Q&A with Coach Lobo -- Part I

DeaconSports sat down with Wake Forest assistant football coach Steed Lobotzke, known to most Deacon fans as Coach Lobo. The Demon Deacon offensive coordinator talked about the Demon Deacons' 2004 season as well as the future of the Wake Forest program.

Wake Forest's offensive coordinator, Coach Lobo, spoke with DeaconSports at the end of May about the Demon Deacon football program. Although NCAA rules do not allow coaches to comment on the recruitment of prospective student-athletes until they have signed with a college program, Coach Lobo was able to discuss Wake's '04 campaign, the 2005 recruiting class, and the status of the program. The following is part I of DeaconSports' Q&A with Coach Lobo:

DeaconSports: Coach, spring ball is over – how are things going for you all this time of year and what is the staff up to?

Coach Lobo: May for us is a recruiting time, a prospect identification phase. We're just trying to get out there, see who can play, who has the grades, and who are good kids. We're going through to see who we want to offer scholarships to and who is interested.

DS: You guys have four weeks of six you can go out recruiting, is that right?

CL: It's four out of six. It's the last two weeks of April and the four weeks in May and we can pick four weeks to be on the road. We can put 7 of our 10 coaches on the road during those four weeks. We take the last two weeks of April and middle two weeks of May.

DS: How has the early feedback been so far with recruiting?

CL: Oh it's good. We've got a lot of names on the board. We don't have a huge recruiting class this year. We don't have a lot of scholarships to give. We have a lot of names, sifting through and watching a lot of tape, that's the big thing for us is watching the tape, so we're trying to see who can play and who is smart enough. We're also allowed one phone call [per prospect] during the month of May so we're calling kids also.

DS: What is the number of estimated scholarships in this class?

CL: There's never an exact number on that. It's roughly 15. You never know who is going to graduate early, who is going to get thrown out, who is going to quit – that kind of thing.

DS: Let's talk a little football from this past season. Last year, the team was 4-7 but were within a touchdown of beating every team except Miami. What are your thoughts on last season and what happened there?

CL: I felt like we were the team that almost was. We were close. We were not consistent enough to pull it out in the fourth quarter. That was mostly attributed to youth. We were playing a lot of young guys, especially on my side of the football, asking them to make plays in the fourth quarter and you don't want to be in that position. You don't want to be in a tight game against a really good football team counting on a freshman or even a sophomore to make the big play. You want old guys. When we went to the Seattle Bowl we had a ton of seniors, just on offense. Ovie Mughelli was drafted at fullback, Blake Henry went to play for the Falcons offensive line, James MacPherson went to play for the Indianapolis Colts, Ray Thomas went to play for the Buffalo Bills...Those were just offensive kids. All of those went to NFL camps and they were all seniors, I think they might have all been 5th year seniors, and they were all on offense. We had an old team and when you have that, you're going to pull out a lot of close games – look at all the close games we won that year. Because you have old guys who have been to war, they don't panic and they make plays when they have to. This last year you look up there and you see Ben Mauk out there, freshman, Kevin Marion out there, freshman, in the offensive line Matt Brim and Louis Frazier, freshmen, the two tight ends Zac Selmon and John Tereshinski, freshmen, Micah Andrews who was playing running back, freshman. There were just way too many freshmen out there to pull out the win against Florida State, to pull out the overtime win against N.C. State or Clemson. We just need all those guys to be older and stronger and smarter and better players.

DS: Do you feel like the offseason will hopefully do the trick and put the team over the hump?

CL: We hope so. There's no reason any kid in your program should be any weaker or smaller or slower. They should be bigger, faster, stronger, and smarter. They should all know the offense better. They should all have better skills if they've been working over the past year. If a kid returns, they should be better. The only spots you worry about are spots where you lost someone – Jason Anderson, wide receiver, or Blake Lingruen, center. Everywhere else you should be better. The two tight ends should be better, Ben Mauk at quarterback will be better, Cory Randolph is back and he should be better.

DS: You guys start the season against Vanderbilt. What's the team's mental state heading into that game, and a night game on Thursday night?

CL: I'm not sure the day of the week has much to do with it. I'm pretty sure that school hasn't even started at this point. It's just coming out of two-a-days, coming out like any other start of the season. The mental state is good. Our guys know we had good potential last year, but potential means you haven't done it yet, and that's what we didn't do. We didn't finish, we didn't do it. We had all the potential but didn't do it, but our potential is back and I think the guys want to go out there and do it this year. They want to go out there and make the plays. The freshmen are looking around saying ‘now I'm a sophomore coach, call on me. I'll make that play for you in the fourth quarter, we'll win that football game.' I feel good. Now, every team on our schedule can beat us so we're going to have to come out and play good. That's the key...offensively we need to keep running the ball well which we have always been able to do pretty much. And then we need to throw the ball better, limit turnovers which we did an ok job of last year though not great at times, and we need to put more darn points on the board. You can't get yards and not points. We need kids to step up and make the touchdowns. Whether it's Chris Barclay running behind an older, wiser offensive line or whether it's Ben or Cory stepping up and making some better throws and plays or whether it's receivers making some plays, we just need some touchdowns.

DS: Can you take us position by position on your side of the ball and give us a general overview about how you feel about the guys at each spot.

CL: Sure, let's start with quarterback because everybody wants to know about that. Ben came out of the spring as the frontrunner but it's still up for grabs and the competition will continue into two-a-days. We're trying to pick a guy we call the starter and the guy who will get the snaps, but we reserve the right to substitute at any time if it's going sour with that guy in there. Regardless of who the starter is, the other guy needs to be ready to play and can expect to play in most games. At running back, Chris Barclay is the man for us. Micah Andrews is a very capable and productive guy when he was in there. We feel very good about him at #2. At fullback, Richard Belton was the guy in spring as Damon McWhite had a knee injury. We're hoping that Damon will come in the fall and push hard and come off his knee injury, but right now it's Richard's job. Damon has to come off his injury and show he can do it again. Tight end, John Tereshinski and Zac Selmon are interchangeable for us. They both can run block and catch passes. They'll both be in there for us. I think John T. came out of there in front but it's pretty much 50/50 with those guys. On the O-Line, I'll start with the right because that's where our best player is, Steve Vallos. We put him at right tackle. He's a returning All-ACC player, I believe 2nd Team All-ACC. We'll try to settle him down and have him at one spot, I bounced him around a lot last year trying to fill holes. We have him at right tackle, hopefully he'll be a First Team All-ACC player for us and he's only going to be a junior – he's our best player. I moved Matt Brim to right guard, he was playing some right tackle last year because Vallos was bouncing all over. Settling down Vallos at right tackle, I didn't want to lose Brim as a second stringer because I feel he is one of our best five so I put him in at guard. He had a real good spring doing that and he's just going to be a sophomore. We lost Blake Lingruen, a very solid center. I believe he got into camp with the Detroit Lions. Someone needs to step up there. Steve Justice is just a sophomore and he's a guy people don't know. He was a back-up last year and he's a solid player. We feel really good about him. And we also moved a senior in there, Greg Adkins, who I think can do just as well. Those guys will probably play 50/50 regardless of who the starter is. At left guard, Arby Jones is not the biggest guy on the team but he's a dependable guy, and a good player and he's smart, has good technique, he's scrappy, and he's been to war as a junior. I think he'll be that guy right now. At left tackle, Wes Bryant has been the starter and he had a good spring. Key backups, I already mentioned Adkins or Justice at center, I think Louis Frazier at left tackle working with Wes Bryant, I think Brodie Overstreet at left guard working with Arby Jones, and I think the new guy, Chris DeGeare, coming in at right guard, helping Matt Brim occasionally. He's a true freshman but came in January so he's got spring ball in and a chance to play as a true freshman. Then, if Eric Gaskins can get his academics under control I think he's going to be a help at right tackle though I don't think Vallos will be off the field too much. At receiver, the guy that had the best spring was Chris Davis but he's got a lot of academic work to do in order to be eligible. It's in wait-and-see mode right there through summer school. Willie Idlette is a good player for us. He had a great freshman year, kind of quiet for us his sophomore year, had some injury issues and things and became a back burner guy for us, but stepped back up at the end of spring and reasserted himself. Hopefully he can make some plays for us. Nate Morton is a name that's always out there but he missed all of spring with an injury [in his leg.] We hope he can come back and have a great year – he was our leading receiver last year. Kevin Marion made some plays at times last year and was second on the team in total offense because of his kick return yards. Delon Lowe is a big target we would like to see make more plays. Kenny Moore is a kid that almost got in there last year to make plays but had one too many injuries and couldn't quite make the lineup.

Stay tuned to DeaconSports for parts II and III!

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