Rant Sports College Football Top 100: No. 87 Wake Forest
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.
QB Tanner Price, RB Josh Harris, RB Deandre Martin, WR Michael Campanaro, NT Nikita Whitlock LB Justin Jackson, LB Mike Olson, CB Kevin Johnson
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.
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.
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