2012 Wake Forest Preview - Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 5, 2012


CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Wake Forest Offense


Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Preview 2012 - Offense

- 2012 Wake Forest Preview | 2012 Wake Forest Offense
- 2012 Wake Forest Defense | 2012 Wake Forest Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: As the line goes so go the Demon Deacons offense in 2012. If Wake Forest thought its front wall was ineffective last fall, just wait until it starts adjusting to four new starters. The new leader in the trenches will be senior C Garrick Williams, who’ll need to take on more of a vocal role now that he’s the unit veteran. The staff appears comfortable with RT Colin Summers and LG Antonio Ford, but left tackle and right guard could cause some sleepless nights in Winston-Salem. More than anything else, the Deacons need to put QB Tanner Price in a position to make plays if the offense has any hope of improving on last year’s middling showing. The junior is the catalyst, a deft distributor who limits his mistakes. If he’s not protected and given time to operate, the attack will grind to a screeching halt. RB Josh Harris has shown flashes in the past of being a feature back, but has also labored to stay healthy for an extended period of time. If the junior suffers any setbacks, slippery sophomore Orville Reynolds will be asked to pick up the slack. The early departure of current St. Louis Rams WR Chris Givens leaves a gaping hole in the passing game. Michael Campanaro is ready to become a go-to guy, but he’ll need at least one more receiver to step up and command a larger role.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Tanner Price
253-422, 3,017 yds, 20 TDs, 6 INTs
Rushing: Josh Harris
101 carries, 432 yds, 3 TDs
Receiving: Michael Campanaro
73 catches, 833 yds, 2 TDs

Star of the offense: Junior QB Tanner Price
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior RB Josh Harris
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OG Antonio Ford
Best pro prospect: Junior WR Michael Campanaro
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Campanaro, 2) Harris, 3) Price
Strength of the offense: Veteran starting quarterback, protecting the ball
Weakness of the offense: The rebuilt offensive line, pass protection, the ground game, third-down conversions, red-zone conversions

Quarterbacks

It didn’t take the Demon Deacons very long to develop a terrific successor to all-timer Riley Skinner. Junior Tanner Price turned the corner on two wheels, settling down after a predictably rocky debut at the controls. The 6-2, 205-pound Texan completed 253-of-422 passes for 3,017 yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions, showing tremendous poise in the pocket. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, and will enter 2012 having thrown 173 consecutive passes without an interception. The ACC’s version of former Boise State Bronco Kellen Moore, he’s a touch-passing southpaw, with good mobility and an improving feel for the pocket.

Price’s backup will be 6-2, 198-pound junior Brendan Cross, the son of former NFL great Randy Cross. He has played sparingly up to this point of his college career, completing 3-of-8 career passes for nine yards. However, the staff likes his maturity, and is confident of his grasp on the nuances of the offensive system.

Watch Out For … Price to continue raising the bar behind center. The lefty has had a good offseason, both in the weight room and on the practice field. He’s always learning, striving to become a more complete player. Provided he gets the proper support from his receivers, there’s reason to believe that Price will move a step closer to being one of the ACC’s best quarterbacks.
Strength: Decision-making. In Price, Wake Forest has a seasoned junior under center who plays as if he’s already a fifth-year senior. He doesn’t force his throws, reading the defense, and checking down until he finds an open man. If all of his receivers are covered, he has no problem throwing the ball away, or picking up yards with his quick feet.
Weakness: Depth. While the Deacons are set with Price at the controls, the drop-off after the starter is swift and precipitous. Unlike a year ago, when veteran Ted Stachitas was still eligible, none of the backups has played much in Winston-Salem. There are some talented kids on the roster, such as redshirt freshman Kevin Sousa, but none is ready to play meaningful minutes in 2012.
Outlook: The program has to be thrilled about its situation at quarterback. Price is just beginning to peak as the leader of the offense, and is only at the halfway point of his Demon Deacons career. All indications are that he’ll continue to evolve, limiting his errors, and guiding the school with all of the steadiness and clutch plays that are starting to become his trademark.
Unit Rating: 7

Running Backs

In order to be successful on a macro level, Wake Forest has got to start running the ball better than it did in 2011, when the team finished 99th nationally, and averaged 3.2 yards per carry. One of the pleasant surprises of the offseason has been sophomore Orville Reynolds who has elevated to the top of the depth chart for now. While only 5-8 and 175, he’s extremely quick, and makes it difficult for defenders to hit him head on. He’s shown a knack for hiding behind his blocks before squirting through the traffic for a sizable gain. Reynolds came on late in his rookie year to run for 109 yards on 28 carries, and appears to have earned no worse than a key role in the rushing attack rotation.

The program is eager to get junior Josh Harris back at full strength, something that happened infrequently in 2011. A year after debuting with a team-high 720 yards and seven touchdowns, he was limited to just 101 carries for 432 yards and three scores. At his best, he’s a patient and powerful runner, who’ll use all of his 5-10 and 205 pounds to pick up real estate between the tackles. And once he reaches daylight, he’s fast enough to beat defensive backs to the end zone. Harris has a sizable ceiling—now he has to go out and reach it.

Back for one final season as the fullback will be 6-2, 245-pound senior Tommy Bohanon. Pound-for-pound one of the strongest and toughest of the offensive players, he’s an assertive blocker and a viable, north-south option in short yardage situations. In three seasons as a starter, he has rushed 48 times for 159 yards and two touchdowns, while catching 28 passes for 197 yards and two more scores. Bohanon is one of the underrated cogs of the offense, a player who cannot be defined by numbers alone.

Watch Out For … the health of Harris’ hammies. Regardless of where he’s listed on the depth chart, Wake Forest needs No. 25 to run the way he did in 2010, when it looked as if he’d become one of the ACC’s young offensive stars. A nagging hamstring injury dogged him through last fall, and although he was fine in the spring, it’s the kind of injury that can crop up without a moment’s notice.
Strength: Fullback. Yeah, it’s less than ideal, but the Demon Deacons happen to really like Bohanon, a multi-dimensional fullback and unheralded component of the team’s running game. The senior does a lot of things well, including bringing veteran leadership to the offensive huddle.
Weakness: Depth and durability. The Deacons housed just a couple of scholarship running backs on the roster in the spring, which could force rookie Joshua Wilhiteto gobble up some carries in his first year on campus. And if Harris has the same problems he did a year ago, Wake is going to be paper thin, and forced to lean on one of the young with very little relevant experience in Winston-Salem.
Outlook: While the program is excited about the possibilities associated with Reynolds, it is Harris who holds the keys to the ground game’s success in 2012. The Demon Deacons need the junior to become the workhorse he’s capable of becoming when he’s healthy. In an ideal scenario for Wake Forest, Harris evolves into a 1,000-yard rusher, while Reynolds provides a dangerous change-of-pace from off the bench and on third downs.
Unit Rating: 6.5

Receivers

When Chris Givens left school early to pursue a career in the NFL, it was a right cross to the jaw of the Wake Forest passing game. He leaves a gaping void on the outside after leading the team with 83 catches and nine touchdown receptions. The Deacons will look to regroup around last year’s second-leading receiver, 5-10, 190-pound junior Michael Campanaro, who caught 73 passes for 833 yards and two scores. While not very big, he has good wheels, and plays with the toughness needed to go over the middle and bounce off tacklers for more yards. Ideally suited for the slot, he can run short crossing patterns, make people miss with his quick moves and expose defenses in the middle of the field.

Campanaro’s partner in the starting lineup will be 6-1, 195-pound senior Terence Davis, a letterwinner in each of the last two years since tearing his ACL in 2009. He made the most of his time off the bench last fall, turning 20 receptions into 269 yards and five touchdowns to set the stage for what could be a breakthrough finale at Wake. He is a terrific all-around athlete, with the potential to be the program’s deep threat.

The offense is very light on experience coming off the bench at wide receiver. Junior Quan Rucker … sort of. The 6-0, 205-pounder currently slated to back up Campanaro, but has just a single reception in two seasons.

The program does have high hopes for redshirt freshman Sherman Ragland III. He’s still raw in his fundamentals, but at 6-1 and 195 pounds, he has the size and the jets to entice the coaching staff to get the ball in his hands on occasion this year.

With the departures of Andrew Parker and Cameron Ford, 6-2, 240-pound Spencer Bishop is scheduled for a promotion at tight end. The junior is former walk-on who spent last season earning a letter as a blocker on the kickoff return team. He’s a hard worker who still has a lot to prove as a downfield threat.

Watch Out For … one of the rookie tight ends to challenge Bishop and his backup, sophomore Neil Basford, for immediate playing time. The program landed a couple of good ones in February, three-star Anthony Rook and Zach Gordon. Both are capable of climbing into the rotation soon after arriving.
Strength: Campanaro. He’s head and shoulders above his teammates at the position, making good things happen whenever he’s around the ball. It’s going to be fun watching him take his game to a new level now that he’s been tabbed as the Deacons’ go-to guy. Campanaro does a lot of things well on the field, which is going to earn him plenty of looks from QB Tanner Price.
Weakness: A dearth of talent. Campanaro has a chance to be special, but he’ll get lonely on his way to All-ACC contention. Davis has been a journeyman up to this point, and the backups are as green as the grass at BB&T Field. Oh, and the tight ends are a marginal bunch that could be vulnerable to the challenge of the incoming recruits.
Outlook: The Demon Deacons lost a lot when Givens opted to turn pro a year early. While Campanaro can offset some of the lost production, who picks up Campanaro’s slack from a year ago? Davis provides some hope, based on how he performed in limited chances, but the overall talent at wide receiver and tight end doesn’t stack up well compared to the rest of the conference.
Unit Rating: 6

Offensive Line

One of Wake Forest’s biggest challenges this offseason will be to retool an offensive line that lost four starters to graduation. The Deacons blockers were regularly schooled in 2011, so it remains to be seen if addition through subtraction will be in play this fall. The lone returning regular is Garrick Williams who is back for his second year at the pivot. The 6-4, 310-pound senior did a nice job in the lineup last season, but was also surrounded by a preponderance of seniors who had his back. Now that he’s the veteran of the crew, he’ll be asked to take on more of a leadership role. Williams will also be expected to maintain his weight, an issue a year ago.

The coaching staff has expressed confidence in two other linemen this offseason, a guard and a tackle to help support Williams. At left guard, Antonio Ford is on the verge of winning a starting gig, and taking the first steps of fulfilling heightened expectations. The powerful 6-3, 315-pounder also moves well on his feet, pulling with agility on running plays.

Backing up Ford will be 6-3, 325-pound senior Gabe Irby. While no threat to snatch the starting job, he has played some football in Winston-Salem, which is a real luxury these days for the offensive linemen.

The tackle who has turned heads so far in 2012 is 6-5, 320-pound sophomore Colin Summers, who appeared in nine games as a reserve guard last year. Although he still has a lot to learn, he battled hard throughout the spring, and has the right frame and reach to blossom into an effective pass protector over time. He’ll be on the right side, which is the blindside for left-handed QB Tanner Price.

Over at left tackle, the favorite is 6-5, 290-pound sophomore Dylan Heartsill. While he limited experience at this level, he’s made up for lost time with a noteworthy offseason. He’s a heady blocker, the kind of lineman who is constantly searching for ways to improve his skills. He’s a little behind Summers right now, but willing to put in the time to narrow that gap.

Capping the starting lineup will be Daniel Blitch … or at least that’s the hope entering the summer. He has the edge over redshirt freshman Dylan Intermann at right guard, but was unable to shut the door in the spring. The 6-6, 310-pound Blitch lacked physicality during practice, and will need to raise the level of his performance a month from now.

Watch Out For … Ford to finish the season as Wake Forest’s best blocker. The staff is raving about his ability, suggesting he has a trajectory that’ll land him on the All-ACC Team before too long. The Demon Deacons are putting out want ads for pile-driving blockers, and the sophomore is prepared to answer the call.
Strength: The interior. The Deacons’ best chance of getting a push in the fall is going to come from the inside, where Williams and Ford are going to operate. Unlike a year ago, when Wake averaged just 3.2 yards a carry, the line should be able to clear a path between the tackles for running backs Josh Harris and Orville Reynolds to navigate.
Weakness: Pass protection. New season, same problem. The Deacons ranked 100th nationally in sacks last season, yet might have a difficult time scaling much higher in 2012. Not only are the offensive tackles new to the starting lineup, but they’re also unproven sophomores who could be easy targets for some of the league’s better pass rushers.
Outlook: After failing to deliver with a veteran O-line a year ago, Wake Forest is justifiably spooked by the prospect of going into the season with four new starters up front. With four sophomores likely to comprise the regular lineup, the future may be bright in the trenches, but the upcoming season is going to be marked by the kind of inconsistency that occasionally stalls the overall objectives of the offense.
Unit Rating: 6

- 2012 Wake Forest Preview | 2012 Wake Forest Offense
- 2012 Wake Forest Defense | 2012 Wake Forest Depth Chart