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Quarterback Pair Deserved Attention

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

  April 12, 2004 WINSTON-SALEM — The story of Wake Forest spring football wasn't a quarterback controversy until the final scrimmage, but then it became the one and only topic everyone wanted to talk about. Rising junior Cory Randolph, last season's starter, clearly worked as the No. 1 quarterback all spring. Redshirt freshman Ben Mauk, the former record-setting prepster, continued to learn the offense. Despite his obvious talent, Mauk wasn't consistent enough to make much of a push for No. 1. Then came the spring game. Randolph basically did nothing on the final day of drills, save a long pass to wideout Jason Anderson. Coach Jim Grobe blamed it on the first team's inability to run the ball. "It all starts with being able to run the football," Grobe said. "That's one of the problems Cory Randolph had at quarterback today. We ran a couple of times on first down and gained a yard or two, and now we're second-and-eight, third-and-nine and that kind of stuff. His supporting cast has got to help him a little bit." Regardless of the reason for them, Randolph's troubles were amplified by the fact that Mauk was everywhere during the spring game. Playing mainly against the first-team defense, Mauk led Wake to three touchdowns and a field goal. He ran seven times for 93 yards and a score, and he completed six of eight passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. While the touchdown was a long toss down the left sideline, perhaps his most impressive throw came on a play few will remember. Mauk rolled right, then stopped and threw back to hit wideout Cassiel Smith on the numbers in the middle of the field for a 20-yard gain. It displayed Mauk's agility, arm, awareness and accuracy. "Ben played really well," Grobe said. "He's come on all spring. Actually, last fall, we saw some talent but felt like he had a ways to go. He's done a great job in the offseason, working in the weight room and getting in shape. Obviously, he's running better right now, and he's got the great arm. He's starting to pick up the offense. We know he has a ton of ability; he just lacks experience. He did some good things today. This was probably his most consistent day of the spring." Mauk was very humble after his performance. His 44-yard touchdown throw to Willie Idlette? "Anybody could have made that throw," Mauk said. He credited everyone else and made it clear he felt Randolph was No. 1. He even volunteered to change positions if Grobe thought it was best for the team, although that's highly unlikely, especially since the Deacs had only two quarterbacks on scholarship during spring drills. Grobe also avoided any talk of a controversy, although that may be a strong term considering the tiny media following the Demon Deacons had all spring. On many days, only one newspaper reporter showed up to track the team's
development. "Day to day, throughout the spring, Cory Randolph's had a great spring," Grobe said. "It's very encouraging when you've got a guy like Cory Randolph who's your quarterback and a guy like Ben Mauk who's pushing him for some playing time. It's just a really healthy situation for us at quarterback right now." More than anything, Mauk's development should allow Wake to take the gloves off Randolph. Last year, with only a walk-on as a backup on the active roster, the coaches tried their best to keep Randolph healthy, keeping the offensive play-calling from exposing him too much. "We'll sleep a little bit better," Grobe said, "knowing that we've got a couple kids who can take snaps and play for us." Grobe outlined the same plan for Mauk that he used for Randolph under James MacPherson two seasons ago: one series in each half for the backup. "That really helped Cory mature, and it would help Ben mature," Grobe said. "Of course, Ben's got to earn that. From what he showed us today, he's a guy we can continue to plan on getting some playing time. If he had an opportunity to do like Cory did, get maybe a series a half behind Cory, then obviously we're going to be better when it's his turn to go. It's good for Cory Randolph for him to have someone on his heels. It's going to make him better." Andrews Showed Spring Flashes Defensive end Bryan Andrews was another player who impressed in the spring game. He spent much of the day in the backfield or around the ball. The Deacons haven't yet seen much payoff from Andrews, a rare prep All-American signee for the program. Grobe wasn't sure he was seeing anything special this spring, either, until the final scrimmage. "Bryan's had kind of a spotty spring, but he did some real nice things today," Grobe said. "He hurt a shoulder last week, missed two or three days of practice, really didn't do much on Thursday, but had a good day today. Bryan's like a lot of our other guys: He's got to be more consistent. He's got to do it on a regular basis. But based on what he did today, he's got good momentum going into the offseason and should come back with a little confidence in August." Andrews loved the team's move this spring to a four-man front, and he believes it will help the whole line make more plays. "It gives us a chance to get our speed out on the ends," Andrews said. "I'm not as strong as some of the interior D-linemen, but being out there on the edge, I can use what I do have, and that's speed and agility. Offensive lines will have to block us more one-on-one now. That'll give the interior linemen a chance to use their moves, and it'll give us (the ends) a chance, too." Hendley's Departure Made Sense The transfer of freshman basketball player Todd Hendley, who saw little action this season, was a surprise only in that there wasn't much, if any, public talk about the move. When you examine Hendley's situation, the decision looks like a pretty natural one. Hendley, who was listed at 6-9 and 213 pounds this season, can play either forward position, but the fact that he's a "tweener" probably works against him. He's not quite quick enough or good enough with the ball to be a standout small forward, and he's not physical or strong enough at power forward. Because of Hendley's impressive work ethic, it's easy to see how he might have continued to develop at one or both positions. However, the Deacons have a logjam at forward in front of him. If Hendley played big, he would have been behind Jamaal Levy and Vytas Danelius for another year, and he would have had to compete with Chris Ellis for another two seasons. In addition, Wake already has early commitments from well-regarded big men Kevin Swinton (No. 21) and David Weaver (top 100) for 2005-06. Rising sophomore Kyle Visser also will pick up minutes at power forward whenever he's in the game next to center Eric Williams, a rising junior. If Hendley played small, he would be behind Levy again, plus Trent Strickland for two seasons. Wake also is bringing in top-125 wing forward Cameron Stanley this fall. In addition, the Deacons probably will use a three-guard lineup again for parts of next season, stealing more minutes from the big men on the roster. So what does this mean for Wake? Hendley will be missed most at practice, where he consistently played hard, and in the locker room, where he was a positive influence. On the court, it's possible that his absence will be felt in two seasons, when the Deacons could miss having a reliable junior to help their frontcourt depth. However, Hendley's departure gives the Deacs an extra scholarship, and with the potential for another high-profile season coming up, there's a very good chance they'll be able to sign a much higher-impact player.