2007 Wake Forest Preview

Posted Apr 22, 2007

Will anyone believe in Wake Forest this year? With a veteran line led by all-star center Steve Justice, and with many of the other pieces still in place from last year's ACC champion, this might not be a one year wonder.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Preview 200

By Michael Bradley &
Pete Fiutak

- 2007 Wake Offense Preview | 2007 Wake Defense Preview
2007 Wake Forest Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Wake Forest Preview 

After Jim Grobe had decided against pursuing the head coaching jobs at Alabama, Miami and everywhere else he was considered a candidate, he could then about trying to do the impossible and come up with an encore to one of the most unpredictable, improbable seasons in college football history.

That would seem fairly standard work with 14 starters returning from an ACC champion, but there are several roadblocks to another title. How well Grobe and his team can overcome them will be the difference between Wake being a one-hit wonder and a consistent, sustained winner.

Head coach: Jim Grobe
7th year: 37-35
13th year overall: 70-68-1
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 24, Def. 20, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 18

Ten Best Wake Players
1. PK/P Sam Swank, Soph.
2. C Steve Justice, Sr.
3. CB Alphonso Smith, Jr.
4. LB Aaron Curry, Jr.
5. LB Stanley Arnoux, Jr.
6. RB Micah Andrews, Sr.
7. WR/RB Kenneth Moore, Sr.
8. QB Riley Skinner, Soph.
9. SS Kevin Patterson, Jr.
10. RB Kevin Harris, Jr.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

Sept. 1

at Boston College

Sept. 8


Sept. 15


Sept. 22


Oct. 6

at Duke

Oct. 11

Florida State

Oct. 20

at Navy

Oct. 27

North Carolina

Nov. 3

at Virginia

Nov. 10

at Clemson

Nov. 17

NC State

Nov. 24

at Vanderbilt

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 5-7

2006 Results: 10-3

Preview 2006 predicted wins

9/2 Syracuse W 20-10
9/9 Duke W 14-13
9/16 at Connecticut W 24-13
9/23 at Ole Miss W 27-3
9/30 Liberty W 34-14
10/7 Clemson L 27-17
10/14 at NC State W 25-23
10/28 at No Carolina W 24-17
11/4 Boston College W 21-14
11/11 at Florida State W 30-0
11/18 Virginia Tech L 27-6
11/25 at Maryland W 38-24
12/1 ACC Championship
Georgia Tech W 9-6
1/1 Orange Bowl
Louisville L 24-13

It would be nice to consider the Deacons as a burgeoning power, but I-A’s smallest school doesn’t operate the same way as many of its peers, especially those within the ACC. Academics occasionally gets in the way of recruiting, making it harder for Wake to stockpile four-star talent, and though Grobe is respected as one of the league’s top coaches, the Deacons lack the winning tradition and the overall facilities to be a superpower. But Grobe has dealt with worse.

Can the program win every close game again? Can it find ways to pull out victories even when the offense isn’t going anywhere? Can it win every turnover battle, continue to have one of the nation’s best punting games, and continue to play its style of shortening the game and make the timely big plays needed? It did it before, but things are far different this year.

The ACC suffered greatly from the declines of Florida State and Miami, but FSU’s new offensive coordinator (LSU’s Jimbo Fisher) and the Canes’ new boss (Randy Shannon) could lead to an immediate return to power for those storied programs. North Carolina and N.C. State should also be better, thanks to their new chiefs (Butch Davis in Chapel Hill and Tom O’Brien at State), while Virginia Tech is a national title contender and B.C., Maryland, Georgia Tech and Clemson are all good enough to win the ACC championship.

No, Wake Forest isn’t likely to win a second straight title, but this isn’t a flash in the pan. Keep underestimating what Grobe and a bunch of really smart guys can do, and they’ll pull off more shockers.

What to look for on offense: The Deacons run a spread attack that uses misdirection and superior execution to overcome athletic deficiencies. Last year’s team wasn’t explosive by any means, but it was efficient, committed few turnovers and got a fantastic year from the line. A healthy Micah Andrews will help a ground game that averaged just 3.9 yards per rush last year, and while the improvement of QB Riley Skinner will go a long way to helping the team’s overall consistency, the graduation of wideouts Nate Morton and Willie Idlette will hurt.

What to look for on defense:
The Deacons like their defensive front to stifle blockers, the better to create tackling opportunities for their linebackers. With Jon Abbate off to the NFL early, outside force Aaron Curry has to come up with an all-star caliber season. The problem is in the defensive backfield, where only junior corner Kevin Patterson remains from last year’s crew, and three-year starting safeties Josh Gattis and Patrick Ghee must be replaced. The coaching staff will have to find ways to get to the quarterback, to give the defensive backs some help.

The team will be far better if … it becomes more dynamic on offense. For all of its 2006 success, the Deacons averaged only 21.6 points per game scoring, often off other team’s mistakes. With retooling imminent in the secondary and on the front line, the defense likely won’t be nearly as tough, meaning the offense will simply have to start scoring more against the better teams. The maturity of Skinner should help.

The Schedule: The defending champion will have a bull's-eye on its back, but it has two big chances right off the bat to prove that 2006 wasn't a fluke, playing at Boston College (one of the preseason favorites for the ACC title) and Nebraska in the first two weeks. Things get far easier the rest of the way, as Wake faces just four bowl teams from last year. On the down side, three of the final four games are on the road.

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore QB Riley Skinner.  In a year brimming with surprises in Winston-Salem, Skinner’s performance turned out to be the most shocking, as he calmly led the Deacons to their first ACC title in 36 years, after injuries thrust him into the starting spot.  More of a caretaker as a freshman, a far more confident and experienced Skinner will see his role in the offense increase markedly.

Best Defensive Player: Junior CB Alphonso Smith.  At 5-9 and 188 pounds, Smith may not possess ideal size, but that hasn’t prevented him from being a disruptive playmaker on defense and special teams.  While he still needs to sharpen his cover skills, the third-year starter led the Deacons in tackles for loss, and added eight passes defended, four sacks, three picks and a blocked punt for a touchdown.     

Key player to a successful season: Senior OT Louis Frazier. Steve Vallos was arguably the key to the tremendous 2006 season as the leader and rock on the line. The All-America left tackle was the man the offense ran behind when it needed a key yard, and Wake got consistent pass protection from him. Frazier is a veteran who has to step up and become a star on the veteran line.

The season will be a success if ... the Demon Deacons go back to a bowl. That might not seem like much of a goal for the defending ACC champs, especially considering how much talent returns on both sides of the ball, but everyone’s going to take them seriously this year. However, getting Duke and North Carolina from the Coastal Division is a big enough break to dream about being in the hunt for another title.

Key game: Sept. 1 at Boston College. Even though the rest of the ACC schedule plays out relatively well, there’s still a road game at Clemson to deal with along with a revenge effort certain to come from Florida State. All hopes of repeating as the Atlantic Division and ACC champs might die on Chestnut Hill in the opening week of the season if the Demon Deacons can’t come up with a win.

2006 Fun Stats: 

- Red zone scores: Wake Forest 35 of 40 (88%); Opponents 29 of 43 (67%)
- Penalties: Opponents 80 for 582 yards; Wake Forest 67 for 619 yards
- Interceptions thrown: Opponents 22; Wake Forest 6


Related Stories
2007 Wake Forest Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Apr 22, 2007
2007 Wake Forest Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Apr 22, 2007
2007 Wake Forest Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Apr 22, 2007

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