Editor’s note: The Roanoke Times is taking an early look at every game on Virginia Tech’s 2019 schedule. Check back every Tuesday and Thursday this summer for a new preview.
The Wake Forest football team is in a good place.
Deacons coach Dave Clawson has brought stability to the program since taking over in 2014. He’s 22-17 since 2016 with bowl wins each of the last three seasons. Clawson's sucesss earned him a contract extension through 2026 in April.
Wake Forest has peaked late in the year for much of that stretch, which is bad news for a Virginia Tech team hosting the Deacons on November 9.
Last year vs. Virginia Tech: N/A
What happen? Virginia Tech leads the all-time series between the programs with a 24-12-1 record. The last matchup between the ACC rivals in 2014 was a memorable one. The game went into overtime after a scoreless regulation (a first in college football). Wake Forest missed a game-winning field goal attempt as time expired in the fourth quarter, but ended up winning 6-3 in double overtime.
Position(s) of strength: Wake Forest has put up record offensive numbers with Clawson at the helm. The team set a record for total offense in 2017 with 6,055 yards and 459 points scored. The 2018 squad finished second all-time with 5,847 yards and 427 points.
The Deacons will benefit from having running back Cade Carney back in the lineup. Carney is the program’s first returning 1,000-yard rusher since 2005. Carney had 1,005 yards (5.4 yards per carry) with eight touchdowns. He had three 100-yard games including a career-high 223 yards in a 59-7 win over Duke.
Wake Forest lost two of its top three receivers — leading receiver Greg Dortch left early for the NFL after catching 89 passes for 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns — but redshirt freshman Sage Surratt's breakout year helped soften the blow. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder, who had 41 catches for 581 yards and four touchdowns last year, is the kind of big-bodied receiver that Virginia Tech struggled with last season.
A healthy Scotty Washington should give Wake Forest a pretty talented tandem at the position. He had a quiet season in 2018 thanks to an injury, but two years ago he caught 45 passes for 711 yards.
The Deacon’s offensive line is also in pretty good shape with two returning starters (Jake Benzinger and Nate Gilliam) from last year and former All-ACC tackle Justin Herron back in the lineup. Herron tore his ACL in the season-opener against Tulane.
Ch...ch...changes: Much of the turnover on Wake Forest’s defense came right up the middle.
The Deacons need to replace both starting defensive tackles (Will Yarbary and Zeek Rodney) and their starting safeties (Cameron Glenn and Chuck Wade). The tackles combined for 142 tackles (75 solo), 33.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks as two-year starters. Glenn was second on the team last year with 98 tackles (68 solo) along with four pass-breakups and two forced fumbles.
The cupboard isn’t empty though.
Veteran linebacker Justin Strnad, an All-ACC honorable mention last year, along with a pair of experienced defensive backs (Amari Henderson and Essany Bassey) are all impressive playmakers.
Lingering questions: Wake Forest is another ACC team in the midst of a prolonged quarterback battle. Freshman Sam Hartman won the job last year after expected starter Kendall Hilton was suspended before the opener. Hartman showed promise throwing for 1,984 yards (55 percent) with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions, but suffered a season ending injury in Week 8.
Backup quarterback Jamie Newman helped the Deacons clinch a bowl bid winning three of the team’s last four (that included a pair of road victories over NC State and Duke). Newman threw for 1,008 yards (61 percent) with nine touchdowns and three interceptions.
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