ACC: Antonio Ford

Wake's Wolford shoulders heavy load

September, 17, 2014
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John Wolford has more on his plate than most. The 18-year-old true freshman is tasked with leading an ACC team in its first year of a new regime, a team that is replacing its all-time leading pass-catcher, among many other key pieces who graduated this past year.

[+] EnlargeJohn Wolford
AP Photo/Eli LuceroTrue freshman quarterback John Wolford is carrying the brunt of Wake Forest's load on his shoulders.
Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson designated Wolford as the starting quarterback 10 practices into fall camp. Clawson has said repeatedly that he will play the guys he feels gives his team the best chance to win, and that unnecessary redshirts are not fair to the upperclassmen who have already given so much to the program.

Through three games, Wolford has experienced more than most. He has won a game. He has lost two. He has completed better than 56 percent of his passes, for 645 yards. He has thrown four touchdowns passes and has been picked off six times. He has done this without any real threat of a ground game to take pressure off him, as the Demon Deacons rank 124th nationally in rushing yards per game (22.67) and yards per rush (0.78). Likewise, Wolford has taken a beating, getting sacked 14 times, more than any other quarterback in the country.

"When we have given him time, he's proven to be very accurate," Clawson said. "I think he's very tough. He has taken quite a bit of hits; it has not impacted his fundamentals a lot. I think he still hangs in the pocket. He still keeps his eyes downfield. He has certainly shown the ability to bide time and make some plays with his feet."

Clawson sees room for improvement, of course. Wake surrendered 21 points off turnovers in this past Saturday's loss at Utah State, as Wolford lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown, threw a pick-six and had another interception that lead to an Aggies touchdown three plays later.

"We're certainly not explosive enough on offense that we can spot people 21 points," Clawson said.

Complicating matters was the loss of left tackle Antonio Ford, a redshirt senior who left Saturday's game with an ankle sprain. He may return against Army, but if he can't, Wake will likely rotate three players at the two tackle spots.

Still, Wolford's demeanor has been encouraging. Clawson liked the way he overcame his errors to lead his team to a 17-point second half this past weekend, and others have been impressed by his maturity.

"I think he's gained a little bit of confidence since he got that first game under his belt," receiver Jared Crump said. "Especially being a true freshman, that's a big experience to start as a freshman. But I think each game he's progressing a little bit more, getting a little bit more confident."

Beyond this Saturday against the Black Knights, little seems to be potentially on the horizon in terms of tangible results. But Wolford and Clawson both know what they signed up for, and they know there will be plenty to build on down the line as Wolford and his program begin to find their footing.

"We're putting way too much on him right now," Clawson said. "We're one of the worst teams in the county right now at running the football. Because of that, we're very one-dimensional with a true freshman quarterback, and that is a tough recipe for success. You've got to find ways to run the football and become more balanced and not put so much on our young quarterback."

Wake Forest season preview

August, 6, 2013
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Today we’re looking at the Deacs as they try to get back to a bowl game in 2013:

Wake Forest

Coach: Jim Grobe (106-107-1 overall, 73-74 in 12 years at school)

2012 record: 5-7

Key losses: FB Tommy Bohanon, C Garrick Williams, LB Joey Ehrmann, LB Riley Haynes, CB Kenny Okoro

[+] EnlargeMichael Campanaro
Sam Sharpe/USA TODAY SportsWide receiver Michael Campanaro leads a Deacs team looking to rebound from a 5-7 season in 2012.
Key returnees: QB Tanner Price, WR Michael Campanaro, TB Josh Harris, G Frank Souza, G Antonio Ford, CB Kevin Johnson, CB Merrill Noel, FS A.J. Marshall, LB Justin Jackson, LB Mike Olson, NG Nikita Whitlock, DE Zach Thompson

Newcomer to watch: Cory Helms, center. The Alpharetta, Ga., native was recruited by Jonathan Himebauch and chose the Deacs over offers from North Carolina, Syracuse and Florida. He was rated the No. 74 offensive guard in his class by ESPN.com, but the Deacs plan on using him as a center.

Biggest games in 2013: Oct. 5 vs. NC State; Nov. 23 vs. Duke; Nov. 2 at Syracuse

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: The running backs. Top running back Josh Harris is still awaiting word from the NCAA as to whether he will be academically eligible. Harris led the team with 608 yards and five touchdowns last fall. Deandre Martin (484 yards) would be next in line. "That running back group is probably the biggest disaster we've got right now,” Grobe said at ACC media days. “We don't have a dependable guy right now. We'll see how it sorts out.”

Forecast: Things should be looking up for the Deacs, who haven’t had a winning season since 2008. Wake Forest got to a bowl game in 2011, and the goal is to return to the postseason this fall. With a veteran quarterback in Tanner Price, who is entering his fourth season as a starter, and a stingy defense, it’s a realistic goal.

Wake Forest returns 17 starters -- including eight on defense -- and both specialists. The headliner of the group is receiver Michael Campanaro, who leads all active ACC players with 162 catches. The Deacs will need somebody to complement him, and they’ve got to find some depth up front on the offensive line. The Deacs feel good about their starting five, as long as they can all stay healthy. Guard Antonio Ford broke his leg in three places last fall at Maryland, and he was still recovering this spring. Tackle Steven Chase missed spring practices with a torn ACL. Senior center Whit Barnes, senior right guard Frank Souza and Ford, a junior at left guard, will give the group a veteran look, but a freshman or sophomore will likely have to fill in at right tackle.

Defensively, this could be one of the best groups Grobe has had in recent years. The Deacs have put an emphasis on takeaways this offseason -- a trademark of the most successful years under Grobe. Noseguard Nikita Whitlock (three sacks, 5.5 TFLs) returns, along with cornerback Kevin Johnson, who finished eighth nationally last year in passes defended with 18. Two starters also return at linebacker, including Mike Olson and Justin Jackson.

This year’s schedule is conducive to a six-win season for the Deacs, but there’s no margin for error with Clemson and Florida State both in the Atlantic Division. Wake Forest should come out of its nonconference schedule with at least three wins (Presbyterian, Louisiana-Monroe, at Army, at Vanderbilt), and should find a way to steal a few wins against the likes of Boston College, NC State, Maryland, Syracuse and/or Duke.

Weak and strong: Wake Forest

June, 17, 2013
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There’s a weak link on every team, but there is also a strength that could help mask it or overcome it entirely. This series will take a look at the strongest and weakest position groups for each ACC team heading into the fall. We’ll go in reverse alphabetical order, starting today with Wake Forest:

Strongest position: Linebackers

Led by Justin Jackson, the linebackers are a good mix of experience and young talent. Jackson and Mike Olson are two returning starters, but the staff has also been impressed by Teddy Matthews, a redshirt freshman who is a potential starter, and Kevis Jones, another redshirt freshman recruited out of Florida.

Jackson last year led the team with 81 tackles, and 8.5 tackles for loss. He also had four sacks, two pass breakups, four quarterback hurries, one fumble recovery and a blocked kick. In March, Wake Forest announced the hire of Warren Belin, a 1990 Wake Forest graduate, to coach outside linebackers. He was most recently with the Carolina Panthers. With nine starters returning on defense, the entire group should show improvement, but the linebackers were the highlight this past spring.

Weakest position: Offensive line

This is likely the key to Wake’s entire season, as those within they program have said that if they can keep the offensive line healthy and develop some depth, the team should run the ball much more effectively and in different ways than it did last season.

That wasn’t possible this spring, though, as the Deacs barely had a two-deep to practice with.

Guard Antonio Ford broke his leg in three places last fall at Maryland, and he was out this spring, along with tackle Steven Chase, who was out with a torn ACL. The projected lineup includes senior Whit Barnes at center, senior Frank Souza at right guard, and Ford, a junior, at left guard. Wake will likely depend on a freshman or sophomore at right tackle, but the staff was pleased with its recruiting efforts up front.

“We feel pretty good about our starting five, but we said that going into last year,” offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke said. “We said as long as we can stay healthy, we like our starting five. You feel good going in, but depth is always a problem and the depth is still all freshmen and sophomores. We’re not afraid to pull the shirt on a couple of guys there, either. We’ve recruited four that we like. We feel we need to have eight we trust: two centers, three guards, three tackles. We’d like to have 10, but we’ll settle for eight if we can find them."

More in this series here.
If Wake Forest’s offensive line can stay healthy and build some depth between now and the opening kickoff, there’s no reason the Deacs can’t surprise a few teams in the Atlantic Division this year.

In theory, Wake Forest could have a veteran look up front this fall, but if there’s one area that still remains a concern for offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke heading into summer camp, it’s the offensive line.

“It was kind of a long spring on the o-line for those guys, because we only really had eight guys all spring,” Lobotzke said. “We didn’t even have two-deep, so we really had to structure practice around saving those guys, and then we had another guy get dinged up, so we only had seven by the end.”

Guard Antonio Ford broke his leg in three places last fall at Maryland, and he was still recovering this spring. So was tackle Steven Chase, who missed spring practices with a torn ACL. When everyone is healthy, the lineup looks good, with senior Whit Barnes at center, senior Frank Souza at right guard, and Ford, a junior, at left guard. Lobotzke said a freshman or sophomore will likely have to fill in at right tackle.

“We feel pretty good about our starting five, but we said that going into last year,” Lobotzke said. “We said as long as we can stay healthy, we like our starting five. You feel good going in, but depth is always a problem and the depth is still all freshmen and sophomores. We’re not afraid to pull the shirt on a couple of guys there, either. We’ve recruited four that we like. We feel we need to have eight we trust: two centers, three guards, three tackles. We’d like to have 10, but we’ll settle for eight if we can find them.”

Wake Forest spring wrap

May, 7, 2013
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2012 record: 5-7

2012 conference record: 3-5 (fourth in the Atlantic Division)

Returning starters: Offense: 8; Defense: 8; Kicker/punter: 2

Top returners:

QB Tanner Price, WR Michael Campanaro, TB Josh Harris, G Frank Souza, G Antonio Ford, CB Kevin Johnson, CB Merrill Noel, FS A.J. Marshall, LB Justin Jackson, LB Mike Olson, NG Nikita Whitlock, DE Zach Thompson

Key losses:

FB Tommy Bohanon, C Garrick Williams, LB Joey Ehrmann, LB Riley Haynes, CB Kenny Okoro

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Harris* (608 yards)

Passing: Price* (2,300)

Receiving: Campanaro* (763 yards)

Tackles: Jackson* (81)

Sacks: Jackson* (4)

Interceptions: Johnson* (3)

Spring answers:

1. Camp’s complement: An ankle injury to Campanaro opened the door for Orville Reynolds to emerge as a dependable No. 2 receiver. Reynolds was voted by his teammates as the most improved player on offense this spring. The staff is trying to get the receivers more involved in the running game, and Reynolds, a converted running back, could be the perfect match for it.

2. Depth on defense: The defensive line found a solid rotation two-deep, and the linebackers emerged as a group that should be the strength of the defense this season. Inside linebacker Brandon Chubb had a particularly good spring and got some first-team reps at the expense of Olson, who had some nagging shoulder issues.

3. Opting for the option: The Deacs have changed their offense to incorporate more option and get Price running more. Offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke said the staff is interested in integrating standard spread-option runs, zone reads and quarterback draws.

Fall questions:

1. The offensive line. It’s the biggest concern on the team, and was the weak link last season. With so many injuries in 2012 that carried into the spring, there was little time for a five-step drop, and Price was constantly making throws under pressure. Until this group is solidified, Lobotzke won’t rest easy.

2. Impact freshmen. The redshirting policy is on hold for now, as the staff has made it clear that they are willing to play whomever is capable of helping the team win now. True freshmen will be given a legitimate chance to contribute immediately, but until they arrive this summer, nobody knows who or how many will contribute.

3. Can running back Josh Harris be consistent? Harris made a name for himself in 2010 when, in his first career start, he ran for 241 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries against Virginia Tech. Since then he has battled injuries and his durability has come into question. Now, as a redshirt senior, he has a chance to lead the Deacs’ ground game, but can he stay healthy enough and be consistent enough to reassert himself as one of the ACC’s best backs?
WAKE FOREST

If you’re just joining us, this series is categorizing the unranked teams in the ACC as either contenders or pretenders heading into the 2013 season. We’re leaving out Florida State and Clemson because they are the only two teams from the ACC expected to be ranked this preseason. Those rankings automatically qualify them as contenders. The Deacs? That’s debatable.

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Why they’re a contender: A great linebacker corps. This will be the strength of the team, as it blends experience with young talent. Redshirt juniors Justin Jackson and Mike Olson are the veterans of the group, but the staff is also very encouraged by redshirt freshman Teddy Matthews, who is a potential starter, and Kevis Jones. Overall, this group will lead a noticeably improved defense, which will give the Deacs a fighting chance against the ACC’s best.

Why they’re a pretender: The offensive line has been ravaged by injuries and it has yet to prove it has the depth to handle it again. Starting tackles Steven Chase and Colin Summers are expected to miss spring drills, along with starting guard Antonio Ford. Even with veteran quarterback Tanner Price returning, along with star receiver Michael Campanaro, the Deacs won’t go very far without a dependable line blocking for them.

Final verdict: Contender. Consider the Deacs a dark horse in the Atlantic Division race. Last year wasn’t the norm for the program, as it had both injuries AND suspensions to key players. The staff has recruited well the past two seasons and it has one of the best coaching staffs in the ACC. The schedule is favorable, and it has open dates before Duke and Maryland. Overall, the team has more depth. If the Deacs can stay healthy, they have a chance.

More in this series
Wake Forest offensive tackle Colin Summers' career is in jeopardy because of a continuing problem with blood clots, coach Jim Grobe told ESPN.com on Wednesday.

Summers, expected to start at right tackle, was rushed to the hospital over Christmas break with blood clots in his lungs. Grobe described what happened as a "life-threatening situation," saying Summers has been through a roller coaster of emotions while doctors tried to pinpoint what was causing the clots.

"I wouldn’t say he’s been ruled completely out, but I think there’s a good chance he may not play football again," Grobe said in a phone interview. "He’s been up and down. At first the doctors said, 'You can’t play. Then they said, 'We’re not sure if the blood clots were caused by an injury.' They’ve been doing tests on him, and the last thing I heard was they believe there’s a blood disorder causing those blood clots."

Summers started 11 games last season, but he did suffer a concussion at the end of the year, and also played through a lower leg injury. It was that leg injury that doctors thought was the culprit behind the clots, but recent tests revealed that not to be the case. Summers is being treated with blood thinners. If he must remain on them, he would no longer be allowed to play contact sports and his career would be over.

"It's just really sad because he’s a guy we felt like was an All-ACC caliber player," Grobe said. "But our No. 1 thought is on his health. As much as we need him as a football player, it's much more important that we’ve got a healthy kid."

Wake Forest, hit by injuries last season, still has a list of walking wounded this spring. Among those who will be limited or out when spring practice opens March 19 are projected starters Steven Chase and Antonio Ford on the offensive line, cornerback Merrill Noel, linebacker Zach Allen, running back Josh Harris, receiver Matt James and receiver Michael Campanaro. But Grobe did say he is hopeful Campanaro will get in a few practices before the Deacs wrap up in April.

Injury bug not done with Wake Forest

February, 25, 2013
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The spring has not brought much relief to Wake Forest in the injury department.

Several projected starters are expected to miss all or parts of spring practice, which begins March 19. Offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke said in telephone interview that he didn't expect to see receiver Michael Campanaro, starting tackles Steven Chase, Colin Summers or starting guard Antonio Ford participating in drills.

Lobotzke said, "'Camp' is going to have some ankle surgery on a bone chip floating around so we’re going to miss him."

Chase (knee), Summers (concussion) and Ford (leg) are still rehabbing injuries sustained last season, when the Deacs saw an unprecedented number of guys go down on their offensive line. In all, Wake Forest lost nine offensive linemen throughout the course of 2012, including all five players it had moved over from the defensive line.

That is why one of the biggest priorities heading into spring was finding stability in the trenches. But Wake is going to have to wait until the fall at the earliest to begin working on its biggest offensive question mark.

"Even though we have high hopes for next season, spring ball’s going to be tough," Lobotzke said. "Right now, we have a guaranteed seven offensive linemen for spring ball. We’re hoping for eight, but hopefully by next season we’ll have a full complement of guys out there healthy with Antonio, Colin and Steven Chase.

"I wish it was better than that, I wish it was cleaner than that. We were thinking if those five guys can go through spring together and Tanner [Price] could build confidence with them -- but it’s not going to happen. We’re going to have to have a great August I think. Because right now three of the guys we’re counting on to be in our top five will not be out there this spring."

Lobotzke added the team is still unsure whether Summers will be able to resume his career because of lingering affects from a concussion.

While Wake could take a woe-is-me attitude, that is certainly not the case. The flip side is the ability to try to build some depth for this season, to avoid the nightmare that was 2012.

"It opens the door for young guys," Lobotzke said. "Dylan Intemann played as a freshman last year because of injury. Maybe this is the spring Dylan asserts himself, and says, ‘I’m going to take Colin’s job from him. I’m going to outplay him and I’m going to be the guy at right tackle.’ Maybe we can build O-line depth because of these spring injuries and maybe we can get some young guys to step up. That would be a great side benefit with Steve, Antonio and Colin not being able to take spring reps."

Lobotzke also said a few other players are injured heading into spring and their status is up in the air: reserve offensive lineman Will Smith (knee), tight end Neil Basford (Achilles') and receiver Matt James (foot).

"A lot of the names we’re counting on won’t be out there for spring," Lobotzke said. "The biggest problem is putting 11 bodies out there, but we’ve got a lot of young guys that will get a shot."

ACC QBs still playing in the shadows

October, 22, 2012
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There is no Collin Klein in the ACC this season. No Geno Smith. No Braxton Miller.

There is no Johnny Football.

Instead, there is a talented group of veteran quarterbacks who are a bunch of nice guys, great representatives of their programs and the conference, and are playing their way through yet another season in the shadow of other quarterbacks throughout the country. With West Virginia’s abysmal offensive performance in a 55-14 loss to Kansas State this past weekend, K-State’s Klein became the flavor of the week front-runner for the Heisman, but the door is still open. None of the ACC’s quarterbacks, though, have done enough in the national spotlight to garner much serious consideration.

While it’s still a position of strength for the conference, none of this year’s quarterbacks have truly emerged as the face of the ACC. It’s a rather humble season for a league that for the first time in its history returned six quarterbacks who had thrown for 3,000 yards in a season. No other conference in the country was able to claim that.

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No other conference in the country seemed to need it.

The best performance by a quarterback so far this season on the national stage was EJ Manuel against Clemson. It was the one true Heisman moment the ACC has had this year. With the nation watching against No. 10 Clemson, Manuel completed 27 of 35 passes for 380 yards and two touchdowns in a 49-37 win. The performance catapulted Manuel into the Heisman conversation immediately.

And then he went to Raleigh.

NC State quarterback Mike Glennon was the one who made the clutch throws on fourth down in the fourth quarter of a 17-16 win over then-No. 3 Florida State.

Manuel is still No. 6 in the country in passing efficiency. But even with only four interceptions, he has still thrown as many as Alabama’s AJ McCarron (zero), K-State’s Klein (2), and West Virginia’s Smith (2) combined.

No quarterback in the ACC, though, has taken more heat than Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas. He finished second in the voting for the ACC’s Preseason Player of the Year, but he’s No. 68 in the country and No. 8 in the ACC in passing efficiency. He has made some ill-advised throws and decisions this year, yet his supporting cast hasn’t helped much, either. The same can be said for Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price, who lost his top target -- receiver Michael Campanaro -- who broke his hand Sept. 29 against Duke. The Deacs also lost one of their top offensive linemen to injury in Antonio Ford, who suffered a season-ending injury in the loss at Maryland.

And then there’s Virginia.

The Cavaliers have fallen into the old when-you-have-two-quarterbacks-you-don’t-have-one scenario. Former Alabama transfer Phillip Sims hasn’t exactly been McCarron. Michael Rocco has thrown seven touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Maryland has gone through about as many injured quarterbacks as Rocco has thrown picks.

Clemson’s Tajh Boyd has arguably been the most consistent and productive, but Florida State’s defense made him uncomfortable in the second half, and he was sacked five times last week in a 38-17 win against Virginia Tech.

This was supposed to be a year in which the strength of the position could help elevate the league’s profile. So far, though, it’s the quarterbacks who need their profiles raised.

It’s a talented group. It just hasn’t had one quarterback who has truly risen above the rest.

At least not yet.
In the days after leading Wake Forest receiver Michael Campanaro broke his hand against Duke, there was reason for optimism.

Campanaro did not require surgery, and he hoped to return in time for the Clemson game next Thursday night. But coach Jim Grobe said this week that the best-case scenario would have Campanaro returning against Boston College on Nov. 3.

"He's healing," Grobe said. "He's probably not healing as fast as he wants to. He probably would have liked to have been healed for the Maryland game. I would think Clemson would be a stretch. I think probably Boston College is a little bit more realistic."

Campanaro's is just one in a string of injuries that have really hurt Wake Forest this season. Those injuries are now mounting on offense, leaving Grobe with limited options at receiver and offensive line.

Grobe was asked if he had considered how good his team could be this year if everybody had stayed healthy.

"Going into the season, you always have some injuries," Grobe said. "That's just part of the game. The difference for us has been some of our best players have been injured. Camp is arguably the best player on offense. We lost Antonio Ford at Maryland. I think he was our best offensive lineman as far as guards and tackles. Losing (receiver) Matt James, he broke his collarbone, won't be back this season, he's out. (Receiver) Terence Davis separated both shoulders, hasn't had a lot of practice. That's been his biggest problem. A lot of guys that we thought were going to be key guys for us have been out for along period of time or are gone for the season.

"We're not going to get them all back together, but certainly I think getting Campanaro back would be huge for us. If we could stay healthy down the stretch, piecemeal that offensive line back together. We're in a situation right now with (receiver) Sherman Ragland down, Campanaro down, Matt James down, Terence Davis being up and down, we just don't have a lot of options to throw the football. Being a throwing offense, that's not a good thing."

Midseason report: Wake Forest

October, 16, 2012
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WAKE FOREST

Record: 3-3, 1-3

Injuries have taken a major toll on the Deacs, who are coming off their bye with losses in three of their past four games. Nothing has seemed to go right since their come-from-behind win over North Carolina. The following week, Wake lost 54-0 to the Seminoles. Its only win in this recent span was in a shootout over Army. The Deacs also had their 12-game winning streak over Duke snapped, 34-27, and followed that loss with another one to Maryland, a game that the Deacs were forced to play without starting receiver Michael Campanaro (hand) and six suspended players (four of them starters).

In the week since that game, coach Jim Grobe has announced the indefinite suspension of two others, safety Duran Lowe and offensive tackle Devin Bolling, both backups. On-the-field play has definitely not made headlines this season because of all these outside forces. In addition to Campanaro, Wake Forest has seen key players like Nikita Whitlock, offensive tackle Steven Chase and cornerback Merrill "Bud" Noel miss time because of injuries. The offensive line has been hit particularly hard because of injuries -- Chase is playing with a torn ACL and Antonio Ford is out for the season.

The Deacs rank in the bottom half of the country in total offense (102) and total defense (83) and have simply been too inconsistent to win games. There are talented players on this roster, and Wake Forest should get healthier as the year goes on. Campanaro is expected back in the next few weeks. There are winnable games remaining, but there is no question Grobe is going to need to find a way to get the ship headed in the right direction.

Offensive MVP: WR Michael Campanaro. When Campanaro got hurt against Duke, he was one of the best receivers in the ACC, leading the league with 38 catches while ranking second in the country in receptions. He had nine or more catches in four of five full games he played in this season, leading the team with 429 yards and three touchdowns.

Defensive MVP: OLB Justin Jackson. Jackson has been the most consistent player on defense, leading the team with 47 tackles, four tackles for loss and three sacks. He also has forced a fumble and blocked an extra-point attempt.
Wake Forest knew it would have some major question marks on the offensive line this season, with four new starters up front.

But coach Jim Grobe felt if could keep everybody healthy, his group would be able to hold its own. Unfortunately for the Deacs, that has not been the case, and the prospects for the remainder of the season look bleak. Grobe said this week that starter Antonio Ford is out for the season with a broken leg, an injury sustained in a loss to Maryland last week.

Another starter, Steven Chase, has been playing with a torn ACL. Wake Forest was without starting guard Frank Souza last week because of a suspension, so the injury to Ford really left Grobe's line depleted.

"We've got issues, there's no question," Grobe said. "We went into the season feeling like we'd have five pretty good guys up front. Thought if we could keep guys healthy we would be actually pretty good, even better than competitive. But right away, second practice, Steven Chase tears his ACL, and then Antonio Ford broke his leg. Our senior center (Garrick Williams) is playing pretty good, and we thought he would. But the other four, Steven Chase and Antonio Ford are arguably our two best offensive linemen. Steven is coming back now trying to play with that ACL, and really for a guy with an ACL is hanging in there pretty good.

"But losing Antonio was a problem, and mainly because we had kind of repped five guys all week and really hoped to keep those five on the field, and so as soon as Antonio goes down, now we're putting in, kind of moving guys around, putting young guys back out there again."

Grobe said he has never had a lineman play with a torn ACL, but the Deacs do not have much choice, so long as doctors have Chase cleared to play. During the bye this week, Grobe said he will be looking for the five best players to start at Virginia next week, and then hope they can all stay healthy.

"We have got depth problems and we've got some young guys playing," Grobe said. "We've got one guy, Whit Barnes, that we're really playing out of position. He's a center and we've got him playing guard. I think we'll try to over the next week and a half try to get our best five guys in there and hopefully they can give us the lion's share if not all the snaps when we go up to Virginia."

Opening camp: Wake Forest

August, 7, 2012
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We have come to the end of our preview of every ACC team headed into fall camp. Last, but never least ...

School: Wake Forest.

Started: Monday.

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.
Our series concludes today with the Demon Deacons, who, like many in the ACC this season, have to shore up their offensive line.

For a complete recap of the series, click here.

Wake Forest: C Garrick Williams

2011 stats: Williams played in all 13 games last season, starting in 11.

What he means to the Demon Deacons: Williams performed well during his first season as a starter, but he also had the benefit of playing alongside four fourth- or fifth-year players. Now, there is no safety net. Williams is the lone returning starter to a unit that is rebuilding, one that will be charged with protecting enough skill position players for the Deacs to think they can repeat their surprising 2011 season. Coach Jim Grobe has said coming out of spring that he's comfortable with three spots on the line: Williams in the middle, Colin Summers at right tackle and Antonio Ford at left guard. Williams is the leader of the group, and his presence cannot be overstated.
Despite its 6-7 overall record in 2011, Wake Forest came within a field goal from playing for the ACC title. With key pieces such as two-year starting quarterback Tanner Price returning, the Demon Deacons are looking to build off that success in 2012. Here, head coach Jim Grobe talks about expectations entering his 12th year leading the program.

The offensive line is replacing four starters. How important was the spring season for them from a developmental standpoint?

Jim Grobe: Well I thought it was really good. I think we've got three kids going forward that we can count on: Garrick Williams, our center, started for us last year so we feel really good about him. I think Colin Summers, our right tackle, is a kid who has the potential to be one of the better offensive linemen in the league, as does Antonio Ford, our left guard. I think all three of those kids really have the ability to get the job done for us. And then the rest of it's gonna be a toss-up. I think we've got some talented kids. I think Dylan Heartsill's a kid that's had some back issues at left tackle but we have great hopes for him and hopefully he'll get healthy. So we moved Frank Souza over to left tackle from nose guard -- he was backing up Nikita Whitlock on defense and we didn't feel like there was much future in that. So we moved Frank over to left tackle. I think that's gonna be a great move for us, he looked really good the last half of the spring.

We need somebody to step up at right guard; I'm hopeful that [Daniel] Blitch or [Dylan] Intemann or one of the younger guys will be that guy, so it's kind of a mixed bag. We don't have a starting five yet but I think three of those guys are really good players. If we can get a couple more guys to step up I think we can at least put a really good starting five on the field at the start of the year.

You know what you have under center in Tanner Price. Going into his third year now, what kind of strides does he need to make to take the next step?

[+] EnlargeJim Grobe
AP Photo/Nick WassJim Grobe says the goal is for Wake Forest to try to get back to a bowl game and to possibly make another run at the ACC title.
JG: Well it's huge when you've got your quarterback coming back, especially if he's a good one. I think Tanner thew for a little over 3,000 [yards] last year, [20] touchdowns, only had six picks. So he's a guy that takes pretty good care of the football. Really smart guy. a lot of Riley Skinner-type intangible stuff with Tanner. Tanner's got a more live arm than Riley had but he doesn't do as good of a job on the underneath stuff, and I think that's where his biggest improvements needs to come and I think we saw that this spring. We really challenged him to be a little more accurate with the touch stuff and I think we saw that this spring. I think he just looked better to me this spring than he did last fall and I thought he did good things last fall. So his biggest deal is just gonna be completion percentage. If we can bump that completion percentage up, we've got a guy that can win games for us.

It's been said that Michael Campanaro be that go-to guy for him, with Chris Givens now gone. Is finding a No. 2 target more pressing right now? Who has stood out in that role for you?

JG: Yeah I think so. I don't think there's any question. That's my concern. I think Campanero, you look at Chris last year, but in reality we had two guys -- Camp, he didn't catch as many balls as Chris, but he was close. They were really a 1-2 punch for us last year, so I think Camp, if he stays healthy, is ready for a big big year. So the key for us is we've gotta find some body else. If Camp's the only guy we've got to go to then defense are gonna make it really tough on us. So a guy like Terence Davis, Matt James, Brandon Terry, Sherman Ragland -- somebody in that group's gotta step up and kind of balance things out so that they can't just double-cover Camp and leave those other guys alone.

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