Friday, August 23, 2013

season preview; Wake Forest Demon Deacons


8/29: Presbyterian (Thu.)
9/6: Boston College (Fri.)
9/14: Louisiana-Monroe
9/21: @ Army
9/28: @ Clemson
10/5: NC State
10/12: BYE
10/19: Maryland
10/26: @ Miami
11/2: @ Syracuse
11/9: Florida State
11/16: BYE
11/23: Duke
11/30: @ Vanderbilt

Skip: Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Virginia Tech

2012 results:

Liberty: W, 20-17
North Carolina: W, 28-27
Florida State: L, 52-0
Army: W, 49-37
Duke: L, 34-27
Maryland: L, 19-14
Virginia: W, 16-10
Clemson: L, 42-13
Boston College: W, 28-14
NC State: L, 37-6
Notre Dame: L, 38-0
Vanderbilt: L, 55-21

Record: 5-7 (3-5); 4th of 6, Atlantic Division

Projected starters:

QB: Tanner Price (Sr.)
RB: Josh Harris (5Sr.)
FB: Jordan Garside (rJr.)
WR: Michael Campanaro (5Sr.)
WR: Brandon Terry (rJr.)
TE: Spencer Bishop (5Sr.)
LT: Dylan Intemann (rSo.)
LG: Tyler Hayworth (rFr.)
C: Whit Barnes (5Sr.)
RG: Frank Souza (5Sr.)
RT: Will Smith (rFr.)

DE: Kris Redding (5Sr.)
DT: Nikita Whitlock (5Sr.)
DE: Zach Thompson (5Sr.)
OLB: Zachary Allen (rJr.)
ILB: Mike Olson (5Sr.)
ILB: Brandon Chubb (rSo.)
OLB: Justin Jackson (5Sr.)
CB: Merrill Noel (rJr.)
CB: Kevin Johnson (rJr.)
FS: A.J. Marshall (Sr.)
SS: Ryan Janvion (rFr.)

K: Chad Hedlund (rSo.)
P: Alexander Kinal (rSo.)

(Italics indicate new starter.)

Coach: Jim Grobe, 13th season

Media prediction: 4th of 7, Atlantic Division


2012 1st team: none
2012 2nd team: WR Michael Campanaro, DT Nikita Whitlock
2012 HM: P Alexander Kinal
2013 preseason: WR Michael Campanaro, DT Nikita Whitlock

(Italics indicate departed player.)

A pretty nondescript season for Wake last year.  Ultimately, a loss to Maryland cost them bowl eligibility, but they did show up at 5-4 at one point and couldn't close the deal in the final three weeks.  Jim Grobe is the conference's second-most tenured head coach - nobody but Frank Beamer even has half his years in their current job - but his seat might be getting just a touch warm, as Wake has only gone to one bowl since (and including) the 2009 season.  Grobe's record at Wake fell below .500 last season; it might be hard to reverse that trend this year.

-- Offense

Wake got big news a few days ago when it learned that the NCAA had approved a waiver request for Josh Harris to be academically eligible this season.  (Something to do with his academic advisor signing him up for a class that he needed but neglecting to tell him.)  Without Harris, Wake would've been down to DeAndre Martin and nothing at all at tailback - they even lost to injury a cornerback they'd moved to RB to try and replace Harris.  Harris and Martin combined for 1,000+ yards last year, and Harris is clearly the more skilled player.

The Deacons need a good running game to be successful, because quarterback Tanner Price is a game manager, not a game winner.  As a senior this year he should be effective in that role, but he averaged a very low 5.6 yards per attempt last year.  There just isn't much of a downfield passing game.  Michael Campanaro is an extremely dependable receiver; one of the ACC's best, in actuality, but not an explosive gamebreaker.  The Deacs hope that Brandon Terry can be the downfield threat that opens things up a little for Campanaro.  Terry only had 15 catches last year but averaged almost 20 yards apiece on those receptions.

The passing game will also take a hit in losing fullback Tommy Bohanan to the NFL; Bohanan was an accomplished pass-catcher, and his replacement, Jordan Garside, won't be quite as adept.  There's no help at tight end, either, where Spencer Bishop is almost strictly an extra run-blocker.

Offensive line is looking awfully scary at the moment, as Wake has been absolutely slammed by injury there.  At points this fall they've had only eight linemen available for practice, many of them freshmen.  Antonio Ford broke a leg in the spring and Steven Chase has been dealing with a torn ACL and meniscus for a year now; both would be in the mix - if not starters - if they were healthy.

There are some bright spots.  Whit Barnes is an experienced player who moves to center for this seasn, and Frank Souza did a very nice job at right guard last season after being moved from the D-line.  Dylan Intemann was pressed into duty as a starting left tackle last year, his redshirt freshman season, and could have a bright future in front of him.  At left guard and right tackle, Wake will likely start the season with redshirt freshmen Tyler Hayworth and Will Smith - there are precious few other options.

If Ford and/or Chase get back, the line could step toward respectability - or at least, be a little deeper.  But as it stands now, Wake's skill players are good, not great, and not enough to overcome the major issues on that line.  They're also good enough to take advantage if they have a good foundation up front, so, even more so than many teams, Wake will go as far, and only as far, as their line allows.

-- Defense

A lot of teams would envy having a defensive line full of fifth-year seniors, which is exactly how Wake Forest finds itself this year.  Unlike many 3-4 linemen, these guys are very active participants in the tackling derby.  Nikita Whitlock is among the top defensive tackles in the league, and Zach Thompson is a very underrated defensive end.  Kris Redding does a very good job holding his own opposite Thompson as well.  The play of these three has done wonders for the Wake Forest defense and made the jobs of the linebackers quite a bit easier, freeing them up to be aggressive and find their way to the backfield.

Wake does have to replace a few starters among the linebackers, but they get back playmaking OLB Justin Jackson, the team's tackle and sack leader last year (the latter stat being tied with Thompson.)  ILB Mike Olson was second behind Jackson in tackles, and with one fewer game.  Moving into the starting lineup this year is Zachary Allen, who had 42 tackles off the bench last season.  Brandon Chubb also had a good season off the bench last year as a redshirt freshman; these two should have Wake moving on without a hitch at linebacker.

The secondary took a hit when the team dismissed safety Duran Lowe a few days ago for the old "violation of team rules."  They're awaiting word from the NCAA on the status of Anthony Wooding, a transfer from Air Force; if Wooding is allowed to play this season, he's the likely starter at strong safety.  If not, the Deacons will probably turn to Ryan Janvion, a redshirt freshman, and deal with a very thin safety corps.  Free safety A.J. Marshall had two interceptions last year and will be heavily depended upon as well.

At cornerback there are two very good-looking juniors in Merrill Noel and Kevin Johnson.  Johnson shined last year, with 18 passes defended (including three picks) and Noel was a bit hampered by injury following a 2011 season in which he made everyone's list for freshman all-American.  Nevertheless, Wake's pass defense was among the worst in the conference last year, and it needs both better safety depth and a return to form for Noel to improve upon that.

-- Special teams

Punter Alexander Kinal, as a redshirt freshman last season, averaged 40.7 yards per punt and was honorable mention all-conference last year.  Chad Hedlund took over the placekicking job from Jimmy Newman midway through last season, though the Deacons didn't attempt a field goal at all during the last five games.

-- Outlook

There are some big issues here on the offense, most of them dealing with the O-line.  The pass defense needs to improve too.  And Tanner Price is capable but doesn't strike fear into anyone as a quarterback.  However, the Atlantic Division isn't exactly full of contenders after the top two.  Wake could start the season 4-0 without too much imagination required, and just needs to win a couple more winnable games to get themselves back to the postseason.  They should be able to pull off a 6 or 7 win season, though there also isn't much margin for error for them to drop to 5-7 again.


In case you're wondering, I'm back from my European holiday.  This post is live and not pre-written for your pleasure.  And Paris is awesome, thank you very much.  I will have an ACC preview later tonight or this weekend sometime.  Monday, I'll look over some of the stuff that happened while I was away (and if you're good, share some pictures too.)  Tuesday and Wednesday will be the long-awaited preview of UVA's own season, and Thursday is - finally - game preview time.

1 comment:

pezhoo said...

Welcome back. I loved Paris myself when I went one time. Very easy to get around and the people were pretty nice, although I do speak a tiny bit of French.

Game preview next week! Wow, it's here! It's here!