August 20, 2002
The Big Picture
While last season's debut was impressive, can Jim Grobe keep it up? No coach has been able to pull that trick at Wake Forest. Amazingly, the Deacons have had consecutive winning seasons only twice since joining the ACC in 1970-71 under Cal Stoll and in 1987-88 under Bill Dooley. They have won three or more ACC games in consecutive seasons only twice in 1975-76 under Chuck Mills and in 1987-88 under Dooley. While it's still early, Grobe appears to have the schemes and the staff, and he already has won with Jim Caldwell's motley crew of leftovers. Will he win with his own guys?
Grobe wasted no time in shaking loose the Caldwell remnants last year. Some players quit or were benched. Young players jumped into the starting lineup. Fat came off the linemen. Schemes were designed to take advantage of untapped talent (John Stone) or to hide weaknesses (3-3-5 defense). A team that was infighting at times under Caldwell bonded under Grobe's discipline. The coach has proved throughout his career that he can compete with less talent, and the offseason sniping at the Deacons by some opposing coaches and players (when was the last time you heard that?) proves he's already getting under some opponents' skins. That's a very good sign.
Done For Me Lately
|1992||4-4 (4)||8-4||Independence (W)|
|1999||3-5 (5)||7-5||Aloha Bowl (W)|
ACC: 19-61 (.238); No. 8 in ACC
All: 40-72 (.357); No. 8 in ACC
The offense has lot of talent, starting at receiver, where Jason Anderson and Fabian Davis lead a good group of four. Once he returns, Tarence Williams should resume his spot as one of the league's top rushers, and his backups are solid, if unproven. Defensive end Calvin Pace is a sack machine, although he can get pushed around on the run, and linebacker Kellen Brantley is the top returning tackler. Safeties Quintin Williams and Obi Chukwumah are solid in the back of a young secondary.
Coming On Strong
Ray Thomas is the best tight end you've never heard of. He and tight end/fullback Ovie Mughelli are devastating blockers, but look for the coaches also to find ways to get Thomas more receptions this year. Junior Tyson Clabo, moving from tackle to guard this season, is a top-caliber offensive lineman. Craig Jones has been a pleasant surprise at center. Georgia transfer Brad White looks like one of those nose-in-everything guys at linebacker. Watch out for tailback Cornelius Birgs if he gets a chance.
Cause For Concern?
The jury is still out on James MacPherson at quarterback. He's not a big-play guy and he makes some big mistakes, but Grobe likes him mainly because the Deacs seem to find a way to win when he's on the field. If MacPherson can at least stay mistake-free, Wake may be able to continue the trend. The offensive line lost an All-ACC player (Michael Collins) and another standout (Vince Azzolina), and it doesn't appear nearly as deep as Grobe would like. (He rotated 10 last year.) Losing Nate Bolling at defensive end was huge emotionally and physically, since Roderick Stephen hasn't proven he can get the job done. The kicking game also seems shaky, although if Grobe lets MacPherson punt, one problem could be solved. Finally, as is the case almost every year at Wake Forest, depth remains a very serious concern almost everywhere.
The Whole Truth
"I think we're going to be real competitive again if I hate to say, If we can stay healthy,' because we can't even keep them healthy getting out of bed."
Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe
CHART BY: THE WAKE INSIDER