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Clemson Football

Wake's Dave Clawson blunt on last year's loss, the portal, having commit flip to Clemson

October 6, 2023

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Last year, at Truist Stadium, now Allegacy Stadium, No. 5 Clemson defeated No. 21 Wake Forest 51-45 in double overtime. On Saturday, the two unranked teams will meet in Death Valley without former starting quarterbacks D.J. Uiagalelei (Oregon State) and Sam Hartman (Notre Dame), who combined for 11 touchdown passes (Uiagalelei-5, Hartman-6) in Winston Salem, NC.

Clemson (3-2, 1-2) dismantled an undefeated Syracuse team 31-14 on the road last week and the Demon Deacons (3-1, 0-1) suffered its only loss at home 16-30 to Georgia Tech (2-2) after committing five turnovers. 

Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson held his weekly press conference on Tuesday to preview Saturday's conference matchup. 

Opening statement:

“Dabo’s teams are always talented, they’re well-coached, they play hard. Offensively, over 35 points a game, over 450 yards, they’re very well balanced with 270 in the air and 185 on the ground. I think the quarterback [Cade] Klubnik is playing at a really high level. He’s taking care of the football extremely well, I think they’ve gone 137 passes without throwing an interception. Both of the backs are outstanding, both [Will] Shipley and [Phil] Mafah. Really good players. What’s most impressive about them is all of their yards after contact. I think with both of those guys two-thirds of their yards are after contact, so if you try to throw a shoulder or arm tackle, it’s going to be a long day.

“Beaux Collins is a good receiver, Tyler Brown a young receiver is playing really well. [Adam] Randall and [Brannon] Spector those are guys we’ve faced. The tight end, 9 [Jake Briningstool], is a good player. They’re very experienced up front. This will be a very good challenge. Defensively, only 267 yards a game. Only 83 yards a game on the ground. Their defensive line is always elite. That’s always a four and five-star all-star team up front. They’ve got three really good linebackers. [Barrett] Carter, they’re doing a lot of the same things with him as they did with Trenton Simpson a year ago, he’s a really good player. The other linebackers [Jeremiah] Trotter and [Wade] Woodaz are good players as well. They’re good in the secondary as they always are.”

On how he feels traveling to Death Valley to play a Clemson team that already has two losses:

“I think any time you go into a game, you think you've got a shot because of who they are. Duke played really well against them in Game 1 and Clemson self-destructed. That Florida State game could’ve gone either way. There’s not one guy on their roster that wanted to come to Wake Forest. We wanted all those guys. There are even guys on here that we offered and committed to us. The second Clemson offered them, they didn't even give us a kiss goodbye – they just left. This is our challenge when we play these guys every year.

“They’ve been at the top of the recruiting charts every year. Xavier Thomas, Tyler Davis, Barrett Carter, these guys are pros. They’re a talented team. Every time we play these guys, the whole has got to be bigger than the sum of theirs. And that’s the challenge. These are the games that force you to be better, and there’s a very small margin of error. Last year, we were right on that line. We didn’t get it done. This year is another opportunity. It’s not because they’ve dipped. We have to execute and play better.”

On his reaction to watching last year's game and Clemson head coach Dabo saying it's painful for him to watch now:

“It’s always part of my preparation for games. I always try to watch two whole copies of this year’s game, and I always go back and watch last year’s game if we played the opponent. I’d say to Dabo, if he’s in pain, then my pain should be worse because they won the game. We hit some big plays on them, but they hit some big plays on us. That was a very good day to be an outside receiver and a very bad day to be a cornerback in press coverage. Their quarterback DJ [Uiagalelei] played great that day. But we had opportunities to win that game and we didn’t take advantage of it. We were up eight and then they tied it up, and then we had the ball with two minutes left. Even in overtime, we went up, and if we get one stop, we win the football game.

“There are certain games in your career you never, ever get over. That’s one of them. When I’m on my deathbed, that game will still bother me. Hopefully, our players feel the same way.”

On whether he thought of reaching into the transfer portal to add a quarterback and more experience to the roster: 

“So the question is, ‘Should we have accessed the portal more?’ I’m going to go somewhere with this, and I would just ask that all of you, whatever answer you report you give it full context. I am not philosophically against the portal. Some coaches don’t believe in it. To me, if there’s a good football player out there that fits our culture and helps us win, we’ll take him. We’ve had a lot of really good transfers here. We did not look for a transfer quarterback. We had seen Mitch [Griffis], and we believed in him.

“College football has changed so much in the last 18 months. Let’s say, we went through spring football, and Mitch Griffis had an injury that has him out for the year. Michael Kern decided to graduate and leave. Do people realize what the market is to get a high-caliber starting quarterback? It’s at least half a million, and at least for a real good one, it’s probably seven figures. We’re not in that market. Part of the reason that we want to keep our own is we don’t have access to that market the way that some people do. Anytime someone is saying, ‘They’re the portal kings’, a lot of the people who are the portal kings are backed by very healthy collectives.

"When you recruit high school players, the college experience, and the degree, all those things matter. When you get into the portal, it becomes, ‘What does your collective have?’ Now, fortunately, we do have a collective. I think that will get better here. I think it’s improving. I’m hopeful. We had two of our starting offensive linemen get offered over six figures from a Big Ten school and they weren’t even in the portal. Now, fortunately, we had a collective at that point, and they decided to stay and get their degrees, and I’m sure the collective had something to do with that.“

On dealing with his players psychologically after a tough loss and preparing them to play in Death Valley: 

“We’ve got to go down there and focus on us and go down there and play our best game. We’ve got to focus on us. If we play our best game and that’s not good enough, we can live with that. What we can’t do is go down there and turn the ball over four times and have a punt blocked and have missed assignments on defense and make it easy on a very talented football team. The more talented of a team you play, the margin of error there is less. With Clemson, there’s always going to be a small margin of error. When you play Florida State, there’s a small margin of error. When you play Louisville, when you play anyone in the ACC. We’ve certainly shown we’re capable of being at that level. It’s our job as coaches to get that performance out of our team. It’s there. We just haven’t gotten it yet.”

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Wake's Dave Clawson blunt on last year's loss, the portal, having commit flip to Clemson

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