Editor's Note: The Tigers take to the road for their ACC home stretch, beginning with a Thursday night game at Wake Forest on November 6. New Deacons' head coach Dave Clawson spent the spring installing his offense and defense, and offered some observations in the following interview.
Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson
On his first spring practice: "We'd love to have 15 more practices, which I think is always the case as a new staff when you're implementing new systems. But I'm really pleased with the work our young men have put in and the effort and attention they've given us. We're laying the foundation right now. We have a lot of work to do in the summer before we open camp."
On the progress made by players working under new coaches: "Number one, they've been very responsive and very willing. All the things that we've asked them to do, I think they've given us their very best effort. Right now the execution level isn't where we need it to be, but I think that's somewhat to be expected. When you're first learning a system, there's a lot of processing going on which sometimes prevents guys from playing at the speed that you need them to play with, and that's something that you hope gets better as you install everything a second time in the summer...
"I think as much as anything, it's just you're establishing how you're doing everything. How we lift, how we run the off season conditioning program, the tempo and the pace at which we practice, how we organize practice, the amount of time that we spend on situational football. I think these are all changes and adjustments these guys are going through, and every time we do something for the first time, it's not done with the speed or with the attention to detail that you like, and the second time you do it, it gets better. Before you play your first game, hopefully you get four or five or six opportunities to work those situations and you become more and more efficient in terms of how you operate.
"Again, we've got a long ways to go, but I think that's to be expected. You compound being in a new system with the amount of new players we're breaking in, we're a football team that graduated 13 senior starters, so not only do you have guys learning a new system, but you have guys really that are being asked to give meaningful reps for the first time in their career, so there's a very steep learning curve going on right now."
On the quarterback position: "It's a work in progress. I don't think we've had a guy that's taken control of the position yet, but in fairness to them, we're still going through the installation part of it. They're going to have to work very hard during the summer on their own when they get those opportunities, and we're going to have to perform at a much higher level once we get to the fall than we are right now...
"Really when we first got here, we only had one quarterback on scholarship, and that was Tyler Cameron. We moved Kevin Sousa back from receiver to get through the spring. Tyler has a very live arm. He has good arm strength. He's got good athleticism in the pocket. And Kevin is, as you'd expect from a guy that played some receiver here, is a very gifted athlete, has the ability to make plays with his feet, his ability to make plays when a play breaks down and improvise has been impressive.
"We're still in the installation phase, so to give any final evaluation of where we are with those two isn't fair to either of them just because this is the first time they've had everything on their plate. Certainly we have two quarterbacks coming in that we recruited that we told those young men they'd have an opportunity to compete for the position. So we're not going to be naming the starter at the end of spring football. I think we're too young in the system to do that, and we've told freshmen they'd be given the opportunity to compete. We're not in a rush to make the wrong decision. We're going to let this thing play out and probably not name a starter until 10 days to two weeks before the first game."
On coaching and recruiting in the Carolinas, and his familiarity with the area from his time at Richmond: "We certainly enjoyed living in the Southeast when we were here about a decade ago, and even a little less than that in '07, and there were a lot of reasons I was attracted to this job. I think number one, the institution itself is a first class place in everything we do. The area of the country is absolutely beautiful. I think we've always wanted to end up back in this area, and certainly feel very honored and privileged to be the head coach at Wake Forest. There's so many things about this position that made it attractive, and certainly the area of the country is one of them."
On priorities in getting reason for the 2014 season: "How much time do you have? We've got a lot of work to do in a lot of areas, but like I said earlier, the most impressive thing to me is that the players on the team have been very receptive. They've been very responsive. We gotten very little resistance in terms of the things that we're trying to do, and I love their enthusiasm and their work ethic. If a team gives you effort and they give you their attention, all those other things we can coach and fix in time, so again, overall very pleased with what our players have given us so far in terms of their effort and attention."