Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Dave Clawson Era(2014-PRES.)
No offense to supporters of the Demon Deacons but of all the schools in the ACC, Wake Forest might have the most lackluster football program in the conference. When looking through their history, Wake Forest hasn't had much to be proud of on the gridiron. Their most successful era is without a doubt the current run under Dave Clawson.
Clawson has been in Winston-Salem for what would be his eleventh year as head coach of the Demon Deacons. Despite being only the third longest-tenured head coach in the school's football history, he is without a doubt the most successful one. No coach has been to more bowl games and no coach has had the Deacons finish in the top 10, in any poll. Clawson began his tenure in 2014, after long-timer Jim Grobe left following a 4-8 season in 2013.
Clawson's time didn't start too well. Wake Forest endured back-to-back 3-9 seasons in 2014 and 2015. However, starting in 2016, Clawson would lead the school to the longest and most consistent streak of winning years in program history. Despite finishing 2016 to 2018 with 7 or 8 wins, they won three straight bowl games. In 2016, Wake Forest took down Temple in the Military Bowl. 2017 saw them upset #25 North Carolina State en route to a shootout win against Texas A&M in the Belk Bowl.
2018 saw Wake Forest pull off another upset against #22 North Carolina State, which eventually culminated in a Birmingham Bowl victory over Memphis. In 2019, Clawson's squad started 5-0, which hadn't happened since 2006. With that start, they also were ranked for the first time since 2008. Although they ended that year losing five of their last eight games, being ranked at all was still a major step. In 2020, Sam Hartman became the full-time starter at quarterback and in a condensed nine-game game season, the team went 4-5 with a loss on Duke's Mayo Bowl to Wisconsin.
2021 would end up being the best season in program history. They started 8-0 for the first time, became bowl-eligible for a sixth straight year, finished 11-3, and ended a season ranked in both the final AP and CFP polls. It was the first time, Wake Forest ended a football season ranked since 2006. The Demon Deacons would destroy Rutgers in the Gator Bowl 38-10. In 2022, the school would make it back to the postseason for the seventh straight year and beat Missouri in the Gasparilla Bowl.
Despite a 4-8 record last season, Dave Clawson has done an admirable job at a program where success has been limited. Clawson took home the 2021 ACC Coach of the Year Award and has established a respectable culture at the school. Despite other schools being used to bigger aspirations, you have to give Wake Forest some credit having proof of consistency over a long period of time.