As Dave Clawson checks off items from his “Rebuild Wake Forest football” list, this season’s All-ACC voting has to be one of the most rewarding.
Although it doesn’t relate directly to wins and losses, which is Clawson’s ultimate goal, the recognition of 11 different Wake Forest players is a milestone. For example, the 2006 team that won the ACC title only placed nine on the All-ACC lists.
But what has to be even more meaningful is that each of these players is a tribute to what Wake Forest has to do right to succeed as the smallest Power Five program. The coaching staff has to spot talent that other programs miss, and they have to identify players who will be coachable and who eventually will grow into stars.
No four- or five-star recruits are on this list. Let’s take a quick look at the story behind each:
- QB John Wolford — While Wolford set all kinds of prep passing records, he barely drew glances from Power Five programs, mainly because of his size. He committed to East Carolina, but Clawson flipped him in his first week on the job. With Tyler Cameron transferring and Kevin Sousa not panning out, the starting job became Wolford’s. He survived several years of being beaten up behind a bad offensive line and throwing way too many interceptions to explode into a star of the run-pass option this season.
- TE Cam Serigne — Ranked as the No. 67 tight end in 24/7 Sports’ composite rankings, Serigne had offers from schools such as Ohio and James Madison. Jim Grobe’s staff decided he was right for the program, and after a redshirt season, Serigne became a four-year starter with more than 150 catches.
- OL Ryan Anderson — Despite a huge 6-6 frame, Anderson wasn’t on any recruiting radar. He even went to prep school for a year to try to generate interest. He’s said that Wake Forest was the only school to actually offer him a scholarship, although he talked with some schools from the MAC. Grobe’s staff saw the right body type, a tremendous work ethic and a football family (including a grandfather who was a longtime assistant at Penn State).
- WR Greg Dortch — He ranked No. 307 at receiver and had offers from Texas State and Coastal Carolina. Despite the fact that he was the player of the year for his classification in Virginia, no one was interested, mainly due to his 5-8, 150-pound size. Clawson’s staff just saw someone who could make plays, and that translated directly to the college game this season in Dortch’s redshirt freshman year.
- K Mike Weaver — He only played one season of high school football then took two years off while trying to get a college kicking scholarship, so he was not on many recruiting lists. Grobe’s staff brought him in, and after a redshirt season, he’s been a four-year starter.
- DE Duke Ejiofor — As a very skinny (210 pounds) recruit, Ejiofor pretty much just drew attention from around his Texas home, such as Texas State, Texas-San Antonio and UTEP. He committed to Rice, but Grobe’s staff flipped him right before signing day. After adding weight and overcoming some injury issues, he’s been a chaos-causer along the line.
- OL Justin Herron — He qualifies as the top-rated talent on this list, as he was the No. 79 tackle in the composite rankings. Clawson flipped him from Rutgers at the last minute, and Herron was thrown into the starting rotation as a redshirt freshman. He went from floundering to beginning to find his stride down the stretch last season.
- OL Phil Haynes — This is another player who had almost no recruiting interest. Haynes was a basketball player with only a couple years of football experience. The Deacons loved his athleticism with his size and took a chance that he could beef up. He’s now 35 pounds heavier and has been a fixture on the line since his redshirt freshman season.
- CB Essang Bassey — As the No. 156 cornerback, Bassey had offers from Air Force, Charleston Southern, Furman and Georgia State. Like many others on this list, he was thrown into action immediately out of necessity. He played in every game as a true freshman last season and took over as a starter this season.
- S Jessie Bates — He was ranked as the No. 124 safety, but Bates is one of Clawson’s great steals. He flipped Bates from Toledo right before signing day and as Iowa was closing in as well. Bates became an impact player last season as a redshirt freshman, showing an innate ability to find the ball.
- P Dom Maggio — Maggio drew interest as a kicker, getting an offer from Boston College. He immediately became Wake Forest’s punter, and he’s delivered from day one.
So Clawson and the Wake Forest program had to endure a lot of growing pains with most of these players — losing games while they built experience. But the All-ACC results have shown that two Wake Forest staffs have made some impressive judgements of talent and character.