Want to know more about Wake Forest football? Never fear, Wake Forest blogger Martin Rickman from Blogger So Dear is here to tell us all about the Demon Deacons. Check out my answers to his questions here.
1. The obvious one first, how much panic is there following the 20-17 escape against Liberty? Season opener struggles or long term concerns?
I think there is a fair amount of panic on top of some season-opening rust. We knew the offensive line was going to be a problem this season – and not only were those fears far from alleviated, they were exaggerated significantly.
Defensively, there were pleasant surprises, especially considering Wake’s best defender, Bud Noel, was out. The secondary looked sharp, and the linebacking corps showed some nice speed. But the receivers and backfield need to make plays to even have a shot in conference play.
That said, you never know what you’re going to get in season openers, and whether a team wins 62-0 or 17-14, the tape is far more revealing than the final score.
2. How prepared do you think Wake Forest will be to defend against an up-tempo spread offense? How often has Jim Grobe's teams seen offense like this?
What is nice about this year over years prior is that the team’s deepest unit is at defensive back. The safeties and corners are extremely athletic and are more of the ball-hawking style epitomized by Alphonso Smith than the roving struggles of the last couple years.
Plus, the front seven is more equipped to get pressure on the quarterback than a year ago. That should help relieve some of the pressure and keep the DBs on less of an island.
UNC is going to score points. I’m sure of that; I just think the defense will be a little more successful than you saw last year. Honestly, if I was the Tar Heels, I’d try to do a lot of damage on the ground, where Wake is most vulnerable.
3. Tanner Price is obviously Wake's top offensive player but what other players will impact the offensive side of the ball for the Deacs?
Keep an eye on where Michael Campanaro is at all times. He’s the most electric player on the Demon Deacons, and he moves all over the field to try and exploit mismatches. Hopefully Josh Harris is healthy and ready to go; he was held out of the rest of the Liberty game due to concussion-like symptoms (the coaches even took his helmet to further the point). Harris has home-run potential and is likely hungry to make plays on Saturday.
Sherman Ragland is another wide receiver to watch. He’s young and extremely gifted, and he will break out sooner rather than later this season.
4. Big picture question: How would you assess the state of the program under Jim Grobe?
Good, not great. The team slid into a bowl game last year despite losing four of their last five and lost a winnable game against Mississippi State in Nashville. The offensive line has not improved; rather, it has regressed significantly since the high-water mark of the ACC Championship season. The skill positions are better and faster, but there are definite concerns elsewhere.
Coach Grobe made changes in the off-season to his coaching staff, and those were welcomed with open arms by the fans, who were worried he would never actually shake it up. But there are lots of things that still need to be addressed. This season will go a long way to determining the next few years of the program.
5. Who will win? Score?
I just don’t think Wake has enough depth on the offensive and defensive line to hang with the Tar Heels on Saturday. Although the Deacs should be able to take advantage of a suspect UNC secondary, they won’t be able to score enough points to win. I’m going to say the Tar Heels pull it out, 31-17.