As the ACC‘s spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing the big storylines for each of the league’s 14 (15, in this case) teams. Check back on weekdays for what to look out for during your school’s spring practices and spring game.
Spring Practice Start Date: March 19
Spring Game Date:
After what can only be described as a frustrating 2012, Wake looks to right the ship for next season, starting here in the spring. But with 16 starters returning, along with head coach Jim Grobe and both coordinators, will anything change? While Grobe’s reign has involved consistency and apparent stability, he’s also come under some fire for the last few years of mediocrity. So will things be radically adjusted this spring, or is Grobe going to hope this veteran group can simply right the ship on their own? His job may depend on the answer.
As mentioned during the 2012 Wake Forest season recap, last season sure felt like 1-11, despite the fact that the Deacs went 5-7. And that was no more apparent than on offense. Wake finished 120th in total offense, 116th in scoring and only managed 21 points or more once from the beginning of October through the rest of the season. Despite all that, offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke is indeed back for his 10th season at the position, hoping that the offensive line can stay healthy and consistent in front of senior quarterback Tanner Price. After a strong start to his career, Price’s accuracy and confidence appear to have fizzled amidst increased pressure and uncertainty on the line, along with a variety of unreliable targets. Michael Campanaro‘s efforts last year were impressive, sure, but he’ll need to take a leap starting this spring if he hopes to develop into one of the conference’ elite targets. Price will also be in dire need of both another dependable receiver and a legitimate rushing attack if the offense hopes to reverse last year’s fortunes. Even with extended time in this system over the last three years, Josh Harris still hasn’t taken the lead at halfback, and it’s now or never for him as he enters his senior year. The one-dimensional attack was a key part of last year’s struggles, and he’ll be called upon to do more to help Price out this year.
Over on the defensive side, Wake will be looking to emphasize more of what they did right last year — sacks, turnovers — while stopping big plays, especially in the passing game. Following a strong freshman campaign, cornerback Merrill Noel struggled in 2012, so you can be assured the focus will be on him in the secondary this spring. If the Demon Deacons staff has learned anything from last season, it’s that no one should be guaranteed anything simply based on precedent. Though it may not necessarily be the case, this senior-laden group must be put to the test over the next month to prove they’ve earned the starting jobs they’ve had. From Noel, to nose tackle Nikita Whitlock and linebacker Zachary Allen, the only way this group improves is through accountability. Whitlock’s health will also be a boost, but that alone cannot be relied upon. New starters at three of the four linebacker spots will also be integral in getting the front-seven push Wake could not generate with consistency. In next year’s ACC, they’ll face several inexperienced quarterbacks. If the Deacs want to get back to the six-win mark, it’ll start with pressuring those passers and forcing turnovers.
Consistency is the name of the game for Jim Grobe’s team this spring. They had spurts of success last year — most notably the North Carolina upset — mixed with plenty of failure too (see: Florida State game). But what this team needs most of all is a fire lit under them. Maybe it’s done by allowing seniors to be challenged for their starting positions this spring session (unlikely, but bear with me). Maybe it’s an outward acknowledgment that Grobe’s job is on the line (it should be). But there needs to be a change in Winston-Salem, and it has to start during this early weeks of the 2013 season.