CFN: Wake Forest Preview

The return of head coach Jim Grobe, who once again turned away offers from higher profile programs, was all that was needed to feel good about the upcoming season.

- 2008 Wake Forest Preview | 2008 Wake Forest Offense
- 2008 Wake Forest Defense | 2008 Wake Forest Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Wake Forest Preview | 2006 CFN Wake Forest Preview 

Head coach: Jim Grobe
8th year: 46-39
14th year overall: 79-72-1
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 18, Def. 24, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 20

Ten Best Wake Players
1. LB Aaron Curry, Sr.
2. CB Alphonso Smith, Sr.
3. PK/P Sam Swank, Sr.
4. SS Chip Vaughn, Sr.
5. RB Josh Adams, Soph.
6. QB Riley Skinner, Jr.
7. NG Boo Robinson, Jr.
8. LB Stanley Arnoux, Sr.
9. CB Brandon Ghee, Jr.
10. LT Joe Birdsong, Jr. 

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Results: 0-0

Aug. 30 at Baylor
Sept. 6 Ole Miss
Sept. 13  OPEN DATE
Sept. 20 at Florida State
Sept. 27 Navy
Oct. 9 Clemson
Oct. 18 at Maryland
Oct. 25 at Miami
Nov. 1 Duke
Nov. 8 Virginia
Nov. 15 at NC State
Nov. 22 Boston College
Nov. 29 Vanderbilt

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Results: 9-4

Sept. 1 at Boston Coll L 38-28
Sept. 8 Nebraska L 20-17
Sept. 15
Army W 31-10
Sept. 22 Maryland W 31-24 OT
Oct. 6
at Duke W 41-36
Oct. 11 Florida State W 24-21
Oct. 20
at Navy W 44-24
Oct. 27 North Carolina W 37-10
Nov. 3 at Virginia L 17-16
Nov. 10 at Clemson L 44-10
Nov. 17
NC State W 37-17
Nov. 24 at Vanderbilt W 31-17
Meineke Car Care Bowl
Dec. 29 Connecticut W 24-10

The return of head coach Jim Grobe, who once again turned away offers from higher profile programs, was all that was needed to feel good about the upcoming season.

Now Wake Forest hasn’t just become a player in the ACC, but it has become the model for every small, strong academic private school trying to bust through in a big conference.

There’s hope for you yet, Baylor.

Keep on trucking, Duke.

You’ll get back there Stanford.

Yeah, Stanford got to a Rose Bowl within the last decade and Northwestern has had success here and there, but Wake Forest has found a way to get the job done without gimmicks and without any fluke factor involved. It’s been simple: run the ball, get great special teams, win the turnover battle, and let the other team screw up. Grobe has it working.

To put this in perspective, the 20 wins over the last two years are as many as the program came up with from 2002 to 2005. It’s not like things were ever awful under Grobe, but the team wasn’t like this.

The coaching staff’s knack for taking marginal high school linemen and molding them into consistent producers will be tested this fall as the Deacons lose four starters on the offensive line and two on defense. But true to the recent formula of success, there should be a steady running game, efficient passing from Riley Skinner, and a vastly underrated and athletic defensive back seven.  

With so many starters returning and a favorable schedule that has Clemson and Boston College visiting Groves Stadium, Wake Forest is thinking ACC championship for the second time in three years. And why not? The backfield returns intact and the defense should be just as opportunistic as last year, when it led the league with 35 takeaways. 

As long as the Deacons can solidify the offensive line and find a pass rushing replacement for DE Jeremy Thompson, Grobe will again be on a bunch of AD’s short lists at the end of the regular season.                 

What to look for on offense: An even greater reliance on the running game. The development of young backs Josh Adams and Brandon Pendergrass, and the loss of WR Kenneth Moore should mean less balance from the offense than in the past. Wake will be content to pound away with its two gifted runners, occasionally look for the backs and tight ends on short routes, and let the defense do the rest. Knowing they don’t have the weapons to beat defenses downfield, the Deacons will be content to play to their strengths and limit mistakes.

What to look for on defense: Tons of speed from the back seven. Grobe has been fixated with speed during recent recruiting cycles, and it shows with this year’s fleet-footed, ball-hawking defense. Wake is loaded at linebacker and the secondary with experience athletes who’ll fly to the ball and take it back the other way whenever possible. Led by the dynamic duo of LB Aaron Curry and CB Alphonso Smith, the Deacon D had eight touchdowns, which was more than the number of touchdown receptions caught by the wide receivers.  

The team will be far better if … the offensive line survives the loss of four key starters, including the headliner of the unit, C Steve Justice. If there’s any chance of becoming more prolific than in recent seasons, the blockers, such as LT Joe Birdsong and new C Trey Bailey, need to create daylight for Josh Adams and Brandon Pendergrass, and protect Skinner. With few gimmes on the first-half schedule, the front wall won’t have much time to gel as a cohesive unit.  

The Schedule: The Demon
Deacons couldn't ask for much more than getting Clemson and Boston College at home and Duke from the Coastal Division. On paper, going on the road to play Florida State, Maryland, Miami and NC State might appear daunting, but Grobe's club should be able to pull out two of the four games. Playing three BCS teams in the non-conference slate, at Baylor, Ole Miss, Navy and Vanderbilt, still doesn't mean anything less than 4-0 will be expected. This might be a tough schedule, but it's not unmanageable.

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore RB Josh Adams. One of the big developments from a year ago, Adams went from being buried on the depth chart to the offensive MVP as a rookie. A nice blend of speed and cutting ability in a 6-0, 180-pound frame, he took over in October and went on to lead the team in rushing and finish second in receiving. 

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Aaron Curry. Based on numbers and the occasional YouTube clip, you probably already know Curry is one of the most explosive, complete linebackers in the country. What you don’t know is that his football IQ is off the charts, a combination that puts him in a position to make a ton of game-changing plays and makes him an ideal coach on the field. NFL scouts love his demeanor and his game, already projecting him as a possible first-day selection. 

Key player to a successful season: Junior C Trey Bailey. No, the first-time starter won’t be expected to be Steve Justice, but he does have to be the glue of an offensive line undergoing a renovation. Under Grobe, Wake Forest has always had a solid line that frustrates opposing defenses and helps make the running game go. If that trend is going to continue, Bailey needs to be the quarterback of the unit, while quickly breaking ties with his inexperience. 

The season will be a success if ... Wake Forest contends for another ACC title and plays in a third straight bowl game. There’s enough veteran talent on both sides of the ball to win the league title, especially since the favorite, Clemson, must visit Winston-Salem. Even if it falls short, eight or nine wins would be another sturdy brick in the foundation for the future.

Key game: Oct. 9 vs. Clemson. With all due respect to Florida State and Boston College, this game at BB&T Field could be the year’s most important in the Atlantic Division race. For years, Clemson has dominated this series, typified by last November’s 44-10 blowout in Death Valley. The Tiger offense versus the Demon Deacon defense alone will be worth paying attention to this ACC showdown.

2007 Fun Stats: 

- Fourth quarter scoring: Wake Forest 82 – Opponents 58
- Time of possession: Wake Forest 32:22 – Opponents 27:38
- Broken up passes: Wake Forest 55 – Opponents 26 Top Stories