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Wake Forest football's goal for 2016: Keep building toward a promising 2017

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As of now, I see Wake winning seven or eight games in 2017; the goal is to keep that vision intact. This is Bill C's daily preview series, working its way through every 2016 team.

Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Check out the advanced-stats glossary here. Below, a unique review of last year's team, a unit-by-unit breakdown of this year's roster, the full 2016 schedule with win projections for each game, and more.

1. The long road back

That Dave Clawson and his staff were able to maintain a top-40 defense in his first year was a nice sign, but patience is required when it comes to fixing an offense that was almost too awful for words. That they won a game that was scoreless at the end of regulation -- 6-3 over Virginia Tech in double overtime -- is both apt and misleading; usually when your offense is this bad, the defense gives out.

With only four opponents projected worse than 60th (none after October 1), Wake's win total probably isn't going to improve much. But the defense is experienced enough to maintain form, and the offense has almost no choice to progress. If the Deacs can improve into the 70s or 80s this year, they could be positioned to make the Year 3 surge that Clawson patented in his former jobs.

-- 2015 Wake Forest guide

First things first: Wake Forest's win total did not improve in Clawson's second year. In both seasons, the Demon Deacons took down an FCS opponent (Gardner-Webb in 2014, Elon in 2015), Army (by three points each year), and a similarly offensively challenged ACC opponent (Virginia Tech in 2014, Boston College in 2015). That's impressive symmetry.

You had to squint to see any improvement, but it was there. Clawson's Deacs got blown out less and competed better in conference play -- average ACC score in 2014: Opp 30, Wake 12; in 2015: 27-15. After ranking dead last in Off. S&P+ in 2014, Wake improved to a merely bad 107th.

This is the precise definition of "baby steps," something that matters in the grand scheme but doesn't impress many eyeballs. Still, minor improvement means Wake is still on the Clawson timeline.

Clawson's win percentage (Fordham, Richmond, BGSU) by year:

  • Year 1: 0.400 (10-25)
  • Year 2: 0.389 (14-22)
  • Year 3: 0.529 (18-16)
  • Year 4: 0.725 (29-11)

Clawson is a methodical builder. In 2014, he stripped Wake's depth chart down to its freshman-and-sophomore foundation. In 2015, he added a new layer of freshman depth. This fall, he'll have his most experienced lineup yet, and there could still be as few as two seniors starting on offense and five on defense. He's keeping unexpected attrition to a minimum and letting guys develop. He's recruiting incrementally better -- per the 247Sports Composite, his signing class ranked 14th in the ACC in 2014, 12th in 2015, and 11th in 2016.

This is a long road with lots of traffic. Clawson's progress could cease at any moment. But he's proven himself a patient driver, one who resists the urge to take fruitless shortcuts.

I would expect Wake Forest to be rewarded for his patience this year. A bowl bid is likely still a year away, but I would expect to see tangible progress in 2016, of the "more good" variety instead of "slightly less bad."

2015 Schedule & Results

Record: 3-9 | Adj. Record: 5-7 | Final F/+ Rk: 92 | Final S&P+ Rk: 92
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Win
Expectancy
vs. S&P+ Performance
vs. Vegas
3-Sep Elon N/A 41-3 W 86% 100% +26.6
12-Sep at Syracuse 85 17-30 L 40% 25% -7.6 -8.0
19-Sep at Army 108 17-14 W 59% 71% -3.4 -3.0
26-Sep Indiana 61 24-31 L 35% 13% -10.1 -3.5
3-Oct Florida State 12 16-24 L 45% 7% +23.4 +11.0
10-Oct at Boston College 70 3-0 W 50% 28% +16.1 +10.5
17-Oct at North Carolina 24 14-50 L 15% 0% -32.0 -19.0
24-Oct NC State 49 17-35 L 6% 0% -8.1 -8.5
30-Oct Louisville 39 19-20 L 52% 26% +13.3 +10.5
14-Nov at Notre Dame 7 7-28 L 31% 2% +8.1 +6.0
21-Nov at Clemson 2 13-33 L 14% 0% +16.1 +9.0
28-Nov Duke 74 21-27 L 66% 55% +0.4 -2.0

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 22.9 107 27.8 61
Points Per Game 17.4 120 24.6 43

2. Punching your weight

Wake Forest didn't yet have much athleticism to offer against the good teams on the schedule. Because of a plodding tempo and decent defense, the Demon Deacons were able to keep thing respectable against the best teams; Clemson, Notre Dame, and Florida State only beat them by an average of 28-12.

The trip to UNC resulted in a 50-14 disaster, but the Deacs nearly countered with a home upset of Louisville. (That was one of the oddest games of 2015. Wake completed only nine of 30 passes with four interceptions and four sacks, but two were touchdown bombs of 58 and 78 yards.)

Still, this was a team that punched its weight pretty well. If you're adding heft each year, that's not bad.

  • Wake Forest vs. F/+ top 60:
    Record: 0-6 | Avg. Percentile Performance: 27% (~top 95) | Yards per play: WF 5.5, Opp 4.6 (+0.9)
  • Wake Forest vs. No. 61 and worse:
    Record: 3-3 | Avg. Percentile Performance: 56% (~top 55) | Yards per play: Opp 6.5, WF 4.1 (-2.4)

Tempo did favors for Wake's defense and hid some of the offense's progress. And by "progress" in this case, I basically mean that the Deacs were able to move the ball here and there against bad teams. Hey, that counts. Need I remind you of the title of last year's preview?

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.22 90 IsoPPP+ 84.8 113
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 34.7% 119 Succ. Rt. + 89.1 110
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 29.0 48 Def. FP+ 27.2 20
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 3.5 118 Redzone S&P+ 91.9 106
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 21.4 ACTUAL 24 +2.6
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 114 114 110 113
RUSHING 123 118 114 123
PASSING 60 98 94 96
Standard Downs 113 113 111
Passing Downs 97 78 103
Q1 Rk 119 1st Down Rk 111
Q2 Rk 79 2nd Down Rk 110
Q3 Rk 116 3rd Down Rk 79
Q4 Rk 91

3. Balance doesn't mean rushing and passing for equal yards

Offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero was handed an impossible task. Ruggiero has been a coordinator at different levels for 20 years and served in the same role for Clawson at Bowling Green.

Ruggiero has proven adaptable, but in 2014 he was handed a set of personnel that had absolutely no chance. His quarterback was a true freshman. His top two running backs were freshmen. He had one experienced lineman and two experienced receivers. And for the most part, these players were not only young, but also less touted as recruits. There was no natural athleticism advantage.

The 2014 was unfathomably bad.

In 2015, it was ... fathomably bad. Progress! There were two new freshmen at tailback, freshmen started 25 games on the offensive line, and there were three freshmen and a sophomore among the top five receivers. We got to see some semblance of an identity.

This fall, all of these recent freshmen and sophomores will be sophomores and juniors.

At BGSU in 2013, Ruggiero's offense was balanced, rushing and passing at normal rates and playing at an average pace. One assumes he's trying to do the same thing, but with a miserable run game and only half-miserable passing game, he was still forced to lean on the pass.

Balance doesn't have to mean running and passing at normal rates, of course. It means being able to do whichever you need to do. Most of all, to me, it means being able to move the ball on standard downs. Passing downs are "somebody please make a play" situations, but on standard downs, you can implement a game plan of realistic ways to move the ball.

Perhaps it's encouraging that Wake was downright mediocre on passing downs (78th in Passing Downs Success Rate+), especially with a sophomore quarterback and a freshman backup throwing the passes. Perhaps it's also encouraging that, per the per-quarter numbers above, Wake improved as a half wore on. Ruggiero was able to find tweaks and adjustments.

But Ruggiero was still unable to find balance on standard downs (113th in Standard Downs Success Rate+). Until he does so, Wake's offense will continue to struggle.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
John Wolford 6'1, 200 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8435 142 234 1791 9 11 60.7% 22 8.6% 6.2
Kendall Hinton 6'0, 195 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8528 93 178 929 4 5 52.2% 17 8.7% 4.3
Kyle Kearns 6'2, 195 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8677
Jamie Newman 6'4, 220 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8585

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Tyler Bell TB 5'11, 215 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8013 131 446 1 3.4 4.2 24.4% 1 1
Kendall Hinton QB 6'0, 195 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8528 76 478 7 6.3 5.7 48.7% 4 2
Matt Colburn TB 5'10, 200 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8321 66 239 1 3.6 4.6 22.7% 1 1
John Wolford QB 6'1, 200 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8435 51 261 3 5.1 6.2 37.3% 5 1
Isaiah Robinson TB 5'10, 225 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8308 39 120 0 3.1 3.0 25.6% 0 0
Dezmond Wortham TB 6'0, 200 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8391 9 21 0 2.3 0.9 22.2% 0 0
Rocky Reid TB 6'0, 220 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8643
Cade Carney RB 5'11, 215 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8457
Arkeem Byrd RB 6'1, 190 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8453







4. Can anybody here gain five yards?

In 2014, freshmen Isaiah Robinson and Dezmond Wortham took on the lion's share of Wake Forest carries. And in a combined 15 carries per game, they gained five yards on just 22.5 percent of those carries, about 3 per game. That is mind-numbingly awful.

Last fall, things improved! With Robinson and Wortham combining for just 48 carries, a new pair of freshmen -- Tyler Bell and Matt Colburn -- rushed 16 times per game and gained five yards on 24 percent of their carries, about four per game!

Okay, that's still miserable. But quarterback Kendall Hinton, also a freshman last year, was able to add some pop to the run game, producing above-average rates in both efficiency (49 percent opportunity rate) and explosiveness (5.7 highlight yards per opportunity). The problem: He's not a very good passer. Or at least, he wasn't last year. Meanwhile, John Wolford completed a decent 61 percent of his passes but wasn't nearly as efficient (or as frequent) a runner.

The two quarterbacks split reps with the first string in spring practice, and the draw for each is obvious. Wolford has now started for most of two years and was able to mostly improve his averages -- completion rate (from 58 percent to 61), yards per completion (from 9.5 to 12.6), sack rate (from 13 percent to 8.6) -- despite a drastically young receiving corps.

Hinton is a legitimately strong runner, though, and "legitimately strong" is not something you can apply to much of this offense. With a more seasoned line and now four runners who are at least semi-experienced, playing Hinton more might result in something approximating a decent run game. It would just come with an aerial cost.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
Yds/
Target
%SD Success
Rate
IsoPPP
Cortez Lewis WR-X 6'1, 200 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8107 91 47 611 51.6% 23.5% 6.7 51.6% 36.3% 1.76
K.J. Brent SLOT 78 42 583 53.8% 20.1% 7.5 56.4% 46.2% 1.39
Cam Serigne TE 6'3, 240 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7938 70 46 562 65.7% 18.0% 8.0 57.1% 47.1% 1.52
Tabari Hines FL 5'10, 165 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8347 51 32 366 62.7% 13.1% 7.2 52.9% 39.2% 1.77
Chuck Wade FL 6'0, 195 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8251 47 33 348 70.2% 12.1% 7.4 48.9% 46.8% 1.39
Jared Crump (2014) WR 6'3, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8162 46 26 280 56.5% 14.4% 6.1 39.1% N/A N/A
Tyler Bell RB 5'11, 215 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8013 24 18 127 75.0% 6.2% 5.3 70.8% 37.5% 1.20
Isaiah Robinson TB 5'10, 225 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8308 7 6 57 85.7% 1.8% 8.1 42.9% 42.9% 1.58
Alex Bachman SLOT 6'0, 180 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8035 5 1 8 20.0% 1.3% 1.6 60.0% 20.0% 0.53
Steve Donatell TE
4 3 31 75.0% 1.0% 7.8 50.0% 75.0% 0.81
Jalen Latter WR 6'0, 195 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8086
Devin Pike TE 6'6, 255 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8422
Nick Luedeke TE 6'5, 255 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8119
Steven Claude WR 6'2, 190 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8631
Scotty Washington WR 6'5, 215 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8544
Brandon Chapman TE 6'5, 250 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8432
LaRonde' Liverpool TE 6'3, 225 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8416
Jeremiah Brown WR 6'2, 175 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8246

5. A strong 2017 receiving corps

Cortez Lewis averaged a decent 13 yards per catch as a freshman No. 1 target in a major conference. Tight end Cam Serigne averaged 8 yards per target as a sophomore. Two freshman flankers (Tabari Hines, Chuck Wade) combined for a 66 percent catch rate.

None of these stats are incredible, but all are decent considering the level of experience and responsibility. Plus, Wade and redshirt freshman Scotty Washington were standouts in spring ball. Converted cornerback Jalen Latter had his moments in March and April, too.

Of all the names mentioned above, everyone but Latter will be back in 2017, and everyone but Latter and Serigne will be back in 2018. After significant growing pains at both QB and WR, it's not hard to see a good receiving corps emerging here. It just might not happen for another year. But especially if Wolford wins the quarterback job, expect a few more bright spots this fall, even if accompanied by more inconsistency. This unit has a nice combination of size, speed, and variety. It just needs a little more seasoning.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 99.8 2.5 2.98 30.8% 75.9% 23.2% 69.8 8.8% 9.6%
Rank 73 118 88 125 16 109 114 119 99
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. 2015 Starts Career Starts Honors/Notes
Dylan Intemann RG 11 39
Josh Harris C 6'4, 300 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8131 12 24
Tyler Hayworth LG 6'4, 330 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8191 12 21
Justin Herron LT 6'5, 310 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8472 12 12
Phil Haynes RT 6'4, 300 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7859 9 9
A'Lique Terry C 6'1, 295 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8316 0 7
Ryan Anderson RT 6'6, 290 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7000 4 4
Patrick Osterhage RG 6'4, 285 So. 2 stars (5.4) NR 0 0
Cameron Gardner OL 6'5, 275 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7892 0 0
Taylor Chambers OL 6'8, 300 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8170 0 0
Nathan Gilliam OL 6'5, 295 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8519

T.J. Haney OL 6'6, 315 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8414

Taleni Suhren OL 6'5, 290 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8615

Je'Vionte' Nash OL 6'3, 295 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8317


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Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.31 88 IsoPPP+ 104.0 51
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 39.9% 55 Succ. Rt. + 103.2 52
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 26.9 118 Off. FP+ 28.0 100
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.3 56 Redzone S&P+ 110.8 28
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 14.7 ACTUAL 11.0 -3.7
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 38 50 52 51
RUSHING 52 26 35 26
PASSING 32 85 84 84
Standard Downs 56 66 61
Passing Downs 49 44 44
Q1 Rk 81 1st Down Rk 37
Q2 Rk 55 2nd Down Rk 48
Q3 Rk 20 3rd Down Rk 33
Q4 Rk 12

6. Playing into your hands

One benefit to having a bad offense: Opponents might be more inclined to run the ball quite a bit and take fewer offensive risks, especially when they have even the smallest of leads. This worked out pretty well for Wake Forest in 2015 because the Demon Deacons had a stout run defense.

Opponents ran the ball five percent more than average on standard downs and seven percent more on passing downs. Defensive coordinator Mike Elko's defense flowed to the ball well, preventing big-play opportunities while making few plays behind the line.

It's not hard to expect more of the same in 2016. Linebackers Brandon Chubb and Hunter Williams are gone, which could hurt -- they combined for 13.5 non-sack tackles for loss on a defense that could have stood to make a few more TFLs. But with the return of nearly every lineman, plus middle linebacker Marquel Lee, it's fair to assume another strong run defense. The line dealt with a few injuries -- end Duke Ejiofor and tackles Josh Banks and Shelldon Lewinson combined to miss 12 games -- which gave more players reps. That has created a deep line.

The main question, then, is what happens if opponents pass more? In theory, an improved Wake offense could make opponent leads both less frequent and less safe, meaning the Deacs could face more passes after ranking just 85th in Passing S&P+ last year.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 109.6 2.72 2.91 34.2% 65.5% 19.2% 120.1 5.7% 9.2%
Rank 34 39 39 26 59 80 33 42 30
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Wendell Dunn DROP 6'3, 250 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8367 12 26.5 4.1% 7.5 1.0 0 0 1 0
Duke Ejiofor DE 6'4, 270 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8200 7 20.5 3.2% 7.5 4.5 0 0 0 0
Josh Banks DT 6'4, 280 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8192 9 17.5 2.7% 2.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Chris Calhoun DROP 6'4, 240 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8423 12 15.5 2.4% 4.0 0.0 1 1 0 0
Zeek Rodney NT 6'1, 300 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8735 12 14.5 2.3% 2.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Tylor Harris DT 12 13.5 2.1% 3.5 1.5 0 2 0 0
Chris Stewart DT 6'3, 275 So. 2 stars (5.2) NR 12 12.0 1.9% 1.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Shelldon Lewinson NT 6'2, 260 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8087 8 10.0 1.6% 0.5 0.5 0 1 0 0
Willie Yarbary DT 6'2, 280 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8152 12 7.5 1.2% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Julian Jackson DE 6'4, 240 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7700 11 4.0 0.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Ali Lamot DE 6'2, 275 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8191
Rashawn Shaw DE 6'3, 245 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8578
Paris Black DE 6'3, 255 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8420
Elontae Bateman DT 6'2, 285 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8032
Sulaiman Kamara DT 6'2, 290 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8797
Emmanuel Walker DE 6'4, 220 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8504
Zander Zimmer DE 6'4, 220 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8487








Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Brandon Chubb BUCK 12 79.5 12.4% 8.5 0.5 0 2 0 0
Marquel Lee MIKE 6'3, 240 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8013 12 54.0 8.4% 10.0 3.0 0 1 0 0
Hunter Williams ROV 12 46.0 7.2% 7.5 2.0 1 0 0 0
Demetrius Kemp ROV 6'1, 215 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8210 12 14.5 2.3% 2.0 0.0 1 0 0 0
Grant Dawson MIKE 6'1, 230 Jr. NR NR 12 11.0 1.7% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jaboree Williams BUCK 6'0, 235 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8178 12 9.5 1.5% 1.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Zack Wary LB 6'4, 230 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8448 8 9.5 1.5% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Teddy Matthews ROV
12 3.0 0.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Kalin McNeil LB 6'1, 225 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8185 6 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Justin Strnad LB 6'2, 215 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8067
Nate Mays LB 6'1, 220 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8029








7. The pass rush could be key

How infrequently did opponents pass? Wake Forest ranked 33rd in Adj. Sack Rate but featured just one player with more than three sacks. Ejiofor managed 4.5 in just seven games, which is encouraging. Lee added three more.

The pass rush could be key for what was a reasonably high-risk, high-reward pair of cornerbacks. Brad Watson and Dionte Austin combined for 4.5 TFLs and 23 passes defensed (mostly from Watson) last year. If quarterbacks are under pressure, this duo could thrive.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Brad Watson CB 6'0, 200 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8069 12 59.5 9.3% 2.5 1 2 16 1 0
Ryan Janvion WHIP 5'11, 195 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8116 11 54.0 8.4% 1 0 0 1 1 0
Zach Dancel STUD 12 50.0 7.8% 3 1 0 2 3 0
Cameron Glenn WHIP 6'1, 200 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8289 10 31.0 4.8% 0.5 0 1 1 0 0
Thomas Brown STUD 6'3, 225 Sr. NR NR 10 20.0 3.1% 3 2 0 1 0 0
Dionte Austin CB 6'0, 165 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8675 12 19.0 3.0% 2 1 0 5 0 0
Josh Okonye S 6'0, 200 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7992 12 13.5 2.1% 1.5 1 0 0 0 0
Devin Gaulden CB 9 10.5 1.6% 1 0 0 1 0 0
John Armstrong CB 5'9, 165 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8116
Thomas Dillon CB 5'10, 175 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8104
Amari Henderson CB 6'1, 175 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8256
Jessie Bates S 6'2, 190 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8129
Traveon Redd DB 6'0, 190 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8478








8. Now to stop good passing games

When the defense wasn't making a havoc play, QBs were finding plenty of open options. Opponents completed 62 percent of their passes, and since only two of Watson's and Austin's passes defensed were interceptions, that bailed passers out a bit and resulted in some negative turnovers luck for WF.

One other problem: Wake safeties weren't very disruptive. They were decent at cleaning up messes, as evidenced by opponents' 12.2 yards per completion average. But you have to make some plays, too, and they didn't, at least not really.

One other problem: Wake could only really stop bad pass offenses. Against teams ranked outside of the F/+ top 60, the Deacs limited quarterbacks to a 123.8 passer rating -- not amazing, but pretty good. Against top-60 opponents: 150.5. The run defense was good against most, and the pass defense was decent against some.

Experience and continuity will help the pass defense, and Watson is a particularly strong piece. But as the Wake offense improves, the Wake defense will be asked to prove that it has shored up a weakness.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Alexander Kinal 75 43.8 3 25 27 69.3%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Mike Weaver 6'1, 195 Jr. 44 62.3 20 2 45.5%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Mike Weaver 6'1, 195 Jr. 24-25 10-12 83.3% 1-6 16.7%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Chuck Wade KR 6'0, 195 So. 17 18.5 0
Matt Colburn KR 5'10, 200 So. 4 16.0 0
Tabari Hines PR 5'10, 165 So. 23 4.0 0
Category Rk
Special Teams S&P+ 96
Field Goal Efficiency 110
Punt Return Success Rate 106
Kick Return Success Rate 127
Punt Success Rate 12
Kickoff Success Rate 61

9. The one strong piece is gone

A good special teams unit can be such a boon for a rebuilding team. It was not for Wake Forest. The Deacs had one of the least effective return units in the country, and while place-kicker Mike Weaver was decent on kickoffs and fine inside of 40 yards, Wake's offense needed all the help he could get, and Weaver's range ended around the 40-yard mark.

Punter Alexander Kinal, however, was a legitimate strength, particularly for a team that punted so much. Kinal punted more than six times per game and was remarkably consistent. He will be missed, not only because he was good but because the rest of the unit wasn't. Of course, if Weaver is kicking off a bit more, that won't be as much of a problem.

2016 Schedule & Projection Factors

2016 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. Margin Win Probability
1-Sep Tulane 122 18.6 86%
10-Sep at Duke 51 -7.5 33%
17-Sep Delaware NR 33.8 97%
24-Sep at Indiana 56 -6.8 35%
1-Oct at N.C. State 40 -10.3 28%
8-Oct Syracuse 44 -1.7 46%
15-Oct at Florida State 5 -22.6 10%
29-Oct Army 124 19.5 87%
5-Nov Virginia 68 2.2 55%
12-Nov at Louisville 20 -17.3 16%
19-Nov Clemson 3 -20.1 12%
26-Nov Boston College 50 -0.6 49%
Projected wins: 5.5
Five-Year F/+ Rk -17.0% (96)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 58 / 62
2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* -13 / -6.7
2015 TO Luck/Game -2.6
Returning Production (Off. / Def.) 84% (89%, 79%)
2015 Second-order wins (difference) 3.3 (-0.3)

10. Home field advantage

The Clawson Plan is two stagnant years followed by breakthroughs in years three and four. As long as we're defining "breakthrough" conservatively, I see the trend holding here. So does S&P+, which projects a No. 74 ranking and 5.5 wins.

The schedule helps out. Wake's home slate includes visits from Tulane, Delaware, Syracuse, Army, Virginia, and Boston College; the Deacs are given at least a 46 percent chance of winning in each of those games. Go 5-1 and steal a road win somewhere, and you're bowling.

My guess is that the postseason is still another year away, but after a couple of years defined by decent defense and absurdly bad offense, we should get a pretty clear vision of what Clawson is building this year.