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2021 Wake Forest college football preview: Dave Clawson has elevated program expectations

Wake Forest will be a very deep program in 2021, and they should find themselves in position to qualify for a bowl game for the sixth consecutive season.

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Wake Forest Demon Deacons played in a bowl game in each of their last five seasons, and they should be on their way to doing it again in 2021. Heading into his eighth season as head coach, Dave Clawson elevated the expectations for this program, which is why his name usually comes up during coaching search season every December.

Wake Forest saw a few key opt outs last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Demon deacons are incredibly deep this season. After finishing 4-5 last year, it would be a major surprise to see the win total not improve, and they are in a good position for a sixth straight trip to a bowl game.

2020 Season Review

  • 4-5, 3-4 ACC (10th), Lost Duke’s Mayo Bowl (42-28 vs. Wisconsin)
  • Lost first two games, won four in a row, lost last three

2021 Talent

2021 247Sports Composite Ranking: 65
ESPN Returning Production: 81% overall (18th): 88% offense (8th), 74% defense (54th)
Returning Talent Index: Negative, 10th in ACC
Returning starters: 11/11 offense, 9/11 defense
* All rankings out of 130 FBS schools

Key Player

Quarterback: Sam Hartman (Sophomore)

Sam Hartman is going to be the guy once again for Wake Forest in 2021. He has never had a very high completion percentage in his career, and he completed 58.2% of his passes last season. He threw for 2,224 yards in nine games and added 13 touchdowns with five interceptions. Hartman’s touchdown-to-interception ratio would look much better of not for the four-interception performance against Wisconsin in the bowl game.

Offense (non-QB): WR Jaquarii Roberson (Junior)

Jaquarii Roberson developed into a star last season as he caught 62 passes for 926 yards and eight touchdowns. He finished with over 100 receiving yards in five of his last six games in 2020 including four in a row to end the year. Operating out of the slot, Wake Forest should expect another big year from him as Hartman’s go-to receiver in this offense.

Defense: NT Miles Fox (Senior)

Wake Forest has seen their struggles defensively over the past few years, and they are looking to put a respectable group on the field this fall. Nose tackle Miles Fox is among the best interior defensive linemen in the ACC. A transfer from Old Dominion, he finished with 11 tackles for loss last season with 3.5 sacks in his lone year with the Demon Deacons.

Team Stats Projections

2020 SP+ final: 82nd overall: 77th offense, 77th defense, 48th special teams
2021 SP+ projection: 64th overall: 56th offense, 69th defense

Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

To win national title: +50000
To win ACC: +4500
Win total: 7

2020 Against The Spread: 6-3-0
2020 Point Total: Over 6-3-0

2021 Wake Forest Schedule

2021 Wake Forest Football Schedule

Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Friday, Sep. 3 Old Dominion 7:00 pm/ACCN N/A
Saturday, Sep. 11 Norfolk State 12:00 pm/ACCN N/A
Saturday, Sep. 18 Florida State 3:30 pm/ABC N/A
Saturday, Sep. 25 at Virginia 7:00 pm/ESPN2 N/A
Saturday, Oct. 2 Louisville TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 9 at Syracuse TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 16 Open TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 23 at Army 12:00 pm/CBSSN N/A
Saturday, Oct. 30 Duke TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 6 at North Carolina TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 13 NC State TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 20 at Clemson TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 27 at Boston College TBA N/A