This is the third installment of our series which previews the ACC teams on the Terps Schedule:
The Demon Deacons will be the Terps first ACC match up of 2012. Wake is fresh off of a bowl appearance last season, but that doesn’t mean all the news for Jim Grobe is peachy. The Deac’s went two years bowl-less prior to their appearance in the Music City Bowl, so that was indeed a step in the right direction, but the fact of the matter is, Wake seems to be stuck in neutral.
Since Grobe’s been at the helm, the Demon Deacons shocked the Atlantic Division and made an appearance in the ACC Championship. From 2006-2008 they combined for a 28-12 record but since then they have compiled a 14-23 mark.
For a school such as Clemson, Virginia Tech, or Florida State, this would be unacceptable. But for a tiny private school in the foothills of North Carolina, the past success could allow Grobe to skate by a little longer. Personally, in a way he was like Ralph Friedgen was to Maryland. I was willing to give him all the leeway he needed considering the state of the program before his arrival, so I’m willing to bet Grobe’s hot seat isn’t too hot just yet.
But what lies ahead for Wake Forest? 2011 wasn’t too different from Jim Grobe’s career trajectory. They came out of the gates ready to go, jumping out to a 5-2 start beating even the Mighty Seminoles in the process. Good start or not, the ending wasn’t nearly as pretty as they finished the season 6-7.
Needless to say, both Grobe and the program need a winning campaign to assure everyone the Demon Deacons are in fact still pointed in the right direction.
The good news for Wake is that their strength lies in their skill positions. Now I know, offensive and defensive lines are vital for the success of the program, but as a fan it is always nice knowing your team is coming into the season with clear starters at running-back and quarterback. Tanner Price will be under center once again and he will be accompanied in the back field by Josh Harris, who after being banged up last year, should once again be healthy.
Defensively an experienced secondary looks to make opposing Quarterback squirm with Merrill Noel, Kenny Okoro, and Kevin Johnson leading the way. The linebackers, though unproven, are talented and could look to surprise as the season progresses. Nikita Whitlock will be in charge of pressuring the pass rusher, but he is going to need a lot of help as Wake only amassed 11 sacks all of last season.
Offensively Michael Campanaro could have a breakout season. The junior should see the bulk of Tanner Price’s passes and has the talent to justify the responsibility.
Schedule wise, Wake will play four of their first five at home, but that one road trip will probably be a killer as the Demon Deacons will head to Tallahassee to face a Seminole squad out for revenge. Their out of Division games are Duke and UNC, which all things considered you could do a lot worse than, and then the end the season with a game verse Notre Dame and Vanderbilt.
But taking a closer look at the schedule, the key for Wake will be getting off to a good start. Liberty should be a win, then the have a tough match up with UNC, but at home. That is followed by the road trip to FSU, however, after that land mine they will face Army, Duke (the Coach K Combo), then travel to Maryland. A good start gets them 5-1. Then who knows.
Prediction wise, I am going with another 6-6 season in Winston Salem. I think they will get out to that great start, but the back end of the schedule is killer. I don’t see them getting by Clemson, and ND and Vandy will be tough as well. And that is with me predicting that 5-1 start that may never come to fruition.
Truth be told, I don’t know many Wake fans (can’t say that about most ACC schools) so I don’t know if 6-6 is a colossal disappointment, right on the money, or something they’d gladly take. But take comfort Wake, because to the guy writing this, a 6-6 season is nothing to sneeze at!
Others players to watch, not mentioned above: PK Jimmy Newman, LB Joey Ehrmann, LB Justin Jackson, C Garrick Williams