Wake Forest doesn’t rebuild, it reloads

By Lee Roberts  |   Friday, May 08, 2009  |  Comments( 1 )

Wake Forest Demon Deacons
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The transformation of Wake Forest’s football program is nothing short of shocking. It wasn’t that long ago that the Demon Deacons were perennial cellar-dwellers, fighting off Duke for the basement of the ACC standings. Now, Jim Grobe has Wake Forest as one of the top programs in the ACC. And after losing the No. 4 pick in the NFL draft (linebacker Aaron Curry) and six other defensive starters, it would be reasonable to think Wake Forest might take a dip in 2009. Think again.

The strength of Wake Forest this season will be an offense with experience and weapons at every position. Like a typical Grobe-coached team, things start with ball-control on offense. Nothing helps you control the ball like an offensive line depth chart that features seven players with starting experience. Led by Russell Nenon at center, the line should protect quarterback Riley Skinner and open holes for the bevy of running backs Grobe has at his disposal.

Some people wonder who will carry the load for Wake Forest in the backfield, but with three capable running backs, I’m not sure it matters. Josh Adams, Brandon Pendergrass and Kevin Harris each broke off 100-yard rushing games last season, so Grobe will likely ride the hot hand.

If the running game is slowed down, Wake Forest can rely on the steady hand of Skinner. In his fourth season as a starter, it’s only reasonable to expect Skinner to continue to improve. After throwing 12 touchdowns to go with 13 interceptions in 2007, Skinner took better care of the ball in 2008 with 13 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Considering four of those picks were in one game, Skinner did a remarkable job throwing the ball to the guys in the correct colored jerseys.

The defense will certainly need players to step up this season to fill the voids left by Curry and Alphonso Smith. Those losses certainly will not be easy to replace when you consider Wake Forest was in the top four of the conference in every major defensive category last season. However, with an offense built to grind the clock and wear down opponents, the defense won’t have to be as good as it was last season.

It used to be that the ACC could count on Florida State to be strong every year and since expansion, we’ve come to expect Virginia Tech to consistently compete for conference championships. Well, the time has come to include Wake Forest in those discussions. As long as Grobe stays in Winston-Salem, any conversation about potential ACC champ that doesn’t include Wake Forest is incomplete.
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About Lee Roberts

Born in Richmond, Va, I moved south to UNC-Chapel Hill for college and received a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. I currently live in Charlotte, NC and cover Auburn, LSU and the ACC.
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