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Grobe Again Sought, Found Program-builders

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff




By Bob Sutton
Burlington (N.C.) Times-News

February 20, 2007

WINSTON-SALEM – Not a lot of attention was paid to many of Wake Forest's past recruiting classes. That might have been just as well to coach Jim Grobe.

For a two-month period leading up to national signing day this year, the Demon Deacons – as ACC champions – had the chore of keeping their existing commitments as well as pursuing others. After all, recruiters from other teams suddenly realized that Wake quietly was picking up some gems each year.

As it turned out, Grobe's concerns were unfounded, and all of the expected signees came through in his 20-man class.

"I think, with our success, people start figuring out we are not making too many mistakes in recruiting, and so when we get an early commitment it kind of opens up the recruiting to these guys," Grobe said. "We had a battle on our hands to keep these kids locked up.

"An early commitment, on one hand, is good. But on the other hand, you've got to hang with them. So I think our success toward the end of the year helped us hang on to some pretty good football players who had committed to us early."

There were some noteworthy additions late as well. Those included receiver Devon "Yloo" Brown of Ashburn, Va., safety Junior Petit-Jean of Naples, Fla., and linebacker Gelo Orange, also from Naples. Petit-Jean and Orange are from Haiti. Orange started to play football only two years ago.

Wake Forest had an ideal set-up in putting together this class, because the team should be well-stocked for the 2007 season, meaning it was another chance to stockpile talent and let it develop. There certainly didn't appear to be any emergency areas.

Recruiting coordinator Ray McCartney said there was no reason to overhaul the process just because of the team's 2006 success. His objective wasn't to swing for home runs in the past, and a rise in profile wasn't going to change that.

"If he doesn't fit here at Wake Forest," McCartney said, "it is a waste of time."

Grobe said he won't be swayed to overhaul what has worked, pegging this class as another group that will enhance the team's character.

"They're kids that I think we'll be still coaching in five years," Grobe said. "We think these guys are program guys who will be with us until the end."

With that, there's a calm assurance Grobe is able to project, a topic he has recounted during the past few months. It leads to the root of the recruiting.

Grobe and his staff have been under no pressure to rush this process, supported by the administration as the Demon Deacons took some lumps on the field but made redshirting first-year players a priority. In order to do that, the right players must be recruited, those who are willing to watch for a season – and, perhaps, those who might not be ready to play right away in the first place.

This is an outlook that might not work at some of the established football factories, but under Grobe's guidance it isn't given a second thought in Winston-Salem. And the best might be still to come for Wake on the recruiting trail.

With a large dose of early commitments, the impact of Wake's first ACC championship since 1970 might not be realized until next year. Most of the players in the 2007 class picked or eliminated the Demon Deacons before the stunning on-field results last fall.

Yet the success produced a dilemma of another sort.

With redshirt freshman Riley Skinner emerging as an award-winning quarterback, luring a top-level signal-caller to this class could have been difficult. Instead of someone showing up on campus expecting to have a chance to replace Benjamin Mauk after another season, the thought of waiting for Skinner to move on could have scared off prospects.

But the only quarterback in the class, fleet-footed Skylar Jones of Middletown, Ohio, stuck with his commitment. He had plenty of other offers, including from some heavyweights who liked him at different positions, but not one from his home-state favorite, Ohio State.

Skinner's performance in 2006 made a mockery of recruiting rankings. After all, he nearly didn't even receive an offer from Wake. Two years ago, he was the final member of the recruiting class in what was a rather hesitant invitation from Grobe. Skinner's previous offers were from Hawaii and Miami-Ohio, and he was giving serious consideration to Division I-AA Furman.

Jones presents contrasting assets to those of Skinner, Grobe said. Some of Wake's multiple formations – including direct snaps to players lined up at running back – couldn't have hurt its ability to create imaginative ideas to throw in Jones' direction.

Even with Wake's reputation growing nationally, after the 11-victory season and Orange Bowl invitation, the Demon Deacons stayed close to home for some important additions.

Three signees were from the Winston-Salem area, including West Forsyth High teammates Kyle Jarrett, a linebacker, and John Stamper, a safety. Cornerback Josh Bush of West Davidson added to the local flavor, as Grobe's staff showed the ability to compete well within the state's borders. Less than an hour's drive away, the Deacons picked up linebacker Tristan Dorty of West Rowan, a first-team all-state player.

In all, there were seven recruits from North Carolina in the class, potentially putting the number of in-state players at 28 on the 2007 roster.

"I think seven (from North Carolina) is a good number," Grobe said. "We would have taken more than seven."

That's also the number signed from Florida. Wake played three games in the Sunshine State, where its status probably grew with a shutout of Florida State, a victory against Georgia Tech in Jacksonville, and an appearance in Miami for the bowl game.

Defensive tackle Uriah Grant is from Everglades High, about 10 miles from Dolphin Stadium, where the Orange Bowl was contested. Grant was one of the late commitments in the class.

Grobe said he likes what recruiting in Florida has produced in recent seasons, and he senses that his staff has made a stronger mark there. Assistant coach Tom Elrod has been credited with setting the groundwork for much of the Deacons' success in recruiting the state.

North Carolina and Florida were the only states that sent more than one signee to Wake Forest this year.

The staff did go back to some reliables. Michael Hoag is an offensive lineman from Knoxville, Tenn., from the same school (Farragut) as ex-Wake Forest offensive lineman Tyson Clabo.

In terms of positions, there turned out to be a nice distribution, with 11 defenders and nine offensive players. Grobe said he intends to redshirt the bulk of the class, but he said there's a chance the receivers and defensive backs (two safeties, two cornerbacks) will have an opportunity to make immediate contributions, because seniors manned some of those positions last season.

"I feel good about where we are right now depth-wise at all of our positions, and I think this class helps bolster that," Grobe said. "We got another balanced class. That is one of our goals. The first two or three years here, we weren't able to do that. We were putting out fires at certain positions because of depth issues."

Some of the issues have changed, and the win-loss record enjoyed a major upgrade, but Grobe said his recruiting philosophy stayed well-grounded and in place. More than ever, his success with his unique plan speaks for itself.

RAW ORANGE SPEAKS DEACS' LANGUAGE WELL

Naples High coach Bill Kramer wanted Gelo Orange to spend as much time observing football as possible over the past couple of years. Orange had to overcome a language barrier – or two.

Orange, who signed with Wake Forest as a linebacker, arrived from Haiti in 2004. So he had to brush up on his English, not to mention his football terminology. Orange began playing football two years ago, but he made a big enough impression to receive interest from Colorado, Indiana and Wake Forest.

"Meteoric, I would say," Kramer said of Orange's rise. "He's a worker and he's smart, and with a heart of gold. What a great combination."

Orange followed teammate Junior Petit-Jean, also originally from Haiti, to Wake Forest. Petit-Jean committed much earlier, then Orange was added to the class in a move that seemed to coincide with linebacker Jon Abbate's decision to forego his final season at Wake.

Orange is described as raw in football terms, making him the type of player Wake's coaches don't mind molding. He lined up at defensive end for Naples but has been pegged as a linebacker at the collegiate level.

Orange has advanced beyond any language issues, though he speaks with an accent, Kramer said. Orange's ability to adjust to a new environment is apparent based on his move as a teenager, yet it should help that he'll have Petit-Jean along with him at Wake.

Kramer said Naples has a history of sending multiple players from the same class to the same college, with West Virginia and Brown among the destinations for duos during the past seven years. Petit-Jean picked Wake Forest ahead of West Virginia, Wisconsin, Central Florida and South Florida.

The Demon Deacons also signed a pair of in-state high school teammates, with linebacker Kyle Jarrett and safety John Stamper.

– Bob Sutton

RAW ORANGE SPEAKS DEACS' LANGUAGE WELL

Naples High coach Bill Kramer wanted Gelo Orange to spend as much time observing football as possible over the past couple of years. Orange had to overcome a language barrier — or two.

Orange, who signed with Wake Forest as a linebacker, arrived from Haiti in 2004. So he had to brush up on his English, not to mention his football terminology. Orange began playing football two years ago, but he made a big enough impression to receive interest from Colorado, Indiana and Wake Forest.

"Meteoric, I would say," Kramer said of Orange's rise. "He's a worker and he's smart, and with a heart of gold. What a great combination."

Orange followed teammate Junior Petit-Jean, also originally from Haiti, to Wake Forest. Petit-Jean committed much earlier, then Orange was added to the class in a move that seemed to coincide with linebacker Jon Abbate's decision to forego his final season at Wake.

Orange is described as raw in football terms, making him the type of player Wake's coaches don't mind molding. He lined up at defensive end for Naples but has been pegged as a linebacker at the collegiate level.

Orange has advanced beyond any language issues, though he speaks with an accent, Kramer said. Orange's ability to adjust to a new environment is apparent based on his move as a teenager, yet it should help that he'll have Petit-Jean along with him at Wake.

Kramer said Naples has a history of sending multiple players from the same class to the same college, with West Virginia and Brown among the destinations for duos during the past seven years. Petit-Jean picked Wake Forest ahead of West Virginia, Wisconsin, Central Florida and South Florida.

The Demon Deacons also signed a pair of in-state high school teammates, with linebacker Kyle Jarrett and safety John Stamper.

— Bob Sutton

WAKE FOREST 2007 SIGNEES

Name Pos. Ht./Wt. Stars High School/Junior College
Comment

Ryan Britt OL 6-4/290 2/2 Colleyville (TX) Heritage
All-district; played LT; over BYU, Hou., Tulsa, Utah (!)

Devon Brown WR 5-9/183 2/2 Ashburn (VA) Stone Bridge
1st-team 3A all-state; 178-1744-29 as sr. RB; over I-AA

Josh Bush CB 5-11/185 2/2 Lexington (NC) West Davidson
All-conference; 4-year starter; QB/CB as sr.; over I-AA

Danny Dembry WR 6-2/173 2/2 Ahoskie (NC) Hertford Co.
All-conference; team captain; over ECU, Ky., NCSU

Tristan Dorty LB 6-2/235 2/2 Mt. Ulla (NC) West Rowan
1st-team all-state (DE); conference POY; over UVa

Cameron Ford TE 6-4/212 2/2 Anderson (SC) Hanna
SP-31 SC; 1st-team all-state; over NCSU, USC, Vandy (!)

Uriah Grant DT 6-2/262 3/3 Miramar (FL) Everglades
RV-97 FL; all-county; over Mizzou, Pitt, Rut., USC, Wis. (?)

Michael Hoag OL 6-6/290 2/2 Knoxville (TN) Farragut
1st-team all-state; from Tyson Clabo's HS; over Vandy (!)

Kyle Jarrett LB 6-2/215 3/2 Clemmons (NC) West Forsyth
ST-18 NC; all-conference; injured jr. (knee); early decision

Skylar Jones QB 6-1/186 3/3 Middletown (OH) High
SP-27 OH; athlete; over KSU, Md., Mich.St., Pur., WVU

Gelo Orange LB 6-1/215 2/2 Naples (FL) High
All-region; 68-11 (sacks) as senior; over Colo., FIU, Ind.

Brandon Pendergrass RB 5-9/196 3/3 Royal Palm Beach (FL) High
Area POY; 3rd-team 6A all-state; over Ill., NW, Vandy

Junior Petit-Jean S 6-0/190 2/2 Naples (FL) High
HM all-state; all-district; over FAU, Ind., WVU, Wis.

Cyhl Quarles LB 6-3/215 3/2 Norcross (GA) Meadowcreek
All-county; 4-year starter; track sprinter; over UAB, Ky.

Chance Raines-C OL 6-2/275 3/2 Jacksonville (FL) Bolles
1st-team 2A all-state; over MTSU, Navy, USF, TCU

John Stamper S 6-0/185 2/3 Clemmons (NC) West Forsyth
4-time all-conference; Shrine Bowl; early over BCS interest

Doug Weaver OL 6-8/290 3/3 Roxboro (NC) Person
SP-29 NC; Duke switch; also ECU, Md., NCSU, UVa

Kyle Wilber DE 6-5/230 2/3 Apopka (FL) High
RV-89 FL; 3rd-team 6A all-state; over Ky., Miss., Wis.

Jordan Williams WR 6-3/180 2/2 Jacksonville (FL) Raines
All-conference; all-region; early over CUSA interest (!)

Mike Williams CB 6-1/170 2/2 Melbourne (FL) Palm Bay
2nd-team 5A all-state; over UCF, FIU, Miami-Ohio, I-AA

Will Wright DE 6-3/220 2/2 Wilmington (NC) Hoggard
All-area in BB and FB; 41-8 (sacks) as sr.; over I-AA (!)

*-All-American (top 250 by two/more services) ^-enrolled (!)-strong academics (?)-unconfirmed academics ST–Scout.com RV–Rivals.com SP–SuperPrep STARS: By Scout/Rivals.

WHO GOT AWAY?

The following prospects had firm scholarship offers from Wake Forest and/or took official visits to Winston-Salem but signed with other programs: Hollywood (FL) Chaminade CB Akeem Auguste (USC), Berkeley Heights (NJ) Livingston TE Matt Boyer (Princeton), St. Petersburg (FL) High DT Lawon Scott (Miss.), Poway (CA) High DT Nick Wood (Wash.).

The following prospects also claimed scholarship offers from Wake but eliminated the Demon Deacons early in the recruiting process: Lincolnton (GA) Lincoln County TE Brandon Barden (VT), Alpharetta (GA) Chattahoochee OL Clint Boling (Ga.), Charlotte (NC) Victory Christian DE Kourtnei Brown (Clem.), Suwanee (GA) Peachtree Ridge P Drew Butler (Ga.), Chatham (VA) Hargrave Military DE Miguel Chavis (Clem.), Columbia (SC) Spring Valley OL Mason Cloy (Clem.), Garner (NC) High DB Chris Culliver (USC), Duncan (SC) Byrnes FB Chad Diehl (Clem.), Lakeland (FL) Evangel Christian WR Art Evans (Tenn.), Loudon (TN) High RB Josh Hawkins (Tenn.), Immokalee (FL) High CB Aaron Henry (Wis.), Bowling Green (KY) High OL Stuart Hines (Ky.), Orlando (FL) Jones OL Jerry Howard (Fla.), Charlotte (NC) Olympic WR Steven Howard (NCSU), Virginia Beach (VA) Kempsville DB Trenton Hughes (Md.), McDonough (GA) Union Grove LB Kyle Jackson (GT), Greensboro (NC) Page DE Kevion Latham (PSU), Midlothian (VA) Manchester OL Khalil Latif (VT), Durham (NC) Hillside WR Greg Little (UNC), Jacksonville (FL) Potters House WR Randy McKinnon (Syr.), Eden Prairie (MN) High LB Bryce McNaul (NW), Bunn (NC) High DE Kerry Neal (ND), Garner (NC) High RB Josh Oglesby (VT), Sarasota (FL) Cardinal Mooney LB Hunter Ovens (VT), Durham (NC) Riverside TE Weslye Saunders (USC), Cuyahoga Falls (OH) Walsh Jesuit OL Nick Schepis (BC), Pineville (KY) Bell County TE Brent Slusher (Aub.), Jacksonville (FL) First Coast DB Arkee Smith (USC), Irmo (SC) Dutch Fork OL Stephen St. John (Md.), Memphis (TN) University DE John Stokes (Vandy), Jacksonville (FL) Bolles FB Ryan Van Rensburg (Vandy), Ronda (NC) East Wilkes OL Landon Walker (Clem.), Ft. Myers (FL) Riverdale TE Mat Williams (USC), Ponte Vedra (FL) Beach OL James Wilson (Fla.).

Compiled by David Glenn