ACC Preview: Marquel Lee set to star, but who will be Wake Forest’s QB?
Dave Clawson has been adamant that a bowl game is a realistic goal for Wake Forest as he enters his third season at the helm; a substantial jump after the Demon Deacons went 3-9 in each of his first two seasons.
With 16 starters back — including nine on offense — can Clawson and Co. get to that six-win plateau and the program’s first bowl since 2011?
The answer is likely in how the Deacons address the following:
Last season, Wake Forest played both pocket passer John Wolford (1,791 yards, nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions on a 60.9 percent completion rate) and dual threat Kendall Hinton (929 yards passing with four TDs and five INTs along with 390 yards and seven scores on the ground). Clawson has said he doesn’t want a two-QB system, and given the way Wolford ended his season — he threw for 219 yards vs. Notre Dame and 338 against Duke — he would seem to have the edge. But last year’s offense was plagued by inexperience along the line, and with four of the five starters back, would Wake Forest be better served utilizing Hinton’s play-making ability with his legs? Despite his insistence, it’s hard to imagine Clawson not finding a way to work both of his QBs into the mix with their differing skill sets.
All-ACC linebacker Brandon Chubb is gone, though the Deacons won’t lack for talent in the second level with 6-foot-3, 240-pound senior Marquel Lee. The team’s leader in tackles for loss in each of the past two seasons (including 10 a year ago), he may be Wake Forest’s best hope of putting another player on the all-conference team. Lee is also going to be key, as along with Chubb, this D is down two of its starting LBs from a year ago, players who were key in this unit allowing 24.6 points per game (43rd in FBS). Lee’s strength is as a run-stopper, and with three opponents (Duke, Indiana and NC State) in the first five games who were 37th or better in rushing offense last season, he figures to loom large.
It’s rare that a player decommits from Tennessee and spurns the likes of Georgia and Louisville to play in Winston-Salem. But Reid, a three-star running back and a top-50 player at the position out of Concord, N.C., did exactly that. The 6-foot, 215-pounder ran for 2,734 yards and 38 TDs as a senior, and should vie for carries in a backfield whose biggest weapon (sophomore Tyler Bell) had 451 yards a year ago. A starter in the spring game (he ran 16 times for 41 yards), it’s not a matter of whether Clawson finds a way to utilize Reid this fall, it’s how quickly he starts to pull carries away from Bell
Follow Cory McCartney on Twitter @coryjmccartney and Facebook. His book, ‘Tales from the Atlanta Braves Dugout: A Collection of the Greatest Braves Stories Ever Told,’ is out now, and ‘The Heisman Trophy: The Story of an American Icon and Its Winners’ will be released Nov. 1, 2016.