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Rant Sports College Football Top 100: No. 87 Wake Forest

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Jeremy Brevard-USA Today Sports

The Wake Forest Demon Deacons are looking to bounce back from a disappointing season on the gridiron in 2012. After opening the season with three wins in their first four games, the Demon Deacons faltered and didn’t make it to a bowl game.

In fact, they’ve had a losing record for the last four years under head coach Jim Grobe. That’s a drastic departure for a team that had a winning record from 2006-2008 and won the ACC Championship in 2006. If Wake Forest is going to get back to a bowl game this year, they’ll have to rely on their returning players who haven’t seen much success wearing the black and gold.

Top Players:

QB Tanner Price, RB Josh Harris, RB Deandre Martin, WR Michael Campanaro, NT Nikita Whitlock LB Justin Jackson, LB Mike Olson, CB Kevin Johnson

Offensive Outlook:

The Demon Deacons have a majority of their skill positions back for the 2013 campaign, headlined by senior quarterback Tanner Price. As a junior, Price was adequate but unspectacular behind center. He had 2300 yards through the air but only threw 12 touchdowns in 410 attempts.

He does have his best receiver, senior Michael Campanaro, coming back to throw to this fall. Campanaro led the Demon Deacons in every receiving statistic, compiling 79 catches for 763 yards and six touchdowns.

The running game will benefit from the return of its top two rushers as well. Josh Harris and Deandre Martin combined for 1092 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns for Wake Forest in 2012. They’ll need to see improvements from the offensive line in front of them if they expect to increase those numbers this season.

That same OL was perhaps the biggest problem with last year’s offense.Price was running for his life at times and never looked truly comfortable sitting in the pocket delivering the ball.

Wake Forest has a number of players returning in 2013, but they have a long ways to go if they want to improve on their 3-5 ACC record.

Defensive Outlook:

The defense returns eight starters from a unit that was suspect in 2012. Undersized nose tackle Nikita Whitlock highlights a defensive front that needs to produce more this fall. Whitlock and Zach Thompson have a knack for getting into the backfield and causing havoc, just not consistently enough.

Linebackers Justin Jackson and Mike Olson combined for 159 stops including five sacks. They’ll return as seniors and anchor a solid linebacking corps for the Demon Deacons.

The secondary is unquestionably the weakest part of this team, ranking 100th in pass defense in 2012. They do return a majority of the guys who earned playing time, including interceptions leader Kevin Johnson. A.J. Marshall will return at free safety and should improve his range in the pass game as a senior.

This unit needs to improve quickly to defend some of the potent pass attacks around the ACC. If they don’t get better, it could be a long year once again for this defense.

Jeremy Brevard-USA Today Sports

2013 Schedules:

Wake Forest has a tough schedule in 2013. On top of their annual games against the Florida State Seminoles and Clemson Tigers, the Demon Deacons also must travel to play the Miami Hurricanes, thought by many to be the favorites in the ACC Coastal Division. They’re out of conference schedule is pretty light at the beginning of the season however, so they should earn a few easy wins early.

To end, the Demon Deacons have two huge games against the Duke Blue Devils and Vanderbilt Commodores. Those two games will go a long way in deciding if Wake Forest can get back to a bowl game in 2013. The Best case scenario is that they win seven or eight games, but it’s more likely that they will be right around .500 and fighting for that sixth win that will make them bowl eligible.

B.L. writes for Rant Sports and can be followed on Twitter @coachlip

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Rant Sports College Football Rankings: No. 99 Wake Forest Demon Deacons





Coming off another disappointing season, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons showed head coach Jim Grobe the door and replaced him with Dave Clawson, who has built a reputation as a program-fixer of sorts with successful remodeling jobs for the Fordham Rams and Richmond Spiders.

Clawson has arrived with mandate to rebuild with a new philosophy, scheme and personnel, including a new 4-2-5 defense and a balanced offense capable of adapting based on the unit’s strengths. With much turnover anticipated, let’s examine how the Demon Deacons will look in 2014.

Offense

Unfortunately for Clawson, he didn’t inherit much proven talent on offense. The majority of that unit is no longer in uniform, as the Deacs will replace their leading passer, two leading receivers, top two rushers and two starting offensive lineman. The good news? Those players led the team to a 14th-place finish in the conference in total offense, 13th in scoring, 13th in rushing and 11th in passing.

Clawson’s teams have always been balanced, but finding production from either the passing or running game will be a huge task. The quarterback competition is remain unresolved, as last year’s backup Tyler Cameron failed to secure the job with inconsistency in spring practices and an uninspiring spring game.

Behind him, experience is lacking, as his only competition will be junior Kevin Sousa, who was a WR last season, and incoming freshmen Travis Smith and John Wolford. The job is Cameron’s to lose, but don’t be surprised if he does before the season starts.

The running game is similarly in flux as senior Orville Reynolds appears to be the leader, though he also spent last season primarily at WR. Sophomore Dominique Gibson will be the short-yardage back, though that’s likely all he will offer. Behind him, two freshman backs and a converted safety will push for playing time.

The Deacons will also be looking for some underclassmen to step up as reliable options at receiver, where Wake Forest lost about half of its 2013 receiving yards and receptions, and over 60 percent of its touchdown grabs. Sophomores Tyree Harris and Jared Crump and Virginia transfer E.J. Scott appear to be the best candidates, with Zach Gordon filling in at TE.

The O-line will also be young inside, but LG Ty Hayworth and C Cory Helms started most of last season, and RG Josh Harris also saw considerable time as a backup. The tackle positions could go a variety of ways depending on whether Cameron is under center.

Defense

The Demon Deacons’ switch from a 3-4 to a 4-2-5 zone-based defense won’t be seamless, with a lack of depth and experience on the line being the biggest issues. A couple of linebackers have been moved up to help, with Zachary Allen grabbing a starting spot at DE. Desmond Floyd has the potential to fill in nicely as the other end, and nose tackle Johnny Garcia should be reliable.

Marquel Lee looks like a great fit for the 4-2-5 and plays well in both run support and coverage. Brandon Chubb returns with 87 tackles, but Teddy Matthews impressed in the spring and could also see the field.

The secondary should be the team’s bright spot in 2014, as corners Kevin Johnson and Merrill Noel will be a terrific tandem yet again. Last season, the duo combined for 111 tackles and six interceptions. Hunter Williams will play the hybrid-linebacker spot, while Ryan Janvion and Anthony Wooding Jr. hold down the strong and free safety spots.

Sophomore safety Thomas Brown was a standout in the spring game and should also be in the mix.

Schedule

With a road game against Utah State serving as the only potential road block, a 4-0 start is entirely possible for Wake Forest with a road opener against Louisiana-Monroe and home games against Gardner-Webb and Army all serving as winnable non-conference games.

From there, however, the Demon Deacons will get a brutal reminder of the ACC pecking order with away games against Louisville and Florida State. The next three games (Syracuse, Boston College and Clemson) will be at home, but the Deacs will likely be underdogs.

In-state road trips to take on North Carolina State and Duke will sandwich a home game against Virginia Tech — none of which provide a guaranteed victory needed to boost the Deacons’ bowl game chances. A 6-6 finish might not require a miracle, but it looks to be as good as it can get for the Deacs in 2014.

Michael Briggs is a College Football Writer for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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Florida State Seminoles Football: Defense Dismantles Wake Forest





The Florida State Seminoles‘ offense has received a majority of the attention from the media this year, but it might be their defense that wins them a national championship.

On Saturday, the Noles defensive unit was stifling as they shut down an injury-riddled Wake Forest offense during a 59-3 route.

From the outset, it was obvious that Wake Forest was outclassed, and in some serious trouble. For the game, the Demon Deacons managed just 166 yards of total offense, converted 5-of-17 third-down chances, and turned the ball over seven times.

Yes, seven times.

Six of those turnovers were interceptions, including one that was returned 56 yards for a touchdown by Nate Andrews. The true freshman wasn’t done for the day, as he later made another diving interception in Wake Forest territory. Andrews wasn’t a highly-coveted prospect coming out of high school, but he’s been tremendous at the start of his college career.

Converted defensive end Christian Jones was outstanding on the day, and was in the middle of two turnovers, as well. On the first, he got pressure from the outside and hit Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price just as he released the ball. The ball popped up into the air and was intercepted by fellow defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. deep in Wake territory.

Later, Jones was able to intercept a pass of his own after defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel batted it into the air.

The Demon Deacons tried three different quarterbacks, but none of them were effective. Price had one of the worst stat lines you’ll ever see, going 1-for-4 for three yards with three interceptions.

The Florida State defense scored again when true freshman safety Jalen Ramsey scooped and scored a play after Andrews’ interception return for a touchdown.

Admittedly, Wake Forest is not an offensive juggernaut, but Florida State had a defensive performance that looked like a team that could win the national championship.

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