Wake Forest vs. Utah State: Six Questions With A Demon Deacons Expert
Get to know Wake Forest
How good is Wake Forest?
Utah State travels to the East Coast to take on Wake Forest in a pretty big opener for the 2019 season. The Aggies have a new head coach, well sort of, in Gary Andersen who is back in towan, and expecations are sky-high considering quarterback Jordan Love is a Heisman Trophy candidate.
1. What did Jamie Newman show during fall camp to win the starting quarterback job for Wake Forest?
Newman showed that he’s continued to work on his craft and develop under the tutelage of offensive coordinator/QBs coach Warren Ruggiero. While Newman’s performance in the final four games last season was admirable, it was more important that he improves in some areas – i.e. becoming faster with the run-pass option and becoming more of a vocal leader – and he shined in those areas during fall camp.
The first thing to expect with Wake Forest’s offense is tempo – they’ve been one of the fastest or the fastest, depending on metric, offense in the country in the past two seasons. But like every team that goes lightning-fast, Wake Forest also wants to leave open the possibility to slow things down when they need to.
The Deacons’ offensive line will face a tough task trying to block Woodward and Galeai, but – all due respect here – it’s an offensive line with three multiple-year starters who have been tasked with blocking Clemson’s defensive line (three first-round picks last year),
3. Who are a few Wake Forest players that Utah State should know about?
The biggest under-the-radar skill player coming out of fall camp is freshman running back Kenneth Walker III, who was the lower-rated of two freshmen backs and really showed himself to be a dynamic runner. He’s listed third on the depth chart behind Cade Carney (1,005 yards last season) and Christian Beal-Smith (231 yards on 47 carries last year), but Dave Clawson’s offense usually deploys three running backs per game.
On defense, pick from the litany of young defensive linemen for the Deacons. Defensive tackles Dion Bergan Jr. and Rondell Bothroyd will be counted on to develop as interior pass-rushers, and Ja’Corey Johns moves into a starting defensive end spot. All of them are in their second years in the program.
4. With Utah State having a (sort of) new head coach in Gary Andersen, what is the team doing to prep for a team with a new staff?
It seems like there’s been a balance between Wake Forest studying Andersen’s systems from his previous Utah State teams (and Wisconsin and Oregon State teams) and to studying last season’s tape.
Looking at last season likely tells Wake Forest about personnel more than anything, while studying Andersen’s history could reveal schemes.
5. Utah State QB Jordan Love is getting a lot of hype as possible an NFL first-round pick, how will the Demon Deacons defend him?
They’ll defend him the respect that a future first- or second-day NFL Draft pick will get, which is to say, he has their full attention. At today’s press conference with Clawson, he spoke as glowingly about Love as he has in past seasons about Trevor Lawrence and Lamar Jackson, and said that the NFL scouts who have come through Wake Forest’s camp have said Love could be the third quarterback picked next year, after Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert.
The Deacons are fully aware of how lethal Love is when given a clean pocket and of how he can also pick apart defenses while on the run. But they’ll have to try to get pressure, and that’ll have to come from the three second-year defensive linemen who are stepping into starting roles (Bergan, Bothroyd and Johns).
Wake Forest’s defense hasn’t pressured QBs well and hasn’t forced turnovers in the last two seasons, and those are the areas they’re targeting for defensive improvement.
6. How do you see this game playing out?
Let the record show that I checked the weather for this one, and it’s shaping up to be a pleasant evening in the high-60s, low-70s (fortunate for a late-August night around here).
So, given no crazy weather, I think this is a high-scoring game. Wake Forest’s defense should be improved while Utah State’s defense should be a strength – or at least the more-experienced unit – but I still think this is a game that will wind up in the 30s or 40s. Both offenses just seem loaded.
I stray from making straight-up predictions on who will win, and won’t regurgitate the cliché about whoever wins the turnover battle and/or creates more momentum, so I’ll say this: I think the key is Wake Forest’s young defensive line against Utah State’s young and mostly inexperienced offensive line.