Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
2011 SEASON IN REVIEW: Jim Grobe's Demon Deacons had their ups and downs in
2011, posting an impressive 5-3 ACC record, good for second place in the
Atlantic Division. However, the team won just one non-conference game and
finished the regular season at an even 6-6, dropping five of the last six games
to close out the year.
Grobe's 12th season in Winston-Salem started off on the wrong foot in a 36-29
overtime loss at Syracuse. To Wake Forest's credit though, the team responded
with four straight wins after that, including a 35-30 win over nationally-
ranked Florida State. The momentum gained from the win over the Seminoles was
halted next time out against Virginia Tech (38-17) and began a string of four
losses in a five-game span. A close call at Duke (24-23) and a solid win
against Maryland (31-10) gave Wake its requisite six wins for postseason
Despite doubling up on a three-win campaign from 2010, the season ended on a
sour note with a 41-7 rout at the hands of Vanderbilt, followed by a 23-17
setback to Mississippi State in the Music City Bowl, leaving the Demon Deacons
with a losing record at 6-7.
OFFENSE: Once one of the nation's top rushing teams, Wake Forest has become
much more balanced, to the point of being led by its passing attack in 2011.
Quarterback Tanner Price is a big reason for the transformation. As a sophomore
last year, Price completed 60 percent of his passes, for 3,017 yards with a
strong TD-to-INT ratio (20-6).
Matching those numbers won't be easy, as Price is one of just three starters
back on offense. The biggest loss is standout WR Chris Givens (83 receptions,
for 1,330 yards, 9 TDs). The hope is that junior Michael Campanaro can step
into the role of go-to-guy down the field. The numbers seem to suggest he can
after amassing 73 catches, for 833 yards and 2 TDs in 2011.
Leading rusher Brandon Pendergrass (823 yards, 9 TDs) has also moved on, but
tailback Josh Harris (432 yards, 3 TDs) is finally healthy and ready to accept
a bigger workload after an injury plagued 2011.
Campanaro knows his importance to the offense, but suggests that Harris is the
key in 2012.
"A lot of people knew about him his freshman year and was hampered last year
with his hamstring. But I think he's going to come back on the scene this
season and have a great year. He's also going to help the passing game
tremendously and the offensive line because all he needs is a small gap and if
he hits it, he's out the gate."
Price echoes that sentiment.
"He's looking really good and back to where he was at this time last year. He
can really open up the passing game, if he has a great year, then it will allow
me to have more time (in the pocket) with play actions and that sort of thing."
The offensive line will need to come together quickly, but there is only one
starter returning up front in the form of senior center Garrick Williams (6-4,
310). Youth will be served along the offensive line in 2012, as several
sophomore and freshman could find their way into the starting lineup.
DEFENSE: Despite the loss of the top two tacklers from last year (Cyhl Quarles
and Kyle Wilbur), the Demon Deacons return a solid core on the defensive side
of the ball and will benefit from seven returning starters.
The 3-4 defense is anchored by nose tackle Nikita Whitlock (5-11, 260), who
played much bigger than his stature as a sophomore, bursting on the scene last
season in posting 64 tackles, including a team-high 14.0 TFLs and 3.5 sacks, en
route to All-ACC Second-Team honors.
Whitlock likes the veteran feel to this year's defense.
"The most experienced I feel. A lot of guys coming back that have played two or
three years, and the potential is that we can be one of the best defenses in
The linebacking corps has some veterans in seniors Riley Haynes (52 tackles,
5.0 TFLs) and Scott Betros (59 tackles) and junior Justin Jackson (59 tackles,
The play in the secondary will be highlighted by sophomore cornerback Merrill
"Bud" Noel (66 tackles, 2 INTs), who earned Freshman All-American accolades,
while being named the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The kicking game is an area of strength in Winston-Salem with
the return of both Jimmy Newman and Alex Wulfeck. Newman was 17-of-22 on field-
goal attempts last year, with a long of 46 yards. Wulfeck averaged nearly 40
yards per punt in 2011, placing 13 of those inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
OUTLOOK: Grobe has stuck it out in Winston-Salem and has led his team to
surprising finishes on a number of occasions. It would be a shock though, if
this season was one of those.
With only 11 starters back overall, this could be a rebuilding year for the
Demon Deacons, as they were picked to finish fourth in the Atlantic Division, a
notion Grobe had a little fun with at the ACC Football Kickoff in late July.
"I'm disappointed, because I always like to be picked last. The year we won the
ACC we were picked last. We just want to be able to look back at the end of the
year and feel like we proved we were better than people thought."
The team has a chance to jump out to a strong start, and could win four of its
first six games, with Liberty, Army, Duke and Maryland on the docket.
However, following a bye in mid-October is a gauntlet that won't provide many
opportunities for wins, as Wake Forest takes on Virginia on the road, Clemson
and Boston College at home, NC State and Notre Dame outside of Winston-Salem
and the annual regular-season finale against the Commodores.
The Sports Network