Demon Deacons ready to build on success

Aug 14, 2017 - 8:14 PM Wake Forest finally realized some of the rewards after a series of rough seasons. Now, the Demon Deacons face the task of pushing further upward.

"We're looking forward to building off the momentum and the improvement that we made in the '16 season," fourth-year coach Dave Clawson said.

The Demon Deacons had an uplifting victory in the Military Bowl by defeating Temple to finish with a 7-6 record and snap a three-game losing streak from the end of the regular season.

Before last season, the team posted losing records in seven consecutive years, including three-win marks in 2014 and 2015.

So it's probably no surprise that the preseason polls haven't looked all that favorably on the Demon Deacons entering this season.

"We're used to it," senior tight end Cam Serigne said of low preseason ratings. "We want to be there. We want to be that team."

That underdog mentality is a mindset that seems to be spreading throughout the roster.

"We want the other teams to doubt us," senior defensive lineman Wendell Dunn said. "We want them to think, 'Oh, it's just Wake Forest we're playing,' so when we get out there and punch them in the mouth (it feels better)."

An upgrade on the offensive side is in order, and with a cast of promising running backs competing behind an upgraded offensive line that could be in the works.

Running backs Matt Colburn and Cade Carney could be major factors, particularly with the quarterback situation unclear amid the competition between Kendall Hinton and John Wolford.

After all, it's a Wake Forest team that failed to score more than 14 points in half of its regular-season games last year.

"I think on offense for the first time, you're looking at a lineup that isn't freshmen and sophomores," Clawson said.

"Even last year I think there was a game that we started nine freshmen and sophomores on offense. ... That's the thing I'm most excited about is you can become more creative when kids understand the system."

Wake Forest was involved in its share of close games last year, going 4-2 in outcomes decided by eight points or less.

Yet Clawson points out that his Wake Forest teams have yet to register a real eye-catching result.

"We want to have that big, signature win against one of the top teams in the conference," he said. "That's something that we still haven't accomplished, and that is certainly a big goal for this year is you win one of those games, you're like, 'Wow, Wake got it done.'"

MOST IMPORTANT PLAYER: DB Jessie Bates III -- He made a big impact a year ago as a redshirt freshman and now the stakes are raised. The Demon Deacons lost a large chunk of their experience in the defensive backfield, so now it will be Bates' turn to provide some leadership as well. He was second in the ACC last year with five interceptions, returning two of those for touchdowns so he has displayed the big-play capabilities. He's also a punt returner who the Demon Deacons would like to see break loose.

BREAKOUT STAR: QB Kendall Hinton -- He ended up taking a redshirt season in 2016 despite a promising stretch in the first couple of games before an injury. He entered the 2017 preseason camp atop the depth chart, although he's battling QB John Wolford for the first-string role for the second year in a row. The Demon Deacons know the benefits of Hinton winning the job, with the redshirt sophomore potentially holding that role for a few years. He has breakaway speed and shows a good knack when he's able to tuck the ball and run. He has made three career starts, including once last year before going out for the season with a knee injury in the third week.

NEWCOMER TO WATCH: WR Sage Surratt -- The true freshman is competing at a position where the Demon Deacons have needed to find more production, so there could be opportunity there. He received largely positive reviews through the early part of camp, so he won't be overlooked when the coaching staff determines what roles he can fill. He received state Player of the Year recognition in football and basketball in high school in North Carolina, so his athleticism is well-documented. His brother, Chazz Surratt, is a candidate for the starting quarterback role at North Carolina.

--S Traveon Reed, a redshirt freshman, has an elbow injury that's expected to keep him out of action until at least October.

--S Thomas Dillon is back on the field after missing the 2016 season with an injury. He has been moved from cornerback to safety.

--DT Deon Young, a graduate transfer from Northern Arizona, is expected to be in the mix along the defensive front.

--CB Cedric Jiles, a graduate transfer from Mississippi State, has missed preseason workouts because of a hip flexor.

--RT Je'Vionte Nash has taken reps with the first team. He's a redshirt freshman competing for a starting role.

No one has shouted yet.
Be the first!