2022 Wake Forest Demon Deacons Preview

by Matt Fargo

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

2021-22 Season Record 11-3 (7-2 ACC Atlantic) - 7-7-0 ATS - 6-8-0 O/U

Returning Starters

Offense - 7
Defense - 7

Overview

It has been an unprecedented, sustained run for Wake Forest as it has ended the regular season with a .500 or better record for six straight seasons that has resulted in six straight bowl games. Head coach Dave Clawson took over in 2014 after a run of five straight losing seasons and after a pair of 3-9 campaigns in his first two years, he ran off four straight winning seasons. That streak came to an end with a 4-5 COVID shortened 2020 season because of a bowl loss but the Demon Deacons bounced back in a big way by going 11-3 last season and this program is on a roll. They have 14 starters back with a returning production ranking of No. 46 so the success is expected to continue and it has come into the season with a ranking of No. 22 in the AP Poll. A lot of the success will depend on the health of quarterback Sam Hartman and when/if he can return to the lineup.

Offense

The offense was outstanding behind Hartman as Wake Forest finished No. 12 in total offense and No. 5 in scoring offense as he passed for 39 touchdowns and 4,228 yards last season, both school records. On August 10th, the team announced that Hartman will be out for a substantial amount of time with a non-football issue and no other further details have emerged except that it could be mental health related. This is a massive blow to the offense but his wellbeing is of the utmost importance at this point. Taking over will be redshirt freshman Mitch Griffis who has seen limited action but has had a lot of time to work with the first string offense. The receiving corps is loaded despite losing second leading receiver Jaquarii Roberson as the next three guys that combined for 22 touchdowns are all back. The offensive line is in great shape while the returning backs can get it done.

Defense

The absence of Hartman will put some added pressure on the defense that was not good last season, evidenced by losing to North Carolina despite the offense putting up 55 points. The Demon Deacons finished No. 99 in total defense and No. 94 in scoring defense and were horrible against the run. Some key pieces from last season are gone and that includes leading tackler Luke Masterson, who had 85 stops from the linebacker position. Ryan Smenda, Jr. who had 83 tackles is back though to lead the unit and help shore up the running defense. The defensive line is also to blame and work needs to be done here as well. They have a great end in Rondell Bothroyd who had 63 tackles and seven sacks and this group has to get to the quarterback to help the secondary that lost a lot. Safety Nick Anderson is the best holdover after 44 tackles and one interception last season.

2022 Season Outlook

The expectations that were sky high coming into camp have quelled some with the Hartman news and while the offense likely is not going to be putting up massive numbers again, they should be just fine with so much talent surrounding Griffis. The good news is that the early portion of the schedule is easy which will give the offense a chance to come together. Wake Forest opens at home against VMI and then travels to Vanderbilt before returning home to face Liberty. Then the ACC kicks in by hosting Clemson and then heading to Florida St. the following week. Following a pair of winnable home games, they are on the road against at Louisville and NC State with a home game against North Carolina the final roadblock down the line. The O/U win total was 8.5 but has fallen to 6.5 and they should still be capable of going over that but if the offense stalls, that over could be in trouble. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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