Wake Forest Beat Wake Forest, 27-24

Wake Forest Beat Wake Forest

Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson does not like to tip his hand much in terms of showing schemes during Spring games. Mission accomplished Saturday in the annual Wake Forest football scrimmage at Truist Field. For the first eight minutes off the game clock, the first-team offense provided little that would be worth showing to anyone. They eventually picked up their collective pace and put together some impressive numbers. And, for those keeping score at home, Wake Forest beat Wake Forest 27-24. Maybe the Vegas odds makers had the spread correct.

The team in white jerseys was essentially the first-string offense and second-string defense. The team in the black jerseys was, theoretically, the second-string offense and the first-string defense. In the second half, Clawson and his staff did some lineup tinkering.

The black offense had most of the offense early on. Quarterback Michael Kern put plenty of yards up, mostly with the help of running back Will Towns, who finished the game with 106 yards on seven carries. Kern finished the game 18 of 31 for 210 yards and a touchdown. It was Deuce Alexander and AK Kelly as his primary receiving targets. But for all of the yards early on, the black team produced little in the way of points.

In fact, the first points of the game came via a strip sack by the white team’s Jaylen Hudson in the first quarter. Zamari Stevenson picked up Kern’s fumble and ran it back 78 yards for the touchdown. The black team responded with a 55-yard touchdown pass from Kern to an extremely open Harry Lodge. The tight end could have walked the last 10 yards into the end zone.

On the white team’s next possession, quarterback Mitch Griffis hit Donavon Greene for 49 yards down the left sideline. It was the type of catch Wake Forest fans have become accustomed to from Greene. He was well covered but with fully extended arms over the defensive back, he strong-armed the ball into his hands. Two plays later, Griffis threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Greene for the 14-7 lead.

All of the scoring recaps in a scrimmage matter little. This was about who performed well, and who performed less well, in the last of 15 Spring practices. Griffis finished the game 19 of 29 for 315 yards and two touchdowns. But he was also sacked six times. It’s a good thing he made the offense work through the air. With Justice Ellison not playing due to injury, there was no running game. The white team posted a net total of 18 yards rushing.

Both sides were playing without some presumed starters. If it were a real game, most of them would have played as the injuries are mostly not significant. But with some players out, others got a chance to shine. Wesley Grimes played with the first-team offense. We recently projected that he is going to see a lot of snaps during the season in the mix with Greene and Jahmal Banks. The result of the increased time on Saturday? He finished with 157 yards and 10 catches. Greene added 111 yards on three catches.

And if you don’t think there is tinkering that goes on with the rosters, in addition to his stats for the black team, Kern also had 39 yards on four of five passing for the white team. He moved over when Clawson wanted to rest Griffis in the second half, and Santino Marucci took over for the black team.

Clawson liked what he saw, for the most part on Saturday. “I thought we threw the ball very efficiently,” Clawson said after the scrimmage. “Will Towns certainly had a good day running the football. Our receivers made contested catches.” Overall the assessment from Clawson at the end of Spring camp; “I think we are a better team now than when we started, which is always the goal.”

Depth is still a concern at some positions. The offensive line is not one of them for Clawson at the end of Spring. “You can say you lost three starters,” he said. “But in some ways we’ve got four starters back.” That of course is based on the number of snaps the guys got last year as back-ups. Clawson said he believes the offensive line is now as big as eight deep.

When asked about an earlier concern, the defensive line depth, Clawson said, “Still concerned.”  He specified that he is not concerned about the defensive end position. He noted that Kevin Pointer had a good Spring camp, but added, “It’s a position we’re throwing numbers at. We need to find two, three, four, and five.” He compared it to the depth chart at linebacker. “You don’t just want numbers. You want guys that can get off the blocks and make plays.”

Clawson typically wants at least 50 players that he considers, “Over the line.” That is his way of judging the overall depth of the team. Even as there are some positions of concern, the current college football supermarket may not be the answer. The transfer portal was officially opening as Clawson was answering media questions. It closes on Sunday, April 30th.

Clawson said they are always looking for players in the portal who can have an immediate impact at Wake, ala Kobie Turner last year. But the academic requirements make that a daunting task. “This is not an easy school to get transfers. It’s hard to get in. There is a lot of schools where we don’t accept their credits.” Clawson said because of the numbers needed for football, the program can never be dependent on the portal. The opportunity exists primarily for grad transfers who will be there for no more than a year or two.

In terms of his own players seeking opportunities via the portal, Clawson said in the upcoming week, he and the staff will be talking to every player on the roster. “I hope none of them are leaving. But you guys [the media], might know before me. That’s usually the way it works anymore.”

Clawson is entering his 10th year as head coach at Wake Forest. It will be his 24th year overall as a head coach. “You can get the cliché jokes about 23-0 in Spring games. I ran my record to 24-0 today. Can’t wait to celebrate that one,” he joked.

Main image courtesy Wake Forest Athletics