Eleven days passed from Wake Forest’s last spring football practice to Tuesday morning, though that wasn’t immediately clear on the field.
“I’ll tell you what, after being away for more than a week, overall I was really pleased with the work,” Coach Dave Clawson said.
The Deacons were off last week for spring break, so their most-recent practice before Tuesday morning was March 7.
After the conditioning and stretching portion of Tuesday’s practice finished, Wake Forest immediately went into what it calls “team fast” — which means 11-on-11 and an accelerated pace.
“Just get the juices going that, ‘We’re not easing into this, guys. We’re back to work.’ That’s very strategic,” Clawson said of starting with that action.
If anybody was caught off guard or unable to keep up, it didn’t show. Players went through a workout Monday as their first day officially back from break, and Clawson said the report from director of sports performance Brandon Hourigan was that most players had stayed active during the break — always a key talking point entering off weeks.
A couple of rising fifth-year seniors made sure they were active together.
Offensive lineman Nathan Gilliam and linebacker Justin Strnad went to Strnad’s home in Tampa, Fla., to get some work in.
“We went down there, had a good time. We got to see (Bryce) Harper take a couple of at-bats for the Phillies, we worked out, got some field work in, lifted a little bit,” Strnad said. “Just had a good time.”
Gilliam figured that the time away from the practice field and McCreary Field House would make him slower Tuesday.
“I’m going to be honest with you, I thought after a week of — I mean, I was just training, trying to keep my body in shape. After a week, I thought I was going to be really rusty,” Gilliam said. “I thought I had a pretty good practice.”
Gilliam and Strnad have more in common than their class year and spending part of spring break training together, though.
Both veterans are integral to their position groups because of their versatility.
Gilliam started 12 games at right tackle last season after previously playing guard for the Deacons. His shift came after Justin Herron’s season-ending injury at Tulane.
This spring, Gilliam has been working at right tackle and guard. Herron is expected back in the fall — and until then, Gilliam is operating at both positions.
“I think wherever the team needs me, whether it’s at right guard this year or right tackle, however it ends up, I’m going to be ready for both,” Gilliam said.
For Strnad, his versatility comes in being able to play both linebacker positions for the Deacons.
In Wake Forest’s regular defensive packages, Strnad has been lining up at the Buck linebacker position, akin to an outside linebacker. That puts rising sophomore Ryan Smenda Jr. at the Mike linebacker spot. But as spring goes on and more of defensive coordinator Lyle Hemphill’s system is fully implemented, Strnad will rotate between those spots.
“We have a lot more changeups that we’re going to throw at teams this year, and just a lot more diversity as a whole,” Strnad said. “I think our sub packages are going to be a lot different, and we’re going to be able to do so many different things out of them.
“In the sub packages, I’ll play Mike in most of them. … It’s a little tough in practice sometimes, when we first installed, but it definitely helps the defense.”