Wake Forest Demon Deacons — 2018 Syracuse Football preview

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Syracuse defends against Wake Forest. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

As we countdown to kickoff in August, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team preview each week over the summer. SU will continue its 2018 ACC schedule when it plays Wake Forest on Nov. 3.

TURNAROUND COMPLETE: Dave Clawson has had a reputation for turning around programs. In his first head coaching post in 1999 with Fordham, the team went 0-11. Three seasons later, the Rams went 10-1, losing in the Div I-AA quarterfinals. He started 3-8 in his first season at Richmond and three seasons later, the Spiders won 11 games. At Bowling Green, he started 7-6 in 2009, and ended up 10-3 in 2013, with the Green Falcons clinching a spot int he LIttle Ceasars Bowl. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that after two 3-9 seasons at Wake Forest, Clawson has taken the team to two straight bowl games, including 2017, when the Deacons went 8-5 and won the Belk Bowl, while finishing tied for third in the ACC’s competitive Atlantic Division. “It’s been very rewarding,” Clawson said. “I think that we’ve built something that we can sustain, created a regional and a national narrative that Wake Forest is a place that people aren’t surprised when we go to bowl games. I think right now internally the expectation is we want to be a perennial bowl team.”

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WHO TO WATCH FOR: Senior quarterback Kendall Hinton takes over for the departed John Wolford, though there are plenty of questions surrounding him heading into fall. Hinton won the starting job over Wolford back in 2016 before his season was derailed by an injury. He’s a more dynamic quarterback than Wolford, but he’s also struggled with his accuracy. He’ll also be out the first three games of the season after he was suspended by the team for a violation of rules. “[I’m] disappointed,” Clawson said, “but you use those as opportunities for growth, and it is what it is.” Hinton will have an experienced offensive line in front of him, with all five starters returning from last year’s squad, headlined by preseason All-ACC first team selection Phil Haynes. Wake Forest also gets back receiver Greg Dortch, who was enjoying a productive season with 722 yards and nine touchdowns before an injury caused him to miss the final five games.

PREDICTION: The Deacons lost five starters from last year’s team, including a pair of monster rushers in Duke Ejiofor and Wendell Dunn. The linebacker core will also be an issue, with the loss of two starters in that unit. The defense as a whole took a step back toward the end of last season, giving up 35 points three times in its last five games. But if Hinton can settle in and direct a potent offense, the Deacons should find themselves bowling again. SYRACUSE 28, WAKE FOREST 35.

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Wes Cheng
About Wes Cheng 2341 Articles
Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.