Wake Forest Demon Deacons Offensive Scouting Report
Wake Forest Demon Deacons Offense: Scheme - Spread
QB Mitch Griffis
RB Demon Claiborne
WR Jahmal Banks
Wake Forest runs a spread offense. The defense will typically see 3 wide receivers, 1 running back, and a tight end in formation. They like to spread the field, but they are a run first ball team. They have a young sophomore QB, Mitch Griffis, in his first season as the starter. Griffis is a decent runner himself. So, Wake has been leaning on their run game. With Griffis, they like to run QB draw plays in 2nd and medium situations. If they go with an empty backfield with Griffis all alone in the shotgun, that is a pretty good indicator for a QB draw. As far as traditional run plays go, Wake Forest is very untraditional. They deploy what is referred to as a "slow mesh" concept. This is where the QB will stick the ball in the running back's gut and hold it there for as long as 3-4 seconds. They use this to test the discipline of the defense and give Griffis an option to pull and throw. You can see an example of the "slow mesh" in this clip from their game against Georgia Tech a couple weeks ago.
This play is a good example of how the slow mesh concept can test a defense. The slow developing handoff tests the gap discipline of the defensive line and linebackers. On this play, the defensive end on the left side is impatient and rushes up the field too far, leaving the left side wide open for a big gain. The key to stopping this is patience. Once the handoff begins, the defense needs to hold their ground and stay in their assigned gap. Once Griffis makes the decision to finally handoff, then react and pursue the football. This play will hurt an undisciplined front badly. To add to the slow mesh, the Demon Deacons have 2 good running backs that are patient runners, which are perfect for the scheme. Demond Claiborne and Justice Ellison are a solid 2 running back rotation. Ellison's injury status is questionable for this weekend, but Claiborne has been the primary ball carrier as of late.
The passing game for Wake Forest has been just okay. Wide receiver, Jahmal Banks is the primary target of the offense, but they tend the spread the ball around for the most part. In critical situations, Griffis will be looking Banks' way though. I believe a large reason why this offense likes to run the ball is because their offensive line struggles in pass protection. They have given up 11 sacks in the last 2 games against Georgia Tech and Clemson. Part of the reason for this is Griffis holds onto the ball too long, which puts more stress on the offensive line to hold their blocks longer. They also struggle in picking up blitzes. That may also be due to an inexperienced QB. Griffis, standing at 5'11" has a tendency to have his passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. The Hokie defense should look to get their hands up and knock down passes if they cannot get to Griffis on their rush.
As said before, when defending the run against Wake Forest, the Virginia Tech defense will need patience and sound gap discipline. If they do this, Wake Forest will have to abandon the slow mesh concept. Last week, against Clemson, Wake struggled to run the ball because the Tiger defense did not get out of their gaps. They got up the field and made life miserable for Griffis and Claiborne. In the passing game, Virginia Tech should be able to put pressure on the Quarterback. Wake Forest has also had a bit of turnover bug. Griffis has thrown 5 interceptions and the team has lost 6 fumbles through 5 games. If the Hokies stay disciplined, put pressure on Griffis, and force a turnover or 2, then Virginia Tech should have great success on Saturday.
All stats via ESPN.com