WINSTON-SALEM – Under coach Jim Grobe, football signing days were not very eventful.
Demon Deacon fans didn’t get the same kind of suspense that powers such as Florida State generated as they waited for big-name recruits to make last-minute decisions. Grobe locked up his classes early, rarely even going into January with an open scholarship.
In comparison, this year’s signing day (Feb. 5) may seem like Christmas morning for Deacons fans: They might not know what to expect. On one hand, new coach Dave Clawson has his staff all over the country adding names to the “prospect” list.
On the other hand, other programs are still recruiting WFU commits, hoping to take advantage of the coaching change.
One example is commit Demetrius Kemp from Alabama. He’s still receiving interest from Southern Miss (where he originally committed) and others, and he says he’s “80 percent” committed to Wake Forest. Kemp visited Winston-Salem over MLK weekend, and he also plans to visit Purdue and Boise State before signing day.
As an aside, Wake Forest’s depth problems at running back could benefit them in recruiting Kemp. He’s being seen as a safety in most programs, but the Deacons could dangle the idea that he’d get a chance to play tailback, as well.
Among those who joined Kemp on campus on MLK weekend was defensive back DaiQuan Lawrence. Lawrence decommitted after the season and had schools such as ECU, Virginia and Syracuse on his list, but reportedly recommitted to Wake during his visit. .
So while the staff has been re-recruiting its previous commits, it’s been relentlessly looking for new players. No pattern has emerged in geography or position, as Clawson appears to just be looking for the best players he can find. He hasn’t backed away from recruiting previously committed players, either. His first commit, quarterback John Wolford, was an East Carolina commit, and Clawson has offers out to others.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the names that have surfaced:
• T.J. Griffin (Ocean Lakes in Virginia Beach, Va.) is a small (5-10, 180) defensive back who has run a 4.39 40 and has a physical reputation. He has offers from Duke and Virginia, and many others are at his door, including Penn State, ECU, Maryland and N.C. State.
• Wake Forest jumped into the derby with many other schools for wide receiver Kameron Uter of Atlanta when he decommitted from Vanderbilt on Jan. 11. Uter is 6-4, 215 pounds, and he runs a 4.4 40. He’s an outstanding athlete who wasn’t big on football until this year, mainly because he has a 92 mph fastball. Uter will be drafted by MLB, but he says he wants to go to college and play both sports. He also was scheduled to be in Winston-Salem over MLK weekend. Landing Uter out of the heavy competition would be a big statement for Clawson (and a pleasant surprise for baseball coach Kevin Walter).
• The Deacons are continuing to pursue Christian Gill, a 6-3, 250-pound defensive lineman from Navarre, Fla., who committed to Coastal Carolina. He also had offers from Marshall, UAB and Old Dominion. The Deacons have a home visit with him on Jan. 21.
• On Jan. 13, Clawson joined a long list who had offered running back Mike Warren of Lawton, Okla. Warren is 6-1, 185 pounds, and he ran a 4.34 40 at Texas A&M’s summer camp. Others in the hunt include Tulsa, Iowa State and Southern Miss.
• Zeek Rodney, a 6-1, 265-pound defensive lineman, will make an official visit to Winston-Salem on Jan. 24. Rodney also is being recruited by Syracuse, Boston College, UNC-Charlotte, Marshall and others.
• Shaedon Meadors, a 6-2, 175-pound receiver, picked up a WFU offer in early January. He excelled in the N.C.-S.C. Shrine Bowl, as did Rodney.
Clawson has plenty more names on Wake Forest’s list, so what he reveals on signing day could be a very interesting first step of his tenure.
One new player that Clawson definitely will have on hand is E.J. Scott, a 5-11, 185-pound receiver, who will transfer from Virginia. Scott will be eligible immediately as a graduate transfer, which is good news for a program that will lose leading receiver Michael Campanaro and reportedly won’t get third-leading receiver Sherman Ragland back from academic and off-field troubles.
Scott, from Ellicott City, Md., was originally recruited by Wake Forest, and he appeared to blossom as a redshirt sophomore in 2012. Scott caught 29 passes for a 13.4 yard average and three touchdowns. He also became a valuable special teams player. Last year, however, Scott only had three catches for 30 yards.
McKie’s Puzzling Play
One of the strangest stories of the Deacons’ basketball season has been the play of senior Travis McKie.
Heading into the season, a lot of attention was focused on McKie, who was the ACC’s leading career scorer and rebounder. He was the only senior on a team that figured to be improved in league play. The story was that he had survived the program’s tough times and was finally ready to see the wins that had been missing from his career.
“For me, it’s been personally a struggle,” he said before the year. “I don’t think anybody could envision what we’ve been going through here, especially through my four years. Being part of a five-man class and being the only one (left) for two years now has definitely been a struggle, but I’ve grown a lot, I’ve learned a lot and I think I see the world a lot different. I’m a better person and a better player.”
That sounded good since McKie already had been one of Wake Forest’s best players in all three of his seasons. His year-by-year statistics were consistent, averaging about 13 points and 7.5 rebounds for his career.
In addition, he wouldn’t have to worry about telling that big group of freshmen what to do all the time.
“Last year was hard for everybody, but it was hard for me because I had to focus on the young guys both on and off the court,” he said. “That affected my play at some points last year. ... This is my easiest year as far as leadership goes, so I can focus on what I need to do and not worry about them too much.”
But all that optimism has turned into questions as McKie’s game has regressed significantly. He basically played one good half in ACC play so far, scoring 10 of his 16 points against North Carolina in the second half.
Through five ACC games, McKie was scoring 6.2 points a game (3.8 if you remove UNC). Some of the problem is volume: He’s gone from averaging 10 shots a game his first three ACC seasons to 6.5 through five games.
But the bigger problem is his shooting. McKie’s shooting percentage in ACC play dropped each of his seasons (49.7 to 47.8 to 45), but it plummeted to 33 percent so far this season. If you remove the UNC game, he’s 3-for-19 (15.8).
Certainly, McKie bears some of the blame. His skills have not improved significantly during his career, despite supplementing his WFU coaching by attending high-level camps, such as Kevin Durant’s. He’s never been a take-charge player, and without a running mate such as C.J. Harris, that’s been even more evident this season.
But Wake Forest’s offense doesn’t seem to be taking advantage of what McKie can do well. Much of the time, he seems to be just standing outside the three-point line, waiting for a kick out. At 6-7, that’s what McKie should be doing if he wants to make the NBA: The market for athletic wings who can hit three-pointers and defend is hot.
But McKie isn’t really that guy right now. He’s been adequate from long range, improving to 39 percent last year in ACC play. But he’s 1-for-15 through five ACC games this year. He touches the ball so rarely that sometimes it seems as if he just throws up a shot because he can.
McKie always has played bigger than his size, working hard inside to find shots and grab rebounds. He’s played most of his career seemingly out of position at power forward, but his skills really fit the role. For example, McKie averaged more than 2.5 offensive rebounds a game for his first three ACC seasons. This year, in his new role, he’s grabbed three total in five games.
If Jeff Bzdelik is going to figure out how to make any noise in the second half of the ACC season, he’s going to have to find a way to get McKie operating in the lane, grabbing rebounds, finding his shots and drawing fouls.