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Keys to Improvement for Wake Forest

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Three keys to progress for the Demon Deacons.

Wake Forest has won three games each of the past two seasons. With 16 returning starters, expectations are higher for Dave Clawson's third year in Winston-Salem. Below are three keys for the Demon Deacons;

1. Make Strides in the Ground Game -- Wake Forest ranked 123rd nationally in rushing, though some progress was made in terms of production; the Demon Deacons improved from 1.25 yards per carry two seasons ago to 3.03, which was still second-to-last in the FBS. With four returning starters, the Demon Deacons finally have some much-needed experience up front. Additionally, every single person who carried the football for Wake Forest in 2015, including dynamic quarterback Kindall Hinton, returns. True freshman Cade Carney is an early enrollee at running back to watch. The Demon Deacons have to develop some consistency running the football to alleviate some of the pressure on a promising passing game.

2. More Big Plays Defensively -- Momentum is critical in college football and plays like sacks, interceptions and fumble recoveries help determine the ebb and flow of each game. Wake Forest struggled to be on the right side of those swing moments this past year. The Demon Deacons recorded the fewest sacks in their division, the fewest fumbles forced and recovered and second-fewest interceptions in the league. A more opportunistic defense would have a resonating effect. In situations like the redzone and on third-downs, Wake Forest was very effective. An increase in big plays is what is dramatically needed.    

3. Limit Interceptions -- It's hard to win games losing the turnover battle and Wake Forest had a positive margin in just three games all season. The Demon Deacons tied Virginia for the most interceptions thrown in the ACC with 18. Even with increased production, efficiency is critical; the final game of last year, for Wake Forest, was a prime example. Improving quarterback John Wolford completed 23-of-35 passes for 338 yards and two touchdowns, but he also threw two interceptions in a 27-21 loss. With two talented quarterbacks on the roster and Cortez Lewis leading a very good receiving corps, a decrease in interceptions will have a direct increase in points scored. Improved pass protection will also help limit rushed throws.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com'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: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports