Last season’s juniors are now this season’s seniors, and with that comes extra responsibility and expectations. In the ACC, while there were plenty of players selected in the NFL Draft, the conference still returns a strong group of seniors — many of whom are set to make a strong impact in their final seasons of eligibility.
Over these few weeks, we’ve gone team-by-team in the ACC to identify the “standout senior” that’s key to his respective squad, and why he’s so important. Think we should’ve featured another player, though? Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.
As a sophomore, Tanner Price made Wake Forest think they’d struck gold, as their accurate, strong-armed passer led the team to six wins and within one ACC victory of a spot in the league championship game. Throughout 2011, Price was seen as a natural leader and quick decision-maker; one that could certainly carry the Demon Deacons offense and push them to greater heights. And then 2012 happened. The bottom fell out for the entire Wake offense, which managed to be among the worst in the nation. Price regressed mightily, completing just 55.6-percent of his passes for 2,300 yards and 12 scores. Injury bug or not on the offensive line, it was a disaster.
But it shows just how important Price is, and why so much is riding on him to get Wake Forest back to a bowl this year. Last year’s running game averaged just 100 yards per game. The defense allowed nearly 32 points per game. If the team’s senior quarterback isn’t throwing well, there’s not much hope, and yet much of that is beyond his control. Or at least it was.
For 2013, while little personnel has changed for Wake, the philosophy appears to have overhauled itself quite a bit. Offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke, who’s served the role for 10 years now, seems to understand the pressure the staff’s on, and is implementing some “new” things this year. Mainly, spread option elements. As head coach Jim Grobe mentioned to ESPN during spring practice:
“We got this way with Riley Skinner, and we did a lot of things to try and protect him. We just got too cautious with Tanner, trying not to put him in a position where he might get dinged. We’ve got to be a little more aggressive with him. One of the things we liked about him out of high school was that he was a dual-threat quarterback. We haven’t really used him in that capacity, but in watching some of the breakdowns the last few weeks, one of the things we noticed was his ability to scramble out of the pocket. We will put Tanner in some situations where he has to run. We can’t just hang our hats on throwing the football.”
Can Price suddenly turn himself into a spread-option quarterback that can run the ball with competency? To this point, his career has been based entirely on being a pocket passer, without being much of a running threat, but I’m intrigued by what this could mean for Wake Forest. They became too predictable last season, and that’s why the offense stopped moving the ball. This new wrinkle changes things up, and makes Price a more effective offensive weapon. The transition won’t be flawless. But given how bad things got last year, anything Price can do to help will likely be embraced.