Virtual meetup with Coach Clawson as the Deacs destination is Tampa for the Gasparilla Bowl
Prior to this Friday's Gasparilla Bowl (sponsored by Union Home Mortgage) game matchup against the SEC's Missouri Tigers (6-6, 3-5) on Friday, December 23rd (6:30pm EST at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL), the head coach of the Wake Forest University Demon Deacon football team, Dave Clawson, joins the media for a virtual press conference.
The Deacons (7-5, 3-5 in ACC play) enjoy a Monday off before their last practices leading up to the bowl game. In making their 7th consecutive bowl game, only the Clemson Tigers have a longer current streak (among teams in the ACC).
Taking a moment to reboot from an outing at Busch Gardens, Coach Clawson briefs the media as we are among the outlets on the virtual press conference; he comments on the team's preparation along with a few other keys on the game and the ever-changing college football landscape. In his opening remarks, he notes he following:
Bowl games are about finding a mix of having fun and tending to business; the key business is winning the game.
To date, "Deacon Nation" is primed for another solid showing, as nearly all of Wake's allotted tickets for the game are sold. Coach Clawson speaks highly of the support for this and previous bowl games (click HERE for our recap/coverage of the 2021 Gator Bowl) from the students, alumni, and supporters of the team and school.
Running back/2nd leading rusher Christian Turner (transfer portal) and defensive end Jacorey Johns are the only players not playing in the bowl game. This leads to expanded opportunities at running back for Quinton Cooley (215 rushing yards/4.6 yards per carry/3 touchdowns), Will Towns (71 rushing yards/5.9 yards per carry), and Demond Claiborne (57 rushing yards/4.1 yards per carry) behind starter Justice Ellison (643 rushing yards/4.3 yards per carry/7 touchdowns). Defensive ends Kendron Wayman (16 tackles and 3 sacks) and BJ Williams (3 tackles, but is having solid practices) are expected to fill the void of Johns' 30 tackles and 1 sack.
Given the additional impact of the transfer portal, NIL (Name, Image, and Licensing), and early signing/enrollment period on top of recruiting and preparing for a bowl game, the month of December looks vastly different in today's college football landscape.
And by the way, they're preparing for a team who loses 4 of their games by 7 points or less, and arguably gives top-ranked Georgia their most difficult game of the season (a 26-22 loss for the Tigers).
Coach Clawson notes even with his familiarity with their head coach, Eli Drinkwitz (from his time as the offensive coordinator at NC State), the presence of dual threat quarterback and second leading rusher Brady Cook (2509 passing yards/65.3% completion rate/13 touchdowns and 7 interceptions to go along with 547 rushing yards/4.4 yards per carry/6 rushing touchdowns) and running (transfer and leading rusher) Cody Schrader (691 rushing yards/4.4 yards per carry/8 rushing touchdowns) makes them a tough offense even without key receiver Luther Burden III (329 receiving yards/8.7 yards per catch/6 touchdowns). On defense, even with key defensive back Ennis Raketraw, Jr. not playing (34 tackles and 12 passes defended), the team defense is allowing 25 points per game, a number which would be even lower if not for them allowing a season high 66 points in their loss to Tennessee.
In fielding our question as to how having a veteran team with bowl game experience helps with their preparation, Coach Clawson provides a reminder there's a considerable part of the team (35 freshmen) for whom this is their first-ever bowl game. However, with a sound roster of team captains and players who have been an integral part of the team's current consecutive bowl game run, it speaks to the balance and focus of the team preparation and upcoming bowl game.
And these are just a few of the things the Deacs are tending to as they prepare for their bowl game at the end of the week as again, they're making it 7 years in a row (and counting).
Notes: The images are provided via Wake Forest Football (Athletics). The video is compliments of Wake Forest Football (Athletics) as our segment is on our YouTube channel (Creative Community Solutions, LLC) and our playlist (2022 Season for Wake Forest Football).