2019 season: 8-5, 4-4 in the ACC (4th in the Atlantic Division)
Head coach: Dave Clawson (7th season)
Coming off its fourth straight winning season, Wake Forest has established itself as a solid ACC program. Five consecutive wins to open last season gained the attention of the national media, but Wake Forest struggled down the stretch as its schedule became tougher. The Demon Deacons found themselves ranked in the AP Top 25 for five separate weeks in 2019, showing how far they have truly come under Coach Clawson.
Despite the promise shown by Wake Forest in recent seasons, losing the team leaders in passing, rushing and receiving yards will hamper an offense that put up 31.8 points per contest in 2019. The departure of quarterback Jamie Newman will especially pose an issue in Winston-Salem, as the talented signal caller was relied on for 57.1 percent of the team’s total offense. Newman, who threw for 2,868 yards and 26 touchdowns last season, originally transferred to Georgia for his final year of eligibility until ultimately deciding to opt out of the season to prepare for next year’s NFL Draft.
Wake Forest will look for sophomore running back Kenneth Walker III to take a major leap forward on the ground. Thanks to a patient, nifty running style, Walker averaged 5.9 yards per carry last season to go along with reaching paydirt four times, but he will likely need to find the end zone more often to keep the Demon Deacons competitive in ACC play.
Defensively, Wake Forest returns its top two tacklers in Ryan Smenda Jr. and Ja’cquez Williams. With both players roaming the field at linebacker, the Demon Deacons should be physical and disciplined in the run game. In the back end, Ja’sir Taylor brings an opportunistic mentality, as he recorded two interceptions and one forced fumble in 2019.
Wake Forest has a brutal stretch to start the season, as No. 1 Clemson and No. 10 Notre Dame come to town in the first three weeks. The last four outings are no picnic either, as the Demon Deacons will have to do battle with No. 18 North Carolina, Duke and Louisville on the road, as well as Miami at home. Overall, if Wake Forest is able to scratch and claw its way to seven wins, the 2020 season would be considered a success.
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Max Rego is a Trinity senior and an associate sports editor for The Chronicle's 118th volume. He was previously sports managing editor for Volume 117.