Spring Outlook: Wake Forest

CUTigers.com takes you on a tour through the Atlantic Coast Conference. Head coach Jim Grobe leads a Wake Forest team this spring that returns nearly its entire defense from a year ago.

School: Wake Forest
Location: Winston-Salem, N.C.
Enrollment: 6,444
Stadium: Groves Stadium
Capacity: 31,500
2006 Scout.com Recruiting Ranking: 65 (ACC: 12th)
Spring Practice Starts: March 15
Spring Game: April 8

SIGNING DAY UPDATE: The Deacons believe they were able to make the most from a limited amount of scholarships this past February. In signing 15 players, Wake Forest kept its goal of meeting needs and staying close to home in luring prospects.

"I think this is the first year that we've been able to be balanced," said Deacons coach Jim Grobe, referring to a class that contained eight offensive players, six defensive players and one specialist. "I think with the team that we've got at Wake Forest, the older guys, we've got for the first time since I've been here pretty good depth and pretty good balance.

"Our recruiting focus was to not help us at any one position but to make sure we try to help all the different positions."

Unlike most teams in the ACC, the Deacons don't have to worry about attrition. Their players tend to stay on course to graduate. They also do not leave early for the NFL or to seek greener pastures.

"I think we've got a better understanding of what kids can be successful at Wake Forest academically," Grobe said. "As much as anything, I think we've done a good job of getting to know high school football coaches -- not only in the state of North Carolina, but most places where we've pulled kids out of, we've developed good relationships with the coaches."

The Deacons were able to land three acclaimed players from Florida, seeking the kind of player who fits the school's academic profile. They were also able to get two of the top-rated players from North Carolina in running back Josh Adams and linebacker Matt Woodlief.

The 15 signees will join 48 returning lettermen, including 19 starters, from last year's team. Wake Forest will begin spring practice on March 15.

"I think each year we've improved the level of kids of whose recruiting them," Grobe said. "I think we're getting to the point now where a kid is not being recruited by a lot of good football schools, either one of two things has happened.

"Either we got in on him real early and closed them out early, or we feel that he's a kid that's a slam dunk -- we've gotten to know him so well by having him in camp or we've gotten to know him for a while, that could happen. But for the most part, we had to fight pretty hard for this group."

TOP RECRUITS: RB Josh Adams, Cary, N.C. -- Rated by Scout.com as the 43rd-best running back prospect in the nation ... ranked by ESPN.com as the 5th-best North Carolina prospect and the 150th-best player in the nation, regardless of position. Adams led all North Carolina running backs with 2,884 rushing yards and scored 26 touchdowns as a senior.

LB Matt Woodlief, Catawba, N.C. -- Charlotte Observer's defensive player of the year. He was a four-year all-conference defensive player who participated in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas and was a defensive captain.

P Dan Caldwell, Oxford, Ala. -- A needed signee, projected to replace Ryan Plackemeier. Caldwell was rated by Street & Smith Magazine as the nation's top high school punter in 2004. The left-footed Caldwell, who stands 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, once uncorked a 73-yard punt that ranks as the third-longest punt in Alabama High School history.

LB Hunter Haynes, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. -- Named to the Jacksonville Times-Union's Super 24 team. Haynes is Class 4-A all-state linebacker in Florida who helped his team win the state championship as a senior. He totaled 201 tackles and six sacks in 15 games.

GLANCE AT 2006: The Deacons figure to have a bright future if QB Ben Mauk improves from last season, however the team will miss TB Chris Barclay. They must hope enigmatic sophomore Micah Andrews can fill the void. The receiving corps is young, led by sophomore Kevin Marion and redshirt freshman Demir Boldin. On defense, the biggest loss will be tackle Goryal Scales, but the Deacons will return 10 other starters. Special teams loses include NFL-bound punter Ryan Plackemeier, a senior who changed field position with his leg.

This team could be a bowl-eligible team in 2006 with the right schedule and fortune. Keep in mind that only six players started every game as Wake Forest juggled lineups and often played its youth a year ago.

* The Deacons won the ACC Sportsmanship Award for being the classiest football team. The league chooses a team that conducted itself with the highest degree of character and good sportsmanship, as determined by a vote of the league's players and coaches.

SPRING QUESTIONS: Most everyone returns for the Deacons on defense in 2006, but offensively the team must replace Barclay and QB Cory Randolph. QB Ben Mauk has been effective at times, but he must be more consistent if Wake expects to go bowling this year. Can Mauk and Micah Andrews step in and get the job done offensively?

QUOTE TO NOTE: "When we first got here, we didn't know our areas as we do now, and we probably had to project more and find the diamond in the rough more often. Now, we're not only in the mode of beating Division I-A teams for kids, but we're beating more kids that are offered by BCS conference schools." -- Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe on how the team's recruiting philosophy has changed.

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