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Notre Dame Football 2015 Off-Season Preview: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

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For the second time in 4 years Wake Forest is coming to South Bend.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS

2014 Record: 3-9

F/+ Rank: 101

Wins: Gardner-Webb, Army, Virginia Tech

Losses: Louisiana-Monroe, Utah State, Louisville, FSU, Syracuse, Boston College, Clemson, NC State, Duke

~~~

Season Recap

It was a mess all season long. Only 94 total yards and a blown 10-0 lead brought Wake their first loss against Louisiana-Monroe. A solid win over Gardner-Webb preceded Utah State winning comfortably over the Deacons. Trailing 21-14 in the fourth quarter, Wake Forest was able to out-score Army 10-0 and win their second game.

Wake would go 1-7 in ACC play losing 6 games by 10+ points. A laughable 6-3 double overtime win over Virginia Tech in late November was their lone league victory in the first year of a new head coach.

Series: 2-0-0 Notre Dame

Notre Dame was in a dog fight in Winston-Salem back in 2011 but turned around the next year and blew out Wake Forest in South Bend. The third matchup in 5 years happens this fall.

Coach Resume: Dave Clawson (3-9, 2nd Year, 93-88 Overall)

Clawson has had an interesting career full of ups and downs but with enough high points to earn him his first Power 5 job last year.

In 1999, he started a slow rebuild at Fordham which culminated in a 29-6 run over the 2002-03 seasons and a new job with Richmond. He was inconsistent with the Spiders but got 9-4 and 11-3 seasons over a 4-year period and headed to Bowling Green in 2009. Following a 22-28 run through 2012, Clawson posted a 10-3 season in 2013, beat undefeated Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship, and accepted the Wake Forest job before the Falcons' bowl game.

Returning Starters: 14 Total (7 Offense, 7 Defense)

The Deacons lost corner Kevin Johnson (16th overall to the Texans) but bring back a lot of young players.

Linemen Situation: Decent

Wake Forest returns 3 starters from one of the country's most woeful units. Left tackle Antonio Ford started 8 games on the edge, 4 at left guard, and is gone. Cory Helms started 11 games at center as a true freshman in 2013, switched to left guard for 7 games last year, and finished the season back at center. He transferred to South Carolina during the off-season.

Redshirt junior Will Smith started the final 4 games at left tackle. Redshirt junior Tyler Hayworth started one game at left guard. Sophomore A'Lique Terry got the nod for the first seven games at center. Junior Josh Harris started every game at right guard and has switched to left guard this spring. Fifth-year senior Dylan Intemann started at right tackle and was working at right guard in the spring. Wake also had 3 redshirt freshmen getting first-team reps during the spring: Ryan Anderson (center), Phil Haynes (left tackle), and Justin Herron (right tackle).

Defensive end Zachary Allen was productive last year (12 starts, 11 TFL, 5 sacks) and is the only significant loss up front on the other side of the ball.

Redshirt sophomore Wendall Dunn (12 starts, 7.5 TFL, 0.5 sacks) is the other starter at end. Redshirt junior Josh Banks (7.5 TFL, 4 sacks) started every game at tackle, while senior Tylor Harris (3.5 TFL, 1 sack) started the first 9 games and redshirt junior Shelldon Lewinson (3 TFL, 2 sacks) finished the last 3 games of the season.

The backups are mostly inexperienced as 6 out of the 10 listed defensive linemen not mentioned are redshirt freshmen or younger.

Returning Quarterback: Yes

Back in 2010 Wake Forest started a true freshman in Tanner Price and he would go on to start for 4 years. As soon as he left, the Deacons inserted another true freshman in John Wolford.

Wolford, who arrived last June and wasn't even an early enrollee, struggled as you would imagine. He barely reached 2,000 yards passing and threw just 12 touchdown passes on 367 overall attempts. His 5.6 YPA was last in the ACC by a decent margin.

Biggest Problem for 2015: Everything on Offense

Wake Forest was historically bad on offense last year. I'll cover it more down below.

Biggest Strength for 2015: Linebacker

A trio of starting linebackers return, including a pair of 5th-year seniors. Brandon Chubb (109 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 3 sacks), Marquel Lee (101 tackles, 12 TFL, 4 sacks), and Hunter Williams (60 tackles, 7 TFL, 1 sack) provide a nice core on defense.

Offensive Scheme: Spread Multiple

Dave Clawson brought with him his OC Warren Ruggiero from Bowling Green and they like to spread the field with receivers and throw the football on a consistent basis. They'll also put the quarterback under center sometimes and bring some H-backs into the backfield, as well.

4 Players to Remember

TE Cam Serigne, RS So.- The favorite target of the young Wolford who led Wake Forest with 54 receptions, 531 yards, and 5 touchdowns.

WR Jared Crump, RS Jr.- The Deacons lose their top two wideouts but Crump is back after posting a solid 32 catches and 339 yards.

RB Dezmond Wortham, RS So.- He led Wake in carries per game but was really, really unproductive. But so was everyone else.

S Ryan Janvion, RS Jr.- Led the entire team with 113 tackles and also broke up 6 passes.

Special Teams: 4/4

John Armstrong returns as the primary kick returner, while Crump handles the punt returns.

Alex Kinal returns at punter with SBN's Blogger So Dear starting a Heisman campaign, and Mike Weaver is a rising redshirt sophomore who hit 15 of 19 field goals.

Uniforms: 3/10

Wake's poor man's version of a Vanderbilt uniform was adding new features in recent years, most notably in the helmet department. There was a white helmet, matte black helmet with blacked out logo with gold trim, and a chrome gold helmet with black logo.

For this fall, the Demon Deacons are wearing new uniforms. Basically, they've tweaked their number font, put the Deacon logo at the collar, and added an interesting "W" pattern on the sleeves. All things considered, it's a slight upgrade for a boring color scheme especially now that the cheesy high school piping is gone.

What's To Like About the Matchup

Just about everything.

What's Not To Like About the Matchup

A Notre Dame team that completely overlooks Wake Forest and gets upset.

Opponent Power Ranking Based on Irish Schedule: 11th Toughest

Okay, let's talk about how bad the Wake Forest offense was last year. For the traditional stat folks they were 127th in scoring, 127th in rushing yards per game, dead last (128th) in rushing average, and 109th in passing yards per game. Add it all up and they were last in the country in total yards per game at just 216.3.

Of course, the advanced stats are no kinder. Wake finished 115th in FEI offense and 126th in S&P offense. Worse still, they were dead last nationally in offensive efficiency, first down rate, available yards, explosive drives, and value drives.

Somehow, their defense was able to overcome this utter lack of help and be quite serviceable finishing 41st in yards per game, 60th in scoring, 52nd in FEI defense, and 59th in S&P defense.

The problem for next year is that the Demon Deacons are losing 3 out of 4 secondary players--which includes the 16th overall NFL pick in corner Kevin Johnson--on a unit that was 25th nationally on S&P passing downs, gave up the 6th fewest passing yards (they were losing a lot so teams ran the ball 60% of the time, but still), and were 8th best nationally in surrendering passing plays of 20+ yards.

So the one thing they did well in 2014 is likely to take a sharp downturn in 2015. Can they make up for it in other areas? Probably not, this Wake Forest team is likely to struggle a lot next fall.

Jim Grobe was officially Doing Good Things™ for a 4-year stretch from 2006-09 but since then the program has taken a bit of a nose dive. With the exception of 2011 (64th in F/+) the Demon Deacons have finished 93rd, 104th, 81st, and 101st in F/+ making them among the bottom two or three major conference programs.

Wake is a Power 5 conference team but with the placement of this game, in South Bend, at a very favorable stretch for the Irish I wouldn't be surprised if UMass ends up being a little bit bigger of a challenge. All signs are pointing to Clawson still digging his way out of a pretty large rebuilding effort heading into the fall.