passing attack now down more defensive backs. Doesn’t seem optimal
If it’s Sam Hartman, then I think this is a solid 3 point, absolute nailbiter and I’m getting too old for this.
Either way, I think the Deacs come out on top.