ACC: Brian Knorr

Wake Forest spring wrap

May, 5, 2011
5/05/11
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WAKE FOREST

2010 overall record: 3-9

2010 conference record: 1-7

Returning starters

Offense: 7, defense: 9, kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

WR Chris Givens, G Joe Looney, DE Tristan Dorty, DE Kyle Wilber, SS Cyhl Quarles, PK Jimmy Newman, QB Tanner Price, RB Josh Harris, NG Nikita Whitlock

Key losses

C Russell Nenon, RB Josh Adams, WR Marshall Williams, WR Devon Brown, LB Hunter Haynes, LB Matt Woodlief, P Shane Popham

2010 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Harris* (720 yards)

Passing: Price* (1,349 yds)

Receiving: Brown (302 yds)

Tackles: Hunter Haynes (77)

Sacks: Wilber* (6)

Interceptions: Alex Frye (3)

Spring answers

1. Solidified secondary. All four starters return in CB Josh Bush, SS Cyhl Quarles, FS Daniel Mack and CB Kevin Johnson, and the Deacs are two-deep at every position. It’s a much better scenario than it was a year ago, when Wake had to start two true freshmen corners. The Deacs will also have Dominique Tate, who missed all of last year for academic reasons, and two players who redshirted last year in Desmond Cooper and Merrill Noel. The Deacs ranked 11th in the ACC in pass defense last year, but saw signs this spring of that improving.

2. Sold on the 3-4 defense. The staff is confident in the defensive tackles and committed to the scheme, which it began using last year. Nose guard Ramon Booi, the backup to Nikita Whitlock, might have been the most improved player on the roster this spring, and is a good contrast to Whitlock, who is 5-foot-10 and more of a speed guy. Booi is a 6-foot-6, 300-pound man-wall. At tackle, Grobe singled out defensive end Zach Thompson as a possible all-ACC candidate, and Tristan Dorty moved from linebacker to defensive end.

3. Staff changes were a positive. Without disrespecting former defensive coordinator Brad Lambert, who left to become head coach of the fledgling Charlotte program, Grobe said he was pleased with the promotions of Tim Billings and Brian Knorr to co-defensive coordinators, and Lonnie Galloway, who was hired to coach the wide receivers. Knorr’s knowledge of the 3-4 scheme has been an added bonus.

Fall questions

1. Which running back will take over? Josh Harris is the most talented back on the roster, but he missed several spring practices with a hamstring injury he suffered while competing in the 100-yard dash with the track team. He’ll have to get healthy and earn the starting job this summer despite competition from senior Brandon Pendergrass. Harris, though, scored the only touchdown of the spring game.

2. Will dependable receivers emerge? The Deacs didn’t chart every one, but there were about eight or 10 dropped passes by wide receivers in the spring game. Wake Forest is looking for a playmaker to emerge like Kenny Moore did in ’07 and D.J. Boldin in ’08. Chris Givens, Michael Campanaro, Danny Dembry and Terence Davis are lead candidates, but redshirt freshmen Matt James (6-foot-6) and Brandon Terry (6-5), could both work their way into the rotation.

3. Will the offensive line improve? Four starters are back, so it looks better on paper, but the Deacs will sorely miss the experience and leadership of former center Russell Nenon. Garrick Williams started the final three games of 2010 -- two at guard and one at center, but he struggled with the snaps towards the end of spring and isn’t where the staff needs him to be yet.

In need of improvement: defense

March, 16, 2011
3/16/11
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Today we looked at the teams in the ACC in most need of offensive improvement. It's time to take a look at the other side of the ball. Here are the three teams in the league most in need of a defensive overhaul this offseason:

1. DUKE: You name it, the Blue Devils struggled to do it. Duke ranked among the nation's worst defenses in almost every major relevant category. Duke was 113th in rushing defense, 109th in scoring defense, 108th in total defense, 108th in pass efficiency defense, tied Georgia Tech for the fewest passes intercepted (eight), and last in the league in sacks and tackles for loss. It hasn't helped that the Blue Devils have had three different coordinators in as many seasons, but there has been some continuity as Jim Knowles was promoted from within.

2. WAKE FOREST: No, it's not good that the Deacs have appeared on both lists. Wake Forest hasn't been the same since Alphonso Smith and Aaron Curry moved on. Creating turnovers, once a strength, has seen a significant drop-off. The Deacs also struggled to stop the run, ranking 99th in the country last season in rushing defense. They were 101 in total defense, and more importantly, 110 in total defense, allowing a league-high 35.83 points per game. With the departure of coordinator Brad Lambert to Charlotte, Tim Billings and Brian Knorr will co-coordinate in 2011. The pressure is on to make immediate improvements.

3. VIRGINIA: As expected, it was a transition year in Mike London's first season. The Cavaliers changed staffs and schemes, and the statistics reflected that. Virginia struggled to get takeaways, trailing the league with 16. They had only five fumble recoveries all year. Only Wake Forest and Duke fared worse in total defense and scoring defense, as the Hoos allowed 28.25 points per game. They also struggled to stop the run. More should be expected in Year 2, and this year's recruiting class should also help -- eventually.

Jim Grobe promotes 2 assistants to co-coordinators

March, 14, 2011
3/14/11
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Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe has named current assistants Brian Knorr and Tim Billings co-defensive coordinators, Grobe told ESPN.com on Monday.

The Demon Deacons were scheduled to start spring practices on Tuesday, but the unexpected departure of former defensive coordinator Brad Lambert, who left to become the head coach of Charlotte, forced Grobe to reshuffle his staff. Wake Forest is now expected to start practicing on Friday.

Knorr, who was coaching the receivers, was the inside linebackers coach under Grobe at Ohio University, where he succeeded Grobe as head coach. He will also coach the inside linebackers this year. Billings, who coached the outside linebackers last year, will continue that role. Billings was head coach at Southeast Missouri State (2000-05), and defensive coordinator at Marshall in 1999.

Steve Russ will move from linebackers to the secondary. Grobe has also designated Keith Henry, who coached the secondary last year, as the special teams coordinator.

Grobe recently hired former West Virginia receivers coach Lonnie Galloway, who will coordinate the passing game with quarterbacks coach Tom Elrod. Offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke will continue to oversee the entire offense, in addition to coordinating the running game with Billy Mitchell.

“This was a great opportunity to help ourselves offensively, and I don’t think we’ll miss a beat defensively,” Grobe said. “We’ll be better just because our kids will be older, but it’s really more of an opportunity for us. I hate to lose Brad, but in losing Brad we’re able to make ourselves better on the offensive side, and hopefully with Brian coming over we don’t miss anything because we’ve got another really experienced defensive coach coming over to help us on defense.”

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