ACC: Justin Jackson

By the numbers: Week 15 recap

December, 8, 2014
The regular season has come to an end, and while there will be at least 11 more games featuring ACC teams during the next month, we're wrapping up our last stats recap for a while -- an all-FSU/Georgia Tech issue.

Cook carries the load

With Karlos Williams out with a concussion, Dalvin Cook racked up 177 yards on the ground and another 43 receiving, while handling 31 of FSU's 32 rushing attempts (the other was by Jameis Winston). That meant Cook accounted for 94 percent of FSU's runs, which is by far the highest ratio for any tailback in the country this season against a Power 5 opponent. Only two others have even accounted for 80 percent.

[+] EnlargeRashad Greene
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsFlorida State receiver Rashad Greene celebrates after catching one of his two touchdowns in the win against Georgia Tech in Charlotte, N.C.
The 31 carries were the most by an FSU running back since 2002, when Greg Jones had 32 in a loss to Miami. The 177 yards gave Cook 905 for the season, setting a freshman record at Florida State that had stood for 33 years. Despite having just 20 carries for 115 yards in the month of September, Cook is now just 95 yards shy of producing FSU's eighth 1,000-yard rushing season.

Cook became just the 13th running back this season with at least 31 carries in a game against a Power 5 opponent, and surprisingly he's the fourth freshman, joining Nick Chubb, Samaje Perine and Justin Jackson.

Since Week 10, Cook has 22 runs of 10 yards or more. Only Perine and Melvin Gordon have more during that span.

Winston's signature performance

Winston wrapped up Saturday's win -- his 26th straight as a starter for FSU -- with 309 passing yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers.

The numbers might feel a bit ho-hum for last year's Heisman winner, who has certainly had his share of big games. But really, this was a pretty remarkable performance.

In Winston's career, it was just the fourth time he's had three touchdown throws, no turnovers and 300 passing yards against a Power 5 opponent. He's done it twice this season (also vs. Syracuse), making him one of just four quarterbacks in the country with multiple games of 300 yards, three TD and no turnovers against a Power 5 foe.

Winston became just the eighth QB this season to post a three-TD, no-turnover, 300-yard game against one of the current top 25 teams. His opponent in the Rose Bowl, Marcus Mariota, also accomplished the feat, throwing for 318 yards and no picks against Michigan State, but it's also of note that Mariota's team was on the wrong end of another of those performances when Connor Halliday had 436 yards and four TDs against Oregon on Sept. 20.

FSU up the middle

Of Cook's 177 rushing yards against Georgia Tech, 149 came when running between the tackles. The Seminoles averaged 4.2 yards per carry before contact on Saturday. For the year, they'd mustered just 1.2.

Certainly the obvious answer to point to is the move of Cameron Erving from left tackle to center on Nov. 15 as the key to FSU's improvement up the middle -- but that wouldn't be accurate.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Florida State averaged 3.2 yards per rush between the tackles before the Miami game and has averaged the exact same 3.2 ypc since.

So more likely, the biggest key to Saturday's success was attacking a Georgia Tech weakness. Overall, FSU ran the ball 32 times against Georgia Tech, and just one resulted in a loss.

Greene is gold

Rashad Greene was once again Winston's favorite target Saturday, catching seven passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns. In the process, Greene set the ACC's all-time record for receiving yards, passing former Duke standout Conner Vernon.

Greene now has 100 receiving yards or more in nine of his last 13 games vs. FBS foes. No other player in the country has more during that span.

Greene and Alabama's Amari Cooper are the only receivers in the country this season with six games in which they recorded at least seven catches, 100 yards and a touchdown.

Missing Smelter?

With star receiver DeAndre Smelter out for the game, Georgia Tech's passing attack figured to take a step back. It wasn't obvious early, with the Yellow Jackets running at will, but as Justin Thomas was forced to throw more late, the difference was clear.

When targeting Smelter on throws of 15 yards or more this season, Thomas was 19-of-37 (51.4 percent), averaged 14.4 yards per attempt and had six TDs with just one INT, according to ESPN Stats & Info. On deep balls Saturday, Thomas was just 2-of-6 for 51 yards (8.5 per attempt) with no touchdowns and one interception.

Extra points
  • Georgia Tech held a 10 minute, 50 second edge in time of possession Saturday -- the fifth straight game it had an edge of at least 10 minutes. It's average ToP margin during that span was 12:56. Overall, Tech finished the season third in time of possession, trailing Michigan State and UTEP.
  • Georgia Tech had 12 runs of 10 yards or more. That's by far the most FSU has allowed during the Jimbo Fisher era (Florida had nine in 2010).
  • Georgia Tech's ground game demolished FSU in the first half, running for 214 yards -- the most an FSU D has allowed in one half in at least a decade. But the big key for FSU's win was better tackling in the second half. Georgia Tech averaged 2.6 yards after contact per rush in the first half, but just 1.1 after contact in the second.
  • Thomas had his fourth 100-yard rushing day of the season, not including lost yardage to sacks. Only three other QBs have had as many: BC's Tyler Murphy, Mississippi State's Dak Prescott and Auburn's Nick Marshall.
  • Florida State used 13 true or redshirt freshmen in the ACC championship game.
  • Saturday marked the ninth game this season in which Florida State has trailed at some point. There are 30 other Power 5 teams that have trailed in at least nine games, and their combined winning percentage in those contests is just .361. FSU, of course, is 9-0.
  • FSU has one sack in its last four games combined. Overall, the Seminoles have recorded zero or one sack in 10 of their 13 games this season, and Saturday was FSU's fourth game with none. That had happened just twice previously under Fisher. FSU ranks 115th nationally in sacks-per-game and 11th in sacks per pass attempt.
The NFL draft concluded with 42 ACC players selected last weekend, and a slew more ended up signing free-agent deals in the days afterward.

Here’s a quick rundown of where the ACC’s undrafted free agents landed.

QB Chase Rettig, Green Bay Packers
OLB Kasim Edebali, New Orleans Saints
LB Steele Divitto, New York Jets
OT Ian White, San Diego Chargers
OT Matt Patchan, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
DB Albert Louis-Jean, Chicago Bears

K Chandler Catanzaro, Arizona Cardinals
G Tyler Shatley, Jacksonville Jaguars
LB Spencer Shuey, Jacksonville Jaguars
CB Darius Robinson, Buffalo Bills

RB Juwan Thompson, Denver Broncos
DE Kenny Anunike, Denver Broncos

LB Christian Jones, Chicago Bears
RB James Wilder Jr., Cincinnati Bengals
WR Kenny Shaw, Cleveland Browns
FB Chad Abram, Detroit Lions
DT Demonte McAllister, Seattle Seahawks
DT Jacobbi McDaniel, Cleveland Browns

DT Euclid Cummings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
CB Lou Young, Denver Broncos
DE Emmanuel Dieke, New York Giants

DT Roy Philon, Pittsburgh Steelers
S Hakeem Smith, Tennessee Titans
DT Brandon Dunn, Chicago Bears
WR Damian Copeland, Jacksonville Jaguars

WR Allen Hurns, Jacksonville Jaguars
QB Stephen Morris, Jacksonville Jaguars
TE Asante Cleveland, San Francisco 49ers
DT Justin Renfrow, Arizona Cardinals
FB Maurice Hagens, Atlanta Falcons
S A.J. Highsmith, San Francisco 49ers
OG Jared Wheeler, Carolina Panthers
LB Jimmy Gaines, Buffalo Bills

OT James Hurst, Baltimore Ravens
QB Bryn Renner, Denver Broncos

DE Carlos Gray, Green Bay Packers
TE Asa Watson, New England Patriots
DL Deylan Buntyn, New England Patriots

P Matt Yoklic, Atlanta Falcons

CB Keon Lyn, Indianapolis Colts
CB Ri’Shard Anderson, Tennessee Titans
RB Jerome Smith, Atlanta Falcons

DE Jake Snyder, Minnesota Vikings

DT Derrick Hopkins, Baltimore Ravens
LB Tariq Edwards, Miami Dolphins
WR D.J. Coles, Oakland Raiders
G Andrew Miller, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
DE James Gayle, Tennessee Titans

DT Nikita Whitlock, Cincinnati Bengals
LB Justin Jackson, Detroit Lions
LB Zach Thompson, New York Jets

Video: Justin Jackson interview

August, 23, 2013

Heather Dinich talks to Wake Forest linebacker Justin Jackson about the experience returning on defense, the emphasis on takeaways this offseason, and whether or not the Deacs can get back to a bowl game. Picture of Jackson will work.

Wake Forest season preview

August, 6, 2013
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, 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.
The ACC on Thursday announced the names of the 28 players who have been chosen to attend the 2013 ACC Football Kickoff, held July 21-22 at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro, N.C.

Here are your ACC reps:

Boston College:
  • Chase Rettig, Quarterback, 6-3, 213, Senior, Sierra Madre, Calif.
  • Steele Divitto, Linebacker, 6-3, 238, Senior, Ridgefield, Conn.
  • Tajh Boyd, Quarterback, 6-1, 225, Senior-R, Hampton, Va.
  • Spencer Shuey, Linebacker, 6-3, 230, Graduate-R, Charlotte, N.C.
Florida State:
Georgia Tech:
  • C.J. Brown, Quarterback, 6-3, 210, Senior-R, Cranberry Township, Pa.
  • Dexter McDougle, Cornerback, 5-11, 195, Senior-R, Falmouth, Va.
Miami: North Carolina:
  • Bryn Renner, Quarterback, 6-3, 225, Senior, West Springfield, Va.
  • Kareem Martin, Defensive End, 6-6, 265, Senior, Roanoke Rapids, N.C.
NC State: Pitt:
  • Devin Street, Wide Receiver, 6-4, 195, Senior-R, Bethlehem, Pa.
  • Aaron Donald, Defensive Line, 6-0, 285, Senior, Pittsburgh, Pa.
  • Morgan Moses, Offensive Tackle, 6-6, 335, Senior, Richmond, Va.
  • Jake Snyder, Defensive End, 6-4, 270, Senior-R, Glen Allen, Va.
Virginia Tech:
  • Logan Thomas, Quarterback, 6-6, 257, Senior-R, Lynchburg, Va.
  • Jack Tyler, Linebacker, 6-1, 225, Senior-R, Oakton, Va.
Wake Forest:

Weak and strong: Wake Forest

June, 17, 2013
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.

Wake Forest spring wrap

May, 7, 2013
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?
Keep an eye on the fancy footwork of Wake Forest linebacker Justin Jackson this fall. The man can dance.

No, really.

[+] EnlargeJustin Jackson
AP Photo/The Winston-Salem Journal, Andrew DyeLinebacker Justin Jackson said he's focused on forcing turnovers as Wake Forest aims to earn a bowl berth in 2013.
He’s taken classes in several different genres: ballet, modern, hip-hop, African, “pretty much everything,” he said. Jackson was working toward a minor in dance -- a degree he’s not going to be able to complete because his football schedule conflicts with an afternoon class. Football, of course, is the priority, especially after last year’s disappointing 5-7 finish.

“We weren’t satisfied with where we ended up last year,” Jackson said. “We’re all going to work really hard to get back in the swing of things, get back into a bowl.”

It’s going to start with the linebackers, who should be the strength of the Deacs’ defense this year. The group is a good mix of experience and young talent. Jackson and Mike Olson are the veterans of the group, but the staff has also been impressed by Teddy Matthews, who is a potential starter, and Kevis Jones.

If the Deacs are going to get back to the postseason, though, the staff has stressed the importance of forcing turnovers. In 2006, when Wake Forest won the ACC title, the Deacs were tied for No. 10 in the country in turnovers gained with 31, and were No. 6 in the country in turnover margin. Last year, the Deacs had 23 takeaways and were No. 25 in the country in turnover margin.

Not bad, but they’re looking for more.

“We need to get a lot better as far as taking the ball back from the other team,” Jackson said. “Our coaches were showing us how many takeaways the bowl team defenses had last year. We weren’t too far from that. If we strive for those numbers, we should get back to a bowl. There was a really strong correlation between defensive takeaways and bowl teams.”

Jackson started every game last year after moving to outside linebacker from inside. He 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.

“I really like the outside backer,” he said. “I’m playing a little bit more in space and still get to rush the passer.”

Clearly, he’s got the feet for it.

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.


What do you expect out of Wake Forest in 2013?


Discuss (Total votes: 2,820)

Let’s have at it:

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 stood one win away from bowl eligibility last November but turned in a nightmare finish, losing three straight to end the year.

The truth is, the season began unraveling well before then. Injuries cost the Deacs heavily, and multiple suspensions embarrassed coach Jim Grobe, who publicly apologized for the incidents.

Thrown into the mix were negative attitudes that permeated the program, a toxic mix that ended up spilling over once the year ended. Players vented their frustrations to the media. Some former players questioned whether Grobe was the right man for the job.

[+] EnlargeTanner Price
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsQuarterback Tanner Price threw for 2,300 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.
But the page has turned to a new year, and with that has come new attitudes and new expectations. Wake Forest returns 16 starters and just about all of its key contributors from a year ago. The question now is whether so many returning starters off a dysfunctional team can find a way to function together.

"The biggest lesson I probably learned from last year is just the importance of staying positive and making sure there’s not any negativity within the team," Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price said, "because as soon as that negativity creeps in, it’s like a cancer and it’s easy for everybody to become negative. It hurts the team and affects the outcome on Saturdays."

Did that happen last season?

"At times we struggled with that," Price said.

How did he feel about players venting publicly about Grobe and the final outcome of the season?

"At the end of the day, guys were just frustrated with the outcome of the season for a number of reasons," Price said. "What we had was coaches blaming players and players blaming coaches, and at the end of the day, we’re all at fault. What happened requires us to all come together to do some self-evaluation. That’s what we’re doing right now in the offseason.

"I’m excited about where we’re headed. I think this is a close group of guys, and we’ve built a solid relationship with the coaching staff. I really do believe it will be a much different season, and I’m really excited to see how turns out."

Price returns his No. 1 target, Michael Campanaro, one of the top receivers in the ACC. The young offensive line, decimated by injuries last season, will be better and much more experienced. Leading rusher Josh Harris is back, and so are leading tackler Justin Jackson, noseguard Nikita Whitlock and cornerback Merrill "Bud" Noel, just to name a few.

With so many experienced returning starters, expectations will grow. Price, for one, is embracing them.

"I’m very optimistic about this upcoming season," Price said. "We have an unbelievable amount of talent on offense and defense. I really do believe this team will be back in a bowl next year and I think we can have seven-plus wins. I’m excited and I think this is going to be a fun offseason to get working with these guys and start building momentum to carry into the season."

The senior class, Price says, "Since we got here as freshmen, we’ve been talking about how this senior season is going to be our year to make an impression and leave our legacy here so we’ve come together as a group of seniors and said, 'Let’s take advantage of this opportunity we have in front of us.'"

So far, he has noticed results.

"There already is a different energy within the team and the entire program," Price said. "It’s for the better. Everybody is really committed and really ready to create some change and leave an impact."

Back to bowl: Wake Forest

December, 20, 2012
Wake Forest should have been a bowl team this year.

Coach Jim Grobe knows it, and his players know it. But the Deacs fell short of their expected goal as a host of injuries and off-the-field issues combined to send them to their fourth straight losing season. Wake Forest ended the year on a three-game losing streak, and was not even competitive in any of those games, leading to some grumbling out of Winston-Salem when the campaign ended.

Some wondered whether Grobe had lost the team, whether some fresh energy and passion was needed on the sideline, whether Grobe should be feeling some heat. The frustration is understandable, but here is some perspective: Wake Forest did make a bowl in 2011 and its prospects for next season look even better than they did when 2012 started.

That's why Wake Forest should be a slam-dunk choice to make it back to a bowl game in 2013. Just look at the talent returning: starting quarterback Tanner Price; top receiver Michael Campanaro; top running back Josh Harris; top nose tackle Nikita Whitlock; top linebacker Justin Jackson; and just about every starter on the offensive line.

The Deacs are going to feature a senior-laden starting group, a team that should understand by now what it takes to win. There is no question Wake Forest suffered through its share of injuries this year, as nearly all of its marquee players missed time at some point during the year. The offensive line was held together by tape and bandages. The suspension of several players added to the issues. There were some clear chemistry problems, contributing to its 5-7 finish.

Grobe admitted as much in an interview with the Winston-Salem Journal, saying, "The biggest focus for us is not staying healthy. The biggest focus for us is not staying out of trouble. We ought to do those things. You’re going to have years where you have more injuries than others. You’re going to have years where the kids forget who they are and they do things they shouldn’t do, and they pay for it. But I think our biggest thing is chemistry, shelving egos, not being worried about being All-ACC, or All-American or All-Solar System, just worried about helping our team do best."

A glance at the Atlantic shows that Wake Forest should be in good position. Clemson should be the preseason ACC favorite but beyond that, Florida State loses a ton of talent; Boston College and NC State have new coaches; Maryland is a big question mark; and Syracuse is in Year 1 in the ACC.

There is plenty of reason for optimism.

2012 top Atlantic Division assistants

December, 17, 2012
The head coaches get all the money and all the ink. Not today. Today Andrea Adelson and I are recognizing one assistant coach from each staff in the ACC for a job well done this year. The Atlantic Division is up first:

BOSTON COLLEGE – Wide receivers coach Aaron Smith. In his first season with the program, Smith helped junior Alex Amidon develop into one of the ACC’s best. Amidon’s 1,210 yards receiving at the end of the regular season ranked second in the ACC, just four yards behind DeAndre Hopkins of Clemson. The entire group, including Johnathan Coleman, Bobby Swigert and Spiffy Evans, had one of its more productive seasons.

CLEMSON - Offensive coordinator Chad Morris. There’s a reason he was on the short list for many head coaching jobs this offseason. Clemson enters the Chick-fil-A Bowl ranked sixth in the nation in scoring (42.33), ninth in total offense (518.3) and 13th in passing (319.6) -- all record numbers for the program. Clemson has scored at least 37 points in 10 of the 12 games this year, and quarterback Tajh Boyd showed measurable improvement and mobility in his second season as a starter.

FLORIDA STATE – Defensive ends coach D.J. Eliot. There’s no question he will be missed on FSU’s staff, as Eliot was hired as Mark Stoops’ defensive coordinator at Kentucky. FSU’s defensive line didn’t miss a beat despite season-ending injuries to two of the group’s top players, Brandon Jenkins and Tank Carradine. Bjoern Werner has 13 sacks this season, leading the ACC and ranking second nationally in total sacks. Carradine went from backup to first-team All-ACC. He has 11 sacks this season, second in the ACC and 14th nationally.

MARYLAND – Mike Locksley, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks: No quarterbacks coach in the country had to deal with what Locksley did this year, as the Terps were down to their fifth-string quarterback -- a freshman linebacker in Shawn Petty. After injuries to every scholarship quarterback on the roster, Maryland still never quit and somehow managed to score 38 points on the road against North Carolina. Many wrote off Maryland before the season even began, when C.J. Brown tore his ACL. But the Terps hung in until the very end thanks to great coaching by Locksley.

NC STATE – Offensive coordinator Dana Bible. He was named interim coach for the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, and has been a rock on the sideline for the often inconsistent Pack. He has been integral in the development of quarterback Mike Glennon, who finished first in the ACC in passing yards per game (304) and second in total offense (292 yards per game). Despite numerous injuries and shuffling on the offensive line, NC State’s passing game was always a threat.

WAKE FOREST – OLB coach Derrick Jackson. Not only was he instrumental in the development of the linebackers, he was also a key recruiter for the Deacs this year. Linebacker Justin Jackson, who led the team with 80 tackles, including 8.5 for loss and four sacks, also had two pass breakups, one blocked kick and a forced fumble, and was the star of the group. Zachary Allen, Kevis Jones and Steve Donatell also showed significant progress this year under Jackson.

Midseason report: Wake Forest

October, 16, 2012

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 scrimmage report

August, 16, 2012
Wake Forest held its first scrimmage of the preseason Thursday at BB&T Field. Here are a few key notes.

Offensive highlights: Sherman Ragland III, trying to win a starting receiver job, caught two passes for a team-high 56 yards and a touchdown for the Deacs. Lovell Jackson, a fifth-year senior trying to make a case for significant playing time this season, caught a team-high four passes for 44 yards. Tanner Price was a very efficient 10-of-13 for 155 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Running back is also an area where the Deacs are looking for a few playmakers to step up. Tyler Jackson led the way with 36 yards on 12 carries, while Orville Reynolds had 11 carries for 16 yards -- including an 8-yard touchdown. Reynolds also caught two passes for 14 yards.

Defensive highlights: The defense really dominated the scrimmage, and that should not come as much of a surprise because this group has more starters returning. Justin Jackson, Bud Noel and Joey Ehrmann led the way with five tackles each. Ehrmann also had a sack and two tackles for loss. Nikita Whitlock forced and recovered a fumble inside the 10-yard line, and Scott Betros had the only interception in the game. Hunter Williams also forced a fumble that Desmond Cooper recovered.

Summer summary: Wake Forest

August, 26, 2011
Summer, as we know it without college football games, ends here. Monday is game week. Our series looking back on the highlights of summer camp concludes now with Wake Forest:
  • The Deacs still need to settle on a punter. Alex Kinal, a true freshman from Australia, has been alternating with Alex Wulfeck.
  • Running back Josh Harris has been impressive this summer and looked good in the scrimmages, but he’s not the only talented back on the roster. Brandon Pendergrass has given Harris some good competition this month and both should help the Deacs’ offense.
  • Linebacker Kyle Wilber didn’t practice as much as coach Jim Grobe would have liked because of a hamstring injury. Receiver Michael Campanaro has also missed some time with a hamstring injury.
  • Defensively, it’s a veteran group with nine returning starters. This summer was spent trying to develop some depth and hoping that with everyone being a year older, the Deacs will be a year better. With four returning starters the offensive line should be better, but the jury is still out.
  • Some standouts include receiver Danny Dembry, who had good scrimmages, and linebacker Justin Jackson, who tore his ACL in the season opener last year. The staff is always happy with noseguard Nikita Whitlock, and quarterback Tanner Price has looked more comfortable.