Football: Spring Practice Update

DeaconSports contributor David Hall gives his take of Wake Forest's offense from Friday's football spring practice on campus at Wake Forest.

Wake Forest continued spring football drills with an intense practice on Friday. Players were in full pads, and at times the hitting was as intense as during a game in the fall.

My focus during this practice was on the offense. Wake will miss John Stone, but for the most part the so-called skill positions have a lot of returning talent. Some are claiming that the quarterback job is up for grabs, but right now I think James MacPherson is definitely the number one guy. James showed steady progress last season as he became more comfortable with his recovered knee and Wake's revamped offense. Now that Anthony Young has moved to receiver, James looks ready to have total control of the offense. On Friday, James was steady, throwing the ball well and executing the variety of offensive sets without a hitch. For Wake to get over the hump that resulted in so many close losses last season, James will have to step up and become more of a threat throwing the ball, and keep turnovers to a minimum.

Like MacPherson, redshirt freshman Cory Randolph lost some of his competition when classmate Nick Smith transferred to James Madison. Based on Friday's practice, Cory will need to gain some polish in throwing the ball before he is ready to be a QB in the ACC. Although his arm is strong in drills, he struggled somewhat during live scrimmaging. Cory will need to resist the temptation to take off running at the first sign of pressure, and instead trust his offensive linemen and stand in the pocket and deliver the ball. Cory is an excellent athlete, and is a threat on plays designed for him to run the ball.

Nate Morton is the third QB in spring drills. Nate enrolled at Wake for the spring semester allowing him to participate, which will be a huge help in getting a head start towards learning the system. Although Coach Grobe has stated he hopes Nate will be able to redshirt this fall, he'll still get a lot of reps this spring. Nate is the one Wake QB who looks the part of the traditional passer. At 6-3 200 pounds, Nate has a powerful arm, and usually delivers a nice tight spiral. As expected, Nate showed signs that he is still learning the system, although by this fall that hopefully won't be an issue. The one thing I think Nate will really have to work on is improving his footwork in running the variety of misdirection and option plays that Wake utilizes. Right now he is not as smooth as James or Cory in this aspect of the offense, and it's a necessity as long as Wake runs this scheme.

Wake looks to be loaded at running back. Tarence Williams, Fred Staton and Nick Burney all looked healthy and in shape on Friday, and give Wake three backs good enough to put up big rushing numbers.

Ovie Mughelli continues to see time at both tight end and fullback depending on the formation. Ray Thomas is also back at tight end for his senior year. I think Ray is an offensive weapon who could be a much bigger part of the offense this fall.

At the slot receiver position, John Stone is gone but Fabian Davis returns. Fabian is not quite the perceived running threat that John Stone was, so Wake might not run as many end-arounds this fall, but Fabian is definitely the better receiver and could help improve the passing game with more playing time. The other slot receiver on Friday was redshirt freshman Maurice Moten. Maurice has the speed necessary for this position, but had the same problem on Friday that he showed in practice last fall - too many dropped passes.

At the wide receiver position, five players received most of the reps on Friday. Jason Anderson might be the one Wake player ready for a breakthrough year. Last year he showed several flashes of big play ability, and I hope he becomes the featured receiver in the passing game. Anthony Young has great football speed, and it will be interesting to see how his move to receiver progresses. I saw him catch a couple passes in drills, but didn't see him get any chances in scrimmage action, which is a much better test. Jax Landfried will continue to be an important part of both the offense and the special teams. Cassiel Smith is a redshirt freshman with good size at 6-2 190. Derek Tharpe is another redshirt freshman getting a look.

Wake lost a lot off their offensive line, and the ability of the coaching staff to reconfigure this unit will be the biggest key for Wake's offensive fortunes this fall. On Friday, the first unit consisted of junior Mark Moroz (LT), junior Tyson Clabo (LG), redshirt freshman Craig Jones (C), senior Blake Henry (RG) and senior David Walters (RT). Filling these spots for Friday's second team were senior Tim Bennett, senior Masanori Toguchi, redshirt freshman Kreg Rotthoff, junior Chad Rebar and redshirt freshman Greg Adkins. A couple things to keep in mind - as we learned last year, there really are not five true first team lineman. This coaching staff likes to run eight or nine guys in and out for a lot of snaps, so starting isn't as big a deal as one might think. The other thing is that my list of players is based on last year's roster numbers. I could be in error if somebody has changed numbers. By April 6 we'll know for sure who is who.

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