Gameday: Q&A with Jim Grobe

DeaconSports sat down with Demon Deacon head coach Jim Grobe earlier this week as Wake Forest prepared for Vanderbilt.

DeaconSports: Vanderbilt on Thursday – Are you ready?
Jim Grobe: I don't know, don't have a clue. I think that most coaches are like that. You just feel like you have to play somebody. I don't think if we practiced another three weeks that we would be anymore ready than we are now. I think the kids are excited about playing. I think the coaches want to get a game under our belt to see where we are.

DS: Is the team pretty healthy?
JG: Relatively. Will we get full speed play out of every kid, I don't know that. We've got some moderately sore ankles and sore shoulders. Probably for coming out of three weeks of practice and running into each other, we're about as healthy as we should be.

DS: Any major changes coming out of the two-deep?
JG: The only major change that we may have is Brodie Overstreet is having recurring eye problems. They took him in to get a prescription for a tinted eye shield and didn't like what they saw. They felt he may be having some negative things going on with his eyes. He was in to see our doctors on Monday and the prognosis does not look good right now. He's regressed a little bit and my feeling is I don't want to do anything that might affect his vision. They're going to have to come back to me, fall on a sword, and say it's a slam dunk, he has got to play football before we would think of playing him again. So Brodie is [one change there.] It's disappointing as we were hoping for such great things, but obviously we want him to be healthy and happy and be able to move on. We'll see, we haven't gotten our report back from our doctors.

DS: He's had a hard time, hasn't he?
JG: He has. This is his third year and he really hasn't gotten to play much. He got to start at Clemson after he sat out his first year because of medical [reasons] but he's into his third year now and has had problems every year so it's a shame.

DS: If you win the toss, do you want the ball or to play defense?
JG: Typically, if there's no weather involved and both teams are completely even and I don't see any reason not to take the ball, we'll take the ball. I kind of rely on my coaches to decide what to do. They've got a feeling on who would like to start, offense or defense, and lots of times Mitch, Billy Mitchell, will decide that. He'll come to me and say ‘we're kicking to the goal line this way and to the five the other way.' If we think we can put it into the endzone and not have a return, we'll probably kick. All things equal, we'll grab the ball and go.

DS: Is your first series scripted or do you make it up as you go?
JG: It varies. Last year, we were scripted primarily. We picked out our best plays or plays we thought would be good and did about 15 plays before we got into rolling the dice. I think this year, we will also have a script in mind but it may not be a traditional script, but more of a few plays we would like to see early in the game and run those plays. Based on down and distance we would pick what we think is best. The script thing is a great idea but if you get wrinkles from the other team, the script might not be what you need. So many times we got knocked off the script. Now we've got more of the plays we want to see but we won't make any decisions before we know what they're in defensively.

DS: After you signal the play into Benjamin [Mauk], assuming he's going to be the starting quarterback, does he have the option to audible on each play?
JG: No. There are times when he has the option to audible. We have a lot of plays we call and want them run. He knows what plays he has flexibility with. He does have flexibility in certain situations. We also have plays we'll call and expect him to get run.

DS: Neither team has played a game. What in your mind is the key to the game?
JG: It's old fashion cliché stuff, but generally there are some things to look for in the first game. Things that affect the outcome are teams that take care of the football and don't turn it over, teams that don't give up too many big plays on defense, and teams that don't give up too many big plays in the kicking game. I think you see more fumbles, interceptions, big plays given up by the defense, and more special teams plays in the first game than any other game. I think that's where the game will be decided. I think most people have pretty good talent on the Division I-A level and when you play in that opener, it's a matter of who makes the most mistakes.

DS: Do you have a few gadget plays you might run?
JG: I think everybody does in the opener. We do. Vanderbilt will. It's always those first games, you're not real comfortable and don't always read the right keys. It's a good time for gadget stuff, I'm sure they'll have stuff and we will too.

DS: They have a very good quarterback, All-SEC preseason. He's got a lot of ability of course, but what about their running game.
JG: Two big backs that really concern me. They are really physical kids. Big strong guys who will run down hill and if there's nothing there, they'll makes something of it. They've got the ability to make you miss, but they're real physical guys who are tough to bring down. They're also guys who do a good job catching the football. With Cutler in their scheme and being such a good quarterback, they've got to like having the big backs because they've got the physical mentality when they run and when they throw the football they've got guys who pass the football pretty good.

DS: I know Chris DeGeare is going to play Thursday night. Do you foresee any other freshmen, barring no major injuries, getting in the game.
JG: Chris will definitely play Thursday night. Right now, I see no other guys that will play. We may end up having to play a defensive tackle, maybe a defensive end. Depending on the health of our defensive front, that would be our first inclination that that's where someone could see the field. You never know. I tell our freshmen that we want to redshirt you but you are one play away from playing.

DS: I know it's tough to focus on this game and not the rest of the season, especially with a huge game at Nebraska up next. How do you do that?
JG: The thing that's gotten our attention is that we've shown them a lot of Vanderbilt film. They look at Vanderbilt and see they're an SEC team coming to town. They had five games last year that went to the wire that they lost. They were very similar to us as they had a lot of close games. Our players are smart enough to figure that out. The thing that worries me the most is about our preparation. Your first game is the one where you've got to see if you've covered what you need to cover, have you worked them too hard, have you worked them hard enough. I think our players have a beat on Vanderbilt, it's just a matter of going out and playing well.

DS: How important is homefield advantage to you?
JG: I think it's become important. When I was first here, our crowd did not seem as enthusiastic as I had hoped for and at times it was not as large as I would have liked to have had. The last three years we've had better attendance and our crowds were enthusiastic. We've got a homefield advantage now. It's fun playing in front of our crowd. If you asked me when I first got here, it might be a little different, but now I think our kids and coaches enjoy playing at home. It's an advantage.

DS: It's going to be hot even though it's an evening game. Is that going to be a problem?
JG: The humidity causes a problem for our team in September all the way through. We've talked to our players and we've practiced in the heat. We didn't avoid the hot weather. We went when we needed to go as far as practice is concerned. We didn't make heat an issue, we just hydrated our guys really good. We've talked to our guys about getting in lots of liquids and not missing any meals. Making sure that they over hydrate themselves before Thursday night because once you get started in a game and losing fluids, you won't be able to catch up if you haven't had a lot of fluids a couple of games before you play. We're trying to get them hydrated and hopefully we can keep them filled up during the game and be ok.

DS: What would you want Deacon fans to know?
JG: I think more than anything else is to stick with us. This is a crucial time for the football program at Wake Forest. We're real, real close to being a good football team. What we've built over the last three years in attendance and fan support, we need to keep building that. I think we're ready to win. Everybody knows we play a tough schedule, but regardless what happens this football season, just hang in there with us. We're really close to being good. We need the fans to support us, we need good attendance, and we need fans who will get on their feet and be involved and getting the guys excited. I feel like we've come a long way. We won't start many seniors this year, but we've got the kind of players that can win in the ACC. I'm very excited about where we are, but I think this is the most critical point we've had at Wake Forest in a long time. We're about to get over the hump. I think it can be this year, I may be wrong, but I feel really good about where we are this year. Regardless, we need to hang in there and fight this year. If we get this team into a bowl game, that'd be a great year for us. I think we're at a point this year in Wake Forest football to make a difference. I think this is a critical year for us. We've got a lot of young players, but we're not making excuses. We've got the talent to win this year even with a tough schedule, but I think with the coaches, players, and fans, the next two or three year period is a period that decides where we're heading in football.

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