ACC 2012 Season Preview: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

After a Disappointing Second Half of 2011, Wake Forest Looks to Rebound While Also Replacing Their Top Passing Target

Team: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

2011 W-L: 6-7 (5-3)

Head Coach: Jim Grobe (68-67; 12th season)

Returning Starters: 11 (4 Offense, 7 Defense)

Little was expected of Wake Forest in 2011, yet they managed to start off 4-1, including a big (customary) upset of Florida State early on. And if it weren’t for a late field goal by Clemson in November, we would have seen that Demon Deacons team play for the ACC championship. Seriously. So while the 6-7 record appears paltry and non-descript, trust us, a lot went on down in Winston-Salem last season. Despite the fact that they lost two of their three best players from last year’s team, there’s a good chance Jim Grobe’s squad still has some magic left for this season, too.

Through five games last year, the Wake offense was a delight to watch. The Tanner Price-to-Chris Givens connection was running on all cylinders, and averaging well over 30 points per game, racking up three big league wins in the process. And yet, it all seemed to fall apart after running back Josh Harris‘s injury against the Seminoles. While replacement Brandon Pendergrass was serviceable enough and continued to move the team’s ground game along, he didn’t scare defenses all that much. With defenders more focused in on the pass, Price now had less lanes to throw into, and less time to get rid of the ball. Still, he threw for 60-percent accuracy and 20 touchdown passes, along with over 3,000 yards and zero picks. In his 13 games as a starter last year, Price threw for 200 yards in nine of them, and over 250 in six. Accurate and methodical, he was the picture of poise for a team that needed a leader on the field.

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ACC Preseason Top 25 Players of 2012: #15, Tanner Price

Wake Forest’s Tanner Price is #15 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 25 Players for 2012

As part of our 2012 season preview, we’re counting down the top 25 players in the ACC for this season, from 25 to one. Obviously these lists are always completely subjective, so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.

No. 15, Tanner Price, QB/Wake Forest

Just an unheralded sophomore going into last season, Tanner Price quickly changed perceptions of both himself and the Wake offense with a fast start. In his first five starts, he tossed 10 scores and ran for another, while throwing just two picks and amassing around 1,300 yards passing. If not for an injury late in the Syracuse game leading to a loss, his team could have very well been 5-0, including Florida State‘s pelt — a great win for a young, growing resume.

While Price’s statistics never fell off for the rest of the season (he finished with over 3,000 yards, 20 TDs and just six interceptions), his team’s win total did, however. Which is where some doubts start to creep in. Further still, Price’s favorite target, receiver Chris Givens, has also moved on to the NFL. So why does Price make this list? Experience and a willingness to improve.
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Early 2012 ACC Football Power Rankings (July 17)

New Clemson Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables (Right) Believes He Can Fix the Tigers’ Multitude of Problems on That Side of the Ball

I can see kickoff on the horizon! (Almost) But nonetheless, the 2012 college football season is getting closer and closer, meaning more discussions about actual football. As we’ve done this entire offseason, below is a completely arbitrary ranking of all 14 ACC schools, taking into account all random happenings in and around each respective program. These are the final offseason rankings before we dive into our 2012 season preview. Then, once the season starts (!!!) they’ll be updated weekly, just as they were last year.

1. Florida State Seminoles (LW: 1): Can Florida State finally make good on the lofty preseason expectations that have accompanied them these past few years? The pieces are all there — 10 returning starters on defense, an experienced, veteran QB in E.J. Manuel, and a very manageable schedule. Now it’s up to the ‘Noles to deliver.

2. Clemson Tigers (LW: 2): Complain about the defense all you want, but I’ve got a great feeling about new coordinator Brent Venables and his ability to make an immediate impact. Plus, how can you honestly bet against the team’s three-headed monster on offense? You saw how they manhandled talented defenses last year. Who’s to say they can’t do so again?

3. Virginia Tech Hokies (LW: 3): There is a boatload of hype surrounding Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas. But the only way he’ll be able to deliver on it is if a) his inexperienced offensive line can adapt quickly, b) the running game can take some of the load off his shoulders (dependent, in part, on the offensive line), and c) his receivers are ready and able to make an impact. Wideout D.J. Coles appears ready to become a bigger part of the offense in 2012. He’ll be called upon often to prove it.

4. NC State Wolfpack (LW: 4): The expectations are growing down in Raleigh, especially with a manageable schedule laid out in front of the Wolfpack. So long as Mike Glennon and David Amerson are healthy, there are very few squads in the ACC that can truly hang with these guys on either side of the ball.

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Far-Too-Early 2012 ACC Football Power Rankings (May 15)

For the Time Being, Florida State’s Still in the ACC, and Currently Sit Atop Our Power Rankings

As we creep along further into the lengthy college football offseason, we also have another installment of our early power rankings for the entirety of the ACC. As always, we take into account what’s happened both on and off the field (WHY, SAMMY WATKINS?!). This will be revised monthly throughout the offseason.

1. Florida State Seminoles (LW: 1): Based on recent news, you’d think FSU was more of a marketing opportunity than a football team, yet this years’ ‘Noles actually look pretty good. As we’ve given thought to previously, it’s all about how E.J. Manuel responds to the pressures of being a top-10 squad that will make or break them.

2. Clemson Tigers (LW: 2): Clemson remains at number two, only because the distance between this team and numbers three through 14 is a much wider gulch than most will let on. Even if the Tigers’ drop their Watkins-less opener against Auburn, there’s little that says this team can’t run through much of its remaining slate.

3. Virginia Tech Hokies (LW: 3): We still have no idea about this offense as it’s currently comprised. Will the O-line mature quickly enough? And the run-game? The pistol offense will be getting some play time during games, but we’re unsure how much. Just a lot of uncertainty for the Hokies, much of which gets glossed over because of its defensive strengths.

4. NC State Woflpack (LW: 4): If you read anything this offseason, you’d think the Pack were a two-man team. And you’d probably be right. Mike Glennon and David Amerson run things on their respective sides of the ball, and as long as no one messes up that dynamic, this will be a fun team to watch. The opener versus Tennessee should tell us a whole lot. Continue reading

2012 NFL Draft Preview: Wake Forest

Wake Forest’s Chris Givens Has Seemingly Proved Doubters Wrong With a Strong Showing Leading Up to the NFL Draft

Leading up to this month’s NFL Draft, we’ll be taking a look at each ACC‘s school’s prospects and where they’re slated to be chosen. While 43 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 26 and 28.

Wake Forest benefits from having a young team to build off of from 2011, however, that doesn’t mean they still won’t lose some key pieces. On both sides of the ball, the Deacons’ most productive player departs, something not to be taken lightly. While the projected draft positions for these players may very wildly, don’t mistake their value — both to their former team, nor the future NFL squad they’ll call home.

Chris Givens, WR, Junior

There was some initial confusion as to why Givens, only a junior, declared early for the draft. However, it appears he’s cleared all of that up in the lead-up to the big day(s). Clocking in at 4.41 in his 40-yard dash, showing off some impressive leaping ability and even some surprising upper-body strength for his 5’11”, sub 200-pound frame, he’s vaulted himself into the first two rounds. In that regard, it’s debatable whether another year of college ball would’ve really helped him any more. After catching over 80 passes for nine scores and over 1300 yards, his stats at that level have likely peaked, though his route-running and football IQ may still have some developing to do. Beyond his size though, the big concern will be his big-play ability. His longest scoring play in college was just 22 yards — low for the speed he’s displayed in workouts. While that type of ability may work in the slot, the potential for that type of play needs to be there at the NFL level. Still, he’s a second-round pick that can jump in and immediately be productive. Continue reading

ACC 2012 Spring Practice Expectations: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Wake Forest's Josh Harris Gets a Chance to Play a Much Larger Role in the Offense As It Aims for Balance This Year

As spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing what needs to happen for the teams and players of the ACC, culminating with notes on all 14 spring games.

Today’s featured team: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

With ample weapons at their disposal last year, the 2011 Wake Forest offense took advantage by employing an explosive passing attack that ranked among the country’s top 40. It was easy, what with hotshot sophomore QB Tanner Price connecting with star wideout Chris Givens all day. Unfortunately, this spring will be all about trying to replicate that same success — which began to peter out come the season’s second half — but with completely different personnel. The Demon Deacons return just five starters on the offensive side of the ball, and must not only replace Givens, but all but one spot on the offensive line. Granted, Wake’s run game finished a putrid 99th nationally in 2011 and Price was sacked the second-most times in the league, so maybe it’s a good thing. Nevertheless, with an inexperienced line to develop this spring, it may gloss over the progress of rising-junior running back Josh Harris. Harris has shown he’s effective as a reserve back, but now, with the show all to himself, there’s concern in the Deacs’ camp. Most importantly, with limited assistance from the line and run-game, Price must work on his quick release and which receivers he can rely upon to make the necessary grabs as pressure bears down. Last year’s second-leading receiver Michael Campanaro looks to be the best candidate, however rising seniors Tommy Bohanan and Terence Davis should have ample opportunities to prove themselves this spring as well. Continue reading

Far-Too-Early 2012 ACC Power Rankings (March 19)

Mike Glennon and NC State May Have the Right Pieces for a Surprise ACC Title Run

Spring practices are under way, and with that comes another installment of our early power rankings for the entirety of the ACC. Taken into account are the known variables — which will inherently change several times between now and kickoff weekend. This will be revised monthly throughout the offseason.

1. Florida State Seminoles (LW: 1): Running game be damned, FSU will still sport an explosive attack in 2012 behind quarterback E.J. Manuel. To boot, they’ve got nine starters returning from a defense that allowed just 15 points per game last season. With a manageable schedule, it’s tough to bet against the Seminoles as (at least) BCS contenders.

2. Clemson Tigers (LW: 2): If any team could get in Florida State’s way, however, it would be Atlantic Division foe the Clemson Tigers. Already explosive on offense, the Tigers brought in former Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables to fix the unit’s terrible fundamentals. Should he succeed, this team becomes one of the nation’s most frightening.

3. Virginia Tech Hokies (LW: 3): The 2012 edition of the Hokies may lean on their defense even more so than normal. With standout rusher David Wilson declaring for the draft, the offense becomes a one-man show guided by versatile quarterback Logan Thomas. He’ll need the defensive assist as they develop the weapons around him early in the year.

4. NC State Wolfpack (LW: 4): Hype is growing for Mike Glennon and the ‘Pack, and rightfully so. The team is up against a very manageable slate in 2012, and a slew of returning starters on both ends. If any receiver effectively replaces T.J. Graham, opposing defenses will be in for a rude awakening come fall. Continue reading