Wake Forest’s first scrimmage of spring football — and really, the only full one it will have — saw the Deacons work in some players in new roles, but it also witnessed too many others sidelined with injuries.
In particular, Wake Forest is thin at safety.
It’s a position that the Deacons are already trying to replace senior starters Cameron Glenn and Chuck Wade Jr. On Friday night at BB&T Field, Wake Forest was missing four safeties: Coby Davis, Nasir Greer, Zion Keith and Peyton Woulard.
“Just trying to get some good work in, and right now we’re so thin in the secondary, I looked up before practice and you see Coby Davis up there, Zion Keith, Nasir Greer, and those are three of your top four or five safeties and they’re not practicing,” Coach Dave Clawson said. “And then you’ve got Peyton Woulard out, too.
“So we’re just so thin, and we’re not getting — we’re trying to get as much work as we can, but we didn’t want to extend the scrimmage and risk injuries and we’d like to be able to have a spring game, and that’s going to be somewhat limited too, probably.”
Davis is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in last season’s opening game at Tulane on Aug. 30. Greer and Keith were shaken up in the past couple of weeks of spring practice.
All three of them are expected to be back for fall camp.
Clawson said Woulard will miss this season because of an injury suffered early in spring practice.
Wake Forest’s starting safeties for the scrimmage were Traveon Redd and Luke Masterson.
“I think Tra Redd has had his best segment he’s ever had here. In terms of every spring football or fall camp he’s been through, he looks quicker, faster, playing more confident, reacting better, tackling better,” Clawson said. “I think Luke Masterson continues to develop and is a player who continues to give us a lot of versatility, he could really play four positions. … That’s really invaluable for us.”
Overall in the scrimmage, there were a few offensive highlights in the first four drives, but no points.
That changed after a break for special-teams work.
Sam Hartman connected with Sage Surratt for a 54-yard catch-and-run to the 1-yard line. On third-and-goal from the 3, Hartman fired a dart to Jaquarii Roberson in the end zone.
Roberson also had a 4-yard touchdown catch from Hartman, who made a perfectly thrown pass to a back corner of the end zone, later in the scrimmage as well as a team-high five catches for 55 yards.
“It’s funny. He probably had his worst day of practice (Thursday), and I got after him. I asked him who was wearing (No.) 82, he said somebody stole his number and his identity,” Clawson said of Roberson. “But he showed up today, which was good, that’s the response you want. He’s been having a really good camp.”
The third segment of practice included four overtime possessions, with the offense starting on the defense’s 25-yard line.
The first two possessions saw quick touchdowns — first Christian Beal-Smith scored on a 12-yard run on the third play, and then Hartman’s short touchdown pass to Roberson came on the second play of a possession.
Hartman was 10-for-15 for 149 yards and the two touchdowns to Roberson, which were the only two touchdown passes of the scrimmage. Jamie Newman was 6-for-9 for 58 yards and took three sacks — though, as was the case for Kendall Hinton last spring, Newman’s running ability is negated by his being in a non-contact jersey.
Courtney McKinney, who redshirted last season, led the way on the ground with 49 yards on nine carries. He had a 20-yard run on his first carry, but he lost a fumble later on that drive.
Chase Monroe and Ryan Smenda Jr. led the defense with five tackles apiece. Boogie Basham had 1½ sacks, and Royce Francis had one sack.
To start the scrimmage, the offensive line from left to right was Jake Benzinger, Loic Ngassam Nya, Sean Maginn, Nathan Gilliam and Zach Tom. Making up the defensive line were Basham and Shamar McCollum at defensive end and Tyler Williams and Dion Bergan at defensive tackle.
McCollum is an early enrollee who has gained about 40 pounds since arriving at Wake Forest.
His emergence as a viable option to start at the drop-end position might be the most-significant positive development of spring practices thus far.