An Offseason Look: Wake Forest

2004 appears to be a rebuilding stage for the Demon Deacons as positions are open across both lines of scrimmage. There is also the need for depth at receiver and throughout the defense.

The way Wake Forest spent its spring practice will carry into the fall as youth movement will create competition for playing time.

"By the end of spring, the young guys were making us find a way to get them on the field," said head coach Jim Grobe. "The older guys were doing some good things, but it was nice to see the younger players stepping up. It's a good problem when you have too many good, young guys to talk about."

The Deacons used their spring to develop depth among their young players and look for some potential starters on the offensive and defensive line. Both areas are the team's biggest concerns heading into fall.

Part of the spring focus was on redshirt quarterback Ben Mauk, one of the highest profile recruits Wake Forest has signed. He look solid in the final scrimmage, completing six of eight passes for 93 yards. Mauk should challenge returning quarterback Cory Randolph for playing time.

"It's just a really healthy situation for us right now at quarterback," Grobe said.

The Deacons problem, however, will be finding enough talent on defense.

"On the defensive line, we're not physical enough yet," Grobe said. "We're giving up too much ground, taking off blocks. We've got to make plays up front."

Preseason Predictions: Running backs and wide receivers ranked fourth in ACC by Athlon. Chris Barclay ranked No. 21 among running backs by Lindy's.

Key Game: Sept 25 vs. Boston College -- It's the fourth game of the season. The first two are on the road with the opener at Clemson. If the Deacons can win at East Carolina, then take care of North Carolina A&T at home on Sept. 18, they will likely have a 2-1 record. Beating Boston College is a must-win for any hope of a winning season. This year's schedule includes Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech. Ouch.

The Mindset: Having Cory Randolph at quarterback is a good starting point. He was the Deacons' second-leading rusher last season and completed 58.5 percent of his passes. The Deacons still have to develop a more potent passing attack, however, to offset teams stacking the line of scrimmage against the run. Defensively, this team wore down last season because of depth issues.

Big Shoes to Fill: OG Tyson Clabo -- He was an emotional force on offense and one of the team's most quotable players. He helped get players believe that Wake Forest could compete with anyone. The Deacons are hoping senior center Blake Lungruen, a two-year starter, steps into Clabo's role. He has been described as the "bell cow" of the offense by coach Jim Grobe.

Quote to Note: "We've got some skill, we've got some kids who can run. But we have to protect our quarterbacks better and I really wasn't too happy with the way we ran the football." -- Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe, assessing his team after spring practice.

Offensive Stars: TB Chris Barclay -- By gaining 1,192 yards on 235 carries last year, Barclay became only the ninth runner in school history to gain 1,000 or more yards in a season. He scored 12 touchdowns and averaged 99.3 yards per-game. He'll be one of the top returning backs in the ACC.

WR Willie Idlette -- Was more of a force last year as a punt and kickoff returner, but Idlette's speed is the kind that Wake Forest has lacked. He hauled in a 44-yard touchdown pass in the team's final spring scrimmage. He is the second leading returning receiver.

Defensive Stars: LB John Bracy -- The team's top returning tackler forced two fumbles and broke up three passes last year.

LB Jon Abatte -- The redshirt freshman led all Georgia prep players with 207 tackles in 2002. Those stats helped him earn the defensive player of the year award by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Injury Update: OG Craig Jones, a starter in seven games last season, was dismissed from the team on April 20 for an unspecified violation of team rules. It was Jones' second major transgression. He missed the first three games last year on a university-imposed suspension.

His departure leaves the Deacons with only two returning starters on the offensive line. In addition, TB Fred Staton, one of the team's top rushers three years ago, transferred to Appalachian State.

Aside from those two players, the Deacons ended spring practice without any major mishaps. Only three players are missing spring practice. They are TE Dan Callahan (broken leg), DE John Finlea (torn Achilles' tendon) and LB Chris Owen (ACL). All are expected back in time for preseason drills. Top Stories