Weekly Preview: Wake Forest
Image Credit: Washington Post
Opponent: Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3-3, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference)
Game Date/Time: Saturday, October 19, 2013; 3:30 PM ET
Venue: BB&T Field (31,500)
TV/Radio Broadcasts: ESPNU, Terrapin Sports Radio Network
All-Time Record: 43-17-1 Maryland
(Discuss this article on the BSL Message Board here.)
Wake Forest has been a curious team over the past few years. They aren’t in the upper tier of the ACC, they aren’t in the lower tier. They’ve been floating around in the middle for a few years now, and it’s tough to know what to expect from them each week. This season, they started off very poorly when they lost to Boston College and Louisiana-Monroe. But they bounced back in the next few weeks to beat Army and N.C. State. In their last game against the Wolfpack, the offense finally started clicking for the Demon Deacons.
The Wake Forest offense is led by senior QB Tanner Price. He doesn’t have a great arm, he’s not extremely fast, and his decision-making is shaky. But he does find ways to win games for Jim Grobe, and has shown flashes of greatness over the past few years. The Wake Forest offense is best described as a “Multiple” style, which means they bring a lot of different looks to the table. They like to run the ball, especially on misdirection plays. Most of their snaps will be taken from either the pistol or the shotgun, and they run a lot out of those formations. Senior RB Josh Smith is the workhorse for this offense, and Tanner Price also runs the ball fairly well off of the read-option.
When they do throw the ball, Michael Campanaro is a great target for Price to have. He’s as sure-handed as slot receivers go, and has been incredibly important for this offense for the past few years. He is also a senior, which makes one think that if the Demon Deacons are going to make a splash anytime soon, it would have to be this season. Overall, Wake Forest has 7 offensive seniors on its two-deep for this week, 6 of which are starters. Their defense also has 6 defensive senior starters.
The Wake Forest defense is that of a 3-4 style, anchored by Nikita Whitlock at nose guard. He is a bit of a physical anomaly, standing at just 5-foot-11 and weighing in at 250 pounds. But he is a very talented player, and is a big part of the Demon Deacon defense. The entire defensive line are seniors, and 3 of the starting 4 linebackers are graduating after this season as well. The defensive backfield is relatively young, with just one starting senior (A.J. Marshall) and a redshirt freshman (Ryan Janvion) starting at one of the safety positions.
Michael Campanaro returns all kicks and punts for Wake Forest, and will be looking to have a big game against the Terrapins after missing last year’s matchup due to injury. He grew up in Clarksville, MD and went to River Hill High School. He will certainly be looking to show Maryland fans and coaches what they missed out on when he went to Wake Forest.
This week, I was able to speak with J.P. Mundy, Managing Editor of SBNation’s Blogger So Dear, and Special Correspondent for the Winston-Salem Journal. I’d like to thank Mr. Mundy for his professionalism and insightful responses.
BSL: Wake Forest is currently 3-3 on the year, with a 1-2 record in the ACC. That record includes a loss to Louisiana-Monroe and a win over N.C. State. What has been the biggest problem for the Demon Deacons so far this season, and in what ways are they succeeding?
Mundy: Before N.C. State came to town, Wake Forest had played a grand total of 1 quarter of solid offense on the season – the fourth quarter at Army. The struggles have a lot to do with not getting people blocked well enough to execute the running game installed just for this season. It seemed like the offense was running in slow motion and even coach Jim Grobe was furious with the lack of energy on the offensive side of the ball. Through last week’s game, Wake Forest is ranked 112th out of 123 teams in total offense.
However, the offensive brain trust did some tweaking prior to the game against the Wolfpack and the N.C. State coaches never adjusted. Utilizing empty-backfield sets and wide line spacing, the Wake Forest offense came to life and just gashed the Wuffies. I’m going to assume that’s the basis for the remainder of the season.
BSL: Wake Forest’s starting quarterback is senior Tanner Price. What does he bring to this offense, and how important is his leadership to this football team?
Mundy: Mr. Price has been a hot topic for the Deacon faithful this year. This is his fourth year as a starter in a passing game that hasn’t changed much from what Riley Skinner ran. However, Price has had accuracy issues (throwing behind receivers, etc.) that experienced starters just can’t have. However, he is emerging as a good decision-maker and almost cracked the century mark rushing against N.C. State. This is a guy who broke Drew Brees’ high school records, remember. He’s smart and athletic, but I don’t know that his leadership is a key component of this Wake Forest team.
It should be, but I don’t think it is.
BSL: Michael Campanaro is Wake Forest’s best wide receiver, and has been for some time. He was held out of the Maryland game last season due to injury, but how important is he to this offense?
Mundy: How important is Michael Campanaro? Here are some numbers for you: 25th nationally in receiving yards, 11th in receiving yards per game and 6th in receptions per game.
More important, though, is the emergence of Sherman Ragland III from the coach’s doghouse. “Third” has been a casualty of a favorite Grobe-ism about ability, as in, “the only ability that matters is dependability.” That means on and off the field, and Third hasn’t always lived up to that standard. He’s back in the good graces now, and may be the second-most talented receiver on the team. His presence makes a big difference. If Campanaro were to go down, Wake Forest has a capable backup for him in Orville Reynolds.
BSL: Jim Grobe is in his 13th year at the helm in Winston-Salem, but has only led his team to 1 bowl game in the last 4 years. His contract lasts until 2016, so what has he done to try to get this team to turn the corner and start playing like they were in the first few years that he was hired?
Mundy: I think there are two key things that he has done to revitalize the program’s recent doldrums. First, he has hired a group of energetic and intense coaches over the past couple of years to light a fire under a program that had kind of lost its way. The team that got blown out by Vandy at home last year did not seem to care, and may as well have run a white flag out on to the field instead of the giant “WF”. Taylor Stubblefield, Warren Belin and Jonathan Himebauch are just a few examples.
The second, and this is still tentative, is scrapping (at least for a game) that awful option run offense that the Deacs began the season with. If Grobe gets forced out, it won’t be because of his coaching ability. It will be because of his loyalty to longtime staffer Steed Lobotzke. As I mentioned earlier, though, the adjustments made against State were somewhat reminiscent of the changes made in a hurry after Ben Mauk was injured against Syracuse in 2006 – paving the way for the Riley Skinner era.
BSL: Wake Forest’s offense has been described in many different ways over the years. I’ve heard it called a pistol, others say it’s a multiple look. What can Terps fans expect to see from Steed Lobotzke’s offense on Saturday afternoon.
Mundy: I honestly have no idea. I hope it’s a variation of the same stuff run against the Wolfpack. The kids seemed energized by it, and it was obviously successful against N.C. State. Then again, it was against N.C. State, so you never know. As for a name, Coach never has called it by one name – at least not in my presence. It has a lot of different elements. You have to get creative at a smaller school like Wake.
BSL: Wake Forest’s defense has also been tough to put a finger on as to what it is scheme-wise. Most people call it a multiple scheme, so what is their philosophy on the defensive side of the ball?
Mundy: It’s a 3-4, with Nikita Whitlock leading the attack from the Nose. The philosophy is simple: the best Wake defenses have all had 30-plus takeaways, so their emphasis is to fly around and create opportunities for turnovers. Through 6 games, the Deacs sit at 13. Opposing offenses best beware the Wake secondary, unless you are the Clemson Tigers.
Zack’s Keys to the Game:
- Get C.J. involved early - C.J. Brown is expected to start for the Terps, and Mike Locksley should not shy away from letting C.J. loose early in the game. His legs add a huge element to this offense, and utilizing them to the fullest should be a priority.
- Run the ball - Whether it’s C.J. Brown, Brandon Ross, or Albert Reid, Mike Locksley needs to feed them the ball. The Terps had a tough time running the ball last week, but hopefully the addition of C.J. Brown will help that.
- Cover Campanaro - The Terps’ secondary has been hit hard with injuries, and if there is any one receiver that can exploit that, it’s Michael Campanaro. The Terps should not shy away from double-teaming the talented wideout.
- Pressure Price - The Maryland defense cannot let Tanner Price sit in the pocket and have all day to pick apart their depleted secondary. Marcus Whitfield and company must get consistent pressure on the quarterback, something they were unable to do last week against Virginia.
- Win the game - On the road, the Terps need a win against an ACC opponent on Saturday afternoon. With a win, Maryland would secure their first trip to a bowl game since 2010. They would also be able to come home to College Park with a record of 6-1 going into their homecoming game against National Championship hopeful Clemson.