2009 ACC Football Preview: Wake Forest

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Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Returning Starters: 13 (9 offense, 4 defense)

Key Returnees: QB Riley Skinner, RB Josh Adams, RB Brandon Pendergrass,
TE Ben Wooster, C Russell Nenon, OG Jeff Griffin, OG Barrett McMillan, OT Joe
Birdsong, OT Chris DeGeare, DE Kyle Wilber, DT Boo Robinson, DT John Russell, CB
Brandon Ghee

Key Losses: FB Rich Belton, WR Chip Brinkman, WR D.J. Boldin, DE Matt
Robinson, LB Aaron Curry, LB Stanley Arnoux, LB Chantz McClinic, CB Alphonso
Smith, CB Kerry Major, FS Chip Vaughn, SS Kevin Patterson

Overall View

Wake Forest lost some major talent on the defensive side of the ball, with
two linebackers and two defensive backs selected in the 2009 NFL Draft. However,
they do return nine starters on offense, and should be one of the better
offensive teams in the ACC behind senior quarterback Riley Skinner.

With the talent in the ACC looking up this season, it’s not likely that Wake
can challenge for an Atlantic Division championship. However, they do have the
talent to go bowling for the fourth straight season under head coach Jim Grobe.

Offensive Strength

Riley Skinner is perhaps the most underrated signal caller in the ACC. He
currently holds the Wake Forest and ACC career record in completion percentage
(67.3%), and the Wake Forest quarterback rating record (132.23). He has 26 wins
as a starting quarterback, and he’s looking to lead the Deacons to a fourth
straight bowl as the starter.

Skinner has throw for over 4,000 career yards in his career. As a senior, he
will need to cut down on his turnovers. The Wake Forest defense won’t be as
strong in 2009, so the offense will have to protect the ball. Skinner is a good
fit for the Wake offensive system, but he also has talent. He is a gamer who has
good feet in the pocket and knows how to escape pressure.

Offensive Weakness

Wake loses both starting wide receivers in D.J. Boldin and Chip
Brinkman. Boldin caught 81 passes last season, a mark which led the ACC. To make
matters worse, r-freshman receiver Terence Davis tore his ACL in practice this
week and will miss the season. Davis led Wake Forest with six receptions during
the most recent scrimmage.

Wake has moved r-sophomore quarterback Skylar Jones to wide receiver. Jones
was a highly-touted quarterback recruit who has not panned out, but he has been
clocked in the past at a 4.33 in the 40 yard dash.

Marshall Williams, who had 390 receiving yards last season, will have to
carry the load for the wideout corps in 2008. Other than him, there isn’t much

Defensive Strength

the losses in the back seven, Wake Forest returns some good players on the defensive
in 2009, particularly at defensive tackle. Nose guard Boo Robinson is a
disruptor on the interior with 15.5 tackles for loss in 26 career starts. He is
joined by defensive tackle John Russell, who started all 13 games last year and
made seven tackles for loss.

There is less experience at defensive end with the loss of Matt Robinson, but
r-sophomore Kyle Wilber did play well in his seven starts in 2008. Depth could
be an issue, but then again, depth is generally a problem for Wake, yet they
figure out ways to get around it.

Defensive Weakness

Wake Forest lost all three starters at linebacker. Aaron Curry was a
first round draft pick, Stanley Arnoux was a fourth round pick, and Chantz
McClintic had a very good senior season. Each started all 13 games last season.
Junior linebacker Hunter Haynes started two games in 2007 as a freshman, and
that is the only starting experience in the Wake Forest linebacking corps.

There should be dropoff at linebacker this year, and it will probably have
the most impact against the pass. With a good defensive line, these linebackers
should be able to be effective against the run, but teams should be able to
throw the ball well against the Demon Deacons this year.

Key Game

September 26 at Boston College will be a key game for Wake Forest.
Five of Wake’s first six games are on the road, and the Deacs will have a chance
to steal that road win against BC. The margin of victory in games between these
two teams since ACC expansion has been less than a touchdown.

Wake Forest will have a major advantage over Boston College at quarterback,
so they should stand a good chance to go on the road and come away with a win.
With their first five home games coming against Baylor, Stanford, Elon, NC State
and Maryland, the Demon Deacons do have somewhat of a shot to start 6-0 despite
all the defensive departures.

Chris Coleman’s Thoughts

I’ve always had a lot of respect for head coach Jim Grobe, though most people
under value Wake’s talent level. With the rest of the ACC down over the last few
years, there hasn’t been a big talent difference between Wake and the rest of
the league. Last year’s NFL Draft proves that. The Demon Deacons had some major
players on the defensive side of the ball.

I think Wake will struggle to stop the pass this year, but they’ll still be
tough in the trenches. They return five starters on the offensive line, so run
blocking should be much improved. Last year it wasn’t very good, and with
tailback Josh Adams banged up, quarterback Riley Skinner had to shoulder the
entire load.

This year Skinner can rely on an improved offensive line and a good one-two
punch at tailback in Josh Adams and Brandon Pendergrass. The Wake offensive
system should allow the offense to function well without the benefit of starting
experience at wideout.

Wake Forest has never played in four straight bowl games before, and until
last year they had never even played in three straight bowls. If Skinner can get
his team to a bowl game for the fourth straight year, it would be a tremendous
accomplishment. The Deacons seem to have enough coming back to finish around
7-5, which would send them bowling.

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