By Tom Berry
High Point (N.C.) Enterprise
April 12, 2004 SPRING 2004 OVERVIEW WINSTON-SALEM Two young players with impressive bloodlines might make key contributions to Wake Forest's football team this fall. But coach Jim Grobe steered the topic from accomplished relatives to steady accomplishments for the entire team a few days after the team's final spring scrimmage in early April.
Grobe, entering his fourth season with the Demon Deacons, prefers to play down the fact that redshirt freshmen Zac Selmon and Micah Andrews have fathers who made impressive marks in college and professional football.
"We've got a couple of players who come from pretty good stock," Grobe said. "But they don't talk a whole lot about it."
The fathers, Dewey Selmon and William Andrews, proved themselves as college and NFL stars.
Selmon, part of the famous Oklahoma brother combination of defensive linemen that also included Lee Roy and Lucious, was a consensus All-American in 1975 and helped the Sooners capture national championships in 1974 and 75. He played seven NFL seasons, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Diego Chargers.
Andrews was a wishbone fullback at Auburn, earning team offensive MVP honors in 1977, before becoming a four-time Pro Bowl running back with the Atlanta Falcons. He led the NFL in yards from scrimmage in 1981 and finished second in rushing in 83.
Although the sons cannot be expected to duplicate their fathers' success, they have good starting points in football.
"Zac is our starting tight end right now, and we feel real good about how he's come along," Grobe said about the younger Selmon. "Micah is a running back with great speed, and I think he'll play a lot for us, but plenty of youngsters will be getting playing time."
Wake's roster for the 2004 season will include just 10 seniors, normally not a good sign for a program attempting to improve on last year's 5-7 overall record and 3-5 ACC mark.
After opening the year with victories over Boston College and N.C. State and jumping into the Associated Press national rankings (No. 20) for the first time in almost a decade, the Demon Deacons stumbled. They finished with six losses in eight games, including three straight to end the season. Wake's inexperience, with 47 players on the 99-man roster either freshmen or redshirt freshmen, and inconsistency made the impressive start a distant memory by year's end.
"We did have a lot of young guys, but to us as players that's no excuse," said senior linebacker Brad White, a returning starter. "Those young guys learned what it feels like to get off to a fast start, but they also know what it feels like to let it slip away."
Still, Grobe insisted that the Deacons' problems in 2003, when the program had a chance to complete three straight winning records for the first time since 1950-52, were not unexpected.
"I think we really overachieved to a great extent," he said. "We had lost eight starters on offense (from the 2002 Seattle Bowl champions), and our three defensive linemen went to NFL camps, with two making teams. We had to overachieve just to beat the people we beat. We lost some really good seniors, and you can't replace them overnight. Remember, we're still three years away from our first fully recruited senior class. We've got to be patient."
With that in mind, Grobe and his assistants entered spring practice hoping to develop the team's young talent and change a couple of basic philosophies, one on offense and one on defense.
By the end of the spring game, numerous freshmen and sophomores had emerged to fill significant roles, the most obvious being redshirt freshman quarterback Ben Mauk. That group will combine with several established veterans, including wide receiver Jason Anderson, ACC rushing leader Chris Barclay, White and outside linebacker Caron Bracy, in an attempt to avoid last season's slide.
Junior quarterback Cory Randolph returns after taking almost every offensive snap in 2003. Mauk stole the show at the spring game by completing six of eight passes for 102 yards and a touchdown and scrambling seven times for a team-high 93 yards rushing and a score.
Grobe said Randolph remains the starter, but Mauk's emergence will make the position better as Wake incorporates more of a down-field passing attack. The Deacons finished last in ACC passing offense last season and seventh in passing efficiency.
Offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke spent time at Texas A&M and talked with coaches from other schools to gain insight into changing the passing game. Last season Randolph passed for 148 yards per contest, with 10 interceptions and eight touchdowns.
"I hope (Mauk) pushes Cory," Grobe said. "I wasn't comfortable with our quarterback situation last year. Cory went the entire season as a sophomore without a lot of pressure to lose playing time if he didn't play well. If Ben continues to play the way he performed in our final scrimmage, Cory will have to earn the quarterback job every day. I'm not saying Cory will be in a dogfight to keep his job, but I think we've got a couple of guys who can get the ball in the end zone."
Andrews hopes to be part of a running back rotation that includes returnees Barclay, Cornelius Birgs and D'Angelo Bryant. Barclay paced the ACC's No. 1 rushing team last season with 1,192 yards and 12 touchdowns.
At receiver, Anderson returns after leading the team with 44 catches for 751 yards last season. Willie Idlette made his mark as a freshman as the No. 2 receiver and top kick returner. Redshirt freshman Kevin Marion turned heads in the spring game with his quickness.
The offensive line is Grobe's primary area of concern. Several starting spots have not been solidified, and quality depth is a problem.
"Four offensive linemen who were redshirted last year have a chance to be really, really good players, but they're young," Grobe said. "They're making mistakes and they're not physical enough."
The same can be said of the defensive line, where Grobe has ditched the three-man front for a normal alignment of four down linemen. After finishing last in sacks and eighth in rushing and total defense among ACC teams in 2003, Wake has moved away from last season's primary defensive formation of five defensive backs.
"This will allow us to do better in personnel matchups," Grobe said. "One thing we haven't been able to do at Wake is change when teams bring in an extra tight end or a fullback. We weren't in position to do anything about it because we were in a nickel defense all the time."
With stronger and more talented players, there are signs that Wake will not end another season so worn down. The schedule is not very inviting, however, with the Deacons opening at Clemson on Sept. 4 and ACC newcomers Virginia Tech and Miami on the slate.
"It was hard to play above our heads for 12 straight Saturdays, and it wore on us," Grobe said about last season. "It was a tough team to coach."