Wake Forest is anything but unique in that it enters the 2017 football season with a question at quarterback. Literally half of the ACC finds itself in the same boat.The difference is instead of looking to replace a departed starter as seven of their conference rivals are, the Deacons must figure out which of their veteran returners will be under center when they open the season against Presbyterian on Thursday, Aug. 31.Coach Dave Clawson is planning to prepare both senior John Wolford and redshirt sophomore Kendall Hinton for the starting position — not because he’s a proponent of the two quarterback system, but because history suggests that he’ll eventually need both to be ready.Sooner than later.”Those two hate it when I say this to them, but they have yet to show they can stay healthy for three or four games in a row,” Clawson said recently as the ACC’s Football Kickoff event in Charlotte. “I’ve met with both and we’ve talked to them about the competition (and they say) ‘Coach, I think there should be one quarterback.’ I do too.”It’s not philosophically if we want to do it or not. We’ve got to invest in both because neither is 6-5, 240 pounds and has people bounce off (them) when they blitz. We’re not doing this to appease both. We’ve got to get both ready and we’ve got to get (redshirt freshman) Jamie Newman ready, too.”Hinton, a 6-foot, 195-pound Durham native, was named the Deacons’ starter in Week 3 last year, only to have his season ended that very same week because of a knee injury suffered in a win against Delaware.It’s a position he’ll keep heading into preseason camp, Clawson said.How long it stays that way will depend on both him and Wolford … and their ability to stay out of the training room.At 6-1, 200 pounds, Wolford is only slightly bigger than Hinton. But he has managed to make 33 starts in his three seasons at Wake while playing around a series of bumps, bruises and a shoulder injury that forced him to the sideline for last year’s game against eventual national champion Clemson.Much of Wolford’s physical woes can be traced to the fact that he’s been sacked 101 times during his college career.That’s why tight end Cam Serigne said protecting the quarterback — whichever one it turns out to be — will be among the Deacons’ highest priorities as they look to improve on last year’s encouraging 7-6 performance.”We play in a league with some great defensive lines, especially on our side of the ACC,” Serigne said of the conference’s Atlantic Division. “For us, it’s important to give John and Kendall time back there.”While acknowledging the need for strong line play, Clawson said that Wolford and Hinton can also help in cutting down the number of times they’re hit.”Two years ago the majority of our sacks were because we got beat up front,” Clawson said. “But there’s other reasons. Sometimes those guys just have to get rid of the football. Sometimes fourth and four and a punt is better than turning around, going backwards and taking those extra hits when the play is dead. To their credit, both are competitors. They just have to take smart chances.”When healthy and given time to operate, both Wake quarterbacks have shown an ability to be playmakers.Hinton is a strong runner, who during a win at Army as a true freshman in 2015, became the first Deacon quarterback in nine years to rush for 100 yards in a game. He finished that season with eight rushing touchdowns. He also led a second half surge that beat Duke before his injury last season.Wolford enters his senior year ranked sixth on Wake’s all-time list with 5,602 passing yards. He’s also in the top 10 with 899 passing attempts, 522 completions and 30 passing touchdowns.Although he is perceived to be the better passer and Hinton the stronger runner, Serigne believes that their styles are more similar than different.”Most people say Kendall is really an athletic, run guy and John is this smart, pocket passer, but they both can do the other thing pretty well,” Serigne said. “I throw with both of them every day. They throw half a field and the receivers switch so that everyone gets to work with both.”That’s a smart strategy, considering that history suggests both quarterbacks will end up starting at some point or another this season.
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