Posted by Chip Patterson
College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Wake Forest, who starts spring practice Thursday.
How will Wake Forest's recent coordinator shuffle effect the productivity of spring practice? Will they be able to take advantage of the 17 returning starters?
Wake Forest knew they had a lot to improve on from 2010. There were all sorts of issues on the field that were going to require attention during the offseason. But plans to improve were thrown off momentarily with the surprise departure of Brad Lambert to UNC-Charlotte. The former defensive coordinator had been in Winston-Salem as long as head coach Jim Grobe, and been a crucial piece to the program. He was linebackers coach of the 2006 ACC Championship team, and helped develop Butkus Award winner Aaron Curry, now with the Seattle Seahawks.
So Grobe was forced to act quickly and unexpectedly to even get spring practice off on time. Grobe began by promoting from within, calling on Brian Knorr (wide receivers) and Tim Billings (outside linebackers) to be co-defensive coordinators. Knorr, who served as a linebackers coach under Grobe at Ohio University, will split both the coordinating and linebacker coach duties with Billings. The move promotes two seasoned assistants with head coaching experience, while also returning Knorr back to the defensive side of the ball.
But in filling Knorr's old role as wide receivers coach, Grobe got a chance to enhance his staff. West Virginia receivers coach Lonnie Galloway was officially announced on Tuesday as the latest hire in Wake Forest's coaching shuffle. Galloway was a four year letterman at quarterback for Western Carolina University. He graduated in 1994 second on the school's career passing list with 5,545 yards. Galloway should also help with recruiting, serving on staffs at Elon, East Carolina, and Appalachian State before West Virginia.
So now that the coaching staff is finally in line, the Demon Deacons can turn their attention towards 2011. Which is good news for Wake Forest fans, who have been looking forward to forgetting the 2010 season for some time. After the exhibition season-opener against Presbyterian and and a 54-48 footrace victory against the lowly Duke Blue Devils, Wake Forest dropped nine straight games. Thankfully, they were able to finish the season with a 34-13 victory over Vanderbilt, but it was a frustrating 1-7 ACC campaign for the Demon Deacons. They were consistently overmatched, being outscored in conference play on average 38.5-16.875.
Granted, it was a rough initiation for true freshman quarterback Tanner Price (pictured). Price, who has shown potential at times, was thrown into the mix early in the season and finished with nine starts under his belt. As expected, the consistency was lacking in the freshman's efforts. But with 1,349 yards passing and a year of experience with offensive coordinator Steed Lebotzke (one of the only coaches still in his 2010 role), Wake Forest fans are hoping that Price's growth will help improve the entire offense.
But Price's learning curve is no explanation for the poor defense. In 2010, the Demon Deacons were last in the conference in scoring defense, and only ranked higher than Duke in total defense; giving up 429.6 yards per game. Grobe sang Lambert's praises as he departed for UNC-Charlotte, but where was the proof on the field?
The difference between 2010 and Grobe teams of old came down to experience. Wake Forest finished the season staring 8 underclassmen on defense, including 3 freshmen in the secondary. The defenses during the postseason run from 2006-2008 were led by a core group of juniors and seniors. Grobe and his staff are known for their ability to develop talent, but unfortunately most of the Demon Deacons had to go through on-the-job training.
Which interestingly enough is one of the greatest strengths Wake Forest has moving towards 2011. With 17 returning starters, the Demon Deacons are the second most experienced team in the ACC. The players should enter spring practice with little/no learning curve. While the coaches might be shifting, the players are all back.
Regardless of the assistant coach jumble, Jim Grobe is still the head football coach at Wake Forest. He will have the same message and same expectations as always, and there should be no misunderstandings on the rosters with this large crop of returning players. Grobe has proven he can win with experience before, but Wake Forest fans are hoping to see that on the field sooner rather than later.
Wake Forest begins Spring Practice Thursday March 17
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