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Wake Forest

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff

Unusual Numbers Made
Tough Job Tougher

WINSTON-SALEM — Football recruiting is always a numbers game, especially for the fans, whether the focus is on player rankings, 40-yard dash times or high school statistics. But Wake Forest had several specific sets of numbers this season that heavily influenced its recruiting efforts: a late change from 13 available scholarships to 19, terrible defensive statistics in recent years, and a drastic shortage of linebackers. The Deacons started the 2003-04 recruiting campaign with the expectation that they would have only 13-15 scholarships available. They planned for a small signing class and left open the possibility of a tiny (13) one, which happens occasionally in a program famous for its high graduation percentages and low attrition rates. Then, in the two months leading up to signing day, Wake lost four reserves to transfers: quarterback Bruce Hall (Troy State), defensive lineman Arthur Orlebar (Appalachian State), offensive lineman Daniel Orlebar (Appalachian State) and quarterback Zac Taylor. Two other players, linebacker Mike Hamlar and offensive lineman Brian Woychik, decided to graduate and pass up their remaining eligibility. All of a sudden, 19 scholarships were available. “Initially, you like it,” Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. “You say, hey, we've got a few more to give, and everybody's really excited about it. But you've been laying the groundwork for 13. You've been saying no offensive linemen, we don't need a running back. All season long, we didn't think we needed a quarterback.” The Deacons didn't sign a fullback, a thin spot for them, or a running back, and they had to scramble to find a quarterback at the last minute. Grobe said some of the six linebackers in the class were versatile enough to switch to fullback, and that some of the better running back and quarterback recruits were intimidated by the talent and depth Wake already had at those positions. Now the Wake coaches can only hope that late commitment Allan Holland, who didn't receive any other Division I-A scholarship offers, isn't a reach at quarterback. “He's just a puppy right now,” Grobe said. “He could grow and be a really good-sized QB. He's a really good athlete, good basketball player. He's really got a good strong arm, and he's a bright kid. He's a kid who can come in and run our offense well.” The biggest concern for the Deacons, though, probably was the failure to add any offensive linemen. That's a requirement in every class. Wake's search was very narrow, and it didn't land its targets. By the time the Deacs realized they could expand their search, it was too late. “I'm disappointed we didn't take an offensive lineman,” Grobe said. “Had we known (about having 19 scholarships), even as late as last November, we would have been more aggressive.” Defensive numbers also played a major role in Wake's recruiting strategy. First, it was the Deacons' rank among ACC defenses: consecutive finishes of sixth, seventh and eighth. Second, it was the number of experienced linebackers in the program: four, with only one (Brad White) who has started. In turn, Wake used 14 of its 19 scholarships on defense, including four defensive linemen and six linebackers. “We needed to shore the defense up, especially on the defensive line and at linebacker,” Grobe said. “I don't think there's any question we really helped ourselves on the defensive line with the three ends. At the linebacker position, we've got guys that we feel like can play, and a couple of them may have to play real early. That was key for us.” The defensive line has been the weak point in Grobe's tenure at Wake, with barely enough bodies to go around at times. But after two successive strong classes there, the program now has as many as 14 players along the defensive front. Grobe also confirmed what the Sports Journal wrote about months ago, that the Deacons will play a four-man line most of the time in 2004. The new additions to the line included unheralded in-state products Eric Gaskins (via Hargrave Military Academy) and Brandon Drumgoole, plus highly touted ends Antonio Davis and Jeremy Thompson. Wake beat Clemson for Davis, who is 6-6 and quick, and UNC for Thompson, who is 6-5 and quicker. “I love all three of these defensive ends, but the one people will probably be amazed at that they haven't heard much about is Brandon Drumgoole,” Grobe said. “He might be the sleeper. I think we expect Anthony Davis and Jeremy Thompson to come in here and do some great things, but I feel the same way about Drumgoole.” Wake coaches continued their recent string of end recruits who are athletic and can run — more like super-sized linebackers — in an attempt to give themselves more flexibility with their defensive schemes. “We're going to do a better job of matching (the offense's) personnel,” Grobe said. “We've never been able to do that since we've been here.” Eric Berry of Virginia and Stanley Arnoux of Florida are the most well-regarded prospects among the incoming linebackers. The staff was particularly happy to land Arnoux, who was recruited by Nebraska, Kansas State, Mississippi and others. “He's a really good athlete, good student, great character,” Grobe said. “He could play fullback or linebacker. Our offensive guys would fall on the sword for him right now, but our need's at linebacker. He's one of those guys who could come in and help us in a hurry.” Those two are backed by four lesser-known athletes. Richard Belton excelled at quarterback, tailback and linebacker over the last two seasons, not to mention basketball. Aaron Curry made all-star games as a tight end, Antonio Wilson has a chance to set the Florida basketball scoring record for his level, and Mike Causey is a three-sport standout. “The guy that I'm really excited about is Mike Causey,” Grobe said. “The only way we'd offer him a scholarship is if he and his dad promised me he wouldn't go pro baseball because this guy's special. Our baseball coach, George Greer, told me that if Mike Causey came here next year, he'd start on the baseball team. He's the real deal in baseball, and he was a state wrestling champ as a junior.” Grobe understands that to truly build the Wake Forest program, he has to redshirt as many recruits as possible. But once again, as has happened every year so far, depth problems almost certainly will force him to play some true freshmen in 2004. “Next year we'll be counting on a ton of redshirt sophomores and redshirt freshmen to play, and that puts these guys more in the mix than we have in the past,” Grobe said. “Certainly, at the linebacker position, I'd be shocked if a couple of those kids don't play right away.” Another place where Grobe said a recruit might see immediate action is at kicker. The Deacs like the big leg of Sam Swank, who kicked 51- and 54-yard field goals in high school and probably will take over kickoff duties right away. A consistent recruiting emphasis under Grobe has been speed. His past classes have been dotted with track stars, as he tries to bring Wake more in line with top programs. Defensive back Kerry Major and receiver Chip Vaughn lead this year's bunch. “We don't have a slow-footed kid in the whole class,” Grobe said, “and some of the skill guys can really pick it up and go.” Overall, Wake continued its tradition of not landing many big names but trying to identify the top players right under the radar of the big programs. “This is a good recruiting class. These are some guys that can really play the game,” Grobe said. “In a lot of cases, they're not getting a lot of publicity, but they are guys that can all come in and be good players for us.”

Coaches Love Tight-Knit Florida Teammates

WINSTON-SALEM — Wake Forest pulled a recruiting rarity this year, nabbing three players from the same high school. Receiver Demir Boldin, cornerback Alphonso Smith and linebacker Antonio Wilson all played at Pahokee High in Florida. The story began last year with the Demon Deacons pursuing Smith, who also played quarterback for Pahokee. He originally committed to Pittsburgh and also received strong attention from Florida State, among many other major programs. “Then we fell in love with Antonio,” Wake Forest recruiting coordinator Ray McCartney said. “It didn't have anything to do with the fact he had 25 quarterback sacks this year.” Then came Boldin. The brother of former Florida State wideout and current NFL star Anquan Boldin, Demir gradually grew on coaches with his all-around play. “The guy's got great hands. It runs in the family, I guess,” Wake coach Jim Grobe said. “He doesn't have great downfield speed, but he's a very physical kid. He gets open. You're not going to walk up and press that guy. He's going to get off of you. He's going to be a good blocker. He's going to be a really good possession receiver.” Boldin committed to the Demon Deacons first. Then came Wilson, who's also a basketball star. That left only Smith, whom coaches believe can be a premier cornerback. “It'll be unbelievable what (Wilson) can do once he gets with (strength) Coach (Ethan) Reeves in the weight room and gets a chance to really concentrate on football,” Grobe said. “If I can keep Skip (Prosser) away from him…” Grobe said Wake wasn't viewing the Pahokee trio as a package deal, but once the first two were in the fold he was more confident about Smith, who waited until signing day to announce his decision. The three friends have played football and basketball together since they were nine years old. “The thing that impressed me so much was how close these kids were,” Grobe said. “They were like joined at the hip. I've never seen teammates that close before. I felt all along that they were so close it would be hard for (Smith) to go someplace else.”

Who Got Away?

The following prospects had firm scholarship offers from Wake Forest and/or took official campus visits to Winston-Salem but signed with other programs: Monroe (NC) High RB Albert Ashcraft (South Carolina), Green Cove Springs (FL) Clay LB Terrance Butler (Louisville), Mayo (FL) Lafayette WR Marcus Edwards (South Florida), Tyrone (GA) Sandy Creek OL Andrew Gardner (Georgia Tech), Princeton (NJ) Hun DB Junior Jabbie (Notre Dame), Kingsland (GA) Camden County DB Djay Jones (Georgia Tech), Marietta (GA) Walton WR Aaron Kelly (Clemson), Jacksonville (FL) Trinity Christian RB Lamar Lewis (FSU), Philadelphia (PA) St. Joseph's TE Matt Parkhurst (Marshall), Charlotte (NC) Providence RB Andrew Pearman (Hawaii), Jamestown (NC) Ragsdale WR/DB Andreas Platt (Duke), Harvey (IL) Thornton DB Marcus Randle El (Wisconsin), Mountain Brook (AL) High QB Tribble Reese (Clemson), Asheville (NC) Reynolds LB Chase Rice (UNC), Atlanta (GA) Mays WR Corey Spells (Mississippi State), Atlanta (GA) Douglass WR Corey Thompson (Duke), Atlanta (GA) Westlake LB Alfred Williams (Duke), Smyrna (TN) High QB David Wolke (Notre Dame) and Duncan (SC) Byrnes WR Jomar Wright (Duke). The following prospects also had scholarship offers from Wake Forest but eliminated the Demon Deacons very early in the recruiting process: Venice (FL) High TE Brad Allen (Vanderbilt), Monroe (NC) High RB Albert Ashcraft (South Carolina), Clifton (VA) Centreville RB Daniel Bailey (Syracuse), Wilmington (NC) Hoggard PK Connor Barth (UNC), Orlando (FL) Bishop Moore RB A.J. Brooks (Boston College), Cordele (GA) Crisp County QB Joe Joe Brown (Kentucky), Durham (NC) Northern LB Chase Bullock (Maryland), Portsmouth (OH) High OL Gerald Cadogan (Penn State), Citra (FL) North Marion WR Greg Carr (FSU), Chantilly (VA) Westfield QB Sean Glennon (Virginia Tech), Cleveland (OH) St. Ignatius QB Brian Hoyer (Michigan State), Jonesboro (GA) High DB Jamal Lewis (Georgia Tech), Greensboro (NC) Dudley DT DeMario Pressley (NCSU) and Greensboro (NC) Dudley DB Martel Thatch (UNC). — Compiled by Dave Glenn

2004 Wake Forest Football Signees

Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Stars High School/Junior College Comment
Stanley Arnoux LB 6-2 218 2/2 Belle Glade (FL) Glades Day SP-53 FL; 1st-team 1A; over UConn, ECU, USF, Miss.

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Richard Belton LB 6-1 230 2/2 Chapel Hill (NC) East All-area; 1,800-plus rushing yards as senior; over I-AA
Eric Berry LB 6-2 245 3/2 Suffolk (VA) Nansemond River All-area; run stopper; district POY; over Clem., I-AA

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Demir Boldin WR 6-1 205 2/2 Pahokee (FL) High 1st-team 2B; 2-way starter for state champs; over ECU
Chip Brinkman WR 6-2 210 2/2 Clearwater (FL) Cent. Catholic 1st-team 2B as punter; injured some as sr.; over Pur. (!)
Mike Causey LB 6-0 210 2/2 Wilmington (NC) Laney RV-34 NC; top wrestler (189 pounds), baseball; early

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Aaron Curry LB 6-3 210 2/2 Fayetteville (NC) Smith Brother Chris plays at UNC; 3-year starter; over ECU

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Anthony Davis DE 6-6 235 3/3 Columbia (SC) Spring Valley SP-17 SC; switch from Clem,; Aub., Duke, Ky., Vandy

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Brandon Drumgoole DE 6-6 235 2/2 Jamestown (NC) Ragsdale 2-year starter; Shrine Bowler; very early decision (!)
Eric Gaskins^ DT 6-2 265 2/2 Chatham (VA) Hargrave From Durham (NC) Southern; first committed in 2003

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Allan Holland QB 6-2 220 2/2 Hazard (KY) Perry Co. 4-year starter; 7,100 career yards, 76 TDs; over I-AA

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Kerry Major FS 6-1 170 2/2 Toccoa (GA) Stephens Co. 1st-team 3A; sprinter (10.6 100); over UAB, I-AA (!)

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Chantz McClinic FS 5-10 190 2/2 Rome (GA) Darlington 1st-team 2A; 4-year, 2-way starter; over Air Force, Navy
Kevin Patterson CB 5-11 175 2/2 Kingsland (GA) Camden Co. 1st-team 5A; 2-way starter; over UCF, Duke, Vandy

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Alphonso Smith CB 5-10 180 3/3 Pahokee (FL) High SP-76 FL; 1st-team 2B; over Iowa, Pitt, VT, WVU (?)

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Sam Swank PK 6-1 180 2/2 Neptune Beach (FL) Fletcher 4-year starter; 27-35 career FGs; 55-yard range (!)

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Jeremy Thompson DE 6-5 230 3/3 Charlotte (NC) Christian SP-15 NC; RV-19 NC; very early over ACC interest
Chip Vaughn WR 6-2 190 3/2 Fairfax (VA) Robinson Transfer from Colorado missed jr. year; early decision

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Antonio Wilson LB 6-3 215 2/2 Pahokee (FL) High 1st-team 2B; state-record 25 sacks; over GT, Pitt, WVU
*-All-American (top 250 by two/more services)
^-enrolled
(!)-strong academics
(?)-unconfirmed academics

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