September 2, 2009

Five Questions About Wake Forest

1 - In the Big 12 south there are a lot of teams (Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech) that like to spread it out and have quarterbacks that throw it all around the field 40+ times per game. Riley Skinner is obviously a very skilled quarterback that is capable of throwing it around a lot, but how does Wake Forest use him? How balanced run/pass is Wake Forrest.

From what I have seen in the spring and preseason practices, it looks like Wake will really try to have a balanced offensive attack this season. Last year was a bit of a crazy year for the offense. The strategy going in to the season was for Riley to throw the ball from shotgun spread formations all game long. Eventually the coaches decided maybe this wasn't the best tactic and tried to change things up. Later in the season against Miami Skinner threw exactly eight passes all game. No matter what the offense did, it was never balanced

I think last season's results made Wake's coaches realize that Skinner is a great game manager and a very accurate passer, but he isn't the type of quarterback who can be most successful throwing the ball 40-plus times per game. I expect it to be a very balanced offensive attack against Baylor, with Skinner likely attempting about 25-30 passes. Meanwhile, Wake's trio of running backs - Josh Adams, Brandon Pendergrass, and Kevin Harris - should all get 10-plus carries.

2 - -Outside of Skinner, who's a big name on offense that Baylor fans should look out for?

The usual answer to this kind of question is not usually going to be an offensive lineman, but in this case I'm going to use one. Chris DeGeare, who missed the 2008 season due to academic ineligibility, is back this season and should be Wake's best offensive lineman. Playing left tackle, he will be key to protecting Skinner in the passing game and opening holes for Wake's trio of running backs. You may not notice him during the game, but if Wake's offense is having a good afternoon, you can be certain DeGeare is a large part of the reason why.

One brand new name to watch for Wake is redshirt freshman receiver Chris Givens. As a redshirt, this will be the first live action of his college career, so you never quite know exactly what you're going to get, but based on his performance in the spring and in August, I think he will be a very important part of Wake's passing game.

3 - Wake Forest lost a couple very talented players to the NFL draft this year: Aaron Curry, Alphonso Smith, Chip Vaughn, and Stanley Arnoux. How have they replaced these players this fall, and how have they looked thus far?

It's definitely been hard for Wake fans to see these players leave. They all had outstanding careers at Wake Forest and their absence leaves a considerable void that needs filling. At those back seven defensive positions Wake only has one true returning starter, senior Brandon Ghee at cornerback.

At linebacker, Wake will be calling on Matt Woodlief, Jonathan Jones, and Hunter Haynes. All of these guys are upper classmen with some playing experience, but playing behind Aaron Curry and Stanley Arnoux they were never expected to be key players. All of that changes this season, and what I've seen this preseason has been a bit of a mixed bag. All three of them tackle pretty well and are fairly good in pursuit, but I am most concerned about their abilities in pass coverage.

The new Demon Deacon secondary features Alex Frye and Cyhl Quarles at safeties, and Michael Williams across from Ghee at cornerback. Frye, Quarles, and Williams have never been regular starters, and some of them haven't even played very much the last couple of seasons. I haven't been overly impressed by their performance in the spring, and I think the secondary is Wake's biggest weakness right now.

4 - Who would you say is the X factor for Wake Forest if they beat Baylor?

Believe it or not, I think Robert Griffin is the "X" factor for Wake in this game. More specifically, the ability of Wake's defense to limit his effectiveness, both on the ground and through the air, is going to be absolutely critical for the Demon Deacon's success. I do not think it will be possible for Wake's defense to completely shut Griffin down - he is just too versatile - but Wake cannot allow him to make too many big plays on the ground, or even through the air for that matter.

5 - What is the feeling of Demon Decon fans about this game? How confident are they that Wake will beat Baylor?

I get the impression most Wake fans are cautiously optimistic about Saturday's game. Had the home-and-home series been reversed and this year's game was being played in Waco, I think Wake fans would be very concerned. But, considering the way Wake played in Waco last year I think people feel pretty good about the Demon Deacon's chances. Much like the fans in Waco, I think Wake fans will be using this game a barometer for the season to come. A good performance will lead to really high expectations, but with a loss I think people will be preparing for a long season.

Most people seem pretty confident about the offense's ability to put points on the board. The big question people are waiting to have answered is whether or not the young Wake defense will step up. If Griffin can be contained and the secondary covers receivers, Wake fans are going to have a pretty good day.

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