Wake Forest Demon Deacons
The smallest school in the ACC has been under the watchful eye of head coach Jim Grobe for 11 seasons going 62-60 in this span but suffering back to back losing years culminated by a nine game losing streak in 2010. Last season Wake Forest was extremely young and it showed not only record wise but statistically with the Demon Deacons ranked in the bottom third of the college ranks in both offense and defense. The question is can Grobe mold this team in to a winner with a year of seasoning under their belt.
Tanner Price will likely be the most watched player on the team after taking over as signal caller as a freshman in 2010. He certainly didn’t make the team forget about Riley Skinner with some inconsistent play which was expected as part of the growing process but he also had moments where he showed promise which is what Grobe hopes to see more of in 2011. Josh Harris is back at tailback looking to become the primary ball carrier after splitting the workload and gaining 720 yards with seven scores. Chris Givens returns as Wake’s leading receiver a year ago but other returning players weren’t particularly productive so look for the Demon Deacons to play a number of bodies looking for the best combination. With four offensive lineman back Wake Forest might be more of a running team anyway and especially so if the air attack falters.
Aside from the O Line the WF defense has tons of potential with nine players back on this unit. Two of the teams three defensive lineman return with defensive end Kevin Smith who will be looked to for a pass rush. DT Nikita Whitlock is smallish at 260 pounds and depends on speed and quickness to shed blocks. The defense should excel at the linebacker spot with three of four starters returning. Tristan Dorty and Kyler Wiber pace this unit with Wiber leading Wake Forest with six sacks a season ago. The line backing unit as a whole needs to step up in run defense to compensate for the lack of size up front. The secondary doesn’t lack for experience either with all four starters from 2010 back. Kevin Johnson and Kenny Okoro man the corners with Cyhl Quarles and John Bush back at safety. Look for the secondary to improve as they did in 2010 as the season matured.
The bright spot on the special teams was place kicker Jimmy Newman who was 13 of 14 on FG’s and has 50+ yard range. He and Alex Wulfeck will battle it out for the punter spot after incumbent Shane Popham left the team. Michael Campanaro is back at kick returner after averaging more than 24 yards in ’10. Taking back punts looks like an open competition that might not be decided until the season begins.
I do see an improved Wake Forest but considering the opposition out gained them by over 160 yards improvement might be relative. The problem here is the schedule is not favorable so while the team is better their record might not be and an extra win over 2010 might be the best we’ll see so staying out of the basement in the Atlantic Division is a tall order.