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Weaver wins battle to be Deacons' place-kicker

Redshirt freshman to handle place-kicks in Deacons’ opener

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Red-shirt freshman Mike Weaver attempts a field goal during the Deacons preseason scrimmage on August 10, 2014.

A battle that has raged since spring was finally decided Tuesday, one day before Wake Forest was scheduled to board a plane for Thursday’s opening game at Louisiana-Monroe.

Coach Dave Clawson filled in the last spot on his depth chart by naming redshirt freshman Mike Weaver as the starting kicker for field-goal and extra-point attempts. Freshman Adam Centers will kick off, leaving redshirt junior Chad Hedlund, who performed all three roles last season, without any duties in the opener.

Clawson said that Hedlund, who was 8 for 12 on field-goal attempts and made all 26 point-after tries last season, will have a chance to win back the position.

“That could be fluid,” Clawson said. “Every time you name a starter, that’s the starter for that game and doesn’t mean it’s the starter forever.”

The decision to have Weaver kick field goals and extra points came as somewhat of a surprise, given that he provided Hedlund with little competition last year. But Clawson said that Weaver has improved by leaps and bounds since spring drills.

Weaver is a former soccer standout at Southside High School in Pine City, N.Y., and had been out of high school two seasons before signing with Wake Forest.

“Just throughout camp, Weaver was the most accurate,” Clawson said. “And he had the fastest operation. We charted every kick, and he made the most.”

Centers was rated by ESPN as the third-best kicking prospect in the nation last season as a senior at Coppell (Texas) High School.

“And Centers has the strongest leg on kickoffs.” Clawson said.

Otherwise, the surprises were few when Clawson released the depth chart. Since freshman A’Lique Terry was named the starting center last week, the first team had been pretty much set.

Redshirt sophomore Cam Serigne will start ahead of freshman Devin Pike and redshirt senior Neil Basford at tight end, and redshirt sophomore Jared Crump is first team at wide receiver ahead of redshirt senior Brandon Terry and sophomore Tyree Harris.

On defense, redshirt freshman Wendell Dunn is first team at end ahead of redshirt freshman Duke Ejiofor, but both are expected to play quite a bit. And redshirt junior Hunter Williams is first team at rover, ahead of redshirt sophomore Steve Donatell, but again, Donatell is expected to be called on early and often.

Perhaps the most unexpected development was at second-team linebacker, where freshman Jaboree Williams is listed behind redshirt junior Brandon Chubb at one of position and redshirt freshman Grant Dawson is behind sophomore Marquel Lee at the other.

Dawson, a walk-on from Reagan High in Winston-Salem, is running ahead of Teddy Matthews, a redshirt sophomore on scholarship who played in all 12 games last season.

“He’s a kid who loves football,” Clawson said of Dawson. “He works his tail off. He’s tough. He’s competitive. He’s smart. And in the scrimmages, when the (second team) would go, he had a nose for the football. His name was constantly being called out for making plays.

“He’s a walk-on guy who has just invested a lot, and it’s paying off. He’ll help us.”

Clawson mentioned last week that he expects at least nine players from the 24-man freshman class to play this season — Terry, Williams, Pike, Centers, quarterback John Wolford, running backs Isaiah Robinson and Tyler Henderson, defensive tackle Zeke Rodney and cornerback Thomas Dillon. But two others, offensive linemen Justin Herron and Ryan Anderson, are listed as second team, and Clawson has said that injuries or other circumstances could prompt him to throw one or two more into the fray along the defensive line.

The other freshmen defensive linemen are Willie Yarbary, Rashawn Shaw and Chris Stewart.

“Part of that is just the nature of transition,” Clawson said. “There were four or five players that we dismissed the week I got here. And then it’s just part of transition that some guys decided to transfer, some guys transferred down, some guys got suspended. I think that’s pretty common when you have a transition in the staff.

“So some of the freshmen are playing because they’re ready, and some of the freshmen are playing in the two-deep because of how thin we are at those positions. In some cases, we have nobody else.”

Dominique Gibson, who was suspended for the first three games for what Clawson termed a violation of team rules, has returned to practice but will remain on the scout team through the duration of his suspension. Gibson was arrested in January in Winston-Salem for misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

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