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Opponent Breakdown: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Louisville was denied a Bobby Petrino/Jim Grobe Orange Bowl rematch when the latter was fired after last season. Dave Clawson has been tasked with rebuilding a program low on talent and recent success. A conference road win would be a nice shot in the arm for his program.

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Jim Grobe had a notorious rule about redshirting incoming freshmen their first year on campus. Outside of a very few he stuck to his guns and was still able to bring in enough talent to win the ACC in 2006. He was voted as the AP Coach of the Year that season but things quickly went downhill. Grobe couldn't keep up with the rest of the ACC and finished his time there with five straight losing season. His questionable roster decisions made it hard to recruit and Dave Clawson has been left to pick up the pieces. The Deacons have a solid recruiting class coming in next year, but for now Clawson has to make due with a team lacking a lot of talent.


Wake's offense is pretty bad at just about everything and Clawson made it obvious that he was coaching for the future by naming true freshman John Wolford the starter at quarterback before the season started. Wolford put up fairly crazy numbers in high school last year but was not heavily recruited. He has shown flashes of really solid ability so far but the freshmen mistakes are many. He's taken a handful of really bad sacks and has thrown seven interceptions already. But when given time he can find the open receiver when his first option isn't available. That's a real positive for a guy that was planning prom night six months ago. If, and its a big if, Wolford gets solid protection from his line he could expose a defense that has struggled a bit to stop passers on third down.

I pretty much refuse to consider SMU a real team this year with their coach quitting a month into the season. Therefore, Wake is the worst rushing team in the country. Even if you take out their sack yardage, they are the fourth worst team. They didn't return any of their top running backs from last year and the inexperience has shown. Wake's run plays make Shawn Watson's slow developing runs look like hyper speed. A lot of their run plays are inside zone read runs and I honestly can't tell if it is by design that the quarterback takes so much time making the read. They also like to pull linemen on these plays which is why Wolford rarely keeps the ball. Wake is averaging 1.4 yards per carry. That won't cut it against a defense that wants to make you one dimensional.

Wake didn't return much at the skill positions on offense and wide receiver is a glaring example of that. Clawson's offense likes to spread the field and speed things up as fast as possible. To be successful with that type of offense you need depth at receiver and Wake just doesn't have it. They run a base "Ace" set with three receivers and a tight end in Cam Serigne than can split out wide. Those four starting receivers are about all that have played this year. They have all been decently productive but they lack a deep threat or a player that is dangerous in space. It limits what the offense can do and has led to a lot of five to eight yard routes that don't scare the defense much. Wake will need one of their receivers to make a few plays to loosen up the defense Saturday.

As much as we complain about the offensive line issues at Louisville, Wake fans might have a better argument with the issues they've seen so far this year. Wake's opponents obviously haven't held back with blitzing the true freshman quarterback and he hasn't always done well himself with getting rid of the ball. But, the line also hasn't handled the pressure well. The line has given up 15 sacks and 38 tackles for loss in four games. They system isn't a complete change from Grobe's offense but it does rely on a lot of misdirection and crossing routes that take time to develop. The line has to hold blocks for longer and they have struggled with that. With such a porous running game, guys like Lorenzo Mauldin and Sheldon Rankins will be pinning their ears back on long yardage situations.

KEY PLAYERS: QB John Walford, WR EJ Scott, WR Matt James, TE Cam Seerigne, WR Jared Crump


Louisville will finally get a break from aggressive, blitzing defenses this weekend. Wake is in no way a bad defense but they are much more contend with trying to get pressure with their front four. The defensive line isn't very big but they can all move pretty well. One thing that should be a positive this week is their lack of a true pass rusher. Zachary Allen has shown a high motor and good speed in pursuit but there isn't a guy like Mike Whitehead or Eli Harold that should be a focus for the line.

Wake's defense doesn't have nearly the issues that the offense does. The group of linebackers have done a great job of flying to the football. The issue has been that when they get there they haven't always been able to get the runner down. It hasn't bit them too much because they have done such a good job pursuing the ball that they get a lot of gang tackles. Team speed is the biggest change for Louisville moving into the ACC and Wake has plenty of speed for a team that has been on hard times lately. Brandon Chubb and Marquel Lee do a great job of flying to the ball. They don't necessarily take on blocks extremely well but do very well making plays in space.

Kevin Johnson is one of the better cornerbacks in the ACC but he hasn't made many plays so far this year. He and the rest of the defensive backfield have really had issues with tackling this year. With Bobby having some success running the ball outside the tackles this season it will be something to keep an eye on if Johnson and Merrill Noel can't hold the edge and bring down Dominique Brown and company. In coverage the Deacons have been very good statistically. Playing against Army and their power option attack will always help you pass defense look a little better. But without the Army game the pass defense is still only giving up about 200 yards per game. They haven't been tested by receivers with the speed of a James Quick or Matt Milton so it will be interesting to see how they fare against better talent.

KEY PLAYERS: CB Kevin Johnson, OLB, Brandon Chubb, MLB Marquel Lee, SS Ryan Janvion, DE Zachary Allen


  • Dave Clawson was apparently one of the worst offensive coordinators in Tennessee history.
  • Bobby Petrino's last game during his first stint here was against Wake Forest (Might as well get used to hearing that over and over again now).
  • Second string tight end Devin Pike was a Louisville commit before Charlie Strong left.
  • Wake doesn't have a single four-star player (per Rivals) in their two-deep.
  • Ryan Janvion and Brandon Chubb are first and second in the ACC in tackles, respectively.