Wake Forest spring wrap

May, 8, 2012
5/08/12
6:00
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2011 overall record: 6-7

2011 conference record: 5-3 (T-2nd, Atlantic)

Returning starters

Offense: 3; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

QB Tanner Price, WR Michael Campanaro, C Garrick Williams, DE Zach Thompson, NG Nikita Whitlock, OLB Joey Ehrmann, ILB Scott Betros, ILB Riley Haynes, CB Merrill Noel, FS Kenny Okoro

Key losses

WR Chris Givens, T Dennis Godfrey, T Doug Weaver, G Joe Looney, G Michael Hoag, TE Cameron Ford, RB Brandon Pendergrass, DE Tristan Dorty, DE Kyle Wilber, SS Cyhl Quarles, FS Josh Bush

2011 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Brandon Pendergrass (823 yards)

Passing: Tanner Price* (3,017 yards)

Receiving: Chris Givens (1,330 yards)

Tackles: Cyhl Quarles (101)

Sacks: Kyle Wilber/Nikita Whitlock* (3.5)

Interceptions: Josh Bush (6)

Spring answers

1. Tanner Price: As a sophomore last season, Price threw for more than 3,000 yards to go with 20 touchdowns and six interceptions. Coach Jim Grobe has challenged Price to improve on his accuracy, especially on underneath passes, and if the quarterback can build off last season's 60-percent completion rate, the Demon Deacons should be just fine under center.

2. Skill players: Michael Campanaro is sliding into the go-to target shoes left behind by Chris Givens, shifting the focus to who will be the Deacs' No. 2 receiver. Josh Harris has been healthy all spring and should add a boost to a backfield that returns Orville Reynolds and DeAndre Martin. Deep? Not exactly. But Wake knows what it has in its skill-position players, and has enough weapons around Price for the quarterback to make a jump in his junior year. This spring has helped ease some concerns.

3. Front seven: The Deacs return a majority of their front-seven, including second-team All-ACC nose guard Nikita Whitlock. Grobe has praised the overall speed and depth of the defense as a whole, and he expects the team to be better on that side of the ball. Look for more pressure this season in new outside linebacker coach Derrick Jackson's first year on staff.

Fall questions

1. Offensive line: There's no sugar-coating this one: If Wake wants to repeat its surprising 2011 season -- one that saw it come within a field goal of playing for the ACC title -- it needs to find some answers up front. The line is replacing four starters. Grobe said coming out of spring that he feels comfortable about three spots at the moment, but the Deacs will need more than that if they want to get the most out of their skill players.

2. New staff: Grobe has had little turnover in his 11 years at Wake Forest, but he hired three new assistants this offseason -- Jackson, Jonathan Himebauch (offensive line) and Tim Duffie (secondary). The fresh blood, Grobe said, led to much more energy this spring, but the biggest tests will obviously come in-season.

3. Secondary. Speaking of Duffie, he'll have his work cut out for him in Year 1. Both safeties are gone, including Josh Bush, now with the Jets. Experience at cornerback will help ease the transition for the secondary, but building depth at safety could be an issue.

Matt Fortuna | email

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