Wake Forest opened their 2022 campaign with a convincing victory over VMI in Winston-Salem. With the talismanic Sam Hartman unavailable, all eyes were on the quarterback position.
Hartman was touted as having a shot at the Heisman Trophy this year after impressing in 2021, when leading Wake Forest to their second 11-win season in program history.
The Demon Deacons were impressive offensively last year, averaging 41 points a game, so there was a fair bit of pressure on Hartman’s replacement, Mitch Griffis, to produce a solid performance to kick off the 2022 season.
So who is Mitch Griffis?
Griffis probably doubted he would get much game time, especially so early in the season, but the Redshirt Freshmen gave a performance that has drawn plenty of attention.
The three-star prospect from Broad Run High School, Ashburn, VA has seen limited action in his two seasons with Wake Forest. He has had just 15 pass attempts in eight appearances, culminating in 56 yards and a touchdown, all coming in 2020.
With Hartman being sidelined with an undisclosed medical condition for the last month, there is little known publicly in terms of timetable for his absence, but he is expected to play some role in the Deacons’ season this year. However, in the meantime there is a big opportunity for Griffis to make his mark on the Wake Forest offense.
Impressive First Start
Griffis gave an assured performance in his first collegiate start for Wake Forest. It didn’t take him long to get up and running, throwing his first touchdown pass to Taylor Morin in the first quarter. He then picked out Blake Whiteheart and Jahmel Banks in the second half to complete a three-touchdown performance. The redshirt freshman was accurate with his passing, completing 21 of 29 attempts, culminating in 288 yards in total.
Griffis utilized all his pass catchers, he hit 10 different receivers in total, with only two getting over 50 yards. Like Drake Maye of last week, his longest completion was only 33 yards, but it’s how he kept the ball moving that was impressive.
However, the one downside of Griffis’ performance was a lack of rushing yardage. He had -9 yards from 5 carries, including a 4-yard gain – clearly the college game takes sacks into account, but it would be good to see more in that department.
There’s very little negative that can be said about the Virginia native’s performance. He was assured from the pocket, but also showed grit and determination after being sacked in the red zone early in the first quarter.
On the first touchdown pass of the day, Griffis showed his ability to move out of the pocket under pressure but still pick out a good pass. He shifted right and timed his pass perfectly to Morin in the end zone. This seemed to bring an air of confidence to his game, and he started to make passes whilst under pressure in the pocket, without heavily relying on his feet to get out of danger.
His second touchdown pass was another beautiful pass down the middle to Whiteheart. It was a typical TE touchdown, played over the top, just in front of him to run onto for the score. When Griffis was given time and space, he was hugely effective in his play-calling and picking out the open receiver.
The final passing touchdown was another example of his ability to make plays within the pocket. He waited for the timing of the run and picked out Banks expertly for the score.
Griffis provided the exact performance needed for Wake Forest after the loss of Hartman. He was calm in the pocket, but also could find his way out of trouble to make a key pass.
Having just under 300 yards, Griffis was highly productive in a comfortable victory for Wake Forest. With a few tough games coming up, in the shape of Clemson and Florida State, it will be intriguing to see the status of Hartman and whether Griffis keeps his place as the starting quarterback.
As of now, Griffis deserves to at least get the Vanderbilt and Liberty games to show whether he can be consistent. After these three games the coaching staff will have a better understanding on the type of player the young QB is, and whether he has the ability to lead Wake Forest in the future as well as the present.