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Clawson talks WF spring ball

Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson spoke to the media on Wednesday after three spring practices for his Demon Deacons. Clawson talked about how the NCAA waiver allowing players to return for an extra year has been a big bonus for spring ball allowing his team to run three huddles for the first time in spring practice and some of the players who are benefitting from off-season conditioning work.

Clawson speaking to the media via Zoom
Clawson speaking to the media via Zoom (Kelly Quinlan/DI)

OPENING STATEMENT:

"Great to see everybody. Thanks for joining us virtually again. And hopefully, the light at the end of the tunnel is near here and a lot of people are getting vaccinated we can get together in person. First off, I want to congratulate Zach Tom, for me being named an ACC Postgraduate Scholar. That is awarded to students who intend to get a postgraduate degree. Zach's an outstanding player, great student, and a really good leader in our program, and he is pursuing his MBA at Wake Forest and last guy to get this award was Cam Serigne, so that's a pretty good tradition.

We have congratulations to Kevin Johnson, for signing with the Titans. Always good to see Deacs make and stay in the NFL.

We had a number of announcements regarding our strength and conditioning staff. And so we're glad to have that unit, solidified under Chad Bari's leadership. And I think we're full speed ahead. And we got a great group there. And those guys are working really well together and with our team, and we're a week away from Pro day. So we're excited to get Boogie and a lot of our former players back here, and that they have a chance to show off their skills to a bunch of NFL scouts, I'm sure we're gonna have a lot of people here. And it's just exciting how that event continues to grow for us every single year.

We've had three really good practices love the energy level, we purposely delayed the start of practice this year, from late February to mid to late March, just because of how long the season was. And right now, I think that was a good decision, the energy level of our team, we've had three very spirited practices, the depth, we have three groups running, we've never been able to do that before. So you know, we're fine-tuning the ones in the twos, we're developing threes. And again, the goal is to have a robust roster that has depth, and we just got to keep these guys healthy. So they continue to practice and get better. But we've had three really good practices. We're going to do four or five and six tomorrow, Friday and Saturday. And then we'll be on a schedule of three a week for the next three weeks wrapping up in mid-April.

ON WHO HAS SPARKED HIS INTEREST THROUGH THREE PRACTICES

"I mean, you could almost go through every group I mean, I'll start in the secondary that getting Gavin Holmes is healthy again. I mean, he's looked good he's quick Caelen Carson all the extra work he got i think is gonna really pay off, To me, JJ Roberts and Nick Andersen, Zion Keith, those guys to me are growing every day. At linebacker, Luke (Masterson) certainly looks very natural at linebacker, I think that's a move that's gonna pay off for us. And I think Jaylen Hudson and Chase Jones have really already just showed a lot more instincts. They're playing faster, they understand the defense better.

Upfront, the two young freshmen, Jasheen Davis and Kendron Wayman are certainly at times flashing. I think Justin Williams and Will Smart have taken a step forward. And a lot of this is just from the strength and conditioning program. These guys are much closer in terms of weight and strength to be able to play ACC football than they were in the fall.

Then on the offensive line, you know, we got all the starters back, but seeing a guy like George Sell or Christian Forbes or CJ Elmonus, and guys like that start the next stage in their development. Devonte' Gordon, I think our two offensive line looks a lot closer than we were a year ago.

I feel really good about the receiver position. Donald Stewart's a guy that the first three practices has really impressed He looks a lot more comfortable, a lot more confident than he did in the fall. You know, that would be a big plus one for us. You know, exciting to see what Casey can do. He's still learning the offense, but he certainly flashes Ke'Shawn Williams is a guy that has shown improvement.

Then you get to the running back position. And really all of them I mean, Justice Ellison getting Quinton Cooley back. Amani Marshall and Christian Turner have all flashed. So again, you know, we've gotten to kind of all those returning starters. And now it's investing wraps in that next wave. Again, it's a broken record, you know, trying to develop that doubt, that's evaded us, and we got to develop those guys, and then try to keep the older guys healthy."

ON IF HE WILL CHANGE HIS MIND AND HAVE A SPRING GAME WITH FANS

"We're gonna wait and say, you know, part of that is, you know, it's a state decision, but then it's also an institutional decision. And, you know, we got to see where Wake Forest is with that. So we'll wait and say, you know, again, I'm planning to not have one. But whatever we would do that last practice, we could easily do that in front of a crowd if we had to."

ON HIS HOPES FOR FALL ATTENDANCE

"I mean, I'm hoping if we're at 15,000. Now, by the time we get to September, it's 30,000. So again, we're going to take an optimistic view of it, I'd rather be safer on the front end to help ensure the back end."

ON HIS THOUGHTS ON HOW THE 2021 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE IS LAID OUT

"It's all good. I mean, I like having, you know, couple of games at home to start, I like that the bye week is somewhere in the middle of the season. Certainly, you'd like to have those by weeks before you play the option teams in Army. I like the fact that those you know, the Big Four game. Things are late in the year, you know, you want to play meaningful games late in the season. And anytime we play NC State, Duke of Carolina, those are all big games that our fans are excited about. And, you know, certainly finishing at Clemson and NBC. You know, hopefully, the goal is in November that we're still in the race for the Atlantic Division Championship. And our goal would we'd love to get to that Clemson game, you know, with a shot to win the Atlantic."

ON HOW THEY ARE DEALING WITH THE LOGISTICS OF HAVING AN ENLARGED ROSTER

"what we have done is usually in the spring, we just run to two groups. And we've run three groups. And so typically, you know, if we go, what I call racks of five, you know, we'll go 10 wraps five of the ones five with the twos, you know, what we've done is we've done three racks. And so it really serves two purposes that we're we're getting a lot of reps to our twos and our threes. Because we have so many returning starters, the starters are actually getting a smaller percentage of the reps. So we're not exposing them as much to potential injury. These are guys that have played a lot of football for us with all those, you know, the 9/5 and sixth-year guys coming back, they need to play football, they need to get in shape, they need to go through their reads. They don't need the normal investment wraps you have to make in a group in the spring when you have that many returning starters. And so we've just kind of structured our team periods and our Skelly periods a little different to ensure that we're given all those mid-semester freshmen and guys that didn't play last year, we've given them a chance to develop and at the same time we're trying to protect our older guys a little bit."

ON HOW THE OLDER PLAYERS PLAY MENTOR TO THE YOUNGER ONES

"We always start them off and they've got to set the example on the standard of how we do things and then You know when the young guys see them run plays, and they go in there, hopefully, they're not making the same mistakes. And so as you can imagine our first and second offense, our first offense and defense right now, you know, we're very advanced. We're, our installation is way ahead, we're doing things two or three days ahead of schedule, just because of all the players that are back, it didn't have to be the, you know, the base day one install, those guys don't like the back of their hand. So we're able to do a lot more schematically with the ones because read a further starting point. And then when they watch the film, the younger kids can see how the offense is going to evolve now, so their installation for the younger guys, is a little slower, a little less involved, but they can see what plays they've got to learn. While they're just still running the bass plays."

ON HOW THE MID-YEAR FRESHMAN ARE DOING

"Well, the real challenge is a lot of these guys didn't even play high school football, you know so that a lot of them are playing their first snaps of football since their fall their junior year. So some of them played a few games in the fall. But you know, a guy like Matt Gulbin from Connecticut, this is the first time he's played since the fall of 2019. So it's it's Baptism by fire. We go through it every year. We just have a few more of them this year. But I mean, overall, they've picked it up. Well, they got through the awakening.

It's a pretty mentally tough group. And like our strength coach likes to say that, you know, every year I think the size, athleticism and strength of what we bring in every year, incrementally gets a little better."

ON TRAVEON REDD SAYING HE COULD PLAY THREE SPOTS ON D THIS YEAR

"He'll play rover, he'll play safety. He probably could play linebacker, you know that that is where we can help our depth when you have guys like Luke Masterson, who have played a high safety that have played rover that have played linebacker, you know, part of the ways of creating depth is having more people. Part of the ways of creating depth is have guys that can play multiple positions. So you know, if Nasir Greer can play both high safety positions if JJ Roberts can play, rover and high safety, if Zion Keith can play, safety and corner, you know, you want to get that you're playing your your fifth or sixth best defensive back and not your third or fourth best corner. And so we're actively trying to cross train players at multiple positions, especially on defense so that we have that position flexibility that we can get the best 11 on the field. You know, our linebackers are learning in both linebacker spots. Some of our linebackers are learning rover, some of our rovers are learning safety, some of our safeties are learning corner. And so if we have to simplify things a little bit to get the best players on the field, that's something we felt we have to do."

ON IF THEY WILL HAVE SUMMER RECRUITING CAMPS

"I mean, I think right now, there's an anticipation that we're going to be able to have camps. So, you know, it seems to be trending that it'll open back up in June. Again, things can change. But if the vaccine can continue to show its effectiveness, I'm sure we'll have protocols. I don't think it'll be back to the way it was. But maybe we'll be a little bit of a halfway point that we can have camps and unofficial visits and official visits, probably with limited numbers and there might be certain protocols still in place that we have to follow."