Opponent: Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Date: Saturday, September 18
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Last matchup: 22-20, Wake Forest
Wake Forest is returning much of the talent that carried them to a 4-5 season last year. However, that record is fairly misleading.
The Demon Deacons had a moderately difficult schedule last year by ACC standards and still managed to stay competitive with some top teams. They drug UNC into a slugfest late into the 4th quarter and even managed to pull out wins over both Virginia squads.
This team might not light up the win column but they won’t go down without a fight.
A lot of that resilience came down to their above-average offense.
Wake Forest’s head coach Dave Clawson has one of the most unique and frustrating offenses to defend in the country. Clawson was one of the earlier adopters of the run-pass option but they operate theirs a bit differently.
The quarterback rides the mesh point with the running back for a while, often all the way to the line of scrimmage, before making his decision to either give the ball or pass it out. Not only is this a strange thing for a defense to face but it can also give more time for receivers to spring open or gaps to open along the line.
This offense operates best when they have a seasoned and reliable play-caller behind center. Luckily for the Demon Deacons, they have that with Sam Hartman. Hartman is in his fourth consecutive season taking starting snaps for Wake and has become pretty efficient in their off-beat system.
He will have almost all of his surrounding cast with him next year. The leading rusher Christian Beal-Smith should be joining Hartman in the backfield but there are some serious question marks behind him. A little transfer carousel has left them with Christian Taylor from Michigan who should be getting the #2 reps at least early in the season.
The wide receiver situation is bright for Wake as well. Star slot receiver Jaquarii Roberson returns with a host of other familiar route runners.
Offensively their biggest weakness is going to be their offensive line but that might not be the biggest question mark on the field for them.
On the one hand, Wake Forest returns a lot of its defense from last year. On the other hand, it's not clear that that’s a good thing.
They lost two of their best defensive players in “Boogie” Basham and Ja’Cquez Williams but otherwise return the rest of their starters. An early name to watch is Miles Fox on the interior of their defensive line.
Really where their defense might find its biggest struggles is in the glue that holds the secondary to the d-line: the linebackers. They have one true returning starter and the other player vying for time is a recently converted safety.
Don’t sleep on this Wake Forest team. It will be the first time this coaching staff has to prepare for this unique offense and any team with this much returning talent is a viable threat to outpace their recruiting rankings. However, if FSU wants to continue taking steps forward this is a game that they need to win.