Notre Dame heads into senior week this week undefeated for the first time since 1993 when Boston College ruined the class of ’93’s home finale looking to cap off an undefeated season in Notre Dame Stadium for the first time since 1998. Standing in Notre Dame’s way are the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest. For an indepth look at Wake, our weekly Behind Enemy Lines is brought to us this week by the Wake Forest blog Blogger So Dear.
Wake Forest Offense
Any Wake fan will tell you that Wake’s offense this season has been the complete antithesis of ‘The Greatest Show on Turf.’ Wake is 108th nationally in scoring offense at 20.1 points per game, which is tied with the vaunted Florida Atlantic offense. A major reason our scoring offense is so low is because of our complete inability to convert on third downs. Wake converts a mere 31.7% of third downs, which is good for 116th nationally. We went 1-16 against Florida State, 1-15 against Virginia, and 2-17 against North Carolina State. It’s unbelievably frustrating. I will warn your readers that it can be downright painful to watch. I don’t even want to fathom what our offense is going to look like against Notre Dame’s #1 scoring defense.
Wake has had surprisingly relatively poor quarterback play this season from Tanner Price, who is in his third season as the starting quarterback. He has completed only 55.4% of his passes, which makes him 88th nationally. What’s concerning about this is that you’d be willing to sacrifice some completion percentage if it meant more yards per attempt, but Price only averages 5.8 yards/attempt, which ties him for 100th nationally.
Wake’s offensive line was young coming into the season as we lost Joe Looney to the NFL Draft, as well as Michael Hoag, Doug Weaver, and Dennis Godfrey to graduation. But what was thought to be a weak offensive line was made even weaker due to injury. The offensive line has allowed 23 sacks on the year, and has only allowed us to run for 3.08 yards/attempt.
Backs Josh Harris and Deandre Martin have both been fairly solid all season. Harris is averaging 4.46 yards/attempt and has shown tremendous big-play ability. He plays very hard, and his homerun potential is going to have to hit at least once if Wake has any chance in this game. Deandre Martin has been a very solid freshman for us this season. He’s more of a between the tackles back, but he has also shown big play ability and his average is 4.22 yards/attempt. Senior Tommy Bohannon is listed as a fullback, but he has essentially been converted to H- Back. Bohannon actually hasn’t even run the ball once this season. This is mostly due to our shotgun formations and almost complete abandonment of the I-Form. Bohannon, however, has demonstrated good hands and has 20 receptions on the season and 5 touchdowns.
Wide receiver Michael Campanaro has been the bright spot not only of the Wake Forest offense, but of the entire team. He has 65 receptions on the season, which is good for 20th nationally, and this is despite the fact that he missed two complete games and left in the first quarter and did not return in a third. He is 7th in the nation in receptions per game and tied the ACC single game reception record with 16 when Wake went against Boston College. Campanaro has done an outstanding job filling in for receiver Chris Givens who left early to the NFL Draft and is now a significant contributor for the St. Louis Rams. Unfortunately no one else has been able to be a reliable second receiver. Terrence Davis has improved, but our receivers overall have struggled with drops, and the lack of playmakers on the outside has been a major liability for our offense.
Wake Forest Defense
Wake allows 28.9 points per game, which is 71st nationally. Wake is 65th nationally in rush defense and allows 156.9 yards/game. Wake’s passing defense is another story. Wake allows 260.9 yards/game, which is good for 100th nationally. Keep in mind that we played Army game, who threw for all of 77 yards against us. If you look at the other 9 games, Wake has allowed 281 yard/game.
The 3-4 Wake Forest defense has a solid front 7, and that all starts with nose guard Nikita Whitlock, who was 2nd team All-ACC last season and was named an All-American by College Football News. Junior defensive end Zach Thompson is solid and averages more than 5 tackles per game. Kris Redding does a solid job opposite Zach Thompson and averages 3 tackles per game. Thompson and Redding are second and third on the team with sacks with 4 and 3.5 respectively.
Justin Jackson is our best linebacker. He leads the team in sacks, sack yards, and tackles. He’s very athletic, and is strong in pursuit. Mike Olson, Riley Haynes, and Joey Ehrmann are our other 3 starting linebackers. They are decent in run support but lack the athleticism to be strong in pass coverage. The loss of Kyle Wilber to the NFL has not gone unnoticed. Everett Golson’s athleticism and scrambling ability could cause major problems for this unit.
The secondary was supposed to be a true bright spot for us this season despite losing Josh Bush to the NFL Draft and Chyl Quarles to graduation. Merrill “Bud” Noel was the ACC Rookie of the Year last season, was a consensus Freshman All-American and was named an honorable mention All-American by Sports Illustrated. This season Noel, who has had nagging injuries, does not appear to be as explosive as last season. He has yet to even intercept a pass this season. Kevin Johnson, who missed last season due to academic issues, has been very solid for Wake this season. He has two interceptions and 53 tackles. A.J. Marshall has also started to live up to his 4-star ratings coming out of high school and 2 interceptions, 61 tackles, and 1 touchdown on the season. Unfortunately, our coverage scheme is more of a bend, but don’t break philosophy where we allow a lot of underneath routes. Our players also don’t appear to be coached to play the ball when it’s in the air. That has led to a lot of missed turnover opportunities.
Wake Forest Special Teams
This is clearly a major weak spot for our team outside of punter Alex Kinal, who has been outstanding this season. Place kicker Jimmy Newman was benched after starting the season 2-6. Chad Hedlund came in against Virginia and was 3-3, but he absolutely shanked an extra point attempt against N.C. State. I don’t like our chances if it comes down to a field goal contest. Of course, I don’t like our chances of it coming close to coming down to a field goal contest.
Our kickoff returns have been terrible, and for no other reason than intelligence. I understand our athletic limitations, but there have been countless times when instead of just kneeling the ball and getting the ball on the 25, we choose to return it and we routinely fail to get to the 25.We average 16.54 yards/return. A simple kneel is all it takes. It’s just so frustrating because it’s such a correctable mistake, and it has yet to be corrected.