2007 RECORD: 9-4; ACC: 5-3
Won Meineke Car Care Bowl vs. Connecticut 24-10
LOCATION: Winston-Salem, North Carolina
STADIUM: BB & T Field (31,500)
HEAD COACH: Jim Grobe
OVERALL: 46-39 (7 seasons)
AT WAKE FOREST: 79-72-1 (13 seasons)
The Demon Deacons won nine games (including their bowl) last season, which was actually a step back for the ACC school—now that’s progress. They won 11 games in 2006 on their way to an ACC title and their 20 wins over the past two seasons are six more than their previous two-year best. If QB Riley Skinner can stay healthy, they could reach double digits in wins and challenge for the ACC Title.
WHEN THE DEACS HAVE THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Steed Lobotzke (6th Season/8th at Wake Forest)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 6
KEY LOSSES: Kenny Moore, Steve Justice, Micah Andrews, John Tereshinski, Luis Frazier, Chris DeGeare (INELIGIBLE)
The two-year run the Deacons are on has come with Skinner under center. He stepped in seamlessly for the injured Ben Mauk in ’06 and when Skinner was out of the lineup in the early part of last season, it showed. While he is not overly impressive in terms of his measurables, Skinner gets the job done. While he will miss his favorite target (Kenny Moore), there are high hopes for the receiving corps. The passing attack would benefit from spreading the football around a little more. The running game is solidified with sophomore RB Josh Adams as the primary ball carrier and red-shirt freshman Brandon Pendergrass expected to push for playing time. The offensive line should be fine with three players returning with starting experience.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) RB Josh Adams (SO), 2) OT Joe Birdsong (JR)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Brad Lambert (1st Season/8th at Wake Forest)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 9
KEY LOSSES: Jeremy Thompson
When most people think of Wake Forest, a speedy playmaking defense doesn’t necessarily come to mind…but that is exactly what they had in 2007, and the Deacs return nine starters in 2008. Linebacker Aaron Curry led the team in tackles for a loss using his speed to knife into the offensive backfield. He also had four interceptions—returning three for scores--proving he is indeed a three-down linebacker. Not to be outdone, All-ACC corner Alphonso Smith returned three of his record-setting eight interceptions to paydirt as well. How many teams can say they had a pair of defenders do that? Smith is a lockdown coverman, but opposing teams don’t have the luxury of picking on the other guy—junior CB Brandon Ghee is a solid coverman in his own right. The only missing piece going into the season is a premier pass rusher.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) LB Aaron Curry (SR), 2) CB Alphonso Smith (SR)
Wake Forest’s out of conference games should not pose a great threat—after opening up at Baylor, they play host to Ole Miss, Navy and Vanderbilt (regular season finale). In conference play, they take on Atlantic Division foe FSU before the ‘Noles are back to 100 percent (suspensions), while division favorite Clemson comes to Winston-Salem. They also play Virginia and Boston College at home, where the Deacs will have a chance to avenge two of their four defeats from ’07. They do play Maryland and Miami on the road following their contest against Clemson—easily their toughest three-game stretch of the season.
The Offensive Line: Wake returns three players with starting experience—LT Joe Birdsong, RT Jeff Griffin and RG Barrett McMillin. The trio combined to make 20 starts last season. There are high hopes for junior C Trey Bailey, but he is replacing an All-American in Steve Justice. How this group performs will dictate how explosive the rushing attack of Adams/Pendergrass will be. More importantly, they are charged with protecting Skinner. The signal caller was injured in the ’07 opener versus BC and missed the following games against Nebraska, both losses.
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
For those of you that simply refuse to believe the Clemson Tigers will finally win an ACC title, the Demon Deacons give you a team to hang your hat on. The pieces are in place for Wake to make a run at a second conference championship in three seasons—the quarterback plays mistake-free winning football, they have a balanced offense and a difference-making defense. What is there not to like? Making another BCS game may be too tall an order, but Jim Grobe is proving he has built a program with staying power.
Credit: Collegiate Images
Monday, August 11, 2008
2007 RECORD: 9-4; ACC: 5-3