While taking a break from pulling his hair out over the basketball team's problems and the football team's agonizing loss at Syracuse, Blogger So Dear editor Martin Rickman was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the Deacs.
1.) Wake Forest's first game ended in disappointment, but from a big picture perspective, their performance was encouraging, wasn't it? For the majority of the game y'all were much better than a Syracuse team that went bowling last season.
Encouraging yes, but there are still glaring issues to be dealt with. First and foremost, it is as if the coaches haven’t learned a thing from the last two years. Game in and game out, with a lead the coaching staff goes into a conservative shell, playing not to lose. And time and time again, between low risk playcalling and prevent defense, it comes back to haunt the Deacs. I don’t know if it’s the staff not trusting the personnel or just playing scared, but I really was hoping that was a trend that would stop this year.
Secondly, conditioning proved to be a factor in the last 20 or so minutes of the game. If it’s a problem against Syracuse it’ll certainly be a problem against the heart of the ACC schedule.
I also am really upset that special teams continue to be by far the worst parts of the game for Wake. It’s getting a bit ridiculous. There are only so many times you can give a team extremely good field position, shank punts and miss kicks before you pull your hair out.
2.) So Tanner Price was cleared by the team doctors to return to the Syracuse game but the coaches played it safe and held him out? How do you feel about that decision? Will the injury affect him at all in the game this weekend?
The details are still a bit murky, in a way only Wake knows how to spin it. They’ve gotten really good at that the last few years between all the sports. If Tanner was ready to go, they should have given him a chance in my opinion, but it’s a coaching decision and I see both sides. This was a chance to be 1-0 with a road win against a BCS conference team going into what I think is a winnable game at home against State to make the Deacs 2-0 and 1-0 in conference. That was a huge momentum game. Instead, the collapse is the kind that sets the tone for another disaster of a season.
Now on the other side of the coin, if you are going to keep him out, you better have a package ready for your backup. If you want to pull the Peyton Manning theory and just bank on your QB being healthy, that’s fine, but keep him in until he can’t go anymore.
Otherwise, you plan for this. Quarterbacks get hurt in college. All the time. Especially to Wake. There should have been some kind of 8-Ball or even Two Minute Drill-type set for Stachitas that could use his strengths more effectively. Instead of running quick slants and outs, sweeps, options and QB reads, they asked him to run draw plays and throw to the sidelines, not to mention that paltry throw over the middle for the interception.
It looked like the staff didn’t even remotely consider the chance that Tanner Price could get hurt.
3.) Why does NC State always play so poorly in Winston-Salem? My personal theory is that Wake assembles a bunch of chain smokers to smoke Camel Lights and blow secondhand smoke into the visitors' locker room's ventilation system. Am I close?
That isn’t an awful theory. I don’t know. It’s a number of things. I think certain teams take Wake lightly, and it’s possible State is one of them. Maybe the bus ride tuckers your guys out. Perhaps the pre-game meal is laced with sedatives. Or it is just one of those situations in which a team has another team’s number at home. That happens too.
4.) I noticed that Wake's defense is pretty small up front. What are they doing to compensate for that? Do you think they're going to have trouble stopping the run this season?
Small is putting it lightly. Maybe I’m making it up, but I think I remember Bud from Tomahawk Nation saying Wake was one of the five smallest up front, if not THE smallest in the BCS. To compensate, they have Nikita Whitlock, who is a dynamo at NT. The guy gets called undersized all the time, but he never quits, is strong as hell and has great technique on his stunts.
The team looked good on runs early on against Syracuse, but I do think they will wear down as games go on. To help that, either the LBs will have to play closer to the line or blitz gaps more frequently (which puts pressure on the DBs for sure), or the line will have to overload on strong sides and hope that the end on the opposite side does his job and contains without overplaying or getting too deep.
5.) The passing game looked really good last Thursday, at least while Price was in the game; is that something you think the Deacs will rely on a little more this year? Scheme-wise, have there been any changes made to the offense for 2011?
I hope so. I’m really, really tired of seeing delayed handoffs out of the shotgun, inside handoffs and counters that blow up three yards behind the line of scrimmage. To most effectively use backs Josh Harris and Brandon Pendergrass, they need to get in a position to use their speed and elusiveness. But Tanner Price has a lot of weapons in the receiving corps between Campanaro and Givens, as well as the other young guys like Terrance Davis, Dembry, Terry and Matt James. Wake needs to get those skill guys involved early and often.
This is not a team that can play the hard-nosed, grind-it-out football that we’re used to seeing out of Jim Grobe. I’m sorry, but it can’t be about ball control and T.O.P. The Demon Deacons need big plays.