Wake Forest Senior Scouting
For a school that houses under 5000 undergrads, Wake Forest does a hell of a job of producing pro football talent. Some of the top talents over the past few years include first round pick Kevin Johnson, second round pick Jessie Bates III, and most recently fourth round pick Phil Haynes.
This year isn't likely to have many top end guys in the senior group, but the overall talent pool seems to be deeper than the 2018 group. The return of corners Amari Henderson and Essang Bassey should play a big role in the success of the defense, but the true strength of this team comes on the offensive side of the ball.
Despite losing the slick wideout Greg Dortch to an early declaration, they still have a fair amount of firepower. Underclassman Sage Surratt brings good size and flashes of big play ability, while senior wideout Scotty Washington has a massive catch radius with a power forward play style. On the offensive line they are returning starters Jake Benzinger and Nathan Gilliam, along with Justin Herron's coming back from a medical redshirt year.
Prospects are ranked from best tape grade to worst tape grade.
Nathan Gilliam Offensive Tackle
Plays through the whistle and won’t take his foot off the pedal early. Not fast enough to get to his target on most pulls. Active hands help to maintain his range, and he keeps a constant jab out into the chest of his edge defenders. Listed under 300 pounds and might not meet the size thresholds that teams want out of their tackles. Trades off assignments with ease and won’t get tripped up handing off stunts. Length is middle of the pack but he makes the most of it.
Body might not be able to add much more weight. Not a natural power generator and it shows in the run game, but he still plays hard. Keeps his feet and hands tied together as much as possible. One of the more refined tackles in the class regarding his upper body. Foot speed is a question mark in his pass protection. Timing is great coming off the snap. Speed picks up once he reaches the second level. 5th Round Summer Grade.
Justin Herron Offensive Tackle
Has the movement skills to work in space, but he struggles to stay attached to second level defenders. Patient hands keep him out of trouble; won’t try to engage when he’s working outside of his range. Length isn’t going to wow, but he knows how to control it. Missed all but a few snaps during the 2018 season due to a torn ACL. Comfortable switching off of blocks and picking up late arrivals; easy in transitions. Hands aren’t the fastest, but they are active.
Listed at 290 pounds but looked closer to 320 on tape because he’s put together so well. Keeps his feet and hands functioning together. Might not be able to hold his ground the same following the knee injury. Allows too many pass rushers to slip under him and bend past. Play style makes him look like an option for moving around the line if necessary. Not particularly powerful in the run game. UDFA Summer Grade.
Essang Bassey Cornerback
Played primarily in an off coverage role for the Demon Deacons. Has enough lateral quickness to sidestep blockers on his way to the ball. Not many reps where he was forced to backpedal, but he was decently smooth when doing so. Doesn’t bring anything special to the table as a tackler or run defender. Doesn’t have the play strength to finish runners by himself on a consistent basis. Size passes thresholds for an outside corner, but he isn’t a large guy by any means. Allows his teammates to clean things up before he gets involved.
Plays the man rather than the ball and it gets him into flag trouble. Seems to possess the requisite speed to keep up on vertical routes, but he wasn’t tested because of how much cushion he had. Recovery speed won’t make up for lost ground against burners, but it can save him on bad passes or against mediocre athletes. Hands could be more active along the path of the route. Wasn’t tested frequently during the Florida State game. Not great with his click and close. UDFA Summer Grade.
Amari Henderson Cornerback
Played an off coverage role just like Essang Bassey. Willing to scrap with bigger guys to break free of blocks. Slender guy at around 6’0” and 180 pounds. Frame could handle additional weight without losing any athleticism. Click and close ability isn’t special. Seems to be a tick late getting to the catch point and impacting the process. Uses his length when engaging with guys in run defense situations. Has his moments as a tackler, but doesn’t have any consistency with it. Hips aren’t as loose as Bassey’s.
Hustles hard to get back into plays when he’s out of them, and won’t quit on pursuit angles prematurely. Ran down Cam Akers from behind, although his straight line speed isn’t anything to write home about. Decent backpedal but there is some discomfort in how he balances himself. Movements need more control. UDFA Summer Grade.
Justin Strnad Linebacker
Gets his hands up to bat down passes while rushing the quarterback. Intriguing body type at 6’2” and 230 pounds with room to put on additional weight in the pros. Backpedal depth in coverage is enough to hold up in the pros. Angles to the ball need more preciseness to them. Fair amount of reps where he gets just go hunting for the quarterback, and he’s well developed at it for an off-ball linebacker. Reaction time isn’t good enough to get to the catch point and he concedes too many throws over the middle. Long arms and wide tackle radius don’t translate to finishes at a high enough rate. Length does him some favors when fighting against blocks in run defense.
Flashes of high end football intelligence and clearly stands out as a leader for the defense. Slippery fighting his way through gaps. Has the strength to take out the ball-carrier, but his accuracy and timing as a tackler will need improvement. Not a sideline to sideline mover. Won’t quite early on plays and call off his pursuit. Too easily shaken in open-field situations. Ran down Keith Gavin from behind; all hustle. More of a space occupier than manipulator. UDFA Summer Grade.
Scotty Washington Wide Receiver
Sizes stands out when he gets on the line. Comfortable 6’4” and 210+ pounds and it shows against smaller corners. Eyes are disciplined and don’t tip off his routes. Doesn’t have enough juice to get on top of corners and win vertically. Impressive wingspan should allow him to make plays on the football from difficult spots, but his catch radius doesn’t live up to expectations. Fights the hands in his attempts to escape from press, but he doesn’t have the acceleration to break away out of his breaks.
Doesn’t play with the desired physicality of a guy his size. Mixes up his timing with his releases to get defenders guessing. Athletic limitations do lead to some issues of predictability. Capable of making some freakish catches and overcoming poor accuracy on the part of his quarterback. Going to have to win through contact at almost all times as a pro. Has the size to be an impactful blocker, but he doesn’t put his body weight into blocks. Needs to position himself better to protect the ball-carrier. UDFA Summer Grade.
Jake Benzinger Offensive Tackle
Active blocker who doesn’t let guys off the hook easily. Plays tall and it does impact his movement skills, although he can still get around fine for the position. A little thin at only 300 pounds but he might be able to add on more bulk for the pros. Hands don’t pack much power in them, and he's going to have to win with his effort. Very high cut and it makes getting good pad level incredibly difficult.
Fires the hands and tries to control the chest, but he isn’t as accurate as his fellow Wake Forest tackles. Pass protection is unreliable when he faces the bull rush. Lower half lags behind his upper half and makes him lopsided trying to mirror defenders. Movement skills aren’t bad, he’s just uncoordinated. Timing has its flashes. UDFA Summer Grade.
Jack Freudenthal Tight End
Undersized with a frame that isn’t likely to carry much more weight. Might be viewed more as an H-back or slot guy rather than a traditional in-line tight end. Active feet keep him in front of his target as a blocker. Route-running is stiff and takes too long; doesn’t get in and out of his breaks easily. Wide base helps him to absorb things easier as a blocker. Has the experience operating out of the slot, but he isn’t particularly good at it. Fast enough to elude some slower linebackers, but he’s not going to dominate with YAC ability.
Body type isn’t built for the rigor of run blocking duties. Needs to do a better job of selling his routes and pulling linebackers out of throwing lanes. Unable to use leg drive and generate power with his lower half both as a blocker and runner. Hands help him to slip away from coverage, but he’s not well developed with using them. Hands are reliable enough, but he does have a tendency to catch with his body. Strides are short and he runs with very little lean. No suddenness in his stop/start. UDFA Summer Grade.
Cade Carney Running Back
Doesn’t have great long speed to work with. Willing to put his body into blocks and get physical in pass protection situations. Not enough fluidity in and out of his cuts. Decent size for a running back at around 215 pounds. Lowers his pads into contact and won’t back down from linebackers. Will wait until holes are already closing to hit the gas. Questionable vision gets him into a lot of troublesome situations.
Recognizes where his help is needed in pass protection. Not a naturally powerful runner. Can’t turn the corner on more athletic linebackers. Acceleration isn’t great. Doesn’t seem to have much as a receiver. UDFA Summer Grade.
The ceiling doesn't seem particularly high for the Demon Deacons heading into 2019, but there is some hope regarding the upside of some of the prospects. It doesn't seem likely that we'll see anyone get taken earlier than the middle of day three though. It's certainly a respectable crew to be rolling out on Saturdays though.
If you have any questions or comments feel free to hit me up on Twitter @WhatsOnDraftNFL. If you like this work and want to see more of it in the future, please consider donating to What's On Draft or becoming a subscriber on Patreon. Your support is what allows me to make content like this on a regular basis.