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John Wolford Elevated Wake Forest

By BJ Bennett
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John Wolford's rise, between a fitting open and close, is one of the most remarkable careers in ACC history.

Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford was in the lineup for the first game of his college football career, completing 12-of-22 passes for 97 yards and an interception in a 17-10 loss at Louisiana-Monroe; in his final outing, nearly three-and-a-half years and over 40 starts later, Wolford was 32-of-49 for 400 yards and four touchdowns in a 55-52 Belk Bowl triumph over Texas A&M. His rise, between a fitting open and close, is one of the most remarkable careers in ACC history.

Wolford, like Demon Deacon legend Riley Skinner, came to Winston-Salem, North Carolina from Jacksonville, Florida. Big numbers followed Wolford, who broke Tim Tebow's north Florida prep record for total touchdown passes. In fact, Wolford set a national record with 773 yards of total offense, 539 yards passing and 234 yards rushing, while scoring ten times in a single game. His high school career, wildly enough, ended in a historic 74-73 loss.

What Wolford did at Wake Forest was, along with head coach Dave Clawson, help completely transform an offense from one of the nation's worst into one of college football's best. Wolford's freshman season, the Demon Deacons ranked last, by a wide margin, in all of FBS football with merely 216.3 yards per game. At the end of the 2017 Belk Bowl, Wake Forest ranked 17th in the country with 465.8 yards per game. The Demon Deacons, over the final six games of Wolford's tenure, averaged 543.7 yards and 41.8 points per game.

This fall, Wolford broke a number of Wake Forest records, including Skinner's single-season marks for passing yards, passing touchdowns, passer rating and total offense and total scores. Additionally, he moved up a number of rushing rankings as well. Wolford's Demon Deacons topped the previous program record of 632 yards of total offense in a game twice and very nearly three times. The 2017 unit blew by past marks of total offense and scoring by over 57 yards and nearly a touchdown per contest.

All that Wolford did will also long be clear in the ACC history books. He is one of just ten league players ever to reach 9,900 total yards. Of conference quarterbacks, only Tajh Boyd, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson and Marquise Williams have bettered Wolford's standard of at least 59 career passing touchdowns and 19 career rushing scores. Even in a golden era of ACC quarterback play, the 157.97 passer rating total Wolford just compiled is the second-highest in the league over the past four years.   

Nationally, this season, Wolford has had few peers. His passer rating slots in college football's top ten, ahead of the likes of Jake Browning, Sam Darnold, Trace McSorley, Josh Rosen and Jarrett Stidham. Wolford is one of only three FBS signal callers, joining J.T. Barrett and Mason Rudolph, with 29 touchdown passes and ten rushing scores. For point of reference, Wolford threw for scores than Darnold and Rosen and ran for more touchdowns than Josh Adams and John Kelly.  

The aforementioned productivity is a testament to all of the work that Wolford has put in. His personal development aside, Wake Forest improved from three wins each of Wolford's first two seasons to seven and then eight in his final two. For all of the numbers Wolford compiled, the improvement his team made is even more impressive. Wolford, above all else, is a winner.

Simply put, Wolford's career was a transformational one. His impact was wide-reaching. Walking away after his last game, Wolford took his team both down the field and up the rankings.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: / Twitter: @BJBennettSports