Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 11, 2013
WINSTON-SALEM — Dave Clawson is eager to start his next rebuilding project at Wake Forest.
Clawson was introduced Tuesday as the Demon Deacons’ coach and said the job is “truly a dream come true.”
Athletic director Ron Wellman said “we have a winner” in Clawson, who comes from Bowling Green.
The 46-year-old Clawson faces a tough job at Wake Forest, which is coming off its fifth straight losing season.
His hiring caps a weeklong search for Jim Grobe’s replacement. The 2006 AP national coach of the year stepped down Dec. 2 after a 13-year stay that included the best three-year run in school history.
Clawson called Wake Forest “a special place” and says when the job came open last week, he hoped to be considered for it.
But the past five years have been mostly lean ones for the Demon Deacons, who have reached the postseason only once since reaching three straight bowl games from 2006-08.
“Our vision is to win championships here,” Clawson said. “I think if you set your goal anything lower than being a champion, then you’re setting the standard too low. … We know it’s going to take a lot of work. We have to get the right people on board … but I believe wholeheartedly that can be done at Wake Forest, and we will work relentlessly toward that goal until it is accomplished.”
Clawson will have to rebuild much of the roster. Most of the key players from this year’s 4-8 season — including quarterback Tanner Price, receiver Michael Campanaro and nose tackle Nikita Whitlock — were seniors.
Making things tougher, Wake Forest shares the Atlantic Division with No. 1 Florida State, which is headed to the BCS title game, plus No. 12 Clemson and starting next year, No. 18 Louisville, which replaces Big Ten-bound Maryland.
And the Demon Deacons’ annual cross-division opponent is No. 22 Duke, which won the Coastal Division — and, coincidentally, Clawson was the successor to David Cutcliffe as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator in 2008 when he left for Duke.
Turnarounds seem to be Clawson’s specialty.
He rebuilt the FCS programs at Fordham and Richmond, leaving behind the core of the Spiders team that won the 2008 national title. At each of those schools, he was chosen as the national coach of the year in what was then called Division I-AA.
Most recently, he led Bowling Green (10-3) to an upset of previously unbeaten and then-No. 16 Northern Illinois in the Mid-American Conference championship game last week.
The win over the Huskies earned Bowling Green its third postseason appearance in his five years there, and his record with the Falcons was 32-31.
“He leaves that program as a champion,” Wellman said.
He will not coach the Falcons against Pittsburgh in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
Bowling Green elevated special teams coordinator and tight ends coach Adam Scheier to interim head coach.