Clemson University

This is Clemson’s No. 1 challenge on defense vs. Wake Forest

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney previews Wake Forest

Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney on facing Wake Forest
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Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney on facing Wake Forest

Greg Dortch did not have much interest from Power 5 programs coming out of Highland Springs High in Virginia.

Dortch went to the same high school as Clemson safety K’Von Wallace, but he was not on Clemson’s radar as the Tigers recruited Wallace.

The only school from South Carolina to show much interest in Dortch was Coastal Carolina, while Maryland and Wake Forest were his only Power 5 offers.

While most of the ACC did not know much about Dortch prior to the start of his college career, they certainly do now.

The redshirt sophomore leads the league in receptions with 44 and yards with 555 and is second in touchdowns with five. Four of his five touchdowns came last week against Rice as he was named the ACC Receiver of the Week.

“Dortch, he’s a player that every team wishes they had on their team. Just a very dynamic player, both in the return game and in the slot. A great playmaker, tremendous competitor,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said.

“A great player too for their system, as well. He really understands it well and is able to catch the short route and turn it into a touchdown or even take the top off the defense on some of the deeper concepts that they have.”

As Venables noted, Dortch is more than just an offensive threat.

He leads the ACC in punt return yards with 184 and has returned a pair of punts for a touchdown.

Dortch is also fourth in the ACC in kickoff return average at 23.2. He uses his speed and quickness to make plays in the passing game and the return game.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was asked if the Tigers have a plan for Dortch and said having a plan is one thing but the key is executing.

“Yeah, we’ve got a plan. We’ve got to execute the plan, but we’ve definitely got a plan. No doubt. But he is a really good player,” Swinney said. “He’s a problem to handle, a very good player. They’ll move him around and do different things with him. They’re going to make sure he touches the ball for sure. He’s their guy.”


Wake Forest uses an up-tempo offense that can be tough to defend.

The Demon Deacons are averaging 86.6 plays per game, which is the most in the ACC. Syracuse, Clemson’s opponent last week, is second.

“Syracuse, I told y’all there’s up-tempo and then they were lightning. I’m not really sure how to describe Wake Forest,” Swinney said. “I don’t really know how they get their plays called to be honest with you. They’re so fast.”


On the surface Wake Forest’s offense looks very different from the triple option ones the Tigers faced early in the year, but Swinney said there are some similarities between facing the Demon Deacons and facing Georgia Tech because you have to play with so much discipline.

“It’s almost like playing Georgia Tech again but with a different style of play. They’re very, very unique as far as how they run the action game,” Swinney said. “It’s very slow developing. A lot of times this quarterback’s almost all the way into the line of scrimmage and he pulls the ball and it’s a pop pass.”