Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Wake Forest surprised a lot of people by winning six games and making it to the Military Bowl, where they defeated Temple last fall. The biggest question entering 2017, is can they do it again? Wake Forest will have a target of sorts on them heading into the fall, and that may be something that is too heavy a burden for this team.
What To Be Excited About: Offense
The Deacons figure on relying once again on a rushing attack that was young, yet efficient at times in 2016. Cade Carney is back after rushing for 626 yards last season, and others join him, as Wake Forest will likely go back to the committee approach at RB. Matt Colburn and Tyler Bell aslo return, and QB John Wolford was effective in the run game as well with 521 yards and six scores.
Three linemen all return in 2017, as LT Justin Herron, RG Phil Haynes, and RT Ryan Anderson are all juniors heading into fall camp.
The passing attack was hardly stellar last fall, but the good news is that the top seven receivers all return this fall. Tabari Hines and Cortez Lewis lead the receivers, while TE Cam Serigne is also back. That trio accounted for 100 receptions last fall.
Mike Weaver is back at PK, and while not always perfect, he still managed to hit 21 FGs last fall on 27 attempts.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
The passing attack, as I said earlier, was never stellar in 2016, and in order to win more than seven total games, the Deacons are going to have to do something about that. Wolford showed some signs and flashes at times, but he is definitely a what you see is what you get type, and what we got last fall was a guy who threw more picks (10), than TDs (9).
The run game has plenty of guys coming back, but who will step up and be the star? The same can be said of a receiving corps where nobody caught more than 38 passes a year ago.
Two holes are open on the line. Nathan Gilliam is the candidate at LG, while Patrick Osterhage is first in line at Center. Gilliam is just a RS Sophomore, while Osterhage will be a senior.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The reality is that Wake Forest won on a stingy defense last fall that allowed just 22.2 points per game.
Three starters are back on the line in DE Duke Ejiofor, DT Chris Stewart, and DE Wendell Dunn all return up front. Ejiofor was a beast up front last fall, and finished with 17 TFLs on the year. Dunn finished with six, while Stewart finished with four. Wake Forest could boast one of the most active front lines in the ACC with this group. Willie Yarbary could be first in line to take on the open DT job as a junior.
Dom Maggio returns at Punter for his Sophomore season, and averaged a very strong 42.03 yards per punt.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The Deacons lost a huge star when Marquel Lee graduated after last season at LB. Grant Dawson, a senior this fall, is first in line to replace him, and finished with 35 tackles last fall, but Wake Forest will lose 20 TFLs with Lee's departure. Jaboree Williams is back at the BUCK position, but finished with just 35 tackles last season.
Wake Forest loses three members of the secondary this season, and will need to find a new ROV, CB, and FS. Demetrius Kemp was pushing for starts at ROV last fall, and will have the first shot at the job. Sophomore Essang Bassey, a sophomore, will likely step up and into the starting CB job, while Josh Okonye will likely start at FS. The two returning starters, SS Jessie Bates III and CB Amari Henderson, are both still just sophomores this fall. Bates managed to finish with 100 tackles last season, good for second on the team, while Henderson finished with nine PBUs and a pick.
2017 Schedule: 8/31 Presbyterian, 9/9 at Boston College, 9/16 Utah State, 9/23 at Appalachian State, 9/30 at Florida State, 10/7 Clemson, 10/21 at Georgia Tech, 10/28 Louisville, 11/4 at Notre Dame, 11/11 at Syracuse, 11/18 NC State, 11/25 Duke
With the schedule as it is, it's going to be very difficult for Wake Forest to be favored in more than two, maybe three games in 2017. That does not bode well for a return trip to a bowl, and I really do see Wake Forest crashing back down in ACC play. The Deacons get few breaks with this schedule, and the offensive talent just is not entirely up to par. Without a fresh energy upgrade, and some current players becoming stars of some sort, I see this as being a down season coming up.