A new season brings with it a new coach and system in Winston-Salem. As the Demon Deacons adjust to life in the Clawson era, fans will also notice the stark contrast between the Jim Grobe option-oriented offense and Clawson's open attack.
Grobe preferred his quarterbacks to be at least efficiently mobile in order to run the option, but whoever is named the starter under Clawson will be asked to be both mobile in the pocket and create positive plays when a young offensive line breaks down. Both returning backup Tyler Cameron and Kevin Sousa, who originally committed to Michigan as a quarterback before switching positions under Grobe, have the size and skill to shoulder that load. Two freshmen, John Wolford and Travis Smith, will challenge for the job, but both are smaller than the returners and, while athletic, have the tendencies of more traditional pocket passers.
Given a confident signal-caller, Clawson's offensive model works. Last year at Bowling Green, his offense ranked in the top 10 in the nation in offensive efficiency by utilizing short routes, run-pass options and an outside running game that attacks the edges of the defense. The Deacons have the perfect man for that outside attack in speedy Orville Reynolds.
One of the first moves Clawson made during spring practice was moving Reynolds back from wideout to his natural position at running back. The year at receiver should pay dividends, and the Clawson offense will call for him to both beat linebackers to the edge on the ground and find cushions in zone defenses for short yardage passes. Look for Reynolds to be Clawson's do-everything man in a first-year offense that remains short on playmakers.
Who will lead the Demon Deacons in receptions this year?
One similarity fans will see between last year and this coming fall will be the consistent and focused use of the slot receiver. It will be impossible to replace Michael Campanaro, the Deacs' all-time leader in receptions (229), but Virginia graduate transfer E.J. Scott will have an immediate and significant impact.
Scott caught 29 passes and three touchdowns in 2012 and will need to be a security blanket for whichever inexperienced quarterback needs to find him on short routes when things break down. Also helping downfield will be big targets Jared Crump (6'3") and Jonathan Williams (6'4") who both showed they can high point and win balls in the air as redshirt freshmen last year.
One thing is for sure: Everything will look different this year on BB&T Field. From the players to the coaches to the formations, Deacons fans will get to see something new. After five straight losing seasons, the change should be welcome. Progress will be slow, but Dave Clawson has shown his open attack can right the ship given time.