Even with Gov. Roy Cooper’s guidelines for outdoor sporting events allowing more fans, it’s still unclear whether Wake Forest will hold a spring football game.
“We are going to wait and see,” Coach Dave Clawson said Wednesday. “Part of that is it’s a state decision, but it’s also an institution decision. We have to see where Wake Forest is with that. Again, I’m planning to not have one but whatever we do in that last practice we could easily do with a crowd.”
Wake Forest has practiced three times, and the NCAA allows 15. Clawson said his team would finish practice in April.
Cooper on Tuesday ruled that outdoor events can have 50 percent occupancy with proper social distancing. Truist Field holds 31,500 fans.
The Demon Deacons will open the 2021 season at home against Old Dominion Sept. 3.
“I’m hoping if we are at 15,000 now, by the time we get to September it’s 30,000,” Clawson said. “We’re going to take an optimistic view of it. I’d rather be safer on the front end to help ensure the back end.”
Wake Forest practices are more crowded than in years past because of close to 20 additional players, including eight early enrollees and nine seniors taking advantage of the NCAA’s extra season of eligibility.
“We’ve had three really good practices,” Clawson said. “I’ve loved the energy level.”
In most spring, practices Clawson has had first and second units but now has the luxury of three units.
“The energy level and the depth is good,” Clawson said. “We’ve got three groups running right now and we’ve never been able to do that before in the spring. We are fine tuning the ones and the twos and developing the threes. The goal is to have a robust roster that has depth, and we just have to keep these guys healthy so they get better.”
Because the fall season ended with a bowl game in late December, Clawson is not taxing the starters and is developing the second and third units.
“We’re getting a lot of reps to our twos and threes,” Clawson said. “And because we have so many returning starters the starters are actually getting a smaller percentage of the reps. So we are not exposing them to potential injury because these are guys that have played a lot of football for us with those nine fifth- and sixth-year guys coming back.”
Several early enrollees have not played since their high school junior seasons in 2019.
“Some of them played a few games in the fall, but a guy like (offensive lineman) Matt Gulbin, who is from Connecticut, he hasn’t played since his junior year in 2019,” Clawson said. “It’s baptism by fire and we go through it every year, but we just have a few more of them this year.”
Clawson said the freshmen had adjusted well to the speed of a college practice.
“They got through the ‘awakening’ really well and it’s a pretty mentally tough group,” Clawson said. “Our strength coach likes to say, every year the size, athleticism and strength of what we bring in incrementally gets a little better.”