WINSTON-SALEM – The hand injury to L.D. Williams that will cause him to miss four or five games will be a good test for first-year Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio.
But it will be an even bigger test for three players who have yet to prove their worth at Wake.
Williams, a sophomore, is a key cog for the Demon Deacons. He's their third-leading scorer at 10.1 points per game, but he contributes a little in every stat category. He's a strong defender and the emotional sparkplug of the team. He's also started every game of his career.
So Gaudio will have to figure out how to fill one of the few positions – small forward – that he hasn't had to worry about this season.
The candidates appear to be Harvey Hale, Jamie Skeen and Cameron Stanley. Each has his own personal demons, and each brings question marks to the lineup.
Stanley, a redshirt junior, would seem to be the logical choice, since he's the only other small forward on the team. But Stanley's career has been more promise than delivery. He's averaging 1.3 points in 7.2 minutes per game this year and has never been able to translate practice to games. Often, he still seems nervous on the court.
With Stanley in the lineup, the Deacons wouldn't fall off much defensively, but they'd lose a lot of scoring and emotion.
Hale can provide scoring and leadership, and he's a good defender. But he's also a guard. Gaudio basically would be going to a three-guard lineup for a team that already struggles to rebound. Plus, Hale's shooting has been horrific this season, and he won't stop. He's shooting 29 percent from three-point range, but he's taken more than a quarter of Wake's three-point attempts.
Skeen could play power forward, and he likely would be able to up his current 6.5 points per game with more minutes. But Skeen likes to play outside (half of his shots are from three-point range), and Gaudio repeatedly has questioned his passion in practice.
In addition, putting Skeen at power forward would move star power forward James Johnson to small forward. While Johnson has the skills to play the position, he doesn't have the knowledge of what the position is supposed to do.
"James doesn't know the plays," Gaudio said. "Now do you (move) a kid who's playing really well? I guess that's why I get my check on the 31st."
While Gaudio will get a chance to show his skills as a coach, it's really Hale, Skeen and Stanley who must take the opportunity and show they belong in the Wake rotation.
GROBE FINE WITH STAFF HITS
Many coaches have been sent packing as the losses piled up, and many others skipped town at the first sign of another offer after seeing how bad things were at Wake Forest.
But this year, Wake got another sign that it has arrived as a "real" football program: Other schools raided the Demon Deacons' staff for talent.
Coach Jim Grobe had lost only two assistants during his seven years at Wake, and he's lost two already in this offseason. Defensive coordinator Dean Hood became the head coach at Division
I-AA Eastern Kentucky, and quarterbacks coach Jeff Mullen became the offensive coordinator at West Virginia.
The losses came in typical Grobe style. He campaigned for both coaches to get those jobs, including calling on his friendship with new West Virginia coach Bill Stewart. In addition, Grobe is expected to remain loyal in his replacements by promoting two current aides.
Brad Lambert likely will take over for Hood. Lambert has coached the linebackers for Grobe's entire Wake tenure, arriving after five years as a defensive assistant at Georgia. Tom Elrod, who has been coaching the fullbacks and tight ends since 2003, likely will take over the quarterbacks. Elrod played quarterback for Wake from 1994-97 and is responsible for convincing Grobe to take a chance on current QB Riley Skinner.
More importantly, Grobe actually is dealing from a position of strength when looking for coaches to fill out the staff.
"What's fun is, we've got a national reputation now, and people are interested in Wake Forest," Grobe said. "So we'll have no problem finding the right people to come in here.
"And honestly, you don't want to be in a situation where you're losing five or six guys a year, which happens at some schools. But over a seven-year span, losing one or two once in a while can actually be good for you. You get some new ideas, you get some different ways of looking at things. I would be happy to keep my staff until I retire, but I think sometimes you can get a little bit stale if you're not careful."
If Grobe can find two coaches like his last addition, Tim Billings, he'll be in good shape. Billings has been a boon to the staff, with the receivers, the special teams and in overall leadership.
REAL CONCERN: SOCIAL OPTIONS
The end of Lucas Caparelli's football career at Wake Forest was both bizarre and disturbing. Underneath the strange events, though, Caparelli touched on an issue that has been a hot topic for years for many Wake athletes.
Caparelli was dismissed from the team and from school after posting violent threats toward the school on his Facebook page. The posts happened on Jan. 13, as students returned to campus from break.
Caparelli's note was written in the third person, and it included the phrase "blow up campus" and "for those left standing he will have an uzi locked and loaded in his bag."
The threats were investigated by the school and campus police, and no weapons were found. The school did not warn other students, which a spokesman implied meant that they found no reason to believe the threat.
One reason for Caparelli's frustration may have been his football career. Though recruited by many major colleges out of high school in Burke, Va., Caparelli had not yet made an impact as a running back at Wake. In addition, he faced the prospect of spending the rest of his career behind Josh Adams, who broke out this season and was a redshirt freshman like Caparelli, and Brandon Pendergrass, a freshman whom Grobe has praised repeatedly.
However, the real root of Caparelli's anger may have been the lifestyle at Wake. His post included this statement: "Tomorrow I return to the hell known as (W)ake, surrounded by arrogant, rich, spoiled little brats."
For years, many Wake athletes have been "outsiders" at the small private university, where most students are white and upscale.
Caparelli is white, but that didn't mean he fit in financially or culturally with the majority of the campus. Wake students have few other obvious outlets, as the gated campus is separate from Winston-Salem, with no "college hangout" area.
Black athletes face similar challenges on a campus where only seven percent of the students are black (460 of 6,154). For years, black athletes (and black students) have spent much of their social time at Winston-Salem State, a traditionally black school across town. Recruiting visits by black athletes almost always involve WSSU, as well.
Wake's own research has brought out these issues. In senior surveys conducted in 2000 and 2003, an average of 44 percent of the students surveyed described their views about social life on campus as either generally dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. In a comment portion, the topic drawing the second most negative comments was "student homogeneity."
While no Wake student ever has shown his displeasure in the way Caparelli did, the issue is real for the school's football and basketball coaches. They must take teenagers who may be stretching to fit in academically or socially on campus, and keep them engaged and happy during their time at Wake.