The 2021 Demon Deacons had three First-Team All ACC selections and four Second-Team selections. Although five of those seven All ACC selections were not returning, arguably the two most important players were coming back to Winston-Salem: quarterback Sam Hartman and wide receiver A.T. Perry.
The Wake Forest Demon Deacons had the best season in program history in 2021. The program reached a career-high AP ranking of #10, tied a program record with 11 wins, and capped off the season with dominating Gator Bowl win over Rutgers.
Sam Hartman finished the 2021 season with 4592 total yards and 50 touchdowns. He was third in the nation in points accounted for as the fourth-year man had the best season by a Wake Forest quarterback in program history.
Expectations for Hartman and the 2022 Demon Deacons were sky-high as Dave Clawson’s squad was likely to have one of the most potent offenses in the country.
Just weeks before their season opener against Virginia Military Institute, Wake Forest announced star quarterback Sam Hartman would be out indefinitely due to a “non-football related medical condition”. This sent shockwaves around college football. The uncertainty of a “non-football related medical condition” had many people looking for answers that were not there.
The Demon Deacons were able to open their season with a 44-10 victory over the FCS-level VMI, but the goal of an ACC Title would not be possible without their fifth-year quarterback.
On Tuesday, September 4th, the Wake Forest faithful received the best news of their early season: Sam Hartman was cleared to play football.
The out-of-the-blue announcement last Tuesday also noted why Hartman was held out for the past month. He had surgery to clear a blood clot in his neck that is often associated with repeated strenuous activity.
Hartman returned to the field this past Saturday and picked up right where he left off in 2021. He completed 18/27 passes for 300 yards and four scores in a 45-25 victory over Vanderbilt. The aforementioned A.T. Perry reeled in five catches for 142 yards and a score. Hartman looked very comfortable in the pocket, not missing a beat with his playmakers.
Does Sam Hartman’s Return Make Wake Forest An ACC Title Contender In 2022?
In short, yes. Adding the player projected to finish second in 2022 ACC Player of the Year voting drastically elevates the ceiling of this Wake Forest team.
Hartman is a clear difference maker in a conference that is lacking an identity. He is playing in his fifth season in Offensive Coordinator Warren Ruggiero’s long mesh-point attack offense. The added dynamic of Hartman’s rushing ability has helped suck defenses in, opening up seams for receivers over the top.
Hartman has struggled with turnovers in the past, throwing 14 interceptions a season ago. If he can clean up his occasional poor decision-making, there is not a game on this schedule I believe the Demon Deacons cannot win.
Wake Forest competes in the Atlantic Division of the ACC, which is certainly the more competitive division in the conference. Clemson and NC State currently have better odds to win the division, but I would not count out the Demon Deacons and their fifth-year quarterback. The fifth-ranked Clemson Tigers travel to Winston-Salem on September 24th in a contest that could go a long way in deciding the 2022 Atlantic Division Champion.
Note: Take a look at Sam Hartman’s redshirt junior season highlights here. He is sneakily one of the most electrifying players in college football.