WINSTON-SALEM – When you’re trying to get a football program back to a bowl game, infusing talent at every position is important.
But after examining Wake Forest’s roster makeup over the next four years, what are the key positions for this year’s recruiting class? Where can’t the Demon Deacons afford to miss? Let’s take a look:
• Quarterback: Coach Jim Grobe likes to have one quarterback in each class, but because of attrition, the program only has two long-term solutions. That depends, of course, on whether Kevin Sousa remains at wide receiver, where the coaching staff experimented with him this season. Sousa hasn’t shown much reason to keep him at quarterback, but he is a bigger, strong runner, so that could be valuable in the post-Tanner Price era. Otherwise, that leaves Tyler Cameron, who will be a redshirt sophomore next year, and Michael Radford, who will be a redshirt freshman.
The Deacons have a commitment from Lemar Harris, a 6-3, 200-pound speedster from Raleigh, N.C. The question is whether the Deacons see Harris as a quarterback or an athlete. Our bet is that Harris ends up as a receiver or safety. That means Wake is still looking for a quarterback, even though this will be a small class.
The Demon Deacons have missed on a number of higher-profile names (including Nico Pierre, a possible program-changer to Duke). Their only known offers are to Darius Lee-Campbell of Spring, Texas, and Roland Rivers of Lithonia, Ga., but they remain involved with a number of other quarterbacks.
• Tailback: The program has three, but two have spent the season in the doghouse: Deandre Martin, who will be a redshirt junior, and Joshua Wilhite, a redshirt sophomore. The third was playing defensive back until the Deacons needed him to move this spring: Dominique Gibson, who will be redshirt sophomore.
The Deacons have addressed this need – possibly – with Terence Ricks (6-2, 210) of Chesapeake, Va., and Isaiah Robinson (6-0, 220) of Charlotte, N.C. Both are bigger backs than Grobe usually recruits, and Ricks also has played well at linebacker as a high schooler. If the Deacons don’t land another back, that would indicate that they believe at least one of Wilhite or Martin will make his way out of the doghouse.
Robinson also helps solve the issue that the Deacons don’t have a fullback in the program after next season. They have moved away from that position in the last two years, but Robinson gives them flexibility.
• Wide receiver/flanker: Not only is this a place where the Deacons need some talent, but since all three true freshmen played this season, they’ll need some bodies down the road. The Deacons have a commitment from one player, Jaylan Barbour, who will fit in as a flanker at 5-10, 170 pounds and a 4.45 40.
The coup would be Travis Rudolph of West Palm Beach, Fla., but he seems a lock to go to a much bigger program. The Deacons are hitting Florida hard, with at least five other offers to receivers. It’s interesting that Wake has really been setting its sights high, hammering prospects who are fielding multiple major conference offers. The staff obviously sees what a problem this position has been lately.
If the Deacons can’t land a bigger name, look for them to press hard for a second-level player, such as Javonte Bagley of Vero Beach, Fla., a former basketball player who is attracting more and more attention, or Shaedon Meadors of Duncan, S.C.
• Interior offensive line: Wake is pretty stocked at tackle, but it only has two guards and two centers for the long-term. While the Deacons suffered a big loss when Trip McNeill out of their backyard (Mocksville, N.C.) committed to Duke, Wake has landed center A’lique Terry of Hialeah, Fla. (as well as tackle Nick Luedeke of Holly Springs, N.C.)
It seems as if the Deacons would want to land at least one guard, if not two. However, their only known offer is to Brad Lundblade of Argyle, Texas, who has not been recruited by major programs.
• Defensive end: The Deacons are set for the next couple years, but Josh Banks is the only player with three years left in the program. This is a major concern on the recruiting trail, as the Deacons appear to have missed on most of their targets so far. About the only player they seem to have a shot at is Adrian Rankin of Cincinnati. He has not seen major college attention.
• Safety: The Deacons have really struggled to build any depth at this position, and again, they only have two players in the program beyond next season. Wake’s staff has a history of moving cornerbacks to safety, and the Deacons are stocked enough to do that (and they’ve added two more in this class).
But like receiver, Wake really went after some big-name talent this season. Although the Deacons missed on most, they landed one talented player, Cameron Glenn of Stone Mountain, Ga., and still have offers out to three others who are being heavily recruited by major programs. Perhaps their best shot is for Randy Ramsey of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (who also is looking at N.C. State). It’s also possible that Wake sees Harris (mentioned above) or Kalin McNeil (a 6-2, 190-pound linebacker) as safeties.
That’s a long list for a program that only has two more scholarships available, although a couple more will likely open by attrition. It would seem the top priorities would be quarterback, guard and defensive end. Another talented receiver would be a nice bonus. At this point, the Deacons also are faced with just landing the best players they can, which could mean signing someone at a position not on the priority list.
On the basketball court, the early action has pointed to one question that will likely dominate the season: What to do with Codi Miller-McIntyre?
A year ago, Miller-McIntyre appeared to be the best player in the recruiting class, a potential program leader from point guard. A year later, he seems like a player without a position.
Coach Jeff Bzdelik has preferred Madison Jones at the point since late last season. Jones doesn’t offer much as a shooter, but he is much more of a true point guard.
Bzdelik is playing Miller-McIntyre at shooting guard, but Miller-McIntyre isn’t much of a shooter, either. His game in high school was to get to the basket, but he’s only been moderately successful at that.
More important, the Deacons’ only good outside shooters – Coron Williams and Miles Overton – also play shooting guard, so Bzdelik has to get them on the court. Without them, teams will have no reason to respect the Deacons on the perimeter.
That means Miller-McIntyre would have to move back to the point, or perhaps find some minutes at wing forward in a small lineup. But the Deacons are already well stocked there. While Miller-McIntyre has physical tools, he still makes some awful decisions, like forcing pull-up jumpers or settling for 18-foot jumpers.
Bzdelik will have to manage Miller-McIntyre (and his demanding family and friends) to maximize his impact on the court and minimize the issues off the court, if his minutes slide.