My Take On Wake: Dortch keeps taking positive steps
After the second game of the season, in which Greg Dortch made a highlight-reel touchdown catch in the back of the end zone, quarterback John Wolford was asked what the redshirt freshman receiver would have to do to continue his development.
“I think the big thing for Greg is he has to realize he has to keep improving. Obviously has a ton of talent, he’s a competitor, he’s a gamer. All of the things you want to see in a young guy, he’s got,” Wolford said that day at Boston College. “But the hardest part of college football playing as a young guy is the week-to-week grind of it, the week-to-week preparation to be successful.”
Dortch’s production didn’t vary much in the third and fourth games of the season (four catches, 68 yards and six catches, 63 yards). Facing Florida State on Saturday though, lining up against safety Derwin James and a slew of other top-tier athletes, brought a different challenge for the Deacons’ thrilling young slot receiver.
He didn’t disappoint. Dortch was involved in the game plan early and often, racking up season-highs of 110 yards on 10 catches. He carried the ball four times and recorded 79 return yards. The 196 all-purpose yards are also a season high.
And it was worth asking Wolford if he’s seen what he said would be important for Dortch after that sunny day in Chestnut Hill.
“He probably had his best week of practice (last week) and I think he’s learning what it takes to be really good and he’s learning it as a redshirt freshman,” Wolford said. “He’s been great. He comes out and works every day, he doesn’t get a big head. And he just wants to be a good football player.
“You respect a guy like that and awesome for me to have someone who’s that electric with the ball.”
Dortch’s electricity with the ball in his hands, as has been noted before, is the stadium-collective-gasping type of speed and elusiveness. Every time he gets the ball in his hands, no matter the number or talent of defenders closing in on him, there’s a feeling that he could do something special.
Late in the first half of Saturday’s loss, he ran past James on a slant. The preseason All-ACC safety tried to punch the ball out from behind — it stayed still.
“I know I prepare myself every day for challenges like this,” Dortch said. “It was fun out there. Derwin James is great, he’s going to the NFL next year, so coming into this game, it could’ve been a breakout game for me. I feel like I played well, but as a team we just didn’t finish.”
The Deacons will have other chances to finish games, and Dortch will have more chances to finish off the Seminoles.
Wake Forest’s growing program that includes Dortch’s emergence shows that. Dortch was clear that he believes it, too, even as compliments rained down from outside of the Deacons for gaining respect because they stuck with a desperate Florida State and didn’t get blown out.
“I think we showed the whole world — first of all, this is the standard. This is not just a new Wake Forest, this is something Wake Forest is going to continue to do,” Dortch said. “… We should’ve come away with this W today and we didn’t, so it’s not really a surprise to me that we were in the game, I expected us to be in the game.”