NEW ... 2010 Wake Forest Preview
Posted Aug 3, 2010 2010 Preview - Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

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By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Jim Grobe
10th year: 59-51
Returning Lettermen
Off. 20, Def. 25, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 22
Ten Best Wake Forest Players
1. WR Devon Brown, Jr.
2. WR Marshall Williams, Sr.
3. C Russell Nenon, Sr.
4. RB Josh Adams, Sr.
5. LG Joe Looney, Jr.
6. DE Kyle Wilber, Jr.
7. FS Cyhl Quarles, Jr.
8. WR Chris Givens, Soph.
9. LB Hunter Haynes, Sr.
10. DE Tristan Dorty, Jr.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 2 Presbyterian
Sept. 11 Duke
Sept. 18 at Stanford
Sept. 25 at Florida State
Oct. 2 Georgia Tech
Oct. 9 Navy
Oct. 16 at Virginia Tech
Oct. 30 at Maryland
Nov. 6 Boston College
Nov. 13 at NC State
Nov. 20 Clemson
Nov. 27 at Vanderbilt

Wake Forest lost its mojo in 2009. Whether last year was a temporary departure from recent results will depend on the play of the 2010 squad.

As expected, the little engine that could veered off the tracks last fall, finishing below .500 for the first time since 2005. In light of the key losses on defense, a 5-7 mark wasn't exactly a shocker. The Demon Deacons don't attract enough blue-chip talent or depth to avoid the periodic rebuilding phase. In fact, that's precisely where they are right now, trying to claw back from an awful finish to 2009 without four-year starting QB Riley Skinner.

If there's one thing that tenth-year head coach Jim Grobe and his assistants do about as well as any staff in America, it's taking the talent on hand, coaching it up, and making preseason predictions look foolish. At least that'll be the hope this fall. On offense, Grobe plans to go back to his roots, dusting off the blueprint for an option attack that used to be the staple of his teams before Skinner, a pro-style quarterback, took the reins. If Skylar Jones maintains his spot atop the depth chart, he has the speed and athleticism to give Wake a terrific backfield that could take all year for the rest of the ACC to solve. The defense, on the other hand, has more modest expectations, looking to simply tighten up the run defense and create more turnovers.

Rebound. That's the mindset in Winston-Salem, as Wake Forest attempts to recapture some of the magic it lost a year ago. While there's not much elite talent on the roster, the Demon Deacons have been here before and soared past similar expectations. Contending in the ACC Atlantic will rekindle fond memories and once again ignite a spark. This year, however, simply returning to the postseason will qualify as a timely step in the right direction.

What to look for on offense: Ground Grobe. Jim Grobe plans to harken back to his days as an assistant at the Air Force, leveraging his talent and employing a healthy dose of the triple-option. Now that Riley Skinner has graduated, the Deacons are heavy on athletic, improvisational quarterbacks, so the shift in approach couldn't come at a better time. The top two quarterbacks coming out of spring, Skylar Jones and Brendan Cross, will make things happen with their feet, and the top two backs, Josh Adams and Brandon Pendergrass, have feature potential. In other words, this year's opponent better be prepared to slow down the run.

What to look for on defense: The new interior linemen. Gone are John Russell and Boo Robinson, a pair of stalwarts in Winston-Salem. In their place will be Ramon Booi and Frank Souza, underclassmen with just one letter between them. Now, both players have considerable upside and could be all-stars before their through at Wake Forest. However, for a unit pointing to the run defense as a must-solve area, it's incumbent upon Booi and Souza to move up the timetable for reaching their potential and plugging the gaps in the first line of defense.

The team will be far better if … the offensive line exceeds expectations. This group has been sub par for the past couple of seasons, a trend that must be stopped if the Demon Deacons are to take a positive step. Getting a push from the inside shouldn't be a major problem, with C Russell Nenon and guards Joe Looney and Gabe Irby. At tackle, however, Wake might be holding its breath, as rookie Steven Chase and Doug Weaver take over on the left and right side, respectively. If the program is going to make a successful transition to the option, it's up to these guys to hold the line and create more daylight.

The Schedule: Starting out with Presbyterian and Duke should provide a decent base before dealing with road trips to Stanford and Florida State. The schedule is just a bit too tough, and the Demon Deacons are just too average, to have any dreams of winning the ACC title, but there are just enough winnable games against teams like Maryland, Vanderbilt, and NC State to hope for a bowl year. However, those three games are on the road are part of a run of four away games in the final six. Getting Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech from the Coastal is a horrible break, but that's balanced out a bit by getting Duke at home. Wake probably has to beat Navy and Vanderbilt to go bowling.

Best Offensive Player: Junior WR Devon Brown. In his first season as a starter, Brown led the team with 61 receptions for 671 yards and six touchdown catches. He's only just begun. The Deacons' most exciting playmaker, he'll continue to be dangerous as a receiver out of the slot, but he's adding a new tool to his arsenal in 2010. The staff plans to use him more regularly as a runner out the option formation, putting him in a position to make plays in a multitude of different ways.

Best Defensive Player: Junior Kyle Wilber. This selection might have looked more obvious had Wilber not missed more than half of last season with a broken leg. A year earlier, he had the look of one of the ACC's up-and-coming pass rushers, making 42 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and three sacks. At 6-5 and 230 pounds, he has the long arms to swim past tackles, and the right frame to add more weight and become more of a factor on running downs. After missing out on his chance in 2009, he could turn this fall into his coming-out party.

Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Skylar Jones. Wake Forest needs a viable to successor under center to four-year starter Riley Skinner. Jones is not only the favorite, but also the best athlete and the most experienced member of the holdovers. If he can leverage his blazing wheels and smoothly run the option, the Deacons could have an edge on those opponents ill-prepared to slow down the attack. With Jones and backs Josh Adams and Brandon Pendergrass carrying the ball, this could be the school's best ground game in years.

The season will be a success if ... Wake Forest makes a swift return to the postseason. Bowl eligibility would be a nice way of telling the rest of the conference that last year was an anomaly. No, the Demon Deacons aren't built for a surprise run at the division, with a schedule that includes Presbyterian, Duke, Maryland, NC State, and Vanderbilt, six or seven wins should be within reach.

Key game: Sept. 11 vs. Duke. Wake Forest will be 1-0 heading into the ACC opener. Getting to 2-0 would represent a nice confidence boost for the young kids and a big step closer to bowl eligibility. A loss here, on the other hand, could be crippling for that goal. The Deacons have won 10 straight in this series, a level of dominance they plan to continue at home.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Points per game: Wake Forest 26.3 – Opponents 26.2
- Yards per rush: Wake Forest 3.7 – Opponents 4.6
- Extra Point attempts: Wake Forest 100% (40-40) - Opponents 100% (37-37)
- 2010 Wake Forest Preview | 2010 Wake Forest Offense
- 2010 Wake Forest Defense | 2010 Wake Forest Depth Chart
- Wake Forest Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006