2008 Wake Forest Preview - Offense
Wake Forest QB Riley Skinner
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Wake Forest Demon Deacon Offense
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Preview 2008 - Offense
2008 Wake Forest
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What you need to know:
do-everything WR Kenny Moore will certainly be missed, the fate
of the conservative Deacon offense rests squarely with an
offensive line that’s losing four starters, including All-ACC C
Steve Justice and enormous G Chris DeGeare, who was declared
academically ineligible for 2008. If Riley Skinner is going to
have time to throw, and RB Josh Adams is to build on last year’s
sparkling debut, the O will need a bunch of anonymous blockers
to raise the level of their games. Relative unknowns Trey
Bailey, Russell Nenon, and Jeff Griffin will be under the
microscope from the moment Wake Forest travels to Baylor for the
Passing: Riley Skinner
236-326, 2,204 yds, 12 TD, 13 INT
Rushing: Josh Adams
219 carries, 953 yds, 11 TD
Receiving: Chip Brinkman
27 catches, 225 yds, 0 TD
Star of the
Sophomore RB Josh Adams
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior LT Joe
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman RB Brandon
Best pro prospect: Adams
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Adams, 2) Junior QB Riley
Skinner, 3) Birdsong
Strength of the offense: Running backs
Weakness of the offense: Passing game, turnover on the
Projected Starter: Although junior Riley Skinner
wouldn’t be an ideal match for every program, Wake Forest is thrilled to
have him in Winston-Salem for two more seasons. All he does is win
games, lead by example, and get the ball in the hands of the playmakers.
Already 18-6 as a starter, he’ll likely leave in two years as the
school’s all-time winningest quarterback and with a bushel of individual
records. At 6-1 and 200 pounds, he doesn’t make NFL scouts dizzy with
his arm strength, but he plays within the parameters of the offense and
puts his team in a position to win. As a sophomore, he led the country
in completion percentage, going 236-of-326 for 2,204 yards, 12
touchdowns, and 13 interceptions.
Projected Top Reserves: The backup once again will be junior
Brett Hodges, who started two games a year ago when Skinner had a
separated shoulder. He struggled throwing the ball, finishing the season
43-of-63 for 359 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. Just 6-1
and 180 pounds, he brings good speed and a dash of running ability to
In the event of an emergency, Wake has 6-1, 191-pound senior Ryan
McManus waiting at the end of the bench. Buried well behind Skinner
and Hodges, he has plenty of experience as a holder on field goals and
PATs, and knows the offense as well as any of the quarterbacks.
Watch Out For ... Skinner’s mobility. His agility in and out
of the pocket will be a life-saver this season, as the entire offense
adapts in the early going to a retooled offensive line. Before sacks,
he rushed for 172 yards, showing good quickness when plays broke down.
Strength: Intelligence. Skinner and Hodges are both smart
quarterbacks who rarely attempt to play beyond their physical abilities
or force passes into traffic. Skinner, in particular, is deadly accurate
and clutch late in tight games.
Weakness: Turnovers. Despite playing on a run-oriented
offense, the quarterbacks threw 16 interceptions a year ago, which is
way too high for a low-risk passing game.
Outlook: If you’re looking for Heisman contenders or
future pros, this is not your group of quarterbacks. Skinner is a
lunchpail quarterback who’s measured by the number of wins he produces
rather than passing numbers and arm strength. He’ll continue to manage
more games than he dominates, while furthering his role as the leader of
Projected Starters: Without much advanced warning,
sophomore Josh Adams blew past veterans on the depth and became
the second straight Demon Deacon to be named ACC Rookie of the Year. A
6-0, 180-pound between-the-tackles slasher, he rushed for 953 yards,
caught 34 passes, and scored a dozen times, despite not starting the
first four games. On target to become the next best thing to the Clemson
backs in the league, he’s got that extra gear and vision in the hole to
obliterate whatever anonymity he has left.
Fully recovered from last September’s ACL tear, senior Rich Belton
will be making his return as the fullback. A powerful lead blocker
at 6-1 and 259 pounds, he’ll also be used liberally as a short-yardage
runner and a receiver. Two seasons ago, he carried the ball 51 times for
227 yards and three touchdowns, while catching a dozen passes for 80
Projected Top Reserves: One of the best stories of the
spring was authored by 5-9, 196-pounder redshirt freshman Brandon
Pendergrass, a backup who’ll be hard to keep off the field.
Explosive enough to run past defenders and tough enough to bowl them
over, he looked like the second coming of former Demon Deacon Chris
Barclay. Even with Adams firmly in the driver’s seat, Pendergrass is
going to get his opportunities to make plays.
Part tailback and part fullback, 6-1, 230-pound junior Kevin Harris
is a valuable veteran backup in a sea of freshmen reserves. A tough
runner with deceptive speed, he’s had trouble staying healthy, missing
the end of last year with a broken wrist. When given an opportunity to
play two years ago, he responded with 393 yards and six touchdowns on 78
The epitome of a team player, junior Mike Rinfrette is moving
back to fullback after spending last season making 23 tackles and two
tackles for loss as a stop-gap at linebacker. At 6-3 and 260 pounds,
he’s an outstanding blocker who’ll surprise defenses with his soft hands
and ability to pick up yards after the catch.
Watch Out For ... Pendergrass. He captured everyone’s
attention in March and April, flashing the quickness around tackle and
power in the open field to demand touches and contend for Wake’s third
ACC Rookie of the Year in-a-row.
Strength: Adams. He was in his element as a feature back,
and should be even more productive with a full season and another spring
behind him. He’s a complete player who should be the offensive focal
point for the next three seasons.
Weakness: The offensive line. The only thing that’ll keep
the running game from being one of the ACC’s best is the play of a line
that’s replacing some key bodies on the interior. With Steve Justice,
Chris DeGeare, and Matthew Brim gone, Wake might be more inclined to
test the areas outside tackle.
Outlook: Last year, Wake Forest discovered its tailback
for the next few years. This spring, it found him a running mate. The
combination of Adams and Pendergrass will be dynamite, especially with
the return of Belton and Rinfrette to open holes. If Harris is ready to
go, the Deacons will go three-deep with quality backs capable of moving
Projected Starters: Five of last year’s top six wideouts
and tight ends, including Kenneth Moore, are gone. The most experienced
of the returners is senior Chip Brinkman, who caught a
career-high 27 passes for 225 yards a year ago. At 6-1 and 210 pounds,
he’s more of a possession receiver who’ll be asked to do much more, but
he might not be a true No. 1.
The favorite to land the other starting job is 5-11, 220-pound senior
D.J. Boldin, the younger brother of Arizona Cardinal receiver,
Anquan Boldin. A physical receiver with 22 games of experience, he
returned from a year off with 11 catches for 127 yards, numbers he
should surpass before the first month of the season ends.
After being buried behind veterans over the last couple of years, junior
TE Ben Wooster enjoyed a breakout spring that should bleed into
the season. While not much of a blocker, at 6-5 and 226 pounds, he has
the size, speed, and hands to become a dangerous receiver and the
preferred target of Riley Skinner.
Projected Top Reserves: At worst, 6-3, 180-pound sophomore
Jordan Williams will be the first receiver off the bench, but
he’s good enough to knock off one of the starters. More dynamic and
athletic than Brinkman and Boldin, he was the only true freshman to play
last year, catching nine balls for 141 yards and a touchdown.
Although sophomore Marshall Williams ended the spring with the
second unit, he’ll need to become consistent to hold off redshirt
freshman Devon Brown, a Moore clone, in the summer. At 6-1
and 177 pounds, Williams is long and lean, and has the playmaking
potential that this group is sorely lacking. He was slated for
significant playing time a year ago before injuring his ankle.
Wooster’s backup at tight end will be redshirt freshman Cameron Ford,
a receiver-sized player who needs to add more weight to remain at the
position. At 6-4 and 212 pounds, he’s a budding pass-catcher, but will
offer little in terms of blocking when the offense keeps it on the
Watch Out For ... Jordan Williams to gradually evolve into
the team’s best receiver. While not as experienced as Brinkman or Boldin,
he’s the most physically gifted of the receivers and a playmaker who has
to be more involved in the passing game.
Strength: Frontline experience. Brinkman, Boldin, and
Wooster are all upperclassmen who started games last year. While none
are knocking on the All-ACC door, that experience in the program will
give comfort to the quarterback.
Weakness: Talent. At least when Moore was on campus, the
offense had a proven game-breaker who defenses had to spy at all times.
That’s not the case any longer as none of this year’s receivers are
remotely dangerous or capable of exposing a secondary.
Outlook: While offense doesn’t need a set of
receivers with all-league potential, it’ll certainly help Skinner’s
development if one or two evolve into reliable targets at some point
this season. Brinkman and Boldin are serviceable, putting the onus on
Williams to mature in a hurry.
Projected Starters: The graduations of Steve Justice,
Matthew Brim, Louis Frazier, and the suspension of Chris DeGeare have
left the line searching for answers. Although it won’t be easy replacing
all-leaguer Justice at center, the coaching staff hopes the 6-2,
289-pound junior Trey Bailey has a great future as an adequate
fill-in. Recruited to be the heir apparent, he has the smarts to make
all of the calls for the line and the fundamentals to be consistent on
snaps. He won’t be Justice, but he’ll be a good one as soon as he starts
getting some reps.
The tackles, junior Joe Birdsong on the left side and junior
Jeff Griffin on the right, split time in the lineup last year, which
will pay dividends this fall. The 6-4, 290-pound Birdsong started seven
games at right tackle a year ago, grading out third highest on the team
and showing good punch at the point of attack. If he can finally stay
healthy for an entire year, the potential is there to become the most
After earning letters in successive seasons and starting 16 career
games, Griffin won’t flinch at being a full-timer. A physical run
blocker at 6-3 and 298 pounds, he rarely misses assignments and is at
his best when the Deacons line up and simply pound it right at the
The veteran among the guards on the right side is junior Barrett
McMillin, a 6-3, 288-pounder who relies more on his footwork and
finesse than brute strength. He’s also one of the most versatile
linemen, starting games on both sides of the line and capable of
pitching in at tackle when needed.
The most tenuous position is at left guard, where 6-4, 304-pound
sophomore Russell Nenon held a razor-thin edge for the top spot
coming out of spring. He earned his first letter last year averaging 36
snaps a game and enjoying an increase in playing time as the season
progressed. He played well enough in April, but might need to step it
up to hold off the competition.
Projected Top Reserves: The heat that Nenon is feeling is
coming from 6-3, 315-pound true freshman Joe Looney, who already
participated in his first spring camp. One of the building blocks of the
future up front, he’s a major talent, but is he ready to play this
early? For starters, he needs to get in better shape before practice
resumes in August.
At tackle, the staff is banking on 6-4, 305-pound junior Gage Crews
providing leadership and experience to the second team. Mostly a
special teams player up to this point, he’s enjoyed a solid offseason,
holding off classmate Boomer Peterson and a bunch of eager
Watch Out For ... the entire line to be trimmer than a year
ago. Grobe has made it an offseason mandate in an effort to get his
blockers to be a little quicker and a lot less gassed late in the second
Strength: Run blocking. Always a priority at Wake, all of
the linemen are skilled drive blockers who aren’t easily moved off the
ball. While not the biggest unit in the ACC, it’s intense and plenty
tough at the point of attack.
Weakness: Depth. Pass protection is dicey as well, but if
they get in trouble this season, it’ll likely be because of a lack of
depth. As it stands now, too much is riding on the development of
freshmen and players with limited experience at this level.
Outlook: Yeah, there will be a transition period,
but the sky isn’t falling. This staff perennially does a bang-up job of
getting linemen ready for action, and it’s not as if the lineup is
loaded with neophytes. Provided there’s not too much reliance on the
backups, the line will once again create running room for the backs, but
it needs to improve in pass protection.