The 2022 Wake Forest football team saw a step down from the 2021 team, and 2023 should see the decline continue. Such a fate is not surprising, though.
Wake Forest has been one of the ACC’s more impressive powers in recent memory, headlined by the offensive duo of head coach Dave Clawson and record-setting quarterback Sam Hartman.
The pair hit its peak in 2021 when the Demon Deacons went on a sudden 11-3 tear, a run that saw them win the ACC’s Atlantic division for the first time since 2006.
The 11 wins tied Wake football’s record for most wins in a single season, shedding a magnificent light on what has historically been one of college football’s worst programs.
Considering both the unexpected nature of the 2021 squad and how it clashed with the school’s typical standard, it shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that Wake Forest was most likely not going to see that dominant of a run in 2022—and such a conclusion was eventually proven to be accurate.
This season, the Demon Deacons saw a strong 6-1 start, a near-perfect record that had only seen a double-overtime blemish to eventual conference champ Clemson. Things soon began to unravel, though, as Wake went 1-4 in its last five regular-season games to enter the Gasparilla Bowl at 7-5. That was a pretty rough tumble even with a step back being expected.
The Deacs did go on to win the bowl over Missouri, finishing with eight wins (this being only their 10th time to ever hit the threshold). So, all things considered, not a bad year in the slightest—but still a noticeable decline.
Speaking of which, off-season moves have refused to help in keeping the program afloat, with aforementioned QB Sam Hartman entering the transfer portal and star wide receiver A.T. Perry declaring for the 2023 NFL Draft.
And while those are some of the larger talents moving on to greener pastures, they are not the only ones. Reliable players like running back Quinton Cooley and cornerback Gavin Holmes are heading to Liberty and Texas, respectively. Beyond them are several more names that can be found here.
When combining this growing list of concerns with a handful of troublesome opponents on next year’s schedule, the thought of 2023’s Demon Deacons falling even further than 2022’s seems like a guarantee. But, with that said, one should not pity Wake fans, as none are more familiar with this feeling than them.
Earlier, I said that Wake Forest tied for its best single-season win count in 2021. The season that it tied with was 2006-07 one, a stretch of greatness remembered not only for how quickly it came but also for how quickly it went.
In the three seasons leading up to 2006, Wake saw a grand total of 13 wins. Along with that, they had only seen three positive records since 1992, none of which exceeded seven wins. Those circumstances obviously made the 11-3 record, ACC title, and Orange Bowl berth an overwhelming trio to take in. But how did the Deacs follow up on that run?
Well, the short answer is by collapsing over the course of the next few years, as 2007 saw them hit nine wins, 2008 saw them hit eight, and 2009 saw them miss the bowl season. Knowing what we’ve already covered here today, does it not feel like the groundwork is being placed for a nearly identical drop as we speak?
Dave Clawson is a very capable head coach who has developed a strong reputation for doing more with less, so Wake Forest should not be expected to plummet back into the 3-win territory that it’s stereotypically associated with. However, especially when considering the departures of multiple impact players and the frightening nature of its next slate, anything more than a bowl berth will likely be a blessing in the fall.