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Wake Forest aims for improved defensive effort against Notre Dame

| Friday, September 21, 2018

Wake Forest’s head coach Dave Clawson’s mentality heading into the game against the Irish on Saturday is simple — realistic. In his third face-off against the Notre Dame — both of which has been double digit wins for the Irish — Clawson is aware of the prestige Notre Dame carries but is undaunted, confident his team has the ability to challenge the Irish in the first opportunity at home.

This matchup presents Clawson a unique opportunity to take on the Irish defense under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Clark Lea, one of his former assistants at Bowling Green and Wake Forest (2-1).

“We know the defense well,” he said. “We’re very familiar with it. They’re executing it at a very high level.”

With Lea at the helm for the Irish, Clawson said there are many similarities between the two teams’ defensive strategies, an area his team has struggled with in their first three games, allowing opponents to score nearly 30 points per game. 

“At times our communication is not as good as it’s been,” he said. “For the first three gear we had [defensive back] Ryan Janvion, who was an extremely vocal. Last year [defensive back] Jessie Bates [III] did a great job getting guys lined up.”

Observer File Photo
Irish junior wide receiver Chase Claypool stiff-arms a Wake Forest defender during Notre Dame’s 48-37 win over Wake Forest on Nov. 4 at Notre Dame Stadium.

Going forward, Clawson said he’s looking to redshirt junior defensive back Cameron Glenn and senior wide receiver turned safety Chuck Wade Jr. to step up as vocal leaders. 

“This is clearly an area that needs to get fixed,” Clawson said. “This hasn’t gotten better from week one to week three and we’ve got a lot of football left so it’s gotta get better … If we’re going to be wrong, be wrong together. Even if we don’t have the perfect coverage or the perfect check, if we’re all playing the same thing, at least we have a chance.”

Senior offensive lineman Ryan Anderson said the difference between last week’s 41-34 loss to Boston College and their two wins earlier in the season is that the mistakes they made in those first two matchups caught up with them against the Eagles. 

Clawson also spoke highly of the Irish secondary and their ability to adjust to different offensive scheme.

“I’m really impressed with the two corners, both [junior Julian] Love and [junior Troy] Pride [Jr.],” he said. “They’re playing a lot more man coverage, a lot more press, and you only do that if you feel really comfortable with who you’re doing it with.”

Offensively, Clawson said expects a hard fought battle between the two teams’ quarterbacks, with both having versatile options in the pocket.

 For the Irish, senior quarterback Brandon Wimbush and junior Ian Book are expected to continue and possibly expand their alternating play.

“[Wimbush] can do things with the football athletically … his ability to escape, to break and contain,” he said.

Similarly, this weekend will mark the first time Wake Forest will have both freshman Sam Hartman and redshirt junior Kendall Hinton in uniform. Hartman has proved to be a formidable two-way quarterback in his first three career starts, averaging 64.3 and 278 yards in rushing and passing, respectively.

Returning from a three game suspension, Hinton is listed as the backup but is expected to be a contributor. After earning significant time during his freshman season, even starting in two games, he suffered a season ending knee injury at the beginning of his sophomore season. Through last season, he struggled as he tried to return to that same level before his injury, only playing in five games last season.

“[Wimbush] can do a lot of different things,” Clawson said of Hinton’s ability. “He’s excited to play football again. Absolutely.”

Although Clawson certainly acknowledged the skill of this Notre Dame team, a seven-and-a-half point favorite over the Demon Deacons, he was not remise in mentioning that his team is ready and capable for the challenge. He said the biggest factor to the team’s success is to execute in the red zone. 

“We’re excited to bounce back,” Clawson said. “This is a great opportunity for our program. Like any week, our focus has to be on us and making sure that we get better to give ourselves the best chance to win this weekend.”

“It’s the same for every game … it comes down to focusing on ourselves,” Anderson said. “We know we can play with anyone.”

“That’ll be a good jump for us,” redshirt freshman wide receiver Sage Surratt said. “Give us some more momentum going into other games throughout the season.”

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