April 3, 2007
WINSTON-SALEM One of the more interesting stories of spring football has been the appearance of Dennis Godfrey, almost two years after he gave Wake Forest a commitment.
Godfrey's tale is one that isn't often heard at Wake, which usually has one of the cleanest academic and character recruiting classes in the country.
Godfrey was Wake's first pledge to the Class of 2006, and coach Jim Grobe was ecstatic. The Demon Deacons don't land too many 6-3, 250-pounders who also are outstanding athletes. Godfrey, a tight end at the time and a basketball standout as well, was recruited by many ACC programs out of Lee County High in Sanford, N.C.
Grobe spent the rest of the recruiting period thinking that someone was going to get smart and snatch Godfrey away before signing day. Godfrey even visited other schools, adding to the anxiety-filled situation.
"Thank goodness," Grobe said. "In the end, he still felt that Wake Forest was best for him."
But in June 2006, Godfrey was indicted on charges of first-degree kidnapping, second-degree rape, second-degree sexual offense and sexual battery. It stemmed from an incident with a 16-year-old girl, apparently at a cookout the Godfrey family had attended. If he had been convicted on all four counts, Godfrey could have spent more than 30 years in prison.
Wake played its hand carefully, saying very little other than it would let the legal process work.
That process dropped the felony charges on Jan. 12, 2007, when Godfrey entered an Alford plea to two misdemeanors, simple assault and obstruction of justice. Godfrey was put on probation for one year and required to perform community service. The Alford plea meant that Godfrey continued to say he was innocent, but he agreed that enough evidence existed to likely convince a judge or jury of his guilt.
Then Godfrey had to go through interviews with Wake officials, including some from the offices of the dean and of admissions, to be admitted in January. The president of the university, Nathan Hatch, then had to approve the recommendation to admit Godfrey.
There was very little public comment from Wake about the incident, as the school released only a couple of quotes in a statement.
"We were impressed with the maturity with which Dennis faced this circumstance," Wake athletic director Ron Wellman said. "He is a conscientious young man whose integrity has been endorsed again and again by his teachers and others in the community who know him well. We are convinced he can succeed academically and will be a positive contributor to our campus."
But when spring practice started, Godfrey still couldn't take the field. Wake didn't have his approval from the NCAA Clearinghouse yet.
"When it was determined that we had to let him take care of his problems first and we weren't going to bring him, we dropped all that stuff that we did with all the other freshmen," Grobe said. "Now we've had to pick that back up, and we just haven't gotten all the paperwork taken care of."
When Godfrey was cleared, he broke his thumb. But he's finally back practicing, currently at defensive tackle.
A Wake assistant is quoted in the team's media guide as saying that Godfrey is the "most athletic big man I've ever seen."
Wake could use Godfrey, as the defensive line lost Bryan Andrews, Jamil Smith and Jyles Tucker from last year. Matt Robinson and Jeremy Thompson are the leaders at end, and Zach Stukes and Boo Robinson are the leaders at tackle. Behind each of them, the door is wide open, with a number of inexperienced players fighting for spots.
LOSSES LEAVE PROSSER SPEECHLESS
One of the most interesting parts of recent Wake Forest basketball seasons actually has come after the seasons have ended. Dan Collins, the Wake beat writer for the Winston-Salem Journal newspaper, sits down for a Q&A with coach Skip Prosser, and the results are usually very frank.
Prosser, like Grobe, is more straightforward than most coaches during the season. But in his postseason talks, Prosser has been particularly honest and revealing, almost as if he was using them to cleanse himself of the past season, so he could move on to a new one.
Last year, for example, Prosser was brutally frank about the problems with the team. He was honest about his incorrect assumptions and moves. He gave insights as to his exact conversations and maneuvers with star point guard Chris Paul and finding a replacement for him. He said some uncomfortable things about his team: "They have to work harder than what they did last offseason."
This year, however, Prosser's comments were devoid of any of that. Sometimes, he didn't even seem to answer the question. Throw in the fact that only one of his three recruits had signed at the time, meaning that (under NCAA rules) he couldn't mention the other two, and the interview lost more potential material. It didn't appear that the coach was being evasive or uncooperative, more that he really wasn't sure what the answers were at that point.
That may give some insight as to where the program really stands. Let's take a closer look at a few of the questions and answers.
Question: Do you think Wake Forest will be better next season, and if so why? Prosser flopped around, talking some about the second half of the season, some about individual areas and some about what was lost. But he didn't give much indication as to whether he thought Wake would take another step forward.
Question: Where will the points come from? Prosser completely skipped this question. He talked about free throw shooting and Ish Smith's assists this year. But the facts are that Wake's top two scorers in ACC play (Kyle Visser, Michael Drum) are gone. The leading returning ACC scorer, wing guard Harvey Hale, averaged 8.1 points. The remaining players shot 39.1 percent from the floor, 32.4 percent on threes, and 57.9 percent from the line in conference games. Prosser had better hope that there's improvement, or that recent commitment Gary Clark shoots like Rodney Monroe.
Question: When will Wake get back to the top of the league? Prosser stated his case for his first four years, then made a crack about going to the track if he could predict things.
Question: Where do you find consistency? Prosser talked about being more consistent in the second half, but he didn't give any indication of what caused it.
Prosser gradually warmed up, revealing these nuggets: He likes the idea of Smith and recruit Jeff Teague, also a point guard, together on the floor, and he takes responsibility for the team's defensive woes. He also mentioned that he will continue to recruit big-time players: "The thing I've learned is that the team that wins our league is the team that has the most NBA players." Wake's recent experiences with Tim Duncan, Josh Howard and Paul bear that out.
The point is not to pick on Prosser, who usually is a very candid interview. However, the lack of revealing answers in this year's talk with Collins was in such contrast with previous years that it only reinforced the unpredictable state of the program. Perhaps Prosser's usual confidence in himself and in his team has been replaced by some apprehension and confusion after two rough years.