Deacons Practice in Full Gear for First Time

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The Wake Forest football team held its first practice in full pads on Tuesday evening at the Doc Martin Football Practice Complex on campus. The session, which lasted for two hours and 15 minutes, featured position drills, special teams work, 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.

"We're really not much different in pads than we are in shells," Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe said. "We'll be different when we scrimmage as far as taking backs to the ground. We try to teach real well and have good competition and try our best for everyone to come off the field healthy."

A portion of the Tuesday evening practice session was spent in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. The defense appeared to have the upper hand, narrowly missing several interceptions and getting pressure on the quarterback.

"The defense had a good day today," Grobe added. "Yesterday, I thought the offense had the upper hand on the defense. As typically happens, when one side or the other has a good day, the other side gets embarrassed a little bit and comes out and practices better the next day."

In the Wake Forest offense, the fullback frequently finds himself in positions other than directly behind the quarterback. Whether it be lined up as an H-back, going in motion or catching a pass in the flat, the Deacons' fullbacks are a versatile bunch. This season, Rich Belton, Mike Rinfrette and Kevin Harris will all battle for playing time

"I'm real happy about all three of those guys right now," said tight ends and fullbacks coach Steve Russ. "There's a great competition going on and that's not coach-speak. They're going to be a big part of our offense with what we're trying to do. They're all older, they've been here a while and played a lot of football."

Rich Belton was Wake Forest's starting fullback at the start of the 2007 season but a torn ACL in the second game of the year sidelined him for the remainder of the campaign. De'Angelo Bryant shouldered most of the load but graduated following the season. Belton is back for his senior season and expects to contend for playing time. Belton had just six carries last year but has averaged 3.1 yards per carry for his career and scored four touchdowns.

"I don't want to put too much pressure on myself by saying I have a lot to prove," Belton said of returning from last season's injury. "My motto is to stay hungry and to prove to myself and the coaches that I didn't lose a beat and that I'm going to be just as good as I was or even better."

Mike Rinfrette finds himself back in the mix at fullback after spending last year at linebacker. A fullback as a sophomore, Rinfrette moved to defense to help shore up a depleted linebacking corps in 2007. With three returning starters and plenty of quality depth, Rinfrette is back on the offensive side where he and Belton will combine to give the Deacons great play at fullback. Rinfrette had six carries as a redshirt freshman in 2006 and then added 23 tackles last year as a linebacker.

"Everyone is working real hard and just wants to play," Rinfrette said. "With us being out there a lot this year, we're probably all going to see time, so we're going to need to rotate a bit."

Redshirt junior Kevin Harris is coming off a broken wrist that sidelined him for the final four games of the 2007 season. Harris started the season at tailback then moved to fullback after Belton's injury. Harris has been a productive back for the Deacons, scoring six touchdowns as a redshirt freshman to go along with his 393 yards on the ground.

"Richard's hungry and is coming off an injury where he had to sit and watch last season," Russ said. "We moved Mike back over and he's really had a great camp. And Kevin Harris was moved over in the spring and got a lot of fullback reps and he's getting used to the position. I like them all and I'm really starting to count on them. Each one has things they need to work on but each one brings a little bit of a different dimension to the game."

Wake Forest will return to the practice field on Wednesday evening at 7:15 p.m for the team's sixth practice session of the summer.

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