This week we speak with Bart J. over at the Wake Forest Blog ""BloggerSoDear". We talk the 2012 season, Wake Forest's improving defense, and he gives us his prediction for #therivalry
BC Interruption: 2012 had to be a disappointing year for Wake Forest. Give us the high point and low point in the season.
Blogger So Dear: Well the high point of the season was undoubtedly against UNC when we beat them by a point. We were just coming off a close win against FCS Liberty and most fans were pretty down about the program. We came out against UNC and had what I would consider to be one of our best offensive performances in quite some time. Offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke did a great job of mixing up the playbook and keeping the Carolina defense on their toes. This win got people a lot more optimistic about the direction of the team.
The low point for the season was really the last 25% of the year. We lost each of the final three games in complete blowouts and it made it pretty discouraging in general for this season getting started back up. We entered these three games against N.C. State, Notre Dame, and Vanderbilt with a 5-4 record needing just one win to make a bowl and lost by a total score of 130-27. That's about as low as it gets for a team. Hopefully, and it was hard to tell after the Presbyterian game, we have moved on from this low point.
BCI: Jim Grobe is basically a .500 coach, what are Wake fans feeling about his recent work with the Demon Deacons and what are the chances he isn't the coach in 2014?
BSD: It really depends on which fans you ask about Grobe. There are a lot of people firmly in the camp of "Grobe took us to the Orange Bowl, he should get as long as he wants," but with the Jeff Bzdelik fiasco/debacle/tragedy and the incompetence of the Athletic Department (and Athletic Director Ron Wellman) at large, a lot of people are putting Grobe on the hot seat. These fans believe that Grobe elevated the program but then failed to capitalize with recruiting and the national spotlight following the 2006 Orange Bowl season. The program is clearly in a better position now than it was in 2003 or 2004 and these fans believe that we should hire a new coach where the ceiling is even higher.
I think Grobe would be the first to tell anyone who asked that the recent work is not acceptable. We're two years removed from a Music City Bowl appearance, but have not had a winning season in three years. A year prior to the Music City Bowl Wake went 3-9 with the only wins coming against Presbyterian, Duke, and Vanderbilt. As already mentioned, last year the team completely fell apart coming down the home stretch. I think Grobe feels a sense of urgency and this is seen in his playing true freshmen this season. He only played 22 total up to this year and played nine alone in the opener against Presbyterian. He understands that it's time to put together a solid season.
All that being said I would almost guarantee Grobe will return as long as he wants to unless something drastic happens. The only way he won't be back in 2014 is if he retires. Wellman hasn't fired a basketball coach who is one of the worst ten coaches statistically in ACC history and by far the worst Wake Forest coach. There is no reason to believe that he would fire somebody like Grobe who has an established track record of success.
BSD: Wake is still looking to establish some pieces around these three core seniors. Campanaro sat out the season opener against Presbyterian for precautionary reasons after having a tweaked hammy over the past couple weeks and the number two receiver Matt James missed the game with a shoulder injury. Without these two guys in the game, freshman Jonathan Williams stepped up and recorded five catches fora 143 yards including a beautiful catch down the sideline over the corner who basically pulled him down and was called for pass interference. Williams looked like a legitimate threat, but it's only one game and it was against Presbyterian.
Two other guys to keep an eye on are the two other guys most likely to appear in the backfield: Josh Wilhite and Deandre Martin. Grobe has consistently rotated running backs throughout games based on who has the hot hand, and Wilhite darted for a 21-yard touchdown run last week. Wilhite appears to have a lot of speed and is someone the team can rely upon moving forward. Similarly, Martin was the guy who appeared to have the starting job locked up if Josh Harris had been declared academically ineligible and will provide the team with a needed number of carries up the middle.
Any of these three young guys could certainly make a lot of plays and will all see the field consistently this season.
BCI: On Bruce Feldman's Yearly "Freak" list he listed LB Justin Jackson, citing his 40 speed of 4.4, and 10-8 broad jump. What other players will be making an impact on defense this year?
BSD: I'm really high on Wake's defense this year. We only gave up two first downs last week, the fewest allowed by Wake since 1944 and this included a 66 yard run on the first play from scrimmage (blown contain on a blitz call). The defensive push starts with the guys up front and is anchored by Nikita Whitlock who at DT/NG is able to get into the backfield and wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines. Despite being undersized for the position, Whitlock uses his explosive first step to sneak between linemen where he is often double teamed. This in turn frees up space for the defensive ends to contain and linebackers to blitz through the created holes.
Specifically I'm excited about linebackers Brandon Chubb and Mike Olson, who along with Justin Jackson provide the Deacs with the best set of linebackers since around 2007. These guys are able to read the play well and snuff out the run while also doing a great job of dropping back into pass coverage when need be. I expect our front seven to be pretty solid this season.
The secondary features three guys who have already obtained some sort of All-ACC honor in Kevin Johnson, A.J. Marshall, and Bud Noel. KJ and Noel might be one of the top cornerback duos in the conference and Marshall is a potential NFL talent at safety. Wake's defense is really the strong point of this year's team and I expect it to be one of the best of the past decade or two for Wake statistically.
BCI: Wake Forest went 5-7 last year, and did not make a bowl game. What are you best case and worst case scenarios for the 2013 season?
BSD: Best case scenario: Wake wins all the toss up games they play this year and end up 8-4 with losses to Miami, Clemson, Florida State, and Vanderbilt. For this to happen the play calling needs to vastly improve on the offensive side. We've gone to more of an option-style offense which does not appear to be the strongest suit for starting quarterback Tanner Price. He's fine at times, but he still doesn't look completely confident with his decisions, nor does he have the explosive speed worrying other defenses meaning they can lock down a little bit more on the running back or motion guy. If the offense starts clicking and we can avoid injuries on both sides of the ball, Wake can be in position to finish third in the Atlantic behind Florida State and Clemson
Worst case scenario: Wake continues to sputter on offense and never really makes any adjustments as the team ends up going 4-8. I think even with a bad set of circumstances Wake will still manage to win three more games this year. We have match ups left with BC, UL-Monroe, Army, Duke, Maryland, N.C. State, and Syracuse so even if the team ends up being terrible there are wins to be had. Furthermore this team is very experienced on the offensive side (minus the offensive line, as always seems to be the case at Wake) so the offense should be putting up a lot of points. Wake's defense might also continue the trend of playing eight yards off the corners and giving up lots of small yardages while trying to snuff out the deep ball, but this has failed in the past as we've given up small yardages plus the big plays which is a recipe for disaster.
My prediction is somewhere in the middle, but I'll stick with my preseason prediction of 7-5. i think the offense is too experienced and talented to continue to struggle to gain yards and I think the defense is a very solid corps of players.
As always, it was great talking to you guys leading up to the big #rivalry game and even though my opinion was unsolicited on the matter I think Wake wins this one 21-17. I'll be at the game on Friday night and can't wait to check BC off the list of road games I've traveled to. Go Deacs!
BCI: Thanks Bart! And for more information on Wake Forest football, head over to BloggerSoDear