Football Wraps Up First Week Of Spring Practice

The Wake Forest football team wrapped up its first week of spring camp, holding practices on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Deacs went two hours each afternoon, practicing in shells the first two days before breaking out the full pads for Wednesday's session. The first and third practices were held on the campus field, while Tuesday's drills took place on the Kentner Stadium turf due to wet weather.

With classes out for Spring Break next week, the Deacons will not convene again until Tuesday, March 16 -- a 13-day span between practices.

Like the previous two days, the Deacs went 24 periods on Wednesday, spending the last half-hour in an 11-on-11 scrimmage. The first-team offense went up against the first-team defense, with the defense showing signs of aggressive play. Defensive end Jyles Tucker intercepted a short slant pass from Cory Randolph, and the unit also held the offense for no gain on a couple of plays. When the No. 2 offense and defense matched up, both sides showed flashes of strong play. No. 2 quarterback Ben Mauk found receiver Nate Morton for a long catch down the sideline.

The Deacs suffered their first injury of spring camp on Wednesday, when redshirt freshman linebacker Jonathan Abbate dislocated his left shoulder -- a repeat of an injury suffered last fall. He was being examined Wednesday evening and is likely to miss the remainder of spring practice.

Head coach Jim Grobe, while not necessarily pleased with the team's execution after the first three days, was happy with the condition of the squad.

"I'm very pleased with the strength of this team," Grobe said. "I think we made great strides in our winter conditioning and agility program. This might be the best conditioned team we've had. It's a strong, athletic group.

"Now, mentally, we've got some work to do," he said. "There's no consistency right now. But hopefully the things we've done this week will carry over when we get back from Spring Break. I do like the enthusiasm I've seen out there. Everyone has good attitudes and the energy of the team is exciting."

Rising senior Eric King, a first-team All-ACC selection at cornerback last season, said the first three days of practice have been a learning experience.

"There's been a learning curve so far, but everyone seems to be picking it up pretty well," King said. "We have a ways to go, but everyone's coming out pretty strong and fast."

The defensive staff is implementing some new alignments this spring, looking at both a three-man and four-man defensive front. The changes are giving King a chance to play some different roles within the defense.

"I'm seeing some action as a nickel corner, where I'm doing some pass coverage and some blitzing. I'm also matching up with the receiver in motion and running across the defense. The coaches are giving me an opportunity to get involved in making big plays," King said.

Other changes within the Deacon defense include a couple of coaching shifts. Due to the defensive line changes, assistant Keith Henry has now taken over the defensive ends. Henry previously coached the cornerbacks. Ray McCartney is now concentrating on the interior defensive linemen, while defensive coordinator Dean Hood oversees safeties and cornerbacks. Brad Lambert remains with the linebackers.

The six-month countdown to WFU's 2004 season opener begins tomorrow. The Demon Deacons kick off the fall campaign on Sept. 4 at Clemson -- the first ACC matchup of the season and the earliest conference game in school history.

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