With one week left to go in Spring training camp, the focus for Wake Forest is on depth. The Demon Deacons had a modified practice Saturday at Truist Field that included a multi-series scrimmage at the end.
Focus For Wake Forest Is On Depth
Any player who has 500 or more lifetime in-game snaps did not play in the end-of-practice scrimmage. The point was to get some simulated game time for players who are going to be needed in the case of injuries this season and certainly needed in the year(s) to come. “We come out here and want to get good work,” head coach Dave Clawson said after the practice. “But we have guys that are here in the seventh, and sixth, and fifth year,” he added as the explanation for the playing time system used Saturday.
Getting Some Real Snaps
Everyone went through the regular drills and positional practice prior to the scrimmage starting. But when it came to the 45-minute running clock for the scrimmage, it was developmental work time. “The guys that haven’t been in games and haven’t played live snaps, and haven’t had to get the signals and execute without the coaches there, those are the guys we were having go,” Clawson said. He added he intends to do something similar next week when the team has its formal Spring scrimmage at Truist Field.
In terms of the actual production on the field Saturday, there were moments of good and bad for both sides of the line of scrimmage. There was about a seven-minute stretch in the middle of the allocated time where the defensive front seven dominated the offensive line reserves. The consistent push into the backfield would have resulted in multiple quarterback sacks. Defensive linemen B.J. Williams, Claude Bragg, and Wyatt Crespi each got to the quarterbacks at one point or another during that time.
In Line Behind Hartman
When the offenses were in a flow, they had a decided edge on the outside. “Right now, the receivers are winning a lot of the contested catches,” was the assessment from Clawson after the practice. As for the guys getting the balls to the receivers, Clawson was happy with both Mitch Griffis and Michael Kern. “Both of them had good drives. Mitch took the opening drive and went right down the field. I think that was a 15-play drive,” Clawson said. “Michael Kern took the last one all the way down. They’re both good players. You always have to prepare that you may need three. And we like both those guys. They are really good players. We feel great about our quarterback situation. I think to give those guys that many live reps is helpful for them and helps their development.”
One place that is lacking after this week is the linebacker position. Josh Sosanya has taken a medical retirement and Chase Monroe entered the transfer portal in the last week. Monroe missed last season with an injury but was a potential factor at least in terms of game snaps this season. That makes Chase Jones the leading returning linebacker in terms of tackles, with 47. And it means depth at the position takes a blow. Clawson admitted the coaching staff is likely to be taking a look at the transfer portal in the days to come. There have been three linebackers who have entered the portal from other schools just in the last week, so there is talent to be found.
“There’s a handful of positions on defense where we’re looking in the portal now,” Clawson said Saturday. With a 2022 signing class that was more than a dozen players under the NCAA limit, he has scholarships available and room to work within what is now essentially college football free agency. “We’re going to be in the market for some guys in the second and third level of the defense,” he added. “To have a little extra depth, I think we’d feel better going into the season.”
Sosanya is expected to stay with the program as a student assistant.
The Leader And The Backups
One person who took particular note of the work of Griffis and Kern is the returning starter, Sam Hartman. “I think they are rolling along,” Hartman said Saturday after the practice. “It’s a hard-working group, and he [Clawson] has recruited the right guys. I’m excited for them. It’s a great mindset in there.” Hartman called it a fun group to be a part of that also pushes him on a daily basis. “It was fun to watch them get out there and let it fly,” he said.
Wake Forest will hold its official Spring scrimmage next Saturday afternoon at Truist Field. Clawson said he has created a points system that rewards the defense for takeaways and stops. The offense gets points for first downs and other big plays. That will be the scorekeeping, at least internally Saturday. The ACC Network is likely to actually track actual scoring in its live coverage.