Wake Forest fires defensive coordinator Sawvel

The Deacons rank last in the ACC in both points and yards allowed per game through four games this season

Wake Forest's Jamie Newman, center, is hit by Notre Dame's Devin Studstill (14) in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Winston-Salem, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

WINSTON-SALEM — After watching his team give up 41 points on six touchdowns of 27 yards or longer against Boston College, Wake Forest football coach Dave Clawson attempted to improve his defense’s performance by simplifying its scheme.

That, however, only made things worse.

So after watching his team give up 56 points in an embarrassing home loss to Notre Dame 10 days later, Clawson has decided to make an even more dramatic change by firing defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel.

It’s a move he foreshadowed in his postgame comments following the Deacons’ 56-27 drubbing at the hands of the Irish on Saturday.

“It’s the alignments, the communications and the checks that we’re struggling with,” Clawson said. “Even in a week that you think you simplify things and you put some things in to stop certain things, they still get those things that you put the defense in.

“Our kids are giving us great effort, they’re playing hard. They’re working hard. They’re watching film. I just don’t think we’re putting them in the best position right now.”

Wake (2-2, 0-1 ACC) ranks dead last in the conference in both points (41.0) and yards (524) allowed per game. It has already allowed nine plays of 35 yards or longer, including four of 50 yards or more.

Sawvel has been the Deacons’ defensive coordinator since January 2017 after six seasons at Minnesota. He replaced Mike Elko, who left to become the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame.

“This was a difficult decision and not a spur of the moment decision,” said Clawson. “I want to thank Coach Sawvel for all his hard work with our football program over the last two years. Coach Sawvel is a very good person and a good football coach.”

Clawson did not immediately name a new coordinator, although to fill Sawvel’s spot on his staff, defensive analyst Tom Gilmore has been promoted to a full-time coaching position. He will work with Wake’s outside linebackers.

Gilmore is the former head coach at Holy Cross, where he is the second-winningest coach in school history and a two-time Patriot League Coach of the Year. He joined the Wake Forest staff last summer.

All other defensive coaches will retain their position responsibilities including Dave Cohen (defensive line), Brad Sherrod (inside linebackers), Lyle Hemphill (safeties), and Ryan Crawford (cornerbacks).

The Deacons play Rice at BB&T Field on Saturday.