Following a rough 2012 season where the Wake Forest Demon Deacons finished 5-7, head coach Jim Grobe had to be looking for some marked improvement from his team this spring. After finishing near the bottom of most statistical categories in college football and stuck in the lower tier of the ACC, the Deacons needed some kind of boost this spring to give themselves and their fans some confidence and momentum heading into next fall. Following a pathetic showing at their spring game, however, it may be time for Grobe to start dusting off his resume.
In a 70-minute scrimmage held last Saturday, Wake Forest managed just one score on offense; a 39-yard field goal from kicker Chad Hedlund. Wake Forest’s quarterbacks, led by returning starter Tanner Price, threw four interceptions and the Deacons running game got 32 carries for a whopping minus-5 total yards. The offense got 20 possessions on the day and failed to get a first down in 16 of them. In short, the offense stunk.
While the coaching staff took the opportunity heap praise on the defensive effort, Grobe also revealed some troubling aspects of the defensive gameplan. The Wake Forest head coach told reporters that the coaching staff had “really dumbed the defense down,” for the scrimmage, taking out blitz packages and playing very few different coverages. Grobe was pleased with how well the defense played when they didn’t have to do any “thinking” on the field, saying: “That ought to be a lesson for our coaches.”
So how did the stripped down defense still dominate the offense? Grobe out-vanilla’d his defense with his offense. According to those watching the game, the Demon Deacons’ offense ran about five different plays the entire day. Grobe says he purposely held back the majority of his offense to avoid giving away too much to their first ACC opponent, the Boston College Eagles. Yes, the same BC team that went 2-10 in 2012, fired their coach and are busy installing all-new offensive and defensive systems themselves. That is who Grobe is worried about tipping his hand to.
But what if the reason for the pared down playbook in the spring game is worse than that? What if Grobe only ran five plays on offense and took out all the blitz packages and varied coverage schemes because the team simply can’t run them? Grobe said that he’d like his defensive coaches to do more of the same from the spring game next season, meaning lining up and running the most basic of defenses. That should be good news for Jimbo Fisher and the Florida State Seminoles or Tajh Boyd and the Clemson Tigers as they might get an extra scrimmage out of it, but probably won’t turn out so good for a defense that surrendered nearly 32 points per game last year with their full complement of plays.
And the offense may have only run about five plays, but they ran them really poorly. I’m sure there aren’t any “magic” plays on Grobe’s playcard that he’s holding off on for Wake’s trip to BC in September that will turn around the offense that ranked No. 93 in passing yards, No. 116 in rushing yards and No. 116 in scoring in 2012. This Demon Deacons offense is limited (at best) and maybe this spring game showed they’re still working on getting those first five plays down right.
The spring practice session should be a time that the team is ramping up towards the summer to build momentum for fall camp that crescendos at the spring game. What happened instead for Wake Forest was weeks of work that ended with a wet, sloppy thud. If the best Wake Forest can muster in 2013 is a “dumbed down” defense and an offense that can’t even run their five simplest plays well, it’s going to be a long fall in Winston-Salem.