Winston-Salem, NC – Day Two of Wake Forest’s preseason football camp on Thursday moved indoors to the McCreary Field House due to ongoing thunderstorms. The nasty weather outside didn’t hamper head coach Dave Clawson‘s enthusiasm over what happened inside.
“I thought it was (another good practice)” said Clawson to the media following the workout. “The two things that I look for in the first practices before the pads go on is how fast you’re practicing and are guys staying off the ground. Two days in a row we’ve done a good job of that.”
During one drill towards the end of practice, Clawson noted that freshman corner had given up a completion on a deep post route to fellow freshman wide receiver A.T. Perry. However, Zion Keith quickly was in pursuit and was able to strip the receiver of the ball and force a fumble.
“It was a great effort play,” said Clawson. “I didn’t like the start of the play but that, to me, was a great lesson play for freshmen. Zion Keith was in a coverage play where he couldn’t give up inside leverage and he did. And he got beat for a deep post. But the second part of it is that he kept playing, he made a great effort play and stripped it, recovered the fumble and that’s like a switch that is either on or off and the fact that that switch with him is on is really encouraging. I don’t want him hanging his head about getting beat by a deep post, I want to encourage him that that’s incredible effort. If guys play that hard, we’re going to coach them and encourage them.”
In the four years under Clawson, about two-thirds of all freshmen have redshirted in their first year in the program. Making that determination, however, will not happen until later in preseason camp.
“It’s Day Two. To me, the test of camp is two weeks from now, who can still come out here with enthusiasm, who can give us effort,” said Clawson. “I say it all the time, the reason freshmen play or don’t play usually has very little to do with ability. It has to do with maturity and can they sustain it. For me right now, after two days, to say these guys are going to play, these guys aren’t, that’s not the test of camp. The test of camp is two weeks from now when it’s a two-minute drill, who can get lined up properly when it’s their 14th practice, their 800th rep and they’re still locked in. All these guys physically can play. We feel very good about whom we’ve recruited and at some point they will play for us. The test is we probably need two or three of them to help us. Just for us to play nickel and dime and be able to matchup with teams that go with four receivers. To me, we’re just going to rep them and it’s very similar to QB. It will play itself out.”
Redshirt sophomore Jamie Newman and true freshman Sam Hartman continue to lead the competition for starting quarterback when the Demon Deacons open at Tulane on August 30. While last year’s team set school records for total offense yards and points scored in a season, Clawson cautioned against comparing any of the current quarterbacks with last year’s starter, John Wolford.
“Three years ago we would have been jumping up and down if we got this (type of) quarterback performance,” said Clawson. “You can’t keep making comparisons to what John Wolford was as a senior. That was a high standard and he was second team all-conference. He had a special year. But you can certainly say of every other year (except 2017) the way these guys are playing they would have been competitive for the position. They’re still young and at this point in their career, it’s a very high ceiling. It’s practice (number) two, it’s a limited play menu on offense, the defense is still limited. As we add more and they add more and the game becomes more complex and the game becomes faster, can they still keep it slow in their minds? And that`s the breaking point.
“When we do the seven on seven, there’s some tight windows and linemen to throw over,” continued Clawson. “So far those throws have been really accurate. Yesterday in our first skeleton, those guys were 19 of 22. Jamie and Sam I think only missed one throw. I don’t care (whether they are a) first-year freshman, fourth-year senior, when the ball’s not on the ground in seven on seven, that’s very encouraging for the offense.”
Clawson was asked about the play of the linebackers where a number of candidates are vying for starting roles.
“I think there’s clarity in who the candidates are and who’s going to play,” said Clawson. “The battle is how much are they going to play. The four guys who are going to play inside are going to be D.J. (Taylor) and Nate (Mays), and Justin (Strnad) and Jake (Simpson). How much they play, what their rep distribution is, we’re getting Ja’Cquez (Williams) some work in there. Those are the guys who are going to play. I think the big question in camp is does (freshman) Ryan Smenda become playable? Because if Ryan becomes playable, great, you can leave Ja’Cquez on the outside. If Ja’Cquez picks things up quickly and becomes an option in there, that gives us a little more flexibility.”
Senior linebacker Demetrius Kemp earned post-practice accolades from his head coach.
“He’s just a good football player,” said Clawson. “We’re going to play him all over. We’ll play him at rover, strong safety, linebacker. He’s a fifth-year senior, he’s really smart, he’s extremely competitive and plays with a really high motor. To have somebody like that is a real bonus. He just can do so much because he’s so smart and so bright. He’s Ryan Janvion smartness-wise but closer to the line of scrimmage. Ryan had the ability to play all three of those safety positions. Demetrius can play all those second level perimeter positions.”
The Deacons will add shoulder pads to their helmets and jerseys for Friday’s third practice. The Demon Deacons are slated to take the field at 7:45 am at the Doc Martin Football Practice Complex and inside McCreary Field House.