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2010 NCAA Football Preview: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

2009 Record: 5-7 (3-5 in ACC)
2009 Bowl: None
Final 2009 AP Ranking: Not Ranked
Head Coach: Jim Grobe (59-51 at Wake, 92-84-1 All-Time)
Non-Conference Schedule: Presbyterian (9/2), at Stanford (9/18), Navy (10/9), at Vanderbilt (11/27)

2009 Offensive Statistics
Scoring: 26.3 points per game (7th in ACC)
Rushing Yards/Game: 131 (8th in ACC)
Passing Yards/Game: 271 (3rd in ACC)
Total Yards/Game: 403 (3rd in ACC) 

2009 Defensive Statistics
Scoring: 26.3 points per game (7th in ACC)
Rushing Yards/Game: 164 (10th in ACC)
Passing Yards/Game: 218 (8th in ACC)
Total Yards/Game: 383 (10th in ACC)

2009 Misc Stats
Turnover Margin: +0.33 per game (10th in ACC)
Penalties: 51 yards per game (8th in ACC)

Returning Starters
Offense: 6
Defense: 7
Kicker/Punter: 2

Top Returning Statistical Leaders
Passing: No returning QBs with statistics
Rushing: RB Josh Adams, Jr (113 carries for 541 yds, 4.7 ypc, 4 TD, 45 ypg)
Receiving: WR Marshall Williams, Sr (60 rec, 867 yds, 6 TD, 14 yds/rec, 5.0 rec/game)
Receiving: WR Devon Brown, Jr (61 rec, 671 yds, 6 TD, 5.1 rec/game)
Tackles: SS Cyhl Quarles, Jr (62)
Sacks: LB Joey Ehrmann, Soph (4)
Interceptions: CB Kenny Okoro, Soph (3)

2010 Pre-Season Rankings
Athlon Sports: #68
Pre-Snap Read: #71
Sporting News: #86

2010 Pre-Season ACC Atlantic Prediction:
Athlon Sports: #6
Phil Steele: #5

The Demon Deacons went only 5-7 last year but this year they will have to go to battle without Riley Skinner, the all-time winningest QB in the history of Wake Forest. Despite winning just 5 games last year Wake was really a tough luck team. They lost 5 games by 3 or less points (Baylor 24-21, BC 27-24, Navy 13-10, Miami (Fl) 28-27, GT 30-27) so they aren't quite as bad as they seem. Wake will miss UNC and Miami (Fl) from the Coastal this year and their out-of-conference is tough with Stanford and Navy but not unmanageable. This year really could go either way for Wake depending on if they can find a reliable QB. We turned to Scott of The Sports Age to find out more about the 2010 Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

What are the major strengths and biggest weaknesses of Wake?

As long as Jim Grobe coaches the Deacons, they should always have a strong defense, especially on the rush. Grobe focuses on using the defense to produce turnovers for scoring opportunities. With that said, the Wake passing game is a very big weakness. Riley Skinner led the team successfully for four years, and now no one knows who will be behind center, though I would have to guess Skylar Jones. However, Grobe and offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke love to utilize the rushing game to create trick plays and most of the offense. Last season, most of these attempts were pretty stagnant, and that must be turned around.

Looking at the schedule who will be the first major test and why?

I’d have to say Florida State. The Seminoles are a team on the rise again, and there’s a small rivalry between the teams now after Wake handed Bobby Bowden a 30-0 shutout at FSU, one of his worst defeats of his coaching career. However, if the Stanford Cardinal are as good as they were last year (though Wake defeated them early in the season) that will definitely test the team, and early, after only games against Duke and Presbyterian.

What team on the schedule do you fear the most?

The Deacs always struggle with the Clemson Tigers, once giving up 24 points in the fourth quarter to cough up a two touchdown lead a few years ago. Even in down years for Clemson, they are always a challenge for Wake. I’m also inclined to mention Navy, since Wake has met them four times in the past three years and currently holds an even record with them. The option always creates holes in the defense, and tends to cause problems all over the place.

Who is the best player on your team that nobody talks about?

Josh Adams. He’s a stellar and lightning fast running back who had a breakout freshman season in 2007, pulling in various rookie awards. However, he’s had two off seasons, and with the confusion at the quarterback position, a return to that greatness in his senior season could just spark the Deacs to a great season.

Who is the best offensive player on the team?

Given Adams’ lesser production in the past couple of seasons, Marshall Williams is the best. He’s an explosive wide receiver who can break out for a huge gain when allowed to run a deep route. Ironically, when Wake’s passing game is in question, they have one of the better receiving corps of the past few seasons with Williams, Devon Brown, and Chris Givens.

Who is the most impactful defensive player on the team?

Cornerback Kenny Okoro. Okoro will only be a sophomore this season, but he was named to the All Freshman ACC team last season, led the team in interceptions, and has amazing agility and speed. After the graduation of Alphonso Smith, Okoro was a surprise and greatly helped to lock down the secondary with NFL draftee this season, Brandon Ghee.

What player(s) needs to step up this year in order for the team to reach it's full capability?

Brandon Pendergrass, along with Josh Adams. Both are running backs, but Grobe likes to use them in a tandem, especially when the other isn’t playing well. However, when both Adams and Pendergrass play well, the rushing game is a huge strength for Wake. Pendergrass is a compact, powerful back, while Adams is an agile, elusive back, and they complement each other excellently. The problem has been that one gets hot when the other isn’t and the production just never is there. If both can round into form for the season, the rushing game will be really successful.

Gut feeling on the teams final record at the end of the regular season and what makes this a successful season in your eyes?

Realistically, I think the Deacons can finish 7-5 after all is said and done. The key to the season will be to avoid an early loss against Stanford, Duke, or Presbyterian, so that they can build some momentum. If Wake can get to a bowl game, I think that this is a successful season, as the goal is to become more consistent with postseason play (after missing out on a bowl game for the first time in a few years last season). Wake Forest is now used to getting to bowls and it has practically become an expectation. However, with the offense still in a jumble, this might be a tough challenge. With that said, if they do not make a bowl game, I feel that the season is a success if they can develop the younger players even more, especially on offense as the past two seasons have seen the departure of practically every starter.

The ACC looks pretty tough this year. Who is your pick to take the ACC this year?

I think Miami may surprise some people this season, and would not be surprised to see them on top at the end of the season. The U struggled at times last season, despite putting up an impressive 9-4 record. If the improvements continue, and they grow more consistent, they can do some serious damage in the conference.

Make sure you check out Scott's blog The Sports Age where he blogs about Wake Forest, baseball and even the NBA. You can also follow him on twitter @DemonDeacs.

Previous ACC Previews:
Boston College Eagles
Duke Blue Devils
Florida State Seminoles
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Maryland Terrapins
Virginia Cavaliers
Virginia Tech Hokies

Next Preview: UConn Huskies

Previous Pre-Season Previews
Big 12- Kansas State Wildcats, Missouri Tigers, Oklahoma SoonersTexas Longhorns, Texas Tech Red Raiders
Big East- Cincinnati Bearcats, Pittsburgh Panthers, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, USF Bulls, West Virginia Mountaineers
Big Ten- Illinois Fighting Illini, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Northwestern Wildcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Purdue Boilermakers
C-USA- Houston Cougars,  SMU Mustangs, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Tulane Green Wave, UTEP Miners
Independent- Navy Midshipmen
MAC- Ball State Cardinals, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, Central Michigan Chippewas, Temple Owls, Toledo Rockets
MWC- BYU Cougars,  Colorado State Rams, UNLV Rebels, Utah Utes
Pac-10- Arizona State Sun Devils, Oregon Ducks, Stanford Cardinal, USC Trojans, Washington Huskies
SEC- Auburn Tigers, Georgia Bulldogs, Kentucky Wildcats, LSU Tigers, Mississippi Rebels, South Carolina Gamecocks, Vanderbilt Commodores
Sun Belt- FIU Golden Panthers, North Texas Mean Green, Troy Trojans
WAC- Boise State Broncos, Fresno State Bulldogs, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, New Mexico State Aggies

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