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July 8, 2012

Gridiron questions: part one

In less than a month college football training camps will kickoff across the nation, which has fans and prognosticators discussing preseason expectations.

After making its first postseason appearance (lost to Mississippi State 23-17 in the Music City Bowl) since 2008 Wake Forest hopes to improve on last season's 6-7 (5-3 ACC) campaign. However, the Demon Deacons have many voids to fill.

In a two-part series Deacons Illustrated asks the hard questions for the Black and Gold Faithful to chew on as training camp and ultimately the season approach …

--- Wake's offensive line is undergoing nearly a complete facelift after losing four starters to graduation. Redshirt senior center Garrick Williams is the lone returning starter up front for the Deacs, while right tackle Colin Summers is the only other lineman who played significantly
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1) How quickly can this young group mesh under the tutelage of new position coach Jonathan Himebauch with a visit (Sept. 8) from North Carolina and trip to Florida State (Sept. 15) looming early in the season?

--- Michael Campanaro (73 catches for 833 yards and two touchdowns, 3-4 passing for 106 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, and a 50-yard punt return for a touchdown) gave Wake Forest a reliable playmaker outside of record-setting wide receiver Chris Givens last season. Campanaro returns to lead a deep, but relatively unproven corps of receivers after Givens turned pro a year early (Drafted in the fourth round by the St. Louis Rams).

2) With Givens gone how does Campanaro adjust to the added pressure to perform at a high level, and who else emerges as a key target?

--- After rushing for 720 yards and seven touchdowns as a redshirt freshman (241 yards at Virginia Tech in 2010) Josh Harris' reliability and toughness was in question while a hamstring injury caused him to miss most of last season.

Brandon Pendergrass took the reigns as Wake's go-to-runner in 2011, gaining a solid 823 yards and nine touchdowns rushing. With five games left Jim Grobe removed the redshirt tag from Orville Reynolds (28 carries for 109 yards) to provide a high-speed change of pace and give Pendergrass some relief.

Harris began the offseason behind Reynolds, but worked hard and performed well in the spring game with six carries for 40 yards and a touchdown and one reception for a nine-yard touchdown.

Next up for the Demon Deacons are a green trio of backs in DeAndre Martin, Tyler Jackson (two carries for five yards) and Joshua Wilhite, so the success of Wake's rushing attack hinges significantly on the health and production of Harris and Reynolds.

3) Will Harris and/or Reynolds meet the high expectations set for them to pick up and improve on where Pendergrass left off to give Wake Forest a competitive ground game?

--- Leadership is always a key ingredient to how well a team does from year-to-year. Wake lost some big-time leaders in offensive guard Joe Looney and outside linebacker Kyle Wilber to name a couple.

4) Who steps up to carry the torch this season?

--- In 2011 Wake Forest ranked ninth in the ACC in run defense (169.8 yards allowed per game), and aside from Nikita Whitlock the Demon Deacons lacked strong production from the rest of its defensive line on a consistent basis.

5) What needs to happen for this trend to change, and who is most likely to have a breakout year on the defensive line to help Whitlock stymie the opposition this fall?

Stay tuned for part two of Gridiron questions as Deacons Illustrated asks questions 6-10.


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