Thursday, August 19, 2010

season preview: Wake Forest

Today is the last of the ACC season previews, and if I do say so myself we're in a lot better shape than we were last year. I didn't get around to Wake Forest until about eight days before the season began. This year I'm right on schedule, and it means I can let things get really interesting in the last couple of weeks before the season begins.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons


9/2: Presbyterian (Thu.)
9/11: Duke
9/18: @ Stanford
9/25: @ Florida State
10/2: Georgia Tech
10/9: Navy
10/16: @ Virginia Tech
10/23: BYE
10/30: @ Maryland
11/6: Boston College
11/13: @ NC State
11/20: Clemson
11/27: @ Vanderbilt

Skip: Miami, North Carolina, Virginia

Projected starters:

QB: Skylar Jones (rJr.)
RB: Josh Adams (5Sr.)
FB: Tommy Bohanon (So.)
WR: Marshall Williams (5Sr.)
WR: Devon Brown (rJr.)
TE: Cameron Ford (rJr.)
LT: Doug Weaver (rJr.)
LG: Joe Looney (Jr.)
C: Russell Nenon (5Sr.)
RG: Gabe Irby (rSo.)
RT: Steven Chase (rFr.)

DE: Tristan Dorty (rJr.)
DT: Trip Russell (5Sr.)
DT: Ramon Booi (rSo.)
DE: Kyle Wilber (rJr.)
SLB: Joey Ehrmann (rSo.)
MLB: Matt Woodlief (5Sr.)
WLB: Hunter Haynes (5Sr.)
CB: Kenny Okoro (rSo.)
CB: Michael Williams (rJr.)
FS: Josh Bush (rJr.)
SS: Cyhl Quarles (rJr.)

K: Jimmy Newman (So.)
P: Shane Popham (rJr.)

(Italics indicate new starter.)

Coach: Jim Grobe (10th season)

Media prediction: 5th place, Atlantic Division


2009 1st team: none
2009 2nd team: DT John Russell
2009 HM: QB Riley Skinner, WR Marshall Williams, OT Chris DeGeare, G Jeff Griffin, CB Kenny Okoro
2010 preseason: none

(Italics indicate departed player.)

Few coaches in the land are better at putting a team together with duct tape, baling wire, and the wishes of gumdrop fairies than Jim Grobe. The 2006 ACC champion team was like those duct tape wedding dresses - and in his 10th season, it's starting to look like Grobe might have used most of it up on that one season.


Relax, Hoo fans: Riley Skinner's last chance at breaking Matt Schaub's career completion percentage record was last season. Skinner played so long it felt like the two were opponents on the same field, but Wake is on the hunt for a new quarterback this year. The answer is probably Skylar Jones; unfortunately, this has all the makings of the kind of "answer" that fans are terrific at deluding themselves will turn out OK. Jones is the most experienced of the candidates, and his entire playing career appears in these two tiny blurbs on his bio: " ... Did not catch a pass ... Saw action against Elon ... " Yes, he was a receiver last year. One who saw action against Elon and.... well, this probably won't go well.

It's unfortunate for Wake's deep receiving corps, who'll probably see their production drop. Marshall Williams and Devon Brown caught 60 and 61 passes in 2009, respectively, and third receiver Chris Givens is a no less respectable target; each of them led Wake in a different receiving category in 2009, and they'll help soften the blow of losing Skinner. The tight ends don't play much of a role in the receiving game, though.

The running game doesn't look like it'll be of much help. Josh Adams and fellow backfield denizen Brandon Pendergrass have some ability, but they're not gamebreakers, and the line they'll run behind is undergoing renovations. Russ Nenon returns at center to anchor the line and provide veteran leadership, but he's the only senior there. On the other end of the spectrum, right tackle will probably feature a freshman who spent his redshirt season on defense. Left guard Joe Looney is another incumbent starter on the line, but callow, untried youth vastly outweighs experience on this line.


The defensive line is just as much a study in opposites. Ends Tristan Dorty and Kyle Wilber are developing into fine players, though Wilber missed a lot of 2009 with an injury. Both should be contributors to what looks like a solid defense. They'll be spelled by Gelo Orange, who got a ton of snaps in Wilber's absence. But the tackles are even more inexperienced than the offensive line and it's anyone's guess who really will step up during the season. That probably won't be settled until October, but the Deacs don't have that long before the games start getting meaningful.

Things are looking better further back. At linebacker, Matt Woodlief is a versatile player, starting in the middle in 2009 and moving to the weak side when Hunter Haynes sprained a knee; in fact, Woodlief stayed planted in that starting role when Haynes returned. But Joey Ehrmann was second on the team in sacks and third in TFL despite not starting a single game, and he could be the most promising of the bunch.

Cornerback Kenny Okoro is the star of the secondary, having garnered a slew of national honors for his play as a freshman in 2009. With Brandon Ghee off to the NFL, Okoro is set for a breakout year. Cyhl Quarles (which is pronounced, against all intuition, Kyle) is the secondary's other impact player, a big run-stopping safety. The defense as a whole is by far the team's stronger unit, but it's a solid, not spectacular group with some big question marks.


On the whole, maybe the ACC's most anonymous team. Outside of Okoro and maybe Marshall Williams, you'll watch a Wake Forest game this year and then totally forget who you just saw. The offense isn't going to be very productive, and the defense should be decent, but it'll force 4th-and-2's, not 3rd-and-18's. Wake will have the less-talented team on the field more often than not, but what you usually don't see is them getting outcoached. Butch Davis would coach this team to a 2-10 season; as it is, Grobe will have his work cut out for him scratching his way to six wins and bowl eligibility. If you squint, you can find those six wins on the schedule, but then again I've never been able to see those Magic Eye pictures. So it says here that Wake stays home this postseason.

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