Wake Forest adds wrinkles to try and improve offense
It's hard to believe that it's been six full seasons since Wake Forest
shocked the ACC by winning the league in 2006. It's even harder to
believe that it's been four seasons since head coach Jim Grobe and the
Deacons have had a winning season.
Rather than leaving for a
bigger job after his success, Grobe stayed in Winston-Salem. It's hard
to win at Wake Forest, and the fact Grobe has been able to do that
speaks more to his acumen. And so it's understandable that he bristles
at the notion his program has leveled out.
"I really don't know
that our program has leveled off," Grobe said. "These past 2-3 years, we
had chances in 3-4 games each year to go the other way with it and
maybe get another win or two. So we're not far away from eight (wins).
But we're in that middle range where the ball bounces right, you're a
7-8 win team. Ball doesn't bounce right, you're a five-win team. That's
kind of where we are right now."
If there's a concern, it's that
Wake Forest just hasn't looked as competitive as it used to. The
Deacons' seven losses came by an average of 28 points last year, their
worst average margin of defeat since winning that ACC title. The 2010
team that went 3-9 lost nine games by an average of 24.7, but it had
three losses by ten points or fewer.
Wake was beaten by 30 or
more points four times in 2012. Excluding the 2010 season, that has
happened just three times in the other four seasons since the Deacs won
the title. The 52-0 loss at Florida State was Wake's worst under Grobe.
a big reason Wake Forest wasn't competitive was that its offense was
woeful. Woeful might be putting it kindly. The Deacs were 117th
nationally in total offense and ranked either 11th or 12th in the league
in nearly every major offensive category.
The numbers are what
they are: Wake had 28 offensive touchdowns. Three ACC quarterbacks had
that many or more passing touchdowns alone. And Clemson, the league's
most explosive offense, had more than double (66).
really difficult for me because it didn't look like one of our football
teams at the end of the year. We weren't very physical," Grobe said. "It
just was a bad football team by the end of the year, just kind of
embarrassing for me personally because that's my football team. We've
just got to get back to being more aggressive being tougher, all those
kinds of things."
Under Grobe, the Deacs have developed an
identity as a team that will not hurt themselves. And they didn't last
year, so that isn't even an excuse for the bad offense. Wake led the ACC
in turnover margin at +8 and were second in in fewest penalty yards per
There's enough experience on the offensive line -- some
gained by necessity last year, when a combination of youth and injuries
led to a lot of shuffling -- for it to be substantially better. And
Grobe is a good enough coach that he can hide a team's weaknesses and
adjust his scheme to fit his personnel. And so he's going to get his
senior quarterback Tanner Price more involved in the running game,
integrating some option into their playbook.
"What we want to do
is not necessarily run everybody more, but we want to run (Price) more.
Whether it's draws or powers or even some option stuff, however we can
best get him involved in the run game because for us, when we were doing
all the hand the ball off type stuff, I think it really made it too
easy on defenses," Grobe said.
Price showed some ability to run
the football as a true freshman in 2010, netting 120 yards rushing and
getting sacked just 19 times. He's been sacked 59 times in the last two
years and has -- 79 yards on 155 attempts in that span.
senior wide receiver Michael Campanaro thinks adding that option attack
will be key. It puts the onus on opposing defenses to cover it and at
least makes them think about it. Which, Campanaro said, would be a
welcome change for Price.
"I think what you see with our offense
being changed and switching more to option running and some option
throwing, it takes a lot of pressure off of offensive linemen and skill
guys. Last year and the year before, we were throwing the ball so much
that teams were just lining up and they were coming after us," Campanaro
"You throw a little option run game in there, they've got
to kind of hang back and they've got to play their reads. They can't
just be opening holes up or else we might bust one on them. ... It's
going to help the offensive line a lot. They're not going to have these
(defenders) just rushing them all game long."
returns senior Josh Harris and sophomore Deandre Martin, both of whom
showed promise. But he doesn't seem to be too happy with any of them
right now, and every running back is going to have to work to get back
into Grobe's good graces.
"We've got some guys that are really
not showing a lot of maturity right now as far as the workout habits,
the classroom habits, a lot of different things," Grobe said. "That
running back group is probably the biggest disaster we've got right now.
We don't really have a dependable guy right now in that whole group.
We'll just kind of see how this works out."
Not exactly a ringing
endorsement. But as Grobe said, he'll give his running backs a chance.
If they can't help the team, then he's going to give more carries to his
quarterback, or even Campanaro himself (who has 228 yards rushing on 47
attempts in three years).
Campanaro knows that it doesn't matter how Wake Forest is able to run the ball. They just need to do it.
definitely putting an emphasis on running the ball, getting back to
having a good running game," Campanaro said. "We haven't run the ball
that well the past few years, and if we can get back to really running
the ball well it could open things up for the passing game."