Now that Spring camp is officially underway in Winston-Salem, it is time to put head coach Dave Clawson’s theme for the season to the test. Last season he set forth the idea of going from good to great. By any appraisal within the Wake Forest spectrum, the Demo Deacons accomplished that. An 11-3 season, an ACC division title, and a post-season victory put the 2021 season in the rarified air of recent football history. Now the task is consistency and growth. Clawson’s idea to accomplish that is to push Wake Forest’s mindset throughout the season.
The Mindset Message
Meeting with the media earlier this week, Clawson said of his mindset theme that it was fine to relish in the success of last year, “But if our mindset is that we are still caught in those moments, then we’re not going to grow and get better.” He said the days of Wake Forest sneaking up on opponents as a surprise quality are likely in the past. The team is going to have to perform at a high level on a consistent basis.
With a roster full of veteran returnees, he likely does not have to sell the message too hard, so much as make sure it gets implemented properly. You can already hear some of the recitations from the senior leaders in their answers to questions. The pitch is delivered. Now it just has to get executed.
Hartman Looked To For Leadership
On the first day of 15 Spring camp workouts Thursday, fifth-year quarterback Sam Hartman said the early part of the work is shaking off the rust from not having played for a few months. “There’s always room for improvement every day,” Hartman said. “You can list the number of things I did well, list the number of things I did bad, and that’s how it’s going to be practice-wise for the rest of my career.”
Being viewed as a team leader means Hartman is expected to help carry the “mindset” message on the field and in the locker room. “It starts here. It starts with our whole mindset. Mindset is something we’re going to keep saying that all year,” he said Thursday after practice. “I think the mindset for us is that every practice is important and winning every practice. We want to go one-for-one today, two-for-two tomorrow, three-for-three at our next practice. It’s going to be all about the preparation and having the edge every day, coming out and competing and working hard.”
Clawson said he was pleased with the team’s efforts on the first day back. “We purposely started Spring football late. You want them to miss it to the point they look forward to getting out here.” With an experienced roster, there are timetables for getting everyone on the same page in a way that develops depth, a topic that is going to be a constant throughout the season. “When the ones go against the ones, there’s a certain installation schedule. It’s a little slower for the twos and even slower for the threes,” he said. “Eventually you hope those twos and those threes catch up to the level of the ones.” He added that on offense there should already be a lot of retention from last season. But that with a new defense installed by incoming defensive coordinator Brad Lambert, there is going to be a learning curve in Spring.
And what about the “mindset” at the beginning of camp? Clawson called it “excellent. “ He said, “I think they came out here excited to be at practice, excited to be doing football. When the coaching was going on, they were staring in the coaches’ eyes and applying the coaching. We got better today.”
The Large Scale Task For the Defense
Fifth-year linebacker Ryan Smenda, Jr. has the daunting task. He has to be a leader in the mindset category with younger players. And he is doing it while learning all over again with a new defensive coordinator, as well as a new position coach, (Glenn Spencer). “These guys are acting like sponges, all of us, absorbing and learning and wanting to get better,” he said after practice Thursday. Smenda is embracing his role as a leader on the field but said the work ethic of his teammates is making his job a little easier. He said he is helping players get used to new assignments and schemes. “These guys, they love it so much that I don’t have to tell them a second time because they already understand it.”
The Demon Deacons resume Spring workouts Saturday with day two of 15 allowable workouts under NCAA rules. The Spring wraps up with the Spring game on April 16th.