Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Opening camp: Wake Forest
By Andrea Adelson
We have come to the end of our preview of every ACC team headed into fall camp. Last, but never least ...
School: Wake Forest.
Predicted finish at media days: Fourth, Atlantic Division.
Biggest storyline: Can this team have a winning season? Coach Jim Grobe was asked during ACC media day whether any luster was taken off making a bowl game last season because the team finished 6-7. He answered the right way, saying it is always an accomplishment to make it to a bowl. That is particularly true when your last previous bowl appearance came in 2008. Still, there may have been a sense of falling short of their own expectations, particularly after a 4-1 start gave way to a 2-5 finish. Close losses to Syracuse, Notre Dame and Clemson -- with the Atlantic Division in the balance -- still sting. This year, Wake Forest is going to have to rely on an entirely new set of playmakers on offense, with the departures of leading rusher Brandon Pendergrass and receiver Chris Givens. Plus, only one starter returns on the offensive line. Defensively, Wake will have to do better than allowing an average of 170 yards rushing per game, and the pass rush has got to get better (only 11 sacks the entire season). The defense does return some All-ACC players in Nikita Whitlock and a rising star in Merrill "Bud" Noel, but there is no question this team has to get better everywhere.
Biggest position battle: Offensive line. This is the unit that has the biggest question mark by far is this group, with four starters gone from a year ago. Center Garrick Williams is the only returner, but there could be some good news with the replacements who are coming in. Remember, the offensive line did give up 35 sacks last year to rank No. 100 in the nation. Frank Souza moved over from the defensive line and impressed the coaches right from the outset and is competing for a starting job. Grobe seems happy with Colin Summers, Antonio Ford and Steven Chase. But right guard seems to be up for grabs. Daniel Blitch played there with the first team in the spring, but the competition is open this fall. Grobe has not ruled out moving Souza to the position, if necessary.
Who needs to step up: Michael Campanaro. Givens was a star for the Deacs last season, leading the ACC with 1,330 yards and catching nine touchdown passes. Campanaro did well himself, with 883 yards receiving but he was not really the big-play threat that Givens was. Now all eyes are going to be on him to see whether he will be the hands-down go-to player for quarterback Tanner Price, and whether he has the ability to stretch the field more than he did a year ago.