2010 Season: 3-9 (1-7)
By: Danny O’Donnell
They finished next to last in both offensive and defensive production. They beat just two teams last season and neither of them are something to be proud of (Duke, Vanderbilt.) Brad Lambert, 2010 defensive coordinator, has left Wake Forest to explore different coaching opportunities. And as he should, Head coach Jim Grobe criticized the performance of his juniors and seniors and had to rely on youthful talent to start the majority of positions. That may pay off this year since Wake Forrest will have a more experienced set of players coming into 2011. But the schedule is tough, the talent pool is shallow, and the team lacks definite NFL talent. But the Demon Deacons won a bowl game in 2008… can a program really slip that much in three years? Yes.
The offense is returning seven starters including four of their lineman; the only shining light for the program last fall. Wake Forest finished 5th in the nation in rushing yards and that was mainly due to the size and experience of the offensive line. Left tackle Dennis Godfrey, left guard Joe Looney, right guard Michael Hoag, and right tackle Tanner Price are all returning, and most importantly, are all seniors. Garrick Williams will be the new face at center in 2011. With that being said, the running back group will have no one to blame but themselves for any lack of production. Returning speed demon [deacon] Josh Harris (720 yards, 7 TDs) is set to have a breakout season by being the starting running back over senior Brandon Pendergrass.
The defense is also returning just seven players but will need the new guys to step in at once. The defense finished in the bottom three of every defensive category in 2010. The secondary will need to mature this offseason to perform at a higher level. Cornerback Kevin Johnson will be the youngest player in the backfield and will need assistance from his senior safeties to support him over the top. Wake Forest has moved to a 3-4 defense due to the fact they could not continue to find depth to field two defensive tackles. Nose guard Nikita Whitlock returns to the team as the leader in sacks (3) from 2010 and will need to tap into his raw potential going into his sophomore year.
Weakness: Quarterback. The team entered 2010 with a QB that had never thrown a ball in a collegiate game. Tanner Price will have the starting job after a 1,349 yard, 7-touchdown performance in 2010. Unfortunately, Price is a turnover machine through the air and will need to be wise beyond his years as a sophomore quarterback.
Strength: Linebacker. This is the strength of the defense and is probably the deepest unit for the Demon Deacons. Outside linebacker Kyle Wilber led the team in sacks last season with six and will be an immediate run stopper/pass rusher in 2011.
2010 Team Rankings
Scoring: 22.8 ppg (11th ACC, 91st National)
Rushing: 158.5 ypg (5th ACC, 54th National)
Passing: 143.8 ypg (11th ACC, 114th National)
Scoring: 35.8 ppg (12th ACC, 110th National)
Rushing: 192.5 ypg (10th ACC, 99th National)
Passing: 238.2 ypg (11th ACC, 92nd National)
The receiving core has a stack of unproven talent from 2010. Chris Givens (514 yards, 4 TDs) is the returning leader from last season and will be Price’s number one go to guy in the fall. After that, it’s a toss up as to who will rack up the most receptions. Sophomore Michael Campanaro tops the depth chart with Givens but will have steep competition with junior Terence Davis for playing time.
Big Man on Campus: Kyle Wilber, LB. A diamond in the rough for a weak Wake Forest team. After moving from end to linebacker, Wilber had 14.5 tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles and blocked two kicks in 2010. This guy has it all. And though the defense isn’t special, Wilber will make some amazing (untelevised) plays.
On the Rise: Josh Harris, RB. After taking over the starting role as the primary running back, Harris average 88.5 yards per game in the last six competitions of the season. The offensive line will be back, and hopefully better. Look for Harris to have the option to break or bust.
Breakout Freshman: None. The team is maturing together and there wasn’t an individual talent that the team got in the 2011 recruiting class.
Expect similar results from 2010 in the seasons to come. Every ACC team they face will have more talent and is projected to be better than them throughout the season. So beating Gardner-Webb, Duke, and Syracuse will be the only games the Demon Deacons should be in contention for. They will finish last in the ACC Atlantic and will continue their woes for the next few seasons. They could lose every ACC game, but we’re going to be optimistic by not say anything.