Wake Forest currently ranks second in the ACC in scoring offense at 43.7 points per game. It’s a statistic made all the more remarkable by the fact that the Deacons have either been last or next-to-last in the league in scoring in each of coach Dave Clawson’s first three seasons.
Clawson has attributed the drastic improvement to a combination of experience, improvement and the addition of more talented playmakers such as wide receiver Greg Dortch and running back Arkeem Byrd.
It also doesn’t hurt that Wake opened the season against FCS weakling Presbyterian.
But there’s another possible explanation.
On Dec. 14 last season, it was revealed that disgruntled former Wake fullback, assistant coach and radio analyst Tommy Elrod had given the team’s playbook and other important information to an unspecified number of opponents.
In the four games since the “WakeyLeaks” scandal came to light, all wins, the Deacons have scored 34 points against Temple in the Military Bowl, 51 against Presbyterian, 34 against Boston College and 46 against Utah State. Temple ranked 20th nationally in total defense last season while BC was statistically, at least, the ACC’s best.
In the 36 games prior to that under Clawson, they had scored as many as 34 points only twice.
Maybe. Then again, maybe not.
“I don’t know if we’ll ever know,” Clawson said when asked directly about the correlation between WakeyLeaks and his team’s offensive performance. “We know for certain, certain games, that stuff got out. I don’t know if we’ll ever know the full extent of it. Did it happen 36 times or did it happen six times? We try not to think about it.
“I’m just glad we’re playing better now. I think we’re executing better. That certainly has a lot to do with it. But if other people don’t have our game plans and what we’re doing on third-and-2, what we’re doing in the red zone beforehand, that certainly helps as well.”
Elrod, who graduated from Wake in 1997, served for 11 seasons as an assistant coach under Jim Grobe, but was not retained when Clawson took over. He subsequently took a job as a broadcaster with the IMG Radio Network, a job that allowed him access to practices and meetings usually off-limits to the media.
An investigation initiated after game plan documents were found at Louisville’s stadium the day before the Deacons’ game there last November found that Elrod had betrayed his alma mater by providing “confidential and proprietary game preparation” information to other teams on its schedule — including ACC rivals Louisville and Virginia Tech.
Clawson said that he and his players have tried not to dwell on the scandal and are anxious to put it behind them. But he also acknowledged that there’s a sense of relief in the knowledge that their game plans are no longer being shared.
“We really tried to move past it last year when it happened,” the coach said. “I thought the bowl game our kids played loose, with a lot of freedom knowing that wasn’t going on. We have not talked about it since.
“The only thing that we share with our team is the importance of keeping things in-house. We always did that. Because of what happened, it takes on additional meaning.”
Senior quarterback John Wolford, a fourth-year starter, is completing 64 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and no interceptions heading into Saturday’s in-state rivalry game at Appalachian State.
Byrd and Wolford both average better than 60 yards per game rushing while three other backs are averaging 30 or more yards. Redshirt freshman speedster Dortch and All-ACC tight end Cam Serigne have accounted for seven touchdowns between them.
As a team, the Deacons rank second in the ACC in passing efficiency and are a perfect 14 of 14 scoring in the red zone.
“We have a bunch of experienced players, a lot of guys who have played a lot of football,” Serigne said. “Up front, we start a lot of redshirt juniors, on the outside we have a lot of guys that have played before and we just have a lot more playmakers overall who can get the ball in their hands. John Wolford is as good as it gets in a quarterback: he’s smart and a great player. We’re clicking right now and we need to keep that going.”