Skip to main content
Publish date:

Dave Clawson pinpoints a few key areas that have allowed them to find success at Wake Forest

Dave Clawson points to development and the bravery and confidence to be different as major keys to Wake Forest's surge to the top 10 in the College Football Playoff rankings and their 8-0 start to the season.

Probably a decade ago, if you'd have asked 100 people what the worst head coaching job in Power 5 football was, you'd have gotten a fair amount of folks to say Wake Forest.

The odds have been stacked against them in a lot of ways. They are the smallest Power Five program in the country in terms of enrollment, they're a very high academic school which comes with some significant restrictions in who they can recruit, and they're a program who, at least historically, hasn't won football games.

Where many see obstacles, Dave Clawson and his staff have seen opportunities, and that has been evident as Wake is currently in the midst of their third eight-win season in five years (four if you don't count the 9-game 2020 season) and this season will be their sixth straight year heading to a bowl.

This morning, ESPN's David M. Hale released a nice piece on the rise of Clawson and the Demon Deacons, who are currently undefeated and ranked 9th in the latest College Football Playoff rankings. The piece shares how Clawson's perspective on everything from scheme to development has allowed Wake to find success on one of the most unlikely environments in college football.

Wake's offensive innovation has drawn a lot of attention, with their slow meshes between the quarterback and the running back leading to longer opportunities to read conflict defenders that in turn leads to more explosive runs and RPOs. Offensive coordinator Warren Ruggerio credits their offensive approach to Clawson's unique perspective on how to win at Wake.

"You can't look at the competition and say you're going to do it better. You have to look at the competition and say you're going to do it differently."

In a conference that has been dominated by Clemson (and before that, Florida State), Wake's academic prowess limits who they can target in recruiting, so Clawson and his staff shifted their focus to three-star type guys that would really benefit from a year of development.

"The key to our success is to find the guys who can still develop and become as good as those four- and five-star guys. They're not missing anything physically. It's just a year of development. I really believe a lot of our players, after a year of development in our program, they'd be four-star players."

There is perhaps no better example of that around college football than Michigan State running back and Heisman hopeful Kenneth Walker III, who is a graduate transfer from Wake Forest who has catapulted himself into the conversation as one of the top running backs into the country.

There is a lot more that goes into Wake's success, and you can't discount the simple fact that maybe Clawson's unique approach is a perfect fit for who Wake Forest is and where they are headed.

So does it bother Clawson that his name isn't mentioned as much as other successful coaches when coaching change season heats up?

"I'm very happy where I'm at. In this profession, if you're happy and enjoy where you're at, you don't feel a need to look."

Head here to read the full ESPN piece, including some interesting perspective on Clawson from AD John Currie and why he thinks Clawson is capable of building a program anywhere in college football.