Wake's Clawson: 'We're a 4-8 football team with 10 starters back'

Jul. 23, 2014 @ 05:51 PM

Dave Clawson tried to inject some humor.

Asked to comment about where his first Wake Forest team is predicted to finish in the ACC’s tough Atlantic Division, Clawson replied, “Were we picked to win it? I didn’t see those. Were we unanimous first? The bull’s-eye is on us, right?”

The Demon Deacons wound up last in the Atlantic when the results were announced this week during the ACC Kickoff at the Grandover Resort.

Clawson didn’t take offense, given that he hasn’t come up with replacements for starting quarterback Tanner Price and wide receiver Michael Campanaro, a combination that made up the thrust of the Deacs’ offense last year, plus leading rusher Josh Harris.

“We’re a 4-8 team with 10 starters back,” Clawson said. “We graduated a four-year starter at quarterback, the school’s record-holder in receiving, plus we don’t have an established tailback and tight end. You know, I live in the real world. But that’s the challenge.

“Our job is to maximize what we have with the team we have every year. That’s a great challenge for us right now. I’m excited about it. The formula may be a little bit different. We need to find a way to stay in games with good teams until the fourth quarter and find a way to pull it out. We have a small margin of error. But our challenge is to be successful.”

Staying close until the fourth quarter and pulling games out was also the philosophy of Clawson’s predecessor, Jim Grobe, who parted ways with the program last winter after suffering his fifth straight losing season.

Clawson, who came from Bowling Green and won a conference championship there, will try to succeed with an entirely different offense and defense than the ones Grobe used.

Wake will go to a no-huddle pro-style offense which Clawson said will be used in an effort to control tempo.

“It can play fast or slow,” Clawson said. “At Bowling Green, when we had an experienced quarterback, tailback and receiver, we wanted to have 85-90 plays a game. When those guys graduated and we were left with young guys, we were snapping with a second left on the (play) clock.”

On defense, the Deacons will change from a 3-4 (three linemen, four linebackers) to a 4-2-5 (five linemen, two linebackers and five in the secondary).

Some positions are set. Kevin Johnson and Bud Noel will start at cornerback, and Ryan Janvion and Anthony Wooding will start at safety.

Clawson has a good idea about who will start on the offensive and defensive lines.

“To say that all positions are open is phony,” Clawson explained. “But we don’t have a starting quarterback, we don’t have a starting tailback and we’re going to have competition at tight end and receiver. Two weeks into camp, I’d love to say this is our starting tailback or these are our starting receivers. Quarterback may take a little bit longer.”

The quarterback race is taking longer because inexperienced returners Tyler Cameron and Kevin Sousa didn’t play well enough to claim the position in the spring, leaving the door open for incoming freshmen Travis Smith and John Wolford.

“I really don’t know who the quarterback is going to be,” Clawson said. “We’ve got four guys and I hope one of them takes control of it. I’m not going make a decision by a date artificially. Those guys will decide it.”

Cameron, who went 7 of 24 backing Price last season, went just 9 of 26 for 83 yards in the spring game. Sousa, who spent 2013 as a wide receiver, went 16 of 32 for 178 yards and a TD in the spring.

“I promised the incoming freshman that they could complete for the job,” Clawson said. “And those two guys who took snaps in the spring, neither did enough, even if we didn’t have those guys coming in, to take control of the job.

“We just didn’t play well enough in the spring. Part of the trouble was the new system and part of it was new receivers. But we’ve got to complete a higher percentage of balls and we’ve got to take care of the ball better because we had too many turnovers.”

Clawson sees no positives in making an offense change with a new quarterback as opposed to trying to teach a new system to a veteran quarterback.

“There is no silver lining to not having a quarterback,” he said.

Given the upheaval and no experienced quarterback, Clawson also would not venture to guess when the Deacons might become competitive again in a division that includes defending national champion Florida State, national power Clemson and highly-regarded new ACC member Louisville.

“We want to win as many games as we can as soon as we can,” Clawson said. “That’s a good question to ask but I can’t answer it. I’d like to win this year. But we’ll have a better idea in the next two months how real that is.”