With Wake Forest’s spring practice in the books, here’s what we know and what we learned about the Demon Deacons as the offseason continues.
The mantra around Winston-Salem this offseason is to keep building after the Demon Deacons rose from 3-9 to 7-6 and a Military Bowl win over Temple. Wake Forest might have the personnel and the experience to fulfill coach Dave Clawson’s objective, with nine starters returning to the maligned offense and seven back on D.
1. Kendall Hinton is Clawson’s QB, But There’s Work Ahead
Clawson remains committed to Hinton, the playmaking junior who was felled by an injury in Week 3 of the 2016 campaign. Still, Hinton needs to work out the kinks and improve as a downfield passer.
Hinton brings an explosive, unpredictable element to a Deacon attack that desperately needs some big-play pop. In 2015, he came off the bench to rush for seven touchdowns. However, Hinton isn’t quite as accurate through the air as senior John Wolford, who’s thrown 30 career touchdown passes. While Wake Forest will continue to be a run-heavy outfit in 2017, everyone is going to benefit if Hinton proves he can get TE Cam Serigne and receivers Tabari Hines and Cortez Lewis more involved on downfield patterns.
2. Revolving Door At Defensive Tackle
The Deacons are in solid shape at defensive end, spearheaded by next-level senior Duke Ejiofor. On the inside, though, questions loom.
Wake Forest was already being faced with replacing underrated starter Josh Banks. And then Clawson announced after the spring game that last year’s other starting tackle, Chris Stewart, had been dismissed for a violation of team rules. The Deacons have no sure things—and limited depth—on the interior, which will leave them vulnerable right up the gut. The line did get one nugget of encouraging news in early April, when Clawson announced Zeek Rodney planned on taking summer classes. Rodney started all 12 games at the nose in 2015, but left the team in 2016 for personal reasons.
3. Ryan Anderson’s Destination Hinges On Linemates
Anderson is one of Wake Forest trustiest offensive linemen, a key part of a group that improved tremendously a year ago. But whether he plays right tackle or center depends on what takes place around him.
The Deacons love the smarts and versatility of Anderson, the rare blocker who can literally play all five positions. He lined up at tackle in 2016, and will remain there if senior A’Lique Terry shows he’s worthy of supplanting Josh Harris at the pivot. If not, Anderson is likely to slide inside, become the quarterback of the O-line and vacate his old job in favor of sophomore Jake Benzinger. The 6-7, 285-pound Benzinger played well in March and April, which he hopes is the beginning of a trend in 2017.