Ron Wellman Column: Deacon Football

Dec. 3, 2010

Now that the football season is over, it is a good time to reflect upon the season and look to our future. We have come to expect successful and championship-caliber teams at Wake Forest under Jim Grobe's leadership and this year obviously fell short of those expectations. At the same time, we can anticipate a very bright future for our program as we climb back to being ACC Championship contenders.

There is no single reason for the team's 3-9 record this fall. It was a culmination of issues that produced a record that frustrated everyone associated with our program. I assure you that our coaches and players are more frustrated and disappointed than anyone and are working diligently to reestablish our program as one of the best in the ACC.

This year we simply broke the model that led us to so much success under Jim Grobe. The teams that took us to the ACC Championship in 2006 and bowl games three consecutive years were dominated by fourth and fifth year players. Our model is to redshirt nearly every freshman, allow them to physically develop in the weight room under the watchful eye of Ethan Reeve and his staff, and learn the Wake Forest way during their first couple years on campus. This pattern also allowed the young players to adapt to the rigors of an academic institution like Wake Forest. Of course, a number of redshirt freshman, most notably Josh Adams and Riley Skinner, excelled early in their careers, each earning ACC Rookie of the Year honors.

Experience has been Wake Forest's number one ally. In 2006, 2007 and 2008 the Demon Deacons started no fewer than eight players on defense who were juniors and seniors. During our three most recent bowl seasons, we've started at least seven juniors and/or seniors on offense. In contrast to those bowl seasons, this year we typically started just three seniors on offense and three on defense. The defense regularly started four freshmen or redshirt freshman and other first and second year players played considerable minutes each game. Not only were freshmen playing prominent roles on our team this year, they were also playing critical positions such as quarterback, the defensive line and secondary.

While we are determined not to get caught in this type of situation of playing so many young players in the future, the experience that the young players gained this year will undoubtedly benefit us in the future. We will have a young but veteran team returning next season and I am confident that we will take a major step forward in 2011. We are fortunate to have an outstanding coaching staff leading our football program. This is the same coaching staff that led us to the ACC Championship and Orange Bowl in 2006. Over the course of the last ten years this staff has proven that they know how to produce championship teams at Wake Forest and I am confident that we will return to that level of success under Jim's leadership. I have never seen him as excited about a group of young players as he is about this team which will undoubtedly get us back to the competitive level that we all desire.

Thank you for the high expectations that you have of our program. I look forward to 2011 when we begin our climb back to ACC prominence. Go Deacs!

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