Demon Deacon Football Game Notes -- Wake Forest at Clemson
Aug. 30, 2004
This Week's Game
The Demon Deacons begin their season away from Groves Stadium for the fourth straight year under head coach Jim Grobe. Wake Forest has opened its season at home just once since 1998.
The Deacons finished an up-and-down 2003 season with a 5-7 record featuring highlight wins at Boston College and against nationally-ranked NC State, but with three straight losses to end the season. It was the first losing season for Wake Forest under Grobe. Sixteen starters are back from last year's team including an All-ACC selection in each phase of the game.
Clemson begins the 2004 campaign ranked in both the Associated Press (No. 15) and the ESPN/USA Today poll (No. 16). The Tigers are coming off a 9-4 season that was capped by a victory in the Peach Bowl against Tennessee. Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden returns 15 starters from last year's squad.
The Deacons have not begun a season by facing an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent since 1992. It will be the earliest ACC game on the calendar in Wake Forest history.
Saturday's game will mark the 52nd straight year the two teams have met on the gridiron and the 70th meeting overall. The Tigers lead the series 53-15-1. In last year's meeting in Winston-Salem, the Deacons won 45-17 at Groves Stadium.
Preseason Camp Recap
While a number of Deacons missed up to several days of preseason camp, no major injuries were incurred during the dog days of August. The only major injury heading into Saturday's game is a lingering Achilles injury to defensive end John Finklea which was suffered during offseason conditioning drills. He will miss the Clemson game.
There were only three position changes to report. Senior Jerome Nichols moved from defensive end to defensive tackle, junior Chris Owen moved from linebacker to fullback and freshman Eric Gaskins switched from defensive tackle to offensive tackle.
Offensively, the biggest preseason question marks were on the offensive line. Early injuries to projected starting guards Greg Adkins and Joe Salsich opened the door for younger players. No one has taken better advantage of the opportunity than redshirt sophomore Arby Jones and redshirt freshman Brodie Overstreet who have staked claim to the starting guard positions.
On the defensive side of the ball, Nichols' shift to defensive tackle has freed up a starting job on the right side. Third-year sophomore Bryan Andrews has stepped into those shoes.
Who's Back In 2004?
With only 10 seniors, Wake Forest is still considered to be a relatively young team. That doesn't mean the Deacons are lacking experience, however. The Deacons have seven players who are beginning their third year as starters and 12 players have started at least 10 games in their careers.
On offense, the Deacons return the starters at all the skills positions, including Randolph (QB), Barclay (RB), Anderson and Willie Idlette (WR).
Defensively, four of the team's top six tacklers are back including Caron Bracy, who led the team with 90 stops as a junior last year; King, who had a team-high three interceptions and led the ACC with 15 pass breakups.
In all, the Deacons return 93 percent of their all-purpose yards from last year's team which led the ACC in rushing for a third straight year.
From The Training Room
With 18 wins in his first three years as head coach, Jim Grobe has lifted the Demon Deacons to a level of success seldom seen at Wake Forest.
Grobe's 18 wins through his first three seasons are the most by a Wake Forest coach since 1923-25 when Hank Garrity won 19.
The 18 wins are the most in any three-year period since 1986-88.
When the Deacons originally adopted the "nickel" package, the decision was made largely because of quality depth in the defensive backfield and a lack of it along the line.
Now in their fourth season, the coaching staff feels as though they have enough quality linemen to fill those positions up front.
Grobe has emphasized, however, that the Deacons will not abandon the 3-3-5, particularly against pass-heavy offenses.
While the Deacons will often have one fewer defensive back on the field than in years past, it's possible that it could still be the same players. Senior Caron Bracy, who started as the "bandit" defensive back, has moved to outside linebacker.
Recent Season Openers
The Deacons are 49-50-3 in season openers through the years and have won six of the last ten.
Ray McCartney, formerly the defensive line coach, is now concentrating solely on defensive tackles.
Keith Henry, who coached cornerbacks in 2003, will oversee Wake Forest's defensive ends.
Defensive coordinator Dean Hood will coach the entire secondary in 2004 after working specifically with the safeties last year.
Backs By Popular Demand
Grobe and the coaching staff said they feel comfortable with each of their top four ballcarriers including Barclay, junior Cornelius Birgs, true sophomore D'Angelo Bryant and redshirt freshman Micah Andrews.
After Barclay's 1,192 yards last year, Birgs compiled 344 yards on the ground and Bryant was inserted into the lineup as a true freshman.
Tailbacks accounted for 68 percent of last year's rushing yards. Quarterback Cory Randolph was the team's second leading rusher and receiver Willie Idlette ranked fourth.
Wake has led the ACC in rushing three years in a row. King Selected to Preseason Nagurski List
During the summer, senior cornerback Eric King was selected to the Bronko Nagurski Trophy preseason watch list, which is a compilation of the best defensive players in college football regardless of position, chosen by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).
King, a 5-foot-10, 185 pound cornerback from Woodstock, Md., was a first-team All-ACC pick last fall and was chosen as Wake Forest's MVP by his teammates. He started all 11 games and led the ACC in passes defended with 18, including 15 breakups and three interceptions. As a sophomore, King was honorable mention All-ACC and started each contest.
King is one of 60 defensive players on the list.
The winner of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, presented by the FWAA and the Charlotte Touchdown Club, will be named on Dec. 6 at a banquet in Charlotte, N.C. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops will be the keynote speaker.
Lingruen Considered For Outland Trophy
Senior center Blake Lingruen has been selected to the Outland Trophy preseason watch list by the FWAA.
The Outland Trophy annually is presented to the top interior lineman in college football on either side of the ball - tackles, centers, guards - in a vote of the FWAA All-America Team Committee in late November.
Lingruen, a 6-foot-4, 298 pound center from Liberty Center, Ohio, started 11 games last year for the Demon Deacons despite suffering a knee sprain in the season opener.
He was chosen by The Sporting News as a second-team junior class All-American. Lingruen graded out at 88 percent for the season and averaged 9.3 knockdowns per game. He was the ACC Lineman of the Week after helping pave the way for five rushing touchdowns against Duke.
Lingruen is one of 57 interior lineman on the preseason watch list.
Presented since 1946, the Outland Trophy is the third oldest award in college football behind the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award.
It is named after the late John Outland, an All-America lineman at the University of Pennsylvania at the turn of the century. Bar-None Chris Barclay returns as the feature back for Wake Forest, a team that has led the ACC in rushing each of the last three years.
Just two years into his collegiate career, Barclay already ranks 10th in the Wake Forest rushing record books. Barclay, a true junior, needs just 105 yards to reach the 2,000-yard level for his career.
If he stays healthy, Barclay should easily move into third place in the Wake Forest record book for career rushing yards by season's end.
The Doak Walker Award nominee already has 21 rushing touchdowns to his credit and needs ten scores this season to become Wake Forest's all-time leader in that category.
A big target (6-foot-3) and a big play receiver (18.5 ypc), Anderson is Wake Forest's career leader in yards per reception.
As a junior, Anderson had seven catches of 35 yards or more and five of those grabs went for touchdowns.
During the summer, Anderson attended a wide receiver camp in Los Angeles where he caught 100 passes a day and worked out with other collegiate receievers.
Two Is Better Than One
But, if you ask anyone around the football program, there's no controversy.
The plan for 2004 is the same one that was used in the 2002 Seattle Bowl season when the Deacons used the experienced and reliable James MacPherson primarily with a then-young and inexperienced Randolph for one series per half.
In his first year as a starter, Randolph was up and down, completing 58.5 percent of his passes, but also throwing 10 interceptions.
"I don't think we could have been happier with a sophomore quarterback playing the way he did all year," Grobe said. "Now, he's a much more veteran quarterback. He's making a lot better decisions. He's being a lot more patient with what he's doing with the football."
Mauk also had a great preseason camp, impressing the coaching staff with his patience, accuracy, arm strength and his ability to make plays.
"We feel like we can win with either guy," Grobe said.
For the second straight year, Plackemeier is a top candidate for the Ray Guy Award.
He led the ACC and ranked sixth nationally with an average boot of 45.6 yards. Plackmeier, with a booming leg, also showed off his accuracy in 2003 dropping 11 punts inside the 20-yard line.
Plackemeier worked hard in the weight room this offseason and while at home in his native California, he practiced punting into the wind on the beaches to increase leg strength.
White Leads the Linebackers
The native of Rhode Island will finish his undergraduate degree in analytical finance this December and simultaneously get his graduate degree in accountancy. Last spring, White earned a 4.0 grade point average.
A team captain in 2004, White has started 25 straight games for the Deacons and was the team's third-leading tackler last fall.
American Idol-ette: Season Two
Idlette was later named Freshman All-American by The Sporting News at the all-purpose position.
Idlette was a weapon to rush, receive and return. He ran for 234 yards, averaging almost six yards per carry; he was the team's second-leading receiver with 32 catches; he returned both punts and kickoffs for the Deacons to average almost 100 yards per game in all-purpose yards.
Vallos Named Freshman All-American
The 6-3, 302-lb. offensive guard started every game in 2003 -- one of just four offensive players and the only redshirt freshman on the team to do so. Vallos earned a season grade of 86.1 and averaged 8.2 knockdowns a game. He came on strong at the end of the season, tying a team season-high with 18.5 knockdowns versus North Carolina and grading out at a personal best 94 percent against UConn.
As many as four true freshmen could see the field this fall and the top candidate is defensive end Jeremy Thompson. The Charlotte native has pushed into a position to be one of the team's top four players. Near the conclusion of preseason, Grobe said that Thompson might be good enough to start as a freshman.
Other leading candidates to "lose the shirt" this fall are cornerback Alphonso Smith (Pahokee, Fla.) and linebacker Aaron Curry (Fayetteville, N.C.).
A Programming Note
The schedule falls awkwardly on the calendar. After two road games to start the year, the Deacons will leave Winston-Salem just one time between Sept. 18 and Nov. 20.
During those nine weeks, Wake Forest will play six home games and one road game -- at NC State Oct. 2 -- with two bye weeks sandwiched in between.
From the Odds and Ends Department
Of the 117 Division I football teams, only Western Michigan will not fly to any road games.
As a team, Wake Forest posted a graduation rate of 94 percent. The national average was 59 percent.
Boston College, Northwestern, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State were also in the top five.
Other ACC schools which earned distinction for having a rate of 70 percent or better included Duke, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina and Virginia Tech.
Demon Deacons To Face ACC Newcomers
Wake Forest is also the only league school that will play future ACC team Boston College this season. The Eagles make their first ever appearance at Groves Stadium Sept. 25 after the Deacs won last season, 32-28, in Chestnut Hill.
Coming In Droves to Groves
After getting off to a 2-0 start with wins over Boston College and NC State, followed by a national ranking in early September, the Deacs dropped a close one to Purdue at home, 16-10. WFU went to 3-1 with a home victory over East Carolina, but then dropped two conference contests -- to Virginia and Georgia Tech -- to fall to 3-3.
A 42-13 rout of Duke gave the Deacons some momentum heading to Florida State, but WFU had a tough time with the sixth-ranked Seminoles. The Deacs fell 48-24 despite putting up more offense and points than any other FSU opponent at that point of the season.
Wake Forest returned to Groves Stadium to dominate Clemson in an impressive 45-17 victory, halting a four-game Tiger win streak in the series. Needing just one more victory to become bowl eligible, the Deacons were shocked the next week, falling 42-34 to a North Carolina team in Chapel Hill that was previously winless in ACC play.
A chance to redeem themselves at home against UConn the following week failed to pan out as well. The high-flying Huskies stomped the Deacs, 51-17.
Wake Forest's last chance at a 6-6 season and a bowl-eligible record came at home against Maryland. The Deacs couldn't hang onto a 21-6 lead, as Maryland battled back for a 41-28 victory to end Wake Forest's season.