Wake Forest’s Clawson comments on Practice No. 10

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.  – Wake Forest head football coach Dave Clawson led the Deacons through a productive and spirited practice session Monday morning at McCreary Field House on the Wake Forest campus.  Clawson was very pleased with the session.


“We got red zone work in today,” said Clawson.  “When you get to camp, it becomes a daily decision of ‘are you going to get through or get better?’ Today, we got better. I think sometimes in camp players can get in survival mode. When you get in survival mode, your team doesn’t improve. There has to be that daily decision of getting work in and improving — like on tackle splits for when we go fast so we don’t get called for too many guys in the backfield. But we got really good work in today. I’m really pleased.”


With 10 practice sessions in the rearview mirror, the Deacons are about at the midway point of camp as the final week of the preseason will be focused on preparing for the August 31 home opener against Presbyterian at BB&T Field.


“We’re about the midway point of camp,” said Clawson.  “Today was practice No. 10.  You get to 20 and then you kind of have your situational script, so we are about halfway through camp.”


While some have lamented the abolition of two-a-day practices, Clawson does not subscribe to that theory.


“I know the NCAA at times is criticized but I think this decision to extend camp to not have doubles, to have a day off per week, I think is good for everybody,” said the fourth-year head coach.  “Our kids feel healthier, our staff senses more energy.  I think it’s a good balance and if we can figure out a way not to bring them in in July, that’s the tricky piece.  I think most of our players would say they like this schedule.


“The hard thing (finding out three months ago) is that’s really short notice.  You’ve already told the players ‘this is the week you’re off, this is where you can schedule a trip.’  We have our whole schedule planned with the lifting and the discretionary weeks.  When you set up your calendar a year in advance then you’re told three months in advance that it’s changing (that makes it difficult).  But I understand why.  There’s a health thing there that I think is very valid.  We did come in early but in terms of how they feel in camp they just have so much more time to recover.  We’re dealing with less hydration issues, we’re dealing with less cramping.  There’s not a double session where they have a good work out and then they have to get ready for (a second practice) that night.  There’s always almost a 24 hour (period to recover).  Even that recovery day where the kids were able to see the trainers, we have a brand new hydrotherapy room that they utilize, I think they came out feeling real good the next day.”


As for the “tradition” of football teams holding two-a-day practices, Clawson suspects where that came from.


“Why do you do mat drills at 5:30 in the morning and I’m sure that’s when Bear Bryant did them at Alabama and he won and so now we all do that,” said Clawson.  “I think as the medical community learns more and they can advise more things to make the game safer, I think that’s good for everybody involved.”


Clawson and the staff had an opportunity to review the film from Saturday’s scrimmage and he reflected on what he saw.


“First of all, the defense did play well,” Clawson said.  “That is the best we have played.  One of the things on offense we always talk about is staying on schedule.  Of our offense’s eight drives, four of them they got off schedule due to a sack or a penalty that was an unforced error.  All of those first down miscues resulted in a third and nine or more and those are hard downs to convert.  The lessons were two-fold.  Number one, our defense played well, they lined up quickly, we had very few missed alignments, missed assignments and I thought our defensive line looked very active, not just Duke (Ejiofor) but Wendell (Dunn) and the other guys were active.  The takeaway on offense (was) a lot of the individual players actually graded out well but too many times we beat ourselves with a false start, with an alignment shift and those are things that have to be corrected.  Physically, kids graded out well.  We had linemen grade out at 90 percent, 88 percent, 84 percent but when you’re first and 15, second and 17, I don’t care who you are, those are hard downs to recover from.  And because you’re in long yardage, now the defense can pin its ears back and that’s why the defense looked better, because there were more obvious pass situations where they could pin their ears back and take away the run-pass dilemmas.”


Typically in the first scrimmage of the preseason, the staff is focused not so much on game plan but on finding which newcomers can contribute the soonest.  Such was the case on Saturday when returning running backs Cade Carney and Matt Colburn drew a total of seven carries while other youngsters were given the opportunity to prove themselves.


“That was the plan going in,” said Clawson.  “Cade Carney, Matt Colburn I believe are good football players.  We need to find our change-of-pace back.  That’s where Arkeem Byrd and Christian Beal (figure in), that’s why we recruited those guys and they have not played a lot of football.  Christian just got here in January, Arkeem missed most of last year with injury, missed most of the spring with injury.  We had to let those kids play.  We didn’t want to load up Matt and Cade, we wanted to load up Arkeem and Christian and see how they handled the load.  They did very well.  They can both play.  It’s just a matter of (the staff) making a decision.  I think you can play three running backs, I think it’s hard to play four.  So we will just have to make a decision as those two come along.  Right now, we have to be in the mode that we have to get them ready to play and then pump the brakes if all those guys stay healthy.”


Clawson touched on a number of other topics to the assembled media including the absence of graduate transfer cornerback Cedric Jiles from Saturday’s scrimmage.


“Cedric has a hip flexor and we expect him to be back, we’re hoping on Friday,” said Clawson.  “It’s not a long-term deal.  He needs to be out there because even though he’s a fifth-year senior, he’s new to our program.  You’d say if Cam Serigne misses reps or Duke Ejiofor misses reps, it’s not good but they’re fifth-year seniors and been in our system four years.  Cedric Jiles has never played in our system so we need to get him out there and get him reps.  I will say those two young corners are coming along, Ja’Sir Taylor and Coby Davis.  Lots of times with camp, there’s a wall that freshmen hit.  And usually it’s week two.  So far they haven’t hit it.”


During the early portion of practice, redshirt freshman Je’Vionte’ Nash took reps with the first team along the offensive line.


“Right now I think we’ve got to really try and let that last position be competitive,” said Clawson.  “Je’Vionte’ has played well.  He’s pass protecting well.  We’re going to let him compete for that right tackle job.”


When asked if Nash was excited about practicing with the first team, Clawson referred to Nash’s stoic nature.


“If you spend time with Je’Vionte’, he’s a little bit of a flat liner,” said Clawson.  (He just said) “OK.”  He’s not going to be jumping up and down, it’s not his nature.  He’s going to go out there and do his work.”


Clawson was also asked about newcomer Deon Young, a fifth-year graduate transfer defensive tackle from Northern Arizona.


“He’s strong, really strong,” said Clawson.  “He’s built into the ground.  He is strong and while this level (of FBS football) is new, the tempo is new, he did not come in here in great shape, he’s better now than he was three weeks ago.   He will help us.  There will be situations where he can hold the point of attack.”


The Deacons will practice at 7:45 am again on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. 

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