My Take On Wake: Wrapping up the Deacons’ 21-player signing class

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Coach Dave Clawson of Wake Forest celebrates the Deacons’ 55-52 victory over Texas A&M in the Belk Bowl. Last month, Clawson celebrated the signing of 21 players to National Letters of Intent.

Allison Lee Isley/Journal

The dust probably still hasn’t settled from the 107 points or the 1,260 yards of combined offense from the Belk Bowl.

That shouldn’t stop us from looking into the future for Wake Forest’s football program, and it’s an outlook that continues to grow brighter after Coach Dave Clawson’s fourth season. Going 8-5 with a win in the Belk Bowl against Texas A&M puts the Deacons 25th in ESPN’s Strength of Record statistic. It’ll be interesting to see if Wake Forest receives any votes in the season’s final top-25 poll.

But this is about what’s coming next — specifically, who’s coming next — for Wake Forest’s program. The Deacons signed 21 players to National Letters of Intent during last month’s early signing period, with Clawson saying they could add a few more players or they could hold firm with the class they have.

So here are the 21 players Wake Forest signed a couple of weeks ago, with quotes from Clawson about each incoming Deacon:

One of four defensive linemen in the class, this 6-foot-1, 275-pounder from Kissimmee, Fla., was signed with the future in mind. He projects as a defensive tackle, and that’s a position where Wake Forest figures to have two senior starters next season with Willie Yarbary and Zeek Rodney.

Clawson: “I think has a really good upside. He’s going to get bigger and stronger, but the thing you can say that stuck out about him is he’s physical, we loved his athleticism.”

Another defensive lineman, but he’ll begin his Deacons career as an end. Clawson said Wake Forest recruited Bothroyd, who’s 6-4, 270 pounds out of Mansfield, Conn., to play the defensive end position that Duke Ejiofor excelled at for the past two seasons.

Clawson: “This is one of the benefits of not completely filling your class in the summer, because a guy like Rondell really kind of grew up, filled into his body and had an unbelievable senior year, and we’re glad that we had room for him. That was a huge get for us the last recruiting weekend we had.

Three-for-three on the defensive line by alphabetical listing, and Brown was among the first three verbal commits of the class. The 6-3, 305-pounder is from Saluda, S.C., and was ranked as the 12th-best player in the state by 247sports.com.

Clawson: “That was a heck of a recruiting battle for us that we won. I’m never going to get into who the battles were against, but suffice to say that this is a guy who had a lot of options. Just a physical, athletic defensive tackle.”

This 6-foot, 200-pound defensive back from Suwanee, Ga., is the first of four the Deacons signed for the secondary and represents a slight change in recruiting philosophy. Clawson and defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel want bigger defensive backs to combat the large, physical receivers that every team in the ACC’s Atlantic Division seem to sprout every season.

Clawson: “He’s another height-weight-speed corner. Six-foot, 200 pounds, his measureables are off the roof. Like 38-inch vertical, his opening numbers, and this is another really good student.”

This is “Big Mike” according to Clawson, and at 6-6, 325 pounds, it fits. But Clawson also praised the player coming to the Deacons from South View (Hope Mills), calling him one of the best offensive linemen in the state and saying it was a “thrill” when his letter was received on Signing Day morning.

Clawson: “This is probably, in terms of the size, height, weight, athleticism, as big and as good-looking an offensive lineman as we’ve ever recruited. I think Mike’s a guy that I don’t know if two or three years ago we get him. But I think with the success we’ve had on the field, with the facilities that we’re building, with the steps that our program is taking, he was a guy that committed early.”

This 6-3, 245-pounder out of Acworth, Ga., was made to sound like the Energizer Bunny by Clawson. He plays hard, though he’ll need to add some weight — Clawson said he thinks he’ll 255-260 pounds — to hold his own against ACC offensive lines.

Clawson: “The one thing about Royce we love is he’s athletic, but this guy has a motor. If you turn on his film, he does not stop, he just goes and goes and goes.”

Comes to Wake Forest from the same school (Maret School in Washington, DC) that produced current Deacon Coby Davis, who just finished his freshman season. Gordon, who’s 6-5, 285 pounds, suffered an injury this season and likely won’t be healthy for the 2018 season, which Clawson said would probably delay his arrival until January of 2019.

Clawson: “Kids that are big that can move their feet are really hard to find, and he did that very well at camp. He’s a guy that unfortunately had an injury his senior year. He’s going to be unable to play next season. He’s a guy that we probably won’t bring in until next January.”

The first of the Deacons’ six early enrollees this month, this 6-foot, 190-pound safety’s first offer was from Wake Forest. He’s from Stockbridge, Ga., and had a combined 127 tackles and six interceptions in his two seasons as a starter for his high school team, helping it to a combined 25-2 record in those years.

The first player of this class to commit to the Deacons, Hartman gave his verbal commitment in the summer between his sophomore and junior seasons and never wavered, Clawson said. The 6-1, 185-pounder played his senior season at Oceanside, S.C., but before then was a standout at Davidson Day for two seasons. In two seasons at Davidson Day, Hartman threw for a combined 6,388 yards and 69 touchdowns. He was the South Carolina team’s Most Valuable Player on offense in last month’s Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, and will enroll at Wake Forest this month.

Another doubled-up high school in this class, as Isaac comes to the Deacons from Buford, Ga., and holds the same alma mater as Wake Forest linebacker Jake Simpson. Isaac, at 5-10, 175 pounds, will be in the slot for the Deacons and to hear Clawson talk about his strengths — “really good change-of-direction skills, good ball skills” — is to hear him talk about the skill sets of current slot receivers Tabari Hines and Greg Dortch. Isaac scored 35 touchdowns in 33 career high school games, moving to Georgia from California before his senior season.

Perhaps has the best chance of any player in the class to make an early impact. With the graduation of kicker Mike Weaver, the 5-9, 170-pound Sciba of Clover, S.C., will be given an opportunity to be the Deacons’ kicker as soon as he steps on campus. He was ranked the No. 7 kicker in the country by 247sports.com. Connected on 15 of 22 field goals in the past three seasons combined, with a long of 40 yards.

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