Spring scrimmages don’t often lend clarity to a team’s lineup. Coaches, if they even still have Spring scrimmages, like to limit the play to avoid injuries and not give away too much of the future offense. One thing that did not need resolution last week is that this is Mitch Griffis’ Wake Forest offense to run.
Griffis replaces the notable Sam Hartman, who left Wake via the transfer portal after the 2022 season. He is now sitting in South Bend, Indiana as the holder of numerous Demon Deacon records. Griffis and Hartman both play quarterback. And there is where the similarities end.
This Is Mitch Griffis’ Wake Forest Offense To Run
The Difference Is Clear
Hartman is a drop-back quarterback with marginal running skills. He had a confidence that often bordered on cockiness. His throwing skills are undeniable, and his belief in them made him throw some ill-advised passes. He did the media availabilities that he was required to do and sometimes did so begrudgingly. He was already off limits to the media during the week. Then during a three-game losing streak in 2022, he was given a pass from being at the post-game press conferences as QB1. At the Gasparilla Bowl press conference, he was already out of his chair and leaving the stage as the media was asking its final question.
Griffis is not the traditional drop-back passer. His throwing motion comes from a three-quarter arm motion, making it a little more interesting in a slow-mesh offense that puts him right up on the line of scrimmage. Whereas Hartman ran out of necessity, Griffis will do so by design. Head coach Dave Clawson has said he will look to get his quarterback out of the pocket more.
And Griffis, to this point, has yet to shy away from talking to the media when requested to do so. He has that delivery in his comments that tells you he will stay and answer as many questions as you have. He is happy to be QB1, a position that inherently makes you the face of the program. In any given meeting with the media, he will have a slight chuckle when answering some questions, and an introspective look when talking about his own performance.
The New Kid Is Not So New
Griffis is a mix of “newbie” exuberance and veteran understanding. He is in his fourth season in Winston-Salem but is only a redshirt sophomore. With redshirting and the 2020 Covid eligibility exemption, class definitions mean little these days. He started the season opener against VMI last season and played in some mop-up duty in other games.
Still, he goes in as the starter in 2022 with comparatively less experience than QB1 has had in the last few years. That does not translate to a lack of humble confidence for Griffis. He was 19 of 29 passing for 315 yards and two touchdowns in the Spring scrimmage Saturday while sitting out most of the fourth quarter.
“I think I’ve grown a lot over the Spring,” Griffis said after the scrimmage. “For me, I think it’s less physical and more mental. When you are the starting quarterback of a football team, that’s just the nature of the sport. A lot of people look to you as an example. I’m just trying to carry myself the best I can every day.”
Teammates Have Thoughts On Griffis
His teammates have his back. Offensive lineman Michael Jurgens told us during the Spring, “There is no drop off in terms of communication or preparation [from Hartman to Griffis]. He’s prepared like a starter since day one.”
Wide receiver Donavon Greene called Griffis, “A worker.” He added, “After practice you always see him working on something. Maybe he did good in practice but didn’t like the way he did it.”
During camp, offensive lineman Nick Sharpe told us, “I have total confidence in Mitch. I love his energy and his aura. And I love his confidence.” Then we get to Griffis, the bringer of calm. “He allows us on the o-line to be relaxed even when we’re in tough situations.”
Have You Heard The One About….?
So how does Griffis do that? We asked him. “I just like to be myself,” he said noting that he knows when it is time to be serious. And the other times? “I like to joke around, [in the huddle]. I like to keep things light. At the end of the day, we’re playing a game that we love. Sometimes in the nature of our sport, it’s a business. In college football, it’s really, really hard to win games. There are really, really good teams. So I like to keep it light. When things are getting intense, I like to crack some jokes.”
Griffis swears the jokes are clean, and it is impossible not to believe him. He says they are inside jokes that only the team would understand. “I’m a serious guy, but I do like to have fun and goof off with the guys. I think that’s how you make relationships. If everybody is serious in the huddle, you’d just be like ‘Ugh.’ So you just crack a joke and everybody giggles for like two seconds and then we are back ready to go.”
One thing about himself that Griffis does take seriously is having been named a team captain over the weekend. “It’s probably the coolest accomplishment I have had in my life,” he said. As it was voted on by the team, Griffis labeled it, “The biggest responsibility I have in my life.”
It is a new era for Wake Forest football, and Griffis is not likely to get lost in the bright lights of the biggest stages.
Photo courtesy: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports