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The intelligence report: Wake Forest edition

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Wake Forest v Clemson Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Let us begin to get to know the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, with some help from Edward Foster of Blogger So Dear.

Key Departures:

  • WR Sage Surratt (opted out of season)
  • QB Jamie Newman
  • WR Kendall Hinton
  • WR Scotty Washington
  • LT Justin Herron & 2 other O-linemen
  • LB Justin Strnad
  • CB Essang Bassey
  • CB Amari Henderson

Key Returnees:

  • QB Sam Hartman
  • DE Carlos “Boogie” Basham
  • WR Donavon Greene
  • K Nick Sciba
  • S Nasir Greer
  • RB Kenneth Walker
  • LB Luke Masterson
  • DE Jacorey Johns
  • OL Zach Tom
  • LB Ja’Cquez Williams

Key Additions:

  • OL Terrance Davis (season-ending injury announced 9/8)
  • WR Donald Stewart
  • DL Miles Fox
  • DB Caelen Carson
  • WR Jahmal Banks

An overview of the 2020 Deacs:

The transfer of Jamie Newman—coupled with the opt-out of Sage Surratt and other uncertainties surrounding the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic—really dampens expectations for the season. Before Sage’s opt-out I would have put Wake as a top 5 ACC team, and could almost guarantee that they would have been ranked in the modified Top 25 after the Big Ten and Pac 12 opted not to play this fall. The revised ACC schedule gave Wake one of the toughest in the country, with the first three weeks featuring a road game in Raleigh sandwiched between home matchups against Clemson and Notre Dame. The Deacs also play each of the other Big Four opponents on the road this season. I expect the momentum from Dave Clawson’s success over the last four seasons (four straight bowl appearances for the first time in school history) to take a step back.

The offensive line lost three starters from last year, but fortunately Sam Hartman isn’t entirely new to being a starting quarterback going against ACC defenses. A best case scenario is that the new starters on the O-line gel quickly and Wake avoids the injury bug that has plagued the linebackers, secondary, and receiving corps in recent years. The new receivers step up quickly to fill the massive holes left by the loss of 2,934 yards and 27 touchdowns from the top four receivers from last year all not returning. Wake is able to go to a fifth straight bowl game and has a fifth straight winning season. Worst case scenario is the defense has problems with injuries again, Sam Hartman struggles, inexperienced players at key positions aren’t ready to step up, the line struggles to gel, and the Deacs’ run of winning seasons and bowl games ends at four consecutive years.

Key players to know on Wake’s offense:

Sam Hartman takes over under center after Jamie Newman transferred to Georgia (and has since opted out of the season). Hartman won the starting job as a true freshman and has 13 games of experience entering this season after starting 9 games in 2018 and playing in 4 last season to preserve a redshirt. He has already proven that he can win in the ACC, and looks to continue to build his confidence and leadership. Here’s hoping we open up the playbook a little bit and don’t rely so much on the RPO this year.

Redshirt freshman Donavon Greene will look to step in as Hartman’s primary target and fill the hole left by Sage Surratt. Kenneth Walker’s speed out of the backfield will provide a nice change of pace combined with Christian Beal-Smith to form a double attack. Zach Tom anchors the offensive line where his experience and leadership could play a big factor in how effective Hartman is at finding Greene and other targets.

Key players to know on Wake’s defense and special teams:

The defense starts with one guy—Boogie Basham. A 6-5, 285 pound defensive end, Basham is well-positioned to be a first round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and is one of the top edge rushers in the country. Along with Jacorey Johns on the other end, opposing offensive lines and backfields are going to have a real problem with these two.

The linebacking corps returns three players who all have starting experience in Ryan Smenda, Ja’Cquez Williams, and Luke Masterson. Expect the linebacking corps to be the most complete group Wake has had in several years.

Kicker Nick Sciba set the NCAA record for most consecutive made field goals last season, and is hands down the best kicker in the country. If all else fails we’ll get in field goal range and leave it in his capable hands—er feet.

What is your team’s biggest strength?

The defensive line and linebacking corps are the deepest they have been in several years. Featuring a future NFL first-rounder, the line will have no issues getting pressure on opposing QBs and the linebackers corps will provide a nice secondary rush. Another big strength at this point is coaching and the consistency with which Dave Clawson runs this program. He has a great staff in place, and though we bring it up a lot, this team is one of the better-coached teams in the conference.

What is your team’s biggest weakness?

Depth and a lack of experience on the offensive line, at corner, and at wide receiver are all concerns for this season. Our top four receivers, three starting offensive linemen, and both starting corners from last season are all gone. There’s some experience at all of those positions, but you simply don’t easily replace the type of production lost from last season.

Who is your team MVP?

Carlos “Boogie” Basham Jr. A team captain and future NFL first rounder who is an absolute monster on the defensive line. Enough said.