Spring Q&A: Coach Jim Grobe

After getting a good look at his team this spring, Wake Forest head football coach Jim Grobe talks with DeaconSports.com about his impressions of his team as well as the redshirt-freshmen that will see the playing field this season.

Michael Jennings: Well coach, everybody knows you had a great season last year but that is history and you have a new one on the horizon. From your attitude, I would guess you had a pretty good spring practice.
Coach Grobe:Yes we did but I have never been a big spring practice guy as a head coach. The assistant coaches think we never get enough practice but our main goal is to stay healthy until August and look at some new things offensively and defensively during spring practice. We will come back in August and throw out the things we didn't like. We got a lot out of our kids and had a pretty physical spring without a lot of injuries. We had some ankle sprains and other minor things but I think we have a chance, Michael, to stay healthy now throughout the summer and come back in August ready to roll.

MJ: Do you think you have some guys who need to come back in August in much better shape?
CG:Yes, we have about 10 guys who would be in trouble, endurance wise, if they had to play today because they are carrying too much weight. The problem 5-6 years ago when I got here was we had a lot of kids we needed to put weight on and some needed to lose some. As we have gone through the process here one of our big concerns has been we were not big enough and now we may be too big in some areas. There is good news and bad news in that we have some big guys who can really play but endurance wise they could not play a lot right now. In August we will be practicing in 95 degree heat so some of the guys will have to come back in better shape.

MJ: Seems like one of the formulas for success in football is continuity in the coaching staffs, which you have had with except for a few exceptions. How important is that when building a program up?
CG: It is very important in two areas, in recruiting they know their recruiting areas and they have been here for a while and have a good understanding for what it takes to make it academically at Wake Forest. They also have a better understanding of what we have to have football wise to compete in the ACC. Another important benefit is that the players see the same coach and get to know them and what they expect in coaching, terminology and getting to know the coaches.

MJ: When does practice start in August?
CG: The kids report back August 5th and we actually start practicing on the 6th.

MJ: Unlike some other teams who have the luxury of starting out with a soft schedule, you certainly don't have that. While I realize you look at them one at a time, you start out on the road at a very tough Boston College team and then come home to play one of the great traditional powers in college football in Nebraska. The point being you have to come ready to go.
CG: Yes it will be a challenge for sure. The thing is we hate to start out playing a conference game in our division on the road. You point towards the conference games in order to win your division and the league title and the first game is when you typically see a lot of mistakes. We will have to buckle it up for those two physical teams and we will know a lot about our team after those two games.

MJ: Barring any further injury, do you expect Micah to be at 100% come August?
CG: I do. The biggest thing will be Micah's confidence in his knee because physically, he will be ready. He is probably full speed right now but is not as confident in his planting the knee and changing directions.

MJ: One of the problem areas you anticipated coming into spring was the whole secondary and safety positions particularly. Do you feel a little better about that now?
CG: I actually feel a LOT better about that now. We have some very good competition back there with 4 or 5 guys competing for the corners and several at the safety spots. I think the problem won't be in finding good safeties and corners to man the starting positions but having enough depth will be our biggest concern there. Safeties are so involved in run support that you tend to have trouble keeping those guys healthy. Also because of the amount of running around they have to do in games, you need some other guys to come in and give them a blow occasionally. I think we will have no problem finding 4 guys but we need to have 6 or 7 and somebody will have to step up in August.

MJ: How is recruiting going so far and how much has it improved since the Orange Bowl and ACC championship games?
CG: You know we are having a lot more guys visiting Wake Forest on their own and we have certainly contacted a lot of guys but we have a lot more calls from kids who saw us on TV. They realize we are a great academic school who plays pretty good football, and they have friends from programs who are playing here and word of mouth and stuff like that. We have had quite a few blue chip players visit us and that is a little different than years past when we had to go dig them out. Now, we are having a lot of interest from kids before we even contact them and they are wanting to hear more about Wake Forest.

MJ: I know you are very excited about this incoming recruiting class, but they will be freshmen and you won't know what they have until they put the pads on and start hitting people. The previous years class is different because you have seen them in live action against some good football players during practices while they red- shirted. I am going to throw out some names and ask you for your prognosis for how they have developed so far. Let's start with Zach McDowell.
CG: His problem, besides the injury, is that he is playing behind two very good quarterbacks. We are not disappointed at all in Zach and he has the strongest arm of all our quarterbacks. He did a great job on the scout team last year and he can really throw the football but I also think he can run it for us some too. He has a lot of potential and ability and we are not disappointed in any way with him. If he had been healthy, he would have gotten a lot of snaps this spring.

MJ: Cannon Gaskin?
CG: We know very little about Cannon because he got hurt at the very start of last season and had to have ACL surgery. He is doing great in the classroom and we will know more about him when we come back in August.

MJ:Marcus Williams?
CG: We recruited Marcus as an athlete who we thought could play running back, wide receiver, or in the secondary on defense. We have pretty much decided to play him on defense but he actually is capable of running a little option quarterback.

MJ: Matt Woodlief and Hunter Haynes?
CG: He and Hunter Haynes are doing a great job. Matt has moved around a little bit better than we anticipated and can be a real playmaker for us. I think those two freshmen are going to push for playing time even though we have a good group of linebackers already. Hunter really moves well too and we are excited about both of them.

MJ: Michael Carter and Teddy Tomlin?
CG: We like them a lot. Teddy has got to get a little bigger because we are talking about a position, along with the offensive line, where it is tough to play as a freshman. Michael Carter is a guy who, if he continues to mature the way he has, has the physical ability to be an impact guy right away. Michael is a real big guy who also runs real well and I think Teddy can play some for us next year as he gets bigger and stronger.

MJ: Dennis Godfrey?
CG: He has been injured some but he looks good in a uniform. We know he has got great ability and we have moved him to defensive end. Here is a guy who weighs around 300 pounds and can really run too. He has a tendency, like a lot of big guys, to play too high but that is correctable. He is a great athlete and will be a force when he is completely healthy.

MJ: A local kid, Tripp Russell?
CG: We are playing him at defensive end but he had the dreaded high ankle sprain so did not get a lot of work this spring.

MJ: Russell Nenon?
CG: He really looks good and we think he can be a great center for us. We also think he is big and versatile enough to also play some guard or tackle for us.

MJ: Marshall Williams?
CG: Marshall has big playmaking ability. We need to get more physical blocking from him but one on one, he can go catch some passes and is a dangerous guy.

MJ: Josh Adams and Lucas Caparelli?
CG: Josh looks a little more explosive and is a track guy so he has very good speed. He gives you a little of the Chris Barclay stuff too. Lucas is more a north south guy and a hard runner like Kevin Harris and will get us some tough yards. We spent more of the spring developing our throw game so we did not get as many touches for Josh and Lucas as we normally would. We will spend more time in August developing our run game so they will get more carries then.

MJ: Alex Frye?
CG: Big physical safety who has a lot of potential but also has some things to learn as do most freshmen. He could see a lot of playing time for us.

MJ: One of the problems you faced when you got here was developing some depth but the red-shirting process seems to have help alleviate that. Seems that both sides in the trenches have gotten much deeper. Would you agree?
CG: I think so. We are going to have a chance to be very, very good one deep. I feel a little better about the back-ups on the defensive line but some of the back-ups on the offensive line may be a little too satisfied with being back-ups. The danger for those players is that you can go from the 2 to the 3 on the depth chart real quick. I am optimistic that some guys will step up when we come back in August and make a move to challenge for the starting positions.

MJ: How do you feel about the toughness of this team?
CG: I think we are pretty good there. I worry a little about the endurance of some of the kids but that will get better as we get into August.

MJ: You went 11-2 last season and won a lot of close games. Do you think this team has the capacity to do it again?
CG: By being able to play more players, we were fresher in the 4th quarter than in previous years. Also a lot of guys had been in those late game situations before and have realized you need to go make plays to win those tight games.

MJ: Well thanks a lot coach and we will talk again in August.
CG: Thanks Michael

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