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Opponent Breakdown: Wake Forest Offense

The “Clawfense” is on fire this year.

Birmingham Bowl - Memphis v Wake Forest Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Dave Clawson and his “Clawfense” have been pretty impressive since he took over at Wake Forest. He has done very well considering the level of talent that he was working with. The 2019 season has shown what his offense can be when he has all of the pieces in place. Wake has one of the best offenses in the country, statistically and there are signs that it can get better. Louisville is coming off of a game where Scott Satterfield said his secondary was “shredded”. They’ll have to improve drastically to slow down this high powered offense.

Wake got a great boost late last season when Jamie Newman finally became the starter at quarterback. The team is 8-1 since he took over and I don’t know many guys that fit a system better than he does. Newman throws a beautiful deep ball while also having a great ability to hit the RPO throws in this offense that require a quick release. He is also a tank of a runner. Wake still runs that “huddle” style run where the quarterback and running back wait as long as possible to make a decision. Newman runs it better than any of the other guys they’ve had before. It’s an added bonus that he’s such a tough runner and a guy that can run away from some guys.

Newman is completing 70% of his passes on the year and he ranks in the top 20 nationally in almost every passing statistic. He’s also one of the top players when it comes to total offense. That’s the key to me. Louisville will have to find a way to contain one aspect of Newman’s game. The pass defense has obviously been bad over the last two weeks, but they can’t allow Newman to run wild on them as well.

The Wake rushing attack is led by Cade Carney this season with some help from a couple of backups. Carney is one of the last holdovers from the guys that Clawson brought into the program early on. He’s a tough back that loves to take on contact but he isn’t an explosive type of guy. He doesn’t really make guys miss in the open field and doesn’t have the speed to run away from defenders. He is a good back, however. This offense requires some tough running up the middle and Carney excels there.

I think the future of the running back position for Wake is Kenneth Walker. He’s a true freshman who has shown the ability to hit some big runs. He had a 90 yard run earlier in the season and has 6 runs of 20+ yards on only 33 carries. Christian Beal-Smith is also a guy that has shown some promise. Louisville handled the Boston College run game pretty well last week so they might have some success against a rushing attack that has struggled a bit.

The receivers for Wake are very good. Sage Surratt and Scotty Washington have exploded this season and they are tied for the ACC lead in touchdown catches. Both are big guys that can run well and this offense likes to take advantage of those things. Washington is 6-5 and he is averaging over 17 yards per catch on the year. He ripped through Louisville’s secondary two years ago for his first 100-yard game and has been a fairly steady option ever since. This year, he’s become a consistent threat to score at any moment. He uses his size very well and has seemingly fixed his issues with drops.

Surratt is the guy that is the biggest worry, to me. He can do a bit of everything as a pass catcher and he does them all well. Wake will set him up with the same quick slants that Greg Dortch killed with but they will also use him on quick screens, deep routes down the sideline, and deep throws over the middle. He’s the type of player that you don’t see getting shut down very often. He can be contained, though. BC did a good job of being sticky in their coverage on down the field throws and made him at least work hard for those catches. Louisville has actually done pretty well against outside receivers. They need to bring their best game this weekend.

Kendall Hinton and Jake Freudenthal are the interior receivers that Louisville has to worry about. Hinton is a converted quarterback who has shown some very nice moves in the open field. He has really good speed but I was caught off guard by how quick he was with the ball in his hands. Freudenthal is one of the best tight ends in the ACC and Wake does a pretty good job of getting the ball to him. He averages about two catches a game and a bit over ten yards per catch.

Wake gets rid of the ball fairly quickly on offense, so their pass protection is somewhat hard to gauge. They have started to push the ball down the field more this year and they’ve looked pretty good so far. They’ve only allowed six sacks on the year and they have done a good job blocking with the weird running play they like to run. Louisville does a lot of active things up front that could help them stop the run this week. Bryan Brown will have to get creative with his pressures in order to get some pressure on Newman.