Demon Deacons come out of bye with shot at bowl eligibility
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) Dave Clawson's rebuilding effort at Wake Forest could reach a big preseason goal Saturday with the Demon Deacons a win away from bowl eligibility.
Just don't expect the third-year coach to say much about it entering a home game against Army.
''I'm not going to talk about it,'' Clawson said Tuesday. ''Our goal is to 1-0 every week. And all those goals you have, if you go 1-0 enough times, those goals take care of themselves. So we're not talking about it.''
Still, the players know the Demon Deacons (5-2) can take a big step coming out of the bye week with a win against the Black Knights (4-3). Wake Forest was last bowl eligible in 2011, and the Demon Deacons could post an unbeaten nonconference record for the first time in a decade.
''The players, we talk about it among ourselves,'' defensive tackle Josh Banks said of bowl eligibility. ''But the coaches, we haven't had the whole thing about the bowl. I guess because there's really no ceiling to what we have so far. ... It's kind of just realizing what we have at hand and what we possibly can do, beyond winning just six games.''
It would be a big leap for a program that was 3-9 in each of the past two seasons. That's when Clawson started replenishing a thin roster with young players that would need time to develop, the kind of slow-build project in which it's unclear how long it would take for consistent progress to show.
The offense still has some up-and-down moments and averages just 21.7 points per game (111th the Bowl Subdivision ranks) but the defense is allowing just 17.9 points to keep the Demon Deacons hanging around in games.
While Clawson said the bye week gave the team time to heal, it's unclear whether sophomore quarterback Kendall Hinton will be ready to return from a four-game absence due to a knee injury.
Hinton's mobility makes him a threat to scramble for a big play, which could help loosen things up for an offense that has to work for its production. Clawson said Hinton is ''making progress,'' but he said he would ''probably'' end up starting junior John Wolford - who has six starts this season.
This week's depth chart lists an ''or'' between Wolford and Hinton for the starting job Saturday.
''Every day is a new day,'' Clawson said of Hinton's recovery. ''So Friday he looked good and Sunday he didn't look good. And then kind of the more he goes, the better he goes. So with giving Monday off, today he didn't look as good to start but then he looked better at the end. So it's kind of wait and see.''
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