Heel Tough Blog: Wake Forest Preview


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For the first time since 2014, the Tar Heels are off to a 2-0 start to a season. Like that 2014 season, the Tar Heels will now face an in-state opponent as they look to get to 3-0 for the first time in eight years. This was a game that was scheduled to be on national television even before the move to Friday night, but is a game that now has some legitimate buzz around it from a national perspective. Here’s your weekly preview to prepare you for the Tar Heels first true road test of the season.



Team Breakdowns

Tar Heels

It only took two weeks, but the Tar Heels are back to moving the football up and down the field on offense. True freshman quarterback Sam Howell (32-49, 519 yds, 4-0 TD-INT, 21 rush, -3 yds) might not be leading the country in passing yards or passing touchdowns, but he has led two fourth quarter comebacks against two Power 5 opponents and boasts a 99.1 QBR when trailing in the fourth quarter, two statistics that are nothing to turn a blind eye to. It helps that his receiving corps has progressed nicely from last season, with new targets Dyami Brown (8 rec, 149 yds, 2 TD) and Rontavius Groves (6 rec, 76 yds) off to strong starts. The running game wasn't nearly as strong against Miami as it was against South Carolina, but Javonte Williams (28 rush, 178 yds, TD) continues to make a name for himself and Michael Carter (27 rush, 107 yds) is working well as his rotational option in the backfield. The offensive line is still working to find it consistency after two tough matchups against two of the country’s best front sevens. Senior center Nick Polino is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury, meaning sophomore Brian Anderson is left to handle the center duties for a bulk of the remaining schedule. It helps that the rest of the offensive line looks to be in good shape and progressing relatively well. The offensive line will still be the major question mark for this Tar Heel offense going forward, though.

After an eye-opening performance against a veteran South Carolina team, the Tar Heels defense had a much more difficult time slowing Jarren Williams and the Miami offense. Patience is the name of the game with this defense, as inconsistencies like this are bound to be experienced throughout this 2019 season, especially early on. The good news for the Tar Heels is that there is plenty of talent to mask those inconsistencies to a certain extent. The Tar Heels defensive line wasn’t nearly as effective as it was against South Carolina, but Aaron Crawford (13 ttkl, 3.5 TFL, 2.0 scks) and Jason Strowbridge (7 ttkl, 2.0 TFL, 0.0 scks) still made their presence felt in the first two games of the season. Joining them is senior Tomon Fox (10 ttkl, 3.5 TFL, 3.5 scks), who was being looked to before the season to finally breakout and has done just that early in the season. Entering the season, the linebacking corps was a concern, but the unit is now slowly becoming one of the steadiest and deepest on the team. Sophomore Jeremiah Gemmel (19 ttkl, 1.0 TFL, 0.5 sck) has become the leader in the middle and Dominique Ross (5 ttkl, PD) and Chazz Surratt (17 ttkl, 1.0 TFL, 1.0 sck) looked great rotating with each other on Saturday night. Add in the fact that senior Jonathan Smith (28 ttkl, 3.5 TFL, 1.5 scks, PD in 2018) returns to provide more depth in the middle and you can see why there is growing confidence in this group. The defensive backfield is the growing concern for the Tar Heels, but it’s not because of a lack of talent. With senior cornerback Patrice Rene (6 ttkl) done for the season and depth players at cornerback already banged up, the number of bodies is already getting thin. The good news for the Tar Heels is that Trey Morrison (2 ttkl, 0.5 TFL, 2 PD) seemed to avoid a major concussion in the opener and is adjusting well on the outside. The safety spot is in good hands, but like corner, the depth simply isn’t there, so Myles Dorn (17 ttkl) and Myles Wolfolk (14 ttkl, 2 INT) must continue to stay healthy.

Special teams was a huge concern coming into the season and the first two weeks have shown why. Sophomore kicker Noah Ruggles (3-3 XP, 5-7 FG, Long of 40) has been solid so far, but true freshman punter Ben Kiernan (9 punts, 35.3 avg) had a rough outing against Miami and will have to rebound. The return game hasn’t had many opportunities to be judged, but both the kick and punt coverage units have struggled early in the season. The unit will definitely have to improve going forward, especially with some electric returns lying ahead in conference play.


Wake Forest

The Demon Deacons are off to a strong start to their 2019 season, as well. Junior quarterback Jamie Newman (55-74, 713 yds, 6-0 TD-INT, 27 rush, 65 yds, TD) leads the way for the Deacons and has some great options to get the ball to in Sage Surratt (13 rec, 203 yds, 2 TD) and Scotty Washington (11 rec, 204 yds, 3 TD). Strangely, the Demon Deacons' strengths over the past few years, the tight end and running back positions, aren’t quite the strengths that they’ve been in recent years, although true freshman running back Kenneth Walker III (9 rush, 125 yds, TD) might be the solution in the backfield after a strong showing against Rice. The offensive line is a veteran one and bounced back after some struggles protecting Newman in Week 1.

The Demon Deacons defense hasn’t been quite the force that the offense has, but there is still talent there. It starts at linebacker where Justin Strnad (19 ttkl, 1.5 TFL, INT, 2 PD) leads the group. The secondary is without a dominant safety, but touts one of the top cornerback duos in the ACC with Amari Henderson (9 ttkl, INT, 2 PD) and Essang Bussey (9 ttkl, PD). The defensive line might be the weakest point of this defense, but Carlos Basham Jr. (9 ttkl, 2.0 TFL, 2.0 scks) looks the part at defensive end.

The Wake special teams unit is in solid shape, with punter Dom Maggio (9 punts, 43.6 avg) leading the way. The return game has been quiet so far and the Tar Heels will hope it stays that way.



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Team Stats

Tar Heels

Off. PPG: 26.0 (78th)

Off. PYPG: 268.5 (45th)

Off. RYPG: 167.5 (65th)

Off. TYPG: 436.0 (58th)

Off. 3rd Down %: 26.9% (115th)

Def. PPG: 22.5 (T-58th)

Def. PYPG: 225.5 (71st)

Def. RYPG: 153.5 (T-79th)

Def. TYPG: 379.0 (76th)

Sacks: 7.0 (T-15th)

Interceptions: 2 (T-30th)

Turnover Margin: +1

Offensive Efficiency: 72.8 (32nd)

Defensive Efficiency: 66.6 (47th)

Special Teams Efficiency: 31.3 (103rd)

Overall Team Efficiency: 69.7 (34th)


Wake Forest

Off. PPG: 39.5 (T-33rd)

Off. PYPG: 356.5 (11th)

Off. RYPG: 189.5 (50th)

Off. TYPG: 546.0 (12th)

Off. 3rd Down %: 52.6% (24th)

Def. PPG: 28.0 (T-88th)

Def. PYPG: 335.0 (123rd)

Def. RYPG: 123.5 (56th)

Def. TYPG: 458.5 (112th)

Sacks: 5.0 (T-47th)

Interceptions: 3 (T-8th)

Turnover Margin: +3

Offensive Efficiency: 67.2 (38th)

Defensive Efficiency: 48.3 (79th)

Special Teams Efficiency: 50.0 (65th)

Overall Team Efficiency: 60.5 (51st)



Three Keys to the Game

Get Off to a Quick Start

The Tar Heels got off to a fast start against Miami and that was ultimately one of the reasons that they were able to get to 2-0. With an offense as lethal Wake Forest’s is and with the Tar Heels on a short week, they can’t afford to get down early. Just like Saturday, the Tar Heels need to start quick, but this time they’ll have to keep their foot on the gas pedal, something they didn't do against Miami.

Take Care of the Football

This is something the Tar Heels have done a great job of so far this season, but it will be extremely important to do on Friday night against a Wake Forest team that has done a great job of taking care of the football and forcing turnovers. The Demon Deacons defense won’t make it easy, but if the Tar Heels can win or finish even in the turnover category, there is a good chance to Tar Heels can get to 3-0.

Tackle

The Tar Heels tackling troubles haven’t been as pronounced as they have been in the past, but there is definitely room for improvement. Jay Bateman has had guys in the right spots to make plays, now it’s time to make those plays.



Injury Report

Tar Heels

OUT- Brandon Fritts (knee), Nick Polino (lower body), Patrice Rene (knee), Bryson Richardson (knee)

QUEST- Antoine Green (undisclosed), Tre Shaw (undisclosed)

Wake Forest

OUT- Kendall Hinton (hamstring), D.J. Taylor (knee)

QUEST- Cade Carney (leg), Jaquarii Roberson (undisclosed), Tyler Williams (knee)



Projected Starting Lineups

Tar Heels

Offense

QB

# 7 Sam Howell, Fr.

RB

#25 Javonte Williams, So. OR

# 8 Michael Carter, Jr.

WR

# 2 Dyami Brown, So.

WR

#15 Beau Corrales, Jr.

WR

# 5 Dazz Newsome, Jr.

TE

#86 Carl Tucker, Sr.

LT

#67 Charlie Heck, Sr.

LG

#63 Ed Montilus, RFr.

C

#68 Brian Anderson, So.

RG

#73 Marcus McKethan, So.

RT

#74 Jordan Tucker, So.

Defense

DE

#51 Raymond Vohasek, So. OR

#56 Tomari Fox, Fr.

NG

#92 Aaron Crawford, Sr.

DT

#55 Jason Strowbridge, Sr.

OLB

#12 Tomon Fox, Sr.

ILB

#44 Jeremiah Gemmel, So.

ILB

# 3 Dominique Ross, Sr.

OLB

#33 Allen Cater, Sr. OR

#42 Tyrone Hopper, Jr.

CB

#10 Greg Ross, Jr.

FS

# 1 Myles Dorn, Sr.

SS

#11 Myles Wolfolk, Jr.

CB

#4 Trey Morrison, So.

NB

#16 D.J. Ford, Jr. OR

#15 DeAndre Hollins, RFr.

Special Teams

K

#97 Noah Ruggles, So.

KOS

#90 Michael Rubino, Sr.

P

#91 Ben Kiernan, Fr.

LS

#61 Drew Little, Fr. (K)

#60 Trevor Collins, Jr. (P)

H

#96 Cooper Graham, So.

KR

# 8 Michael Carter, Jr.

PR

# 5 Dazz Newsome, Jr.


Wake Forest

Offense

QB

#12 Jamie Newman, Jr.

RB

#26 Christian Beal-Smith, So. OR

#25 Kenneth Walker III, Fr.

WR

#14 Sage Surratt, So.

WR

#21 Isaiah Isaac, RFr.

WR

# 7 Scotty Washington, Sr.

TE

#86 Jack Freudenthal, Sr.

LT

#75 Justin Herron, Sr.

LG

#79 Sean Maggin, So.

C

#65 Zach Tom, So.

RG

#71 Nathan Gilliam, Sr.

RT

#73 Jake Benzinger, Sr.

Defense

DE

# 9 Carlos Basham Jr., Jr.

DT

#95 Dion Bergan Jr., So.

DT

#40 Rondell Bothroyd, RFr.

DE

#41 JaCorey Johns, RFr.

ROV

#12 Lukas Masterson, Jr.

MLB

#45 Ryan Smenda Jr., So.

BUCK

#23 Justin Strnad, Sr.

CB

# 4 Amari Henderson, Sr.

FS

#20 Coby Davis, So.

SS

#37 Nasir Greer, So.

CB

#21 Essang Bassey, Sr.

Special Teams

K

# 4 Nick Sciba, So.

P

# 8 Dom Maggio, Sr.

KO

# 4 Nick Sciba, So.

LS

#52 Dayton Diemel, Sr.

H

# 8 Dom Maggio, Sr.

KR

#26 Christian Beal-Smith, So.

PR

#14 Sage Surratt, So.

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