The calendar may have said it was the first day of August. But it was somewhat overcast with intermittent rain sprinkles on Monday morning in Winston-Salem. There will be plenty of blistering hot days ahead, but Monday was for Wake Forest kicking off Fall camp.
Wake Forest Fall Camp
Head coach Dave Clawson thrives under the premise that his Demon Deacons do not get enough credit from the national media. Wake is coming off one of its best seasons in program history. And the reward for that as we head into 2022? The media voted them to finish third in the ACC Atlantic Division. Clawson likely grins as he thinks to himself that another 11-win season will get them bumped close to the bottom in next season’s poll.
First things first though. The Demon Deacons begin the 2022 Fall camp knowing what much of their lineup is going to look like but needing to focus on depth. It is as close to a full camp in terms of health as you’re going to see anywhere in the country. And with so much veteran experience returning, Clawson is keeping a close eye on the players after the starters. “Our frontline starters, we’re competitive with anybody in the league.” Clawson said Monday. “The challenge here has always been depth.”
Filling In The Numbers
Clawson has specifics in mind to consider the camp successful. The first is to come out of it healthy when the season starts. The other part is to know who comes in where on the depth chart. “You’d lie to have somewhere around 50 to 55 guys above the line.” Those would be the starters and the back-ups, many of whom would ideally be able to fill in at different spots as needed. “Right now, we’re probably around 40,” he said. “Right now, on the depth chart, I know who the starting tight end is. But two through five, you can throw it in a bag, shake it up and I have no idea how it’s going to come out.”
The first few days of camp don’t lend much in the way of answers. The team will spend the week with no pads and limited snaps. “We try to pace ourselves through the beginning of camp to try to prevent injuries,” Clawson said. “Because of the limited reps it’s hard to get really good evaluations.” He said the signals for the players he is keeping a particular eye on are the ones who can sustain it as they ramp up the number of reps on a day-to-day basis.
Clawson said any given player’s position on the depth chart also depends on how he finished Spring. “To me, if you left Spring as the number two because you earned it, then you’re still the two. If you’re the two out of default, and we have someone come in that we think is better, then we’re going to put them in there.”
One of the sights that must make Clawson, and any Wake fan, happy is the return of Donavon Greene to camp. The fourth-year receiver missed all of last season after blowing out his knee in non-contact summer workouts. He said Monday that when his knee gave out last Summer and he couldn’t get up and walk, he knew the injury was bad. After a series of tests, he said he could see the reaction from doctors who told him the severity of the injury. “You could see,” he said in reference to the facial responses from the medical team. “It’s almost like when you’re in class and the teacher knows you got a bad grade. They just flip that paper over and slide it over.”
After surgery, and nearly a year of recovery and rehab, Greene was out there with the offense shaking off the rust, albeit with a brace on the right knee. “Coming off the injury, I’m in the best shape I’ve been in,” Greene said Monday.
“Before I got hurt, I always had a decent sized upper body. My legs have always been my weaker point. But coming off an injury, I had to rehab this knee almost every day. It made my legs as a whole, stronger.” Greene said he feels he is now in peak performance shape. He expects to wear the brace for a couple weeks of camp as a precautionary measure. He said he won’t need it once the season starts. Greene said he has full confidence in the knee and expects the rust to be gone from his game in another day or two.
Wide Receiver Depth
That is good news for fellow receiver A.T. Perry. He would likely get the bulk of the attention from the pass defense schemes, coming off a breakout year with more than 1,200 yards receiving and 15 touchdowns. But now having a healthy Greene, to run with him, and with Taylor Morin in the slot, it gives the Wake Forest offense a plethora of options for quarterback Sam Hartman to work with. Hartman already looked in good rhythm with his receivers in day one of camp. Perry had a nice sideline catch on a throw from Hartman, with plenty of yards after the catch. “It felt good to get back in the groove,” he said after practice.
Perry acknowledged he is all in on Clawson’s season-long theme of mindset. “I just tell myself to be consistent with it,” he said. “I tell the other guys as well. Just be consistent with it in coming in every day and being ready and paying attention to the details. It takes you a long way.”
Wake will have five total workouts this week, taking Thursday off.