Perhaps no coach in the country walked in to a tougher job this spring than Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson. He lost virtually his entire depth chart on offense, and it’s shown so far this season. In two of Wake’s five games, the Demon Deacons have totaled 100 yards of offense or less. Clawson has still managed to keep the Deacons competitive with an eye toward the future, but the challenge this week -- a trip to Tallahassee, Florida, for No. 1 Florida State -- looks like a nearly impossible task. We talked with Clawson about the morale of the team and the matchup with the Seminoles. Here’s a portion of that conversation.
David Hale: You knew going in you’d have some challenges this season. How would you evaluate the early part of the season, and what’s the mind-set as your team gets set for No. 1 Florida State?
Dave Clawson: We go into every game with the challenge of finding a way to win, and some weeks, the challenge is greater than others. Certainly this week might be the tallest order we’ll face all year. We knew going in, we’d be challenged this year. We have a very thin roster, and we especially knew we’d be challenged on offense -- and we are. We’ve got to keep our nose down, continue to coach, that we’re seeing individual improvement and having good practices and giving ourselves the best chance to win every week.
Hale: I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that your quarterback, John Wolford, has been sacked a lot -- 23 times so far this year, most in the nation. How much of a concern is there that all those hits add up for a young QB?
Clawson: It’s certainly something we’re keeping an eye on. The way these sacks have played out, the majority are in the fourth quarter of games that we’re still in. The Louisiana-Monroe game, it’s a one-score game in the fourth quarter. Against Utah State, we’re in that game. The Louisville game, we had a lead in the fourth quarter. If you take his 23 sacks, [a good number] of them have happened in the fourth quarter of those three football games. But what are you going to do, not throw the ball? Not try to win? What message does it send that we’re going to run the ball and give up so we don’t take hits?
No, we don’t like that he’s taking that many sacks and that we haven’t protected him better. But when we’ve had a little bit of balance and been in a position to run the football, we’re not getting sacked. When we become one-dimensional late in the game, that’s when he’s taking his hits.
Hale: Talking about balance, what can you say about your running game at this point?
Clawson: We’re last in the country in rushing the football.
Hale: Is that a matter of poor blocking? Problems with the tailbacks?
Clawson: It’s been both. We’re starting a true freshman center, two sophomore guards, we graduated three seniors from last year’s offensive line. The starting tailback graduated. The second and third tailbacks left school before we got here. We’re playing a converted receiver, a converted tight end and a true freshman at tailback. Last year, when we got here, we did not have one tailback in the program. Not one.
Hale: Obviously not an enviable situation. Is there at least some optimism for the future from the experience those guys are getting now?
Clawson: We’re playing two freshman tight ends, Cam Serigne and Devin Pike. Are they ready yet? No, but they’re playing hard and been productive for us. E.J. Scott transferred from Virginia, and he’s leading us in touchdowns right now. Isaiah Robinson, a true freshman tailback, he’s had some very productive runs for us. You just hope all this experience -- we should be disappointed, but you can’t get discouraged. We’re playing with a lot of guys on offense that have a lot of football ahead of them.
Hale: With all that said, how do you go to battle against a team like Florida State that obviously has a big edge on nearly every area of the field?
Clawson: You’ve got to run your stuff. Up front, their three starters are 320, 315 and 303. So, it’s going to be a challenge. That’s why the important thing to me is that our guys continue to compete. As long as we compete, we give ourselves a chance. [Louisville] last week was really good, and this week doesn’t get easier. Even though you’re playing Florida State, you have to focus on yourself and make sure we’re doing things within our program to make yourself better. That’s on a weekly basis and a big-picture basis.