Know Your Notre Dame Football Enemy: The Wake Forest Demon Deacons

WINSTON SALEM, NC - OCTOBER 28: Wide receiver Greg Dortch
WINSTON SALEM, NC - OCTOBER 28: Wide receiver Greg Dortch /

The Notre Dame football team will travel to Wake Forest for the fourth game of the year. Here’s what you need to know.

Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to take a quick look at all 12 teams on the 2018 Notre Dame football schedule with the intent of familiarizing you with what the Irish are up against.

Next up: The Wake Forest Demon Deacons

2017 Synopsis

Wake Forest finished the year with an 8-5 record. They capped off a winning season with a 55-52 shootout win over Texas A&M in the Belk Bowl. Head coach Dave Clawson’s resurrection of the Demon Deacon program has gone under the radar by most. That said, he has turned Wake Forest into a tough out for anyone every week.

Who did they lose?

Quarterback John Wolford is gone and that will hurt. He was one of the more efficient passers in the ACC and took care of the football (29 touchdowns vs. 6 INTs).

On defense, the Demon Deacons lost a pair of solid defensive ends in Duke Ejiofor and Wendell Dunn. That duo combined for 30.5 sacks over the last two seasons. Safety and pure-playmaker Jessie Bates is also gone after leaving early for the NFL Draft.

Who do they return?

For starters, Kendell Hinton returns under center. He actually beat out Wolford for the job in 2016 before suffering a knee injury. Hinton is much more of a threat as a runner, which should make the Wake Forest RPO-oriented offense a bit more dynamic and dangerous. That said, he’s nowhere near what Wolford was in terms of accuracy as a passer.

The Demon Deacons also return their entire starting offensive line and top two receivers. At running back, Matt Coburn returns for his senior season after rushing for 904 yards and seven touchdowns.

On defense, Wake Forest will boast a very athletic defensive line led by Defensive tackle Willie Yarbary. The secondary will feature a couple of very good defensive backs in corner Essang Bassey and safety Cameron Glenn — both of whom have all-conference potential.

Why should Notre Dame be worried?

Aside from it being a road game and the home crowd being jacked to host the Irish, the Demon Deacons are a tough matchup. The RPO-centered offense is always going to keep defenses on their heels, but with the depth Wake Forest has at the receiver position, it’s even more deadly. Slot receiver Greg Dortch can cause fits all over the field. In the meantime, the defense must remain cognisant of Hinton’s running ability.

When the Irish are on offense, the Wake Forest defensive line has the talent to make life difficult in terms of running the ball. The gameplan for Dave Clawson and his staff could very well be to take away the run and make Brandon Wimbush beat them with his arm.

Why should Notre Dame not be worried?

Defensively, it’s tough to imagine a Wake Forest defense that allowed as many points as it did last season to slow down what should be a more dynamic Notre Dame offense. The Irish have a significant size advantage in terms of the receiver-cornerback matchups all over the field. Additionally, I’m not sure Wake Forest has the speed on the edges to stop Notre Dame from getting to the corner — both with designed runs for Wimbush and traditional runs from the backs.

Key Player for Wake Forest

Greg Dortch — He’s easy to lose in a crowd and always seems to find the soft spot in coverage. In a game where every possession is going to matter, his clutch conversions could very well be the difference. He might be the best slot receiver the Irish will face all year.

Next: Know Your Enemy: Vanderbilt

Key Player for Notre Dame

Brandon Wimbush — This will be a shootout, and Wimbush needs to be effective on the ground and take care of the ball through the air. One turnover could be enough to swing the game in the wrong direction for the Irish. Brandon Wimbush needs to bring his “A” game for Notre Dame to come away with a win against a good team in a hostile environment.