The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday September 29th

ACC preview: Wake Forest looks to improve abysmal run game

In preparation for the North Carolina football team's season opener on Sept. 3, we've broken down everything you need to know about each team in the ACC. Check out the rest of our previews here.

Coach: 

Dave Clawson (third year at Wake Forest) 

Record last year: 

3-9 (1-7 ACC) 

When do they play UNC? 

N/A

Where are they projected? 

Seventh in Atlantic Division 

How do they play?

Wake Forest attempts to have a balanced offensive attack, but the Demon Deacons’ running game has been anywhere from bad to abysmal the past two seasons under Clawson. The running game averaged 1.3 yards per carry in 2014 and improved to 3.0 yards per carry in 2015. The team’s leading rusher, sophomore running back Tyler Bell, only had 451 yards on the ground a year ago. 

The team's passing offense was merely mediocre, with modest passing yards but more interceptions than passing touchdowns. 

Much of Wake’s struggles on offense can be attributed to having a young offensive line the past two seasons. But with four starters returning from 2015’s unit, the blocking should be better overall. 

Who stands out?

Junior quarterback John Wolford and sophomore quarterback Kendall Hinton split time as the starter last season, in part due to nagging injuries sustained by Wolford. 

Wolford is the more talented passer of the two, completing nearly 61 percent of his passes to Hinton’s 52 percent, but Hinton is a gifted runner and scrambler. He ran for 390 yards a season ago, good enough to be the second-leading rusher on the team. 

They competed for the starting job through spring and training camp, but Wolford will get the nod for the season opener against Tulane. The development of whoever asserts himself as the starter will be key to letting Wake Forest take the next step on offense. 

With the graduation of captain Brandon Chubb, now with the Los Angeles Rams, senior linebacker Marquel Lee is the new leader of the Demon Deacon defense. He had 71 tackles in 2015, including 10 tackles for loss. Clawson will look for Lee to continue his high level of play from the middle linebacker position in order for Wake to remain as one of the top defenses in the conference. 

What is their biggest weakness?

The ground game must take the step from bad to average for the Demon Deacons to progress as a program. Additionally, the offensive line must improve to aid the running game. The defense remains a strength, but if the offense can’t stay on the field, stamina will wane as the year progresses.

Overall, Wake Forest just needs to improve in all facets of the game.

Why could they win the ACC?

While Wake has almost no shot at winning the ACC, it does have a favorable home schedule — with games against Tulane, Delaware, Syracuse, Virginia, Army and Boston College: all teams with losing records a season ago. If they steal a game on the road against someone like Indiana or N.C. State, the Demon Deacons have a good chance of becoming bowl eligible. 

That bowl eligibility window is very small, however. If the team drops a couple of those easy home games, it will be very difficult to win games against the likes of Atlantic powers Clemson, Florida State and Louisville. 

@sjdoughton

sports@dailytarheel.com

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