W-L: 5-7 (3-5)
Top Offensive Performer: Michael Campanaro, WR
Top Defensive Performer: Kevin Johnson, CB
It’s difficult to figure out what Wake Forest’s 2012 season actually was. Apologists cite numerous injuries along with off-the-field issues. Those more critical may even go after coach Jim Grobe’s diminishing returns over the past few seasons. But regardless of who/what is at fault — and all of the above (and more) are — there’s no denying there was just something decidedly listless about the Demon Deacons this year.
After September 29, Wake scored more than 20 points in a game just twice, and on the season, it happened just six times (and only one of those times did they top 28). To call the group “anemic” would actually be a compliment, as evidenced by their 18.5 points per game (116th in the country) and just 301 yards per game (120th). And really no player — maybe outside of receiver Michael Campanaro — is outside of criticism here. QB Tanner Price, who many thought was ready for a breakout season, regressed mightily to the tune of just 2,300 passing yards and 12 scores. The offensive line, which failed to block for him last year (allowed 34 sacks), didn’t really improve all that much this season (allowed 25), but it was his Price’s (in)accuracy that truly killed him. Five different times, he completed less than 50 percent of his passes, and even his most impressive effort (a 28-27 victory over North Carolina) featured zero passing scores (though he ran in two touchdowns). But was it because he felt too much pressure to carry the team? The Deacs averaged just 100 yards per game on the ground, with starter Josh Harris stacking up an immensely underwhelming campaign on his own, along with the rest of the backfield. And it only got worse as the season wore on. Wake couldn’t even amass 200 rushing yards over its final three games, even when one of those efforts amounted to 124 yards. One dimensional offenses can work, but that dimension needs to be effective. For this team in 2012, the offense can only be described as “no-dimensional.”
But the defense couldn’t bail out Wake Forest either. Teams put up 31.8 points per game against them and racked up an average of 432.8 yards (both 91st in the country). In their final three games, they were outscored 130-27, and six different opponents managed 30 or more (including the ugly 52-0 beating laid on them by Florida State). The Demon Deacons pressured the quarterback somewhat (25 sacks on the season) and forced a decent amount of turnovers (23), but overall, it was just too easy to score on them. Wake opponents put up 48 touchdowns in just 12 games (an average of four per contest), picking up yardage in large chunks as well. Opponents managed 12 plays of 50 yards or more — seven of which were 60 yards or more — and teams that had size and speed advantages (FSU, Clemson) simply abused their undersized defensive backs. While we cited Kenny Johnson above for his presence in the pass defense, this group struggled for consistency and star power, lacking leadership whether veterans like Nikita Whitlock were in the lineup or not.
Returning a decent portion of last year’s underwhelming group, the 2013 Demon Deacons have the experience to improve. Whether or not they do is an entirely different story, though. Campanaro can’t be the only playmaker on offense, and the defense needs to find a way to keep up with a conference quickly filling up with speedy receivers on the other side of the ball. While Price needs to be protected better, he also needs to be smarter about his decisions, too. You can’t throw 38 passes in a game if you can’t manage to complete half of them. As a senior, he’ll be expected to be the motor once again, but unless the other pieces of this offense step up, change will be a lost cause along with Jim Grobe’s job.