It’s no secret that in order for Wake Forest to reach its expected heights this year, the offense will have to be at maximum potential. And for the offense to display its firepower, the wake offensive line needs to dominate.
It may sound like hyperbole. But when you are returning a line that is one of the most experienced in the country, lofty expectations are not only appropriate but required. The Demon Deacons have regulars on the line who are fifth and sixth years players. Je’Vionte Nash is even in his 7th year, thanks to his redshirt, the 2020 Covid exception, and a medical allowance.
The Wake Offensive Line Needs To Dominate
Wake Forest is one of the few teams in the country that has a fifth-year quarterback who has started most of the games in his time on campus and been at the same school the entire time. They have elite-level receivers. And they have a talented group of running backs.
None of it will matter though unless the offensive line performs up to an elite level of play. There is depth on the line, but the starting five plus a reserve or two will carry much of the offense on its collectively wide shoulders.
Making A Statement
The skill was obvious in live-action scrimmage play at Fall camp on Monday. The team is in its first full week in full pads. They went inside Monday morning for some live short yardage scenarios. On the first two plays, simulating third down and short, the offense ripped two 70+ yard touchdown runs. On the first one, the offensive line blew open a hole for Christian Turner to scat through for the run. Then on the second one, the line contained the defense to the inside, leaving the outer edge wide open for Will Towns and his 70-yard scamper.
The pessimist could look at that and say the defensive line was pushed around and that does not bode well for the defense. But the defense stepped up in other parts of the scrimmaging and played well. But those two plays well represented the potential for the offensive line this season.
Experience And Leadership
Fifth-year offensive lineman Sean Maginn said the experience of his colleagues means they know how to handle the day-to-day workload. “It’s the fourth day in a row and we knew coming in that was BYOJ…bring your own juice,” he told us Monday. “When you make a big play like that, (the two touchdown runs), you’ve got to celebrate with your guys. When we come out and perform like we did today, it’s exciting and makes you feel good.”
While the expectation level is sky high for the starting offensive line, Maginn said prepping the second and third stringers is important now and for the future. Some of those reserves like Nick Sharpe and Matt Gulbin saw plenty of action in the Spring when some starters were rehabbing from late-season injuries. “We’re pressing the urgency,” Maginn said. “One of us goes down in a game, then the next guy has to be ready to step up. The five of us know what to expect in camp, so we are trying to bring along the younger guys and try to get them ready for the season.”
The Fruits Of The Labor
Nash said he likes doing his job at the line and then looking up and seeing his running back halfway down the field. “We love seeing all the running backs and all those skill players doing their thing and take off. It means we did our job,” he said Monday.
Nash said he and his linemates understand the expectations put upon them for this season. “It definitely ramps it up,” he said. “But we’ve been playing together for a long time. We hang out with each other; we get to know each other and that translates to trusting each other out on the field. We need to trust each other to do our jobs. At the end of the day, if one person messes up, the whole play is messed up.”
Like Maginn, he is also taking seriously the role of bringing the younger players along. “They are a lot farther along than other groups in the past. When I was a freshman and going with the twos and the threes, I was messing up a lot more than these guys do. They’re doing really good for themselves.”
Maginn put a fine point on the expectations issue. “Obviously there is pressure to be great. Yada, yada, yada. It’s just one rep at a time. Do your block. And if I do my block, and the rest of those four do their block, Sam (Hartman), is going to have an opening, and our backs are going to have an opening and we will have a lot of fun.”
He said a key for all of them is not to overthink it. It is just about doing their job and the success will come in what he called, “the battle for the sticks.”