This week is a preview of Wake Forest which will give us a mid-November match-up with a 6-7 (5-3) Wake Forest team that is trying desperately to get back to where it was in 2006 when it won the ACC Title. Please take a moment to check out the rest of the competition if you haven’t already.
Wake Forest is not a terrible team to be overlooked. Last season, NC State learned that during it’s 34-27 loss on the road in mid-September. Maybe it was the offense still adjusting to losing Russell Wilson, or maybe it was Wake Forest and head coach Jim Grobe being a little better than the Wolfpack anticipated. Either way, the Demon Deacons have to come to Raleigh this year where NC State won’t be going through the same adjustments it was early on in the 2011 season.
COACH JIM GROBE
Jim Grobe came into Wake Forest a mediocre coach and his tenure has averaged out to be equally as mediocre. What has been different at Wake Forest compared to his previous post are the highs and lows. His lows include three seasons with less than 5 wins overall and two seasons with less than 1 ACC win. It’s not a stretch to say that the same man would have been tarred and feather in Raleigh well before Grobe’s 11 year tenure could have seen the light of day. The highs include 4 bowl appearances, and 1 ACC title, something NC State hasn’t been able to do in 30 years. Overall, he is 68-67 at Wake Forest and 37-51 in the ACC.
PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Last season, Wake Forest sported 5 All-ACC players including Freshmen Cornerback Merrill Noel, the 2011 ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year. Noel tied the national leader in passes defended with 21 and tied a school record of 19 passed broken up. We may have a David Amerson for one more year, but Wake Forest has multiple years of this kid left.
Wake Forest lost all kinds of talent, which is bad for a team whose recruiting classes rank close to 90th in the country. Four offensive linemen and their leading receiver are all gone (then again, with how terrible there line is, this might be a positive for Wake). This makes a team that was already incredibly young in 2010 even younger. What Wake Forest doest have is Michael Campanaro, who stepped up late last season to fill in as another star receiver once defenses began “figure Grobe’s offense out”. Campanaro averaged 11.4 yards per carry, but at the end of the day, he’s only one guy. If quarterback Tanner Price is going to have anyone else to throw to, eyes will have to be focused on freshmen Sherman Ragland III who has shown some apparent signs of speed during spring work-outs. Speaking of Tanner, last season he threw for over 3,000 yards and only threw 6 picks.
Looking at Wake Forest’s personnel, they pose an interesting match-up. Where Wake lacks in offensive line experience, NC State lacks in linebackers. Where NC State has a great secondary player in David Amerson, Wake Forest has a Tanner Price that throws accurately and for big yardage. Where NC State has a Mike Glennon that can throw for big yardage, Wake has a Merrill Noel. Given that we will be this late in the season, this Wake Forest game could pose a problem for the Pack if they don’t take this game seriously simply because of the personnel, alone.
As mentioned, Wake Forest saw a lot of turn-over last season, especially on offense. Fortunately for Wake Forest, their offensive line was terrible so a complete reset may be a good thing. With a better offensive line (hypothetically), Wake Forest may have an additional feature they didn’t have last year: a running game”. The Deacons had 3 players averaging around or above 4 yard per carry with their already terrible protection.
Last season, the deacons passed for 3291 yards overall with over 60% efficiency. Not too bad. They were able to land 22 touchdowns through the air and 18 on the ground. Speaking of the ground game, they totalled 1490 yards on the season (over 120 yards more than NC State in 2011), and averaged 3.21 yard per carry (again, exceeding NC State’s ground game by a little less than a foot per carry).
If Tanner Price has more than just one receiver to throw to and the offensive line can offer returning running backs any resemblence of coverage, Wake Forest could make a nice, steady rebound since bottoming out in 2010.
Last season, Wake Forest had one of the worst defenses in the country. That provided freshmen Merrill Noel a prime opportunity to shine as a freshmen, but it doesn’t bode well for them as a unit. Last season, the Demon Deacons allowed opponents to tack 2963 yards against them in the air (slightly more than NC State) and 2208 yards on the ground (over 500 yards more than NC State).
What Wake Forest will be looking to do in 2012, returning much of their 2011 starters, is stick with the 3-4 defense and either try to stop the ball at the line or in deep field. They lack horribly in size, but make up for it in speed and speed is what Grobe intends on using to get behind the line of scrimmage. Case-in-point: they have a light nose tackle (Nikita Whitlock, 260 lbs) who earned 14 tackles for loss. The good news for State is that if you get get something to mid-field, you are usually good for a few yards.
Let’s not over-state Wake Forest’s abilities. This is not a world-beater of a team, but it has an offensive that is a couple moving parts away from being really good and a defensive that has a couple tricks up it’s sleeve. If O’Brien is going to have another “What The Fuck” loss, this is a really good candidate, especially since the Wolfpack will be thinking about travelling to Clemson the following week. Speaking of which, this game is vitally important for confidence and momentum going into a tough “revenge match” with the Tigers. If O’Brien is caught sleeping on November 10th, then the following Saturday in Memorial Stadium could be ugly.