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Replacing Greg Dortch

By Dave Holcomb
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The Demon Deacons will be looking for their fourth straight bowl bid this fall, which is something Wake Forest has never accomplished. But they will have to do it without all-world wide receiver Greg Dortch.

Dave Clawson has turned Wake Forest into a competitive football program. The Demon Deacons will be looking for their fourth straight bowl bid this fall, which is something Wake Forest has never accomplished.

But they will have to do it without all-world wide receiver Greg Dortch.

Part of becoming a perennial bowl team is dealing with talent leaving early for the NFL. The top college programs must overcome this all the time. ACC powerhouses such as Clemson, Miami and Florida State know this is just part of the deal with recruiting the elite talent.

At Wake Forest, early departures can be more detrimental because smaller programs sometimes don’t have the resources to recruit another elite player to replace them.

Dortch’s departure is even worse when considering he didn’t hear his name called in the NFL draft. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the New York Jets, but if he fails to make the team, he along with Wake Forest will wonder why he decided not to stay in college another year.

Compounding the problem at wide receiver is the fact senior Alex Bachman is out of eligibility. Together, Dortch and Bachman posted 126 catches, 1,619 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.

Dortch alone accounted for more than one-third of Wake Forest’s receiving yards, but with Bachman too, the Demon Deacons are losing more than 52 percent of their production at wide receiver from 2018.

Fortunately for the Demon Deacons, they do appear to have the resources to replace Dortch.

In line to become Wake Forest’s next top wide receiver is rising sophomore Sage Surratt. Dortch nearly doubled him in production last year, but as a redshirt freshman, Surratt posted 41 receptions for 581 yards and four touchdowns in 2018. He was second on the team in catches and receiving yards.

Dortch had a much larger sample size, but Surratt edged him in yards per catch average by more than two yards. Down the stretch, Surratt was even more involved, recording 19 catches for 268 yards and two touchdowns in the final five games. During that span, he posted one 100-yard game, two contests with at least 18.0 yards per catch and one touchdown in each of the other two other games.

Surratt averaged 53.6 receiving yards per game during the final five weeks. Before that last season, he posted 34.8 receiving yards per contest.

With more stability at quarterback -- Wake Forest went through three different quarterback last season -- Surratt could see his production increase significantly.

Wake Forest won’t be able to replace Dortch with just one player, but the Demon Deacons, whether they had an inkling Dortch was leaving or not, did a fantastic job of recruiting wide receivers this past offseason. In the 2019 recruiting class, Clawson only landed two 4-star players, but each of them were wideouts.

The top-ranked of the two of them is Donavon Greene, who stands at 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds. He arrives in Winston-Salem rated as the No. 39 wide receiver in the 2019 recruiting class according to 247Sports.

Joining him will be wide receiver Nolan Groulx. With a frame under six-feet tall, Groulx is smaller but nearly as highly-regarded. 247Sports rated him as the No. 42 wideout in the class.

Both Greene and Groulx were considered Top 15 players from North Carolina in the 2019 recruiting cycle. Each were also early enrollees, which should help them transition into the offense quicker, thus making an impact this season.

Of course, Dortch didn’t just excel at wide receiver. He was such a dynamic playmaker at Wake Forest because he also returned punts and kickoffs. Last season, he returned two punts for touchdowns, and Dortch posted 19 total scores in his college career.

Interestingly, Dortch arrived at Winston-Salem as only a 2-star prospect. We may be able to take two things from that fact.

One, unless Dortch proves to be a generational type talent, which he likely won’t judging by the fact that he went undrafted, the Wake Forest coaching staff knows how to develop wide receivers. Assuming 247Sports didn’t just completely whiff on its rating of Dortch in the 2016 class, imagine what the Wake Forest coaching staff may be able to do with more talented athletes out of high school.

Secondly, assuming these new receivers can live up to their potential, Wake Forest has the talent on its roster to replace Dortch immediately.

Yes, the program may still miss him occasionally, especially when the fact stands that he could be starring in the ACC instead of fighting for a spot on an NFL practice squad this fall. But Clawson has put together a quality program bigger than one playmaker.

That includes maybe one of the best playmakers the Demon Deacons have ever possessed.