ACC Week: One Big Question for Wake Forest, Can The Demon Deacons Find Consistency?


Tanner Price looked like an All-American quarterback in Wake Forest’s defeat of Florida State last season, connecting with various Demon Deacon receivers three times for touchdowns. The 35 points Wake scored that afternoon were nearly 20 more than FSU allowed on average throughout 2011.

That day was an example of how good Wake could be. Then there were days like the Deacs’ regular season finale, a trip to Vanderbilt in which Wake mustered just seven points but surrendered 41. Price threw more incompletions than scores, WF was dominated in time of possession, and went 0-3 on fourth down conversion attempts.

The 2011 Demon Deacons were Jekyll and Hyde types, a juxtaposition fitting their oxymoron mascot. A 6-7 record would signify as much, but the record was only a manifestation. From an odd Week 1 loss at Syracuse in which Wake gave up 22 straight spanning the fourth quarter and overtime, the tone was set.

Losses like the route at Vanderbilt were uncommon. In fact, of its seven defeats four were by a combined 23 points. Included in those were quality teams Notre Dame and Clemson, both of which needed second half rallies to put the Demon Deacons down. That makes the Vanderbilt shellacking, and another sustained against North Carolina that much more perplexing.

WF struggled with defensive lapses, a critical flaw in its campaign. Teams like ND and Clemson, as well as FSU, Vandy and UNC, would exploit cracks for stretches of eight, 10, 15 minutes. The result was Wake giving up more points than it averaged.

Offensively, the ground game faced challenges. Injuries hampered 2010 CFN Freshman All-American Josh Harris. He missed four games, seeing his yards per carry average dip from 5.7 to 4.3. Brandon Pendergrass assumed feature back duties, but wasn’t terribly effective at 4.4 YPC. Harris’ return gives Jim Grobe cause for optimism, but Wake will also need contribution from third down back Orville Reynolds.

The passing game was the most reliable facet of Wake’s season. When Price was on, he looked like one of the ACC’s best quarterbacks. The FSU win is a notable example, but he also racked up nearly 300 yards against NC State’s outstanding secondary. Wake had the No. 39 passing offense by season’s end, and Price finished with 20 touchdowns to just six interceptions. He was deliberate with his passes.

Yet in an odd way, the most consistent part of Wake’s game was so consistent, it hurt. Obviously removing Price from the equation, Wake suffers a much worse season. However with the defense and ground game having inconsistencies, the Deacs needed huge outputs to win close games. Multiple TD games were not Price’s norm. The departure of wide receiver Chris Givens, target of 84 completions, nine touchdowns and over 1300 yards, suggests 2012 might not be different.

Wake does return Terrence Davis, however. He was a star in the FSU win, and good for five touchdowns on the year. Michael Campanaro was knocking on the door of 1000 yards receiving running patterns in the flat. Otherwise, the receiving corps is going to feature a lot of new. The spring game saw Harris and fullback Jordan Garside each score receiving touchdowns — perhaps backfield players will become more prevalent in the passing game.

The 4-1 start WF ran to last season might need duplication in 2012 if this Wake team is to bowl. That’s because the Deacs play four home games in September, all of which are winnable: Liberty (Turner Gill’s debut), North Carolina (Larry Fedora’s ACC opener), and Army/Duke (finished a combined 6-18 last season). A trip to Maryland opens October, another very winnable contest before a roadie to Virginia and Clemson’s arrival at BB&T Field.