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Redemption in Wake Forest Football

redemption in Wake Forest football

As we head into week three of Spring camp, there is a mix of goals to be achieved in the days, weeks, and months ahead. For the returning players on the team, head coach Dave Clawson says there is a desire for redemption in Wake Forest football. For younger/newer players, there are opportunities that their predecessors did not necessarily get at this stage of the process.

As we have noted in previous weeks, there has been a substantial change in the structure of Spring camp for the Demon Deacons. The live 11-on-11 drills are being run simultaneously on two fields. That means “everyone” is getting more snaps.

Fixing What Happened

Clawson has told us he knew he had to change the system because last year did not work. When injuries hit the team, he had depth in bodies, but not necessarily depth in terms of game-ready players. Rushing a third-stringer in the week of the game to start taking first-team snaps is arduous to begin with. But when they barely saw any action in Spring or Fall camp, it was even harder to do.

The results were clear to all at the season’s end. Long journalistic prose was not needed to get to the bottom line of a 4-8 record. Clawson says that has not been lost on his team’s veteran players. “Our team is bothered by how last year went, how we finished. And you just see more attention to detail,” Clawson said last week. “You know, you’ve got to look in the mirror as a coach and say, ‘Why did we ever let that stuff go to begin with? Why did we assume these things?’”

He added that he can see the impact of last year in a different determination level on this year’s team in the first few weeks of camp. “It just feels like things are a little bit tighter and more detail-oriented than they were a year ago.”

Changes for Now and Changes for Later

The ability for players to work on their development in a post haste pace could also pay dividends in terms of roster development, now and down the road. Wake had been a program built, partially out of necessity, by taking “three-star” recruits and developing them over years until they were presumably ready for the bright lights of a Saturday night in the ACC. Much of that was a byproduct of who Wake could get in. But it also turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy over time; a part of the DNA that defined how the program operated. That in turn determines, to some degree, the recruits who are interested in the program, as well as the ones on whom Wake could afford to put out an effort to recruit.

But if, with the new system, the ability to develop quicker can be evidenced it could be a bigger tweak to the system than just more snaps at practice. Since the coaches are spread out over two fields, the on-field corrections may not be immediate. The players who are going to make it through this system are going to be the players who can break down the film with the coaches. As offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero told us two weeks ago, there is more teaching going on in the film room now, and the execution of that has to happen on the field.

Clawson said last week that whereas the staff used to review 60 film clips from practice every day, now it is in the range of 120 clips. As for the younger players seeing more action at camp, Clawson said, “Because of it, [the change in the system], they’re picking things up quicker, and they’re a lot more engaged.”

Who Is Benefitting the Most?

He said the tradeoff is clear. “Anything in life that you get, you’ve got to give. The get is that our guys are getting a lot more reps.” He said the give is that the corrections don’t always come instantly on the field, but are sometimes revealed later in the film study. “But we watch every tape,” Clawson continued. “We watch every play. We get it corrected. I think the value of the players playing football and getting reps outweighs the instant correction.”

Asked to talk about position groups that have benefited the most from the increased workload, Clawson pointed to the defensive secondary and the receivers. He said the defensive back room has the bodies to fill in for the players gone from last year’s roster. It was now a matter of who would rise up with the extra workload each practice.

In terms of the receivers, with the loss of Jahmal Banks and Ke’Shawn, and with Donavon Greene sitting Spring camp, there has been more work for others. That includes players who have been in the system for a couple of years, but have yet to get the reps at practice.

“I think with both of those positions, it is just so many younger guys that are getting more reps than they’ve ever had before. It’s who elevates and who does it consistently.”

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