Continued improvement focus of Wake Forest spring game

The Deacons finished their spring work with an offensive performance that showed off more big-play potential than theyve had in the recent past

Marc Lebryk—USA Today Sports
Quarterback John Wolford completed five of seven passes for 132 yards and led his team to both of its touchdowns during Wake Forest's spring football game Saturday

Wake Forest entered a new phase in the Dave Clawson era, winning seven games and going to a bowl last season.The Deacons’ focus, however, hasn’t changed as they begin to look ahead following Saturday’s annual spring scrimmage.”Our theme for this year is ‘Keep Building,'” Clawson said after watching his offense get the better of the defense 43-24 using a scoring system that awarded offensive points for first downs, explosive plays and traditional scoring, while defensively rewarding fourth down stops and forcing turnovers.”Quite honestly, I think our guys don’t like hearing that they had a great year last year. It wasn’t a great year. We improved, we got better. But we don’t want 7-6 to be the standard for great here. We want a higher standard. To get more wins and compete for an ACC title, having said that, with our conference and our division, I know how hard that is. Those are easy things to say and a very tall mountain to climb in our conference. But that’s where we want to get to and it’s going to take a lot of work over the summer to get there.”The Deacons finished their spring work with an offensive performance that showed off more big-play potential than they’ve had in the recent past.Although both of their touchdowns came on the ground — on a 1-yard run by Cade Carney and a 15-yard carry by Matt Colburn — quarterbacks John Wolford and Kyle Kearns combined for three completions of 38-yards or more. The longest of the day was a 66-yard strike from Wolford to Tabari Hines that set up Carney’s short score.Wolford was in the game for both touchdowns and solidified his hold on the starting job by going 5 of 7 for 132 yards. Kearns, who filled in for Wolford against Clemson last season, hit on all five of his passes for 111 yards while Kendall Hinton was 3 for 8 and 45 yards.Hinton, who was the starter before suffering a season-ending injury, also rushed five times for 10 yards. But according to Clawson, his effectiveness was hampered by the fact that no contact was allowed on quarterbacks in the game.”When you don’t go live that never helps him,” the coach said. “Part of his quarterbacking skill set is the ability to make people miss, the ability to create plays and our ability to run the quarterback with him in there. In a scrimmage when he’s wearing a green shirt and he’s not live and he’s got a little bit of a hip flexor, that always impacts his play.”Overall, Clawson said he was happy with the development of his offense, which despite showing improvement last season, still ranked in the bottom half of the ACC standings in most statistical categories.But he added that its performance in Saturday’s spring game may have been helped by a defense that was depleted by injuries.Cornerback Amari Henderson led the team with eight tackles while linebacker Jaboree Williams added six and forced a fumble for the day’s only turnover.”We’re making progress on offense,” Clawson said. “We’re older. I think our talent level is better. You saw some explosive plays that we made today. The defense was short-handed. We didn’t play (defensive end) Duke (Ejiofor) much, obviously didn’t have (safety) Cam Glenn out there. We’ve got to get healthy, we’re a little thin up front. When we’re thin up front and the O-line is healthy, for the first time in three years, there’s probably an advantage there for the offense.”When you have more time to throw it and guys have more time to get open, you’re going to make more plays. I think there was a huge gap between the offense and the defense when we got here and I think that gap is starting to get closed a little bit.”Wake opens the 2017 season on Thursday, August 31 against Presbyterian.