Wake Forest upset then 17th ranked Virginia Tech last week to improve to 3-2 on the season. The Demon Deacons are riding a three game winning streak coming into Saturday's matchup with Syracuse in the Dome. What kind of team can the Orange expect to face? We spoke to Cameron Lemons Debro of Blogger So Dear (Wake's SB Nation affiliate) to get the inside scoop.
Q: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Wake's offense?
CLD: "This team has heavily relied on the running game. Kenneth Walker III and Christian Beal-Smith rank respectively 3rd and 11th in the ACC in rushing attempts, 7th and 10th in yards, while being 2nd and 8ty in touchdowns. The plan for the offense has been establishing the run, and then when needed Sam Hartman, Jaquarii Roberson, and Donavon Greene have come up clutch. While if they get into a shootout, the offense will be balanced, if they're up they'll look to slow down the game and give their defense some much-needed rest.
"One thing that has struggled has been the consistency of the outside receivers. They've been both banged up and inconsistent at times, so it's been tough to really evaluate where they are especially after losing Sage Surratt. They've made plays when they've needed to but also had some horrendous drops that would've been nice to have."
Q: What are the strengths and weaknesses of Wake's defense?
CLD: "If you asked this question 6 quarters ago, I wouldn't have been able to give you an answer. Now they're playing with an extreme amount of confidence and have given up 20 points total since the 2nd half of the UVA game kicked off. For a defense that's constantly being thrown out there and always going to have to face more plays than UGA/Alabama/Clemson just due to the tempo of the offense, that's pretty good. This defense starts and ends with Carlos "Boogie" Basham. A surefire 1st round draft pick next year anchors this line that also boasts guys like JaCorey Johns, Sulaiman Kamara, MIles Fox, and Rondell Bothroyd who love getting after the QB. They played one heck of a game shutting down Khalil Herbert last week who came in as the leading rusher in the country.
"Weakness right now is depth. The secondary is riddled with injuries, S Trey Rucker is still working his way back from a foot injury, S Nasir Greer(an All-ACC player) is still recovering from an ACL tear last year, DT Tyler Williams is dealing with a soft tissue injury, S/LB Luke Masterson has a foot injury and will be missing this game, LB Chase Jones picked up an injury last game, S Zion Keith was seen in a sling. 6 guys dealing with injuries and 4 of them are at safety, and at least 3 of these guys would be starters, the rest would find 25-30 snaps. For a defense that we know is going to have a lot of plays on their hands, it's not the preferred outcome."
Q: How has Sam Hartman played so far this year? What’s he doing right when things are going right for him?
CLD: "While saying he's a game manager would be wrong, it hasn't been a #LetSamCook offense and I'm perfectly ok with that. He's a top 15 QB according to PFF, has yet to throw a pick, touchdown variance and drops have hurt but overall I'd give him a solid A-/B+ so far. When things are going right he's making quick decisions and not forcing the ball where it shouldn't go. Freshman year Sam Hartman would just launch balls wherever and just try to make hero plays. Redshirt sophomore Sam Hartman, when he's on, is getting rid of the ball quickly, efficiently, and not afraid to make plays with his feet."
Q: Wake started the season 0-2 but have won three in a row. What’s been the biggest difference in the last three games?
CLD: "Not playing Clemson and the defense. Always tough starting out with Clemson(unless you're Syracuse apparently), but against NC State and the first half the UVA game, this team showed they weren't healthy and not confident. They tried to hide the fact that they were down to walk-ons at safety and a true freshman at one of their CB spots. Once they started getting a bit healthier, trusting the secondary, Hemphill stopped putting so much pressure on the DL and the LBs.
"The front 7 weren't asked to make outrageous plays and being put in -EV positions. You could see the confidence from guys like Boogie, guys like Traveon Redd, Ja'Cquez Williams, Chase Monroe, JaCorey Johns. There wasn't much of being tentative and guessing, they knew where they should be, held their gaps, and executed."
Q: How does Wake view Syracuse going onto this game? Is there a lot of respect after the Clemson performance? Or is SU viewed as an injury riddled team that shouldn’t provide much of a challenge?
CLD: "Normally this is a write-off game given how Cuse has looked and how much they've lost due to injuries and opt-outs. However, Syracuse-Wake is always a weird one. It ALWAYS is. Fans know it, Clawson knows it, the team knows it. I'd be shocked if they came out flat against this Syracuse team especially seeing how much of a fight the Orange put up vs Clemson."