Notre Dame Preview 2018: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

The first road game on the 2018 Notre Dame football schedule is scheduled for September 22, when the Irish travel to Winston-Salem to start the ACC portion of their season by facing the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Last season, Wake and their head coach Dave Clawson managed to finish with an 8-5 record, the second year in a row they finished with a winning mark following five straight years under .500.

In 2017, the Demon Deacons ran off four straight wins to start the year, only to drop three contests in a row. However, in eight of their 13 games, they managed to score 30 points or more and cracked the 50-point barrier three times. Wake fans hope that ability to light up the scoreboard can continue.

Wake Forest Offense: A Change at the Controls

The main challenge in keeping the Deacons’ offense in high gear is making sure that new signal caller Kendall Hinton can maintain the production of last year’s quarterback, John Wolford. Two years ago, Hinton lost his job to Wolford due to injury, but can go deep and has excellent mobility. Still, his accuracy is open to question.

Even though Wake’s offense remains an explosive one, it does have the capability to grind it out, if necessary. Matt Colburn finished strong in 2017 and will serve as the main running option this season, with Cade Carney ready to supplement his work. An unknown quantity is redshirt freshman Christian Beal, who has the potential to deliver, though maybe not in 2018.

The two main targets for Hinton among receivers are Greg Dortch, who grabbed 53 passes last year, and Scotty Washington, who caught 45 on the year. Neither are speed demons, yet both can do damage to opposition defenses. Right now, tight end remains a question mark, but making up the 44 receptions and nine scores that the departed Cam Serigne provided is vital.

The least amount of questions when it comes to the Deacon offense are directed at the offensive line. That’s because all five starters are back, with three of them coming off award-winning seasons. While there’s talented depth waiting in the wings, it’s largely untested, which could cause problems if injuries strike this department.

Wake Forest Defense: A Work in Progress

As potent as the Wake offense is, the team’s defense has holes that must be addressed to display any sort of improvement. While the Deacons are solid on the inside line with tackles Zeek Rodney and Willie Yarbary, they have to find a way to make up for the 10 sacks and 24 tackles-for-loss contributed by Duke Ejiofor and Wendell Dunn, who are gone.

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At linebacker, two holes also exist and the role of Demetrius Kemp could shift to the inside if he’s unable to improve his abilities against the pass. Defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel is hoping that the boost provided by Justin Strnad last year isn’t a mirage after Strnad brought down 51 ball carriers, collected 4.5 sacks and picked off three passes.

The true litmus test for the Wake defense will be the secondary’s performance, which routinely got shredded in the latter part of 2017. The Deacons lost their top player here in Jessie Bates, which might be seen as a plus. However, if players like Essang Bassey at one corner and Cameron Glenn at safety aren’t able to improve their game, it could make for long afternoons.

Wake Forest Special Teams: A Cloudy Forecast

Without all-conference kicker Mike Weaver, Wake might need the team’s punter, Dom Maggio, to handle those duties. Otherwise, incoming freshman Nick Sciba gets put in this crucial role. When Dortch isn’t hauling down passes, he’s going to be badly needed on the return unit.

The Last Time Notre Dame Played Wake Forest

Last year, the Notre Dame football schedule had these teams playing in South Bend, with the Irish coming away with a wild 48-37 victory. Notre Dame managed to rack up 710 yards of total offense and bounced back from an opening score by Wake to take a 31-10 halftime lead. The Irish were in full control of the game, holding a 42-16 lead at one point.

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  1. david 8 months ago

    Wake is a welcoming venue…their fans are not rabid like Clemson & Georgia folks.
    Kelly should at least enjoy himself. So that’s nice.

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  2. southside 8 months ago

    Tough 2018 September schedule. Similar to 2017 September schedule. 5 games. I remember saying last year — Irish could be in good shape going into October 5-0 or 4-1. They did lose to Georgia went 4-1 in September. They picked up more steam , getting noticed with the clean slate in October plus win over USC. I see a same path ahead in 2018. Must beat Michigan or Stanford on September schedule—both would be nice though. 4-1 September finish (similar to 2017) is essential for Irish to in the mix for final four heading into October. If Irish go 3-2 in September with losses to Michigan and Stanford —I would say road ahead for playoff contention is done. I think Irish have the horses to beat Michigan and Stanford —and finish September 5-0. Need Wimbush to have a better season—and the Irish D to dominate opponents , help from Special Teams could make a difference . All hands on deck for Irish — starting September 1st.

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    1. Bruce Gregory Curme 8 months ago

      That’s pretty much the size of it Southside. What makes a difference this year though resides in 3 places:
      1. A year with experienced QB’s
      2. An already good defense will now have some depth as well as experience
      3. The receivers (maybe including the TE’s) will all be dangerous and, I think, reliable.

      Those are huge differences.

      BGC ’77 ’82

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      1. Bruce Gregory Curme 8 months ago

        Also, the conditioning program will provide enough “O” line replacements, we have Mustipher in the middle of that, and we appear to have a rising star at running backs coach.

        BGC ’77 ’82

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  3. Greg Kelly 8 months ago

    Looks like we’re playing Whole Foods. I didn’t know they had a nickname Demon Deacons.

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    1. david 8 months ago

      Your familiarity with Division 1 college football continues to amaze.

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      1. ndcrazymike 8 months ago

        Just like you continue to amaze with your stupidity, dopey davey!!!!

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      2. david 8 months ago

        What, no all-caps? You feeling ill…I mean, more ill than usual?

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      3. Greg Kelly 8 months ago

        This may help. Go into Piggly Wiggly and get some veggies, it may help your vegetable brain.

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      4. david 8 months ago

        Do they have PW on their helmets?
        Bwa ha ha ha ha

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