Wake Forest is the smallest school in the Power Five, and success has historically been elusive for the Demon Deacons. However, under Dave Clawson, the Demon Deacons have become one of the most consistent teams in the Power Five.
Wake Forest Coaching Staff
Head Coach, Dave Clawson
Clawson has been remarkably consistent at Wake Forest, leading the Demon Deacons to seven straight bowl appearances, which is good for the 10th-longest streak in the country and the second-longest in the ACC.
Clawson is gaining a reputation as a program-builder who isn’t afraid to go against the grain. Look no further than his slow mesh offense. Other coaches fear that the slow mesh won’t work, making it one of the rarest offensive systems in college football.
Stanford is slowly adopting some concepts from Clawson’s offense, which calls for a long pause on RPOs, allowing the quarterback more time to scan the field before deciding whether to hand the ball off or throw it. It’s a novel concept and just one example of Clawson’s willingness to be different.
Clawson came to Wake Forest from Bowling Green after spending over a decade at several FCS schools. He has been successful everywhere he’s coached and doesn’t look to be slowing down.
Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks, Warren Ruggiero
Wake Forest’s success has been bolstered by the continuity in its coaching staff, and no one exemplifies that more than Ruggiero.
Ruggiero is entering his 10th year as the offensive coordinator at Wake Forest after five years with Clawson at Bowling Green. He’s had other opportunities but has repeatedly chosen to stay with the Demon Deacons.
After losing Sam Hartman to the transfer portal, the quarterback position is a question mark. Mitch Griffis is likely the starter heading into the season and has in-game experience. There was a noticeable jump in offensive production last season when Hartman returned from his heart issue. With another offseason under his belt, Griffis should feel more comfortable. Whether that translates to success on the field remains to be seen.
Defensive Coordinator, Brad Lambert
Lambert is best known to most fans for being the first head coach in Charlotte’s history, but this is actually his second stint at Wake Forest. The defensive guru coached for the Demon Deacons from 2001-2010 as a special teams coordinator and linebackers coach first and later as the defensive coordinator.
Lambert had stints at Marshall and Purdue before returning to Wake Forest in 2022. Lambert has extensive experience with linebackers, but Clawson is one of the rare coaches who sets up his staff so that Lambert is only responsible for coordinating the defense.
Wake Forest’s offense makes the headlines, but the defense has been quietly solid for some time. This year, the Demon Deacons will need the defense to have one of its best seasons in recent history to take the next step as a team.
Special Teams Coordinator/Tight Ends, Wayne Lineburg
Lineburg has been with Clawson at Wake Forest since 2016, leading some of the strongest special teams groups in the country over that span. Lineburg worked with Clawson in the early 2000s as an offensive coordinator and has served in a variety of roles on offense in his career.
As part of the slow mesh offense, the tight ends don’t typically contribute heavily to the passing game, catching just 31 passes as a group in 2022. Cameron Hite is the most experienced guy in the room, and he was one of Wake Forest’s top run blockers last season.
Running Backs, John Hunter
Hunter is yet another Wake Forest coach who has been with Clawson for over a decade, moving with him from Bowling Green, where he was the recruiting coordinator.
Wake Forest rotates running backs more than most teams in the country, and the room goes four deep. Justice Ellison is the first guy on the depth chart after a 635-yard performance last season. Demond Claiborne and Will Towns each saw some playing time last season and should have increased roles this season.
Look for redshirt freshman Tate Carney, whose older brother is eighth on Wake Forest’s career rushing list, to crack the rotation and potentially take on a bigger role as the year progresses.
Wide Receivers, Ari Confesor
Ari Confesor is the new addition to Wake Forest’s staff, joining the Demon Deacons from Air Force in February. Confesor spent the last four years at the service academy after stints at Holy Cross (2018) and Rhode Island (2009-2011, 2013-2017).
While the Demon Deacons must replace AT Perry, who was targeted a team-high 112 times last season, they’ll be returning their next six leading receivers. Donovan Greene, Ke’Shawn Williams, and Taylor Morin form a strong top three, but look for true sophomore Wesley Grimes to take a step forward this year as well.
Offensive Line, Nick Tabacca
You’ll never believe this, but Tabacca has been with Clawson since the beginning of Clawson’s tenure. He joined the Demon Deacons in 2014 after a short stint with Ball State and has led a consistent offensive line since then.
The offensive line was solid last season and returns both tackles and the center. Nick Sharpe is likely to step into one of the guard spots, while the other may still be up for grabs. The offensive line is disciplined and plays well within Clawson’s system.
Defensive Line, Dave Cohen
Cohen has been with the Demon Deacons for 10 years under Clawson. A former head coach at Hofstra, Cohen has coached the defensive line for the better part of three decades.
The strength of Wake Forest’s defense is the interior of its defensive line, where a new player or two seems to emerge every year. The Demon Deacons have to replace Kobie Turner and Tyler Williams, but Kevin Pointer looks like the next star in line.
Linebackers, Glenn Spencer
A 30-year coaching veteran, Spencer came to Wake Forest from USF when Lambert was hired in 2022. Spencer has plenty of coordinator experience at places like Charlotte, Oklahoma State, and Florida State.
Transfer Jacob Roberts was all around the ball at North Carolina A&T last season and should start at middle linebacker this season. Chase Jones is a talented pass rusher but needs to improve as a tackler.
Cornerbacks, Chip West
West is a newcomer to Wake Forest’s staff but brings with him an impressive resume and cornerback pedigree. At Syracuse, West coached All-ACC corner Garrett Williams and helped the Orange to one of the best passing defenses in the conference. West has coached six draft picks and leads an experienced Wake Forest secondary.
The Demon Deacons had several injuries in the secondary last year, which forced younger players into action. It looks like they’ll roll with a combination of Caelen Carson and DaShawn Jones as their top two corners in 2023.
Safeties, James Adams
Adams joined Wake Forest with Lambert in 2022 after coaching under Lambert at several of their previous stops. Adams leads an experienced group on the back end of the defense. The Wake Forest alum brings 10 years of secondary coaching experience.
Malik Mustapha wasn’t offered by the Demon Deacons out of high school, mostly due to a disappointing 40-time at camp. He started as a true freshman at Richmond, and his strong play earned him a scholarship offer as a transfer. He’ll start at safety with senior and fellow transfer Chelen Garnes this fall.