Our analysis on the starters, top backups, history and trends for Clemson’s Thursday night matchup in Winston-Salem on Oct. 25…
2011 Record: 6-7 (5-3 ACC, second in the Atlantic Division)
2012 Wake Forest Schedule
Sept. 1 LIBERTY
Sept. 8 NORTH CAROLINA
Sept. 15 at Florida State
Sept. 22 ARMY
Sept. 29 DUKE
Oct. 6 at Maryland
Oct. 13 Bye
Oct. 20 at Virginia
Oct. 25 CLEMSON (Thursday)
Nov. 3 BOSTON COLLEGE
Nov. 10 at NC State
Nov. 17 at Notre Dame
Nov. 24 VANDERBILT
Wake Forest Quick Profile
Coach: Jim Grobe (101-100-1 career record, 38-51 vs. the ACC [3-8 vs. Clemson], 12th year at Wake Forest).
Offense (2011 ranks): Multiple (Total offense: 78th/Rush offense: 99th/Pass offense: 39th)
Defense (2011 ranks): 3-4 (Total defense: 74th/Rush defense: 79th/Pass defense: 69th).
2011 Special Team Ranks: Net punting – 71st/Kickoff returns – 103rd/Punt returns – 82nd/Punt return yardage defense – 29th/Kick return yardage defense – 65th.
2011 Misc. stats: Turnover margin – 17th/Fewest penalties – 26th/First downs – 58th/First downs allowed – 57th/Third down efficiency – 103rd/Red zone efficiency – 54th/Red zone defense – 47th/Time of possession – 51st.
Outgoing starters: 12.
2012 Starters (2011 stats)
Returning Offense (4)
QB: Tanner Price (Junior, 3,017 passing yards/60% cmp/20 TD-6 INT)
FB: Tommy Bohanon (Senior, 3 TD).
WR: Michael Campanaro (Junior, 833 rec. yards/2 TD)
O-line: C Garrick Williams (Senior, 6-4 310/14 starts)
New Projected Starters (7)
RB: Josh Harris (Sophomore, 432 yards/3 TD)
WR: Terence Davis (Senior, 269 rec. yards/5 TD)
TE: Spencer Bishop (Junior)
O-line: LT Devin Bolling (Junior, 6-5 300); LG Antonio Ford (Sophomore, 6-3 315); RG Frank Souza (Junior, 6-5 320); RT Colin Summers (Sophomore, 6-5 320)
Outlook: Texan gunslinger Tanner Price, a third-year starter runs the Wake Forest offense, coming off a breakout 2011 season where he surpassed 3,000 passing yards with 20 touchdowns and six interceptions. The junior is seventh in ACC history in interception-avoidance ratio (.142).
Fellow Lone Star State native Josh Harris is back in the Deacs backfield after sitting out much of last season with a hamstring injury. Harris averaged 5.7 yards per carry as a top-five ACC rusher in his freshman year.
At receiver, junior Michael Campanaro becomes Price’s top stretch-the-field threat (833 yards/2 TD in ’11), replacing the role of the outgoing Chris Givens, who led the ACC in receiving yards (1,330) last season. Finding another top target will be a priority for Wake Forest, but it could come in senior Terence Davis (13.4 yards per catch and five TD in ’11).
The o-line is what to watch for this Wake Forest squad, going from one of the most experienced in 2011 to a lone returning starter (center Garrick Williams, 14 starts) this season. Like Clemson, a converted defensive tackle figures to be a starter in junior right guard Frank Souza (6-4 280).
Returning Defense (7)
D-line: DE Zach Thompson (Junior, 40 tackles/0.5 sack/4 TFL); NG Nikita Whitlock (Junior, 14 TFL/3.5 sacks/64 tackles)
LB: OLB Joey Ehrmann (Senior, 54 tackles); ILB Scott Betros (Senior, 59 tackles); ILB Riley Haynes (Senior, 52 tackles)
DB: CB Kenny Okoro (Senior, 9 PBUs/1 INT); CB Merrill Noel (Sophomore, 66 tackles/19 PBUs/2 INT)
New Projected Starters (4)
DE: Kris Redding (Junior)
LB: SLB Justin Jackson (Junior)
DB: FS Daniel Mack (Junior, 13 tackles); SS Desmond Cooper (Sophomore)/Duran Lowe (Junior, 2 PBU/1 INT)/A.J. Marshall (Junior)
Outlook: Wake Forest has returned seven or more starters each of the last three seasons and upperclassmen are expected to man nine of the 11 starting spots. The Deacs improved from 110th to 65th in scoring defense from 2010 to 2011.
NG Nikita Whitlock anchors the 3-4 scheme, regularly one of the ACC’s best in tackles for loss (24.5 over the last two seasons).
The Demon Deacons feature an experienced corps of linebackers – three seniors (Joey Ehrmann, Scott Betros and Riley Haynes) as projected starters with 50 starts among them.
In the Deacs secondary, rising sophomore Merrill Noel came out of nowhere to lead the nation in passes defended (21) with 19 pass breakups and two interceptions last season. He is paired with senior Kenny Okoro on the corners, with competition ongoing for the open safety spots.
Returning Kicker/Punter (2)
K: Jimmy Newman (Senior, 17-of-22 on FGs/9-14 from 30+/long of 46).
P: Alex Wulfeck (Junior, 39.7 yards per punt/13 inside the 20)
Outlook: Jimmy Newman is a four-year starter, who’s made 40 career field goals as a Demon Deacon (out of 52 attempts – 77 percent). In his first year as a starter, Alex Wulfeck finished in the top-half of the ACC in yards per punt and is the second-best returning punter statistically. Wulfeck was pushed this spring though with redshirt freshman Australian Alexander Kinal averaging 49.8 yards per punt with a long of 64 in the Wake Forest spring game.
Notable Backups (2011 stats)
LB: OLB Zach Allen (Sophomore, 24 tackles); WLB Mike Olson (Junior, 57 tackles/6 TFL)
Punter: Alex Kinal (Redshirt freshman)
ACC Position Rankings
Clemson/Wake Forest recent history: Last year’s game in Memorial Stadium was more dramatic than anyone expected – Clemson a 16-point favorite and hanging on to the Atlantic Division title with a 43-yard field goal at the gun by Chandler Catanzaro for the 31-28 win. The Tigers were down 28-14 in the third quarter and 28-21 – almost 31-21 in the fourth after a missed 32-yard field goal by Jimmy Newman. Catanzaro missed his first game-winning attempt, but a quick Deacs three-and-out gave him another shot for the victory.
The prior matchup in Winston-Salem wasn’t close only on the scoreboard until Clemson pulled away in the second half – holding Wake Forest to 205 offensive yards in a 30-10 win.
Clemson players versus…Wake Forest: Tajh Boyd has faced the Deacs twice, of course, starting last season (27-for-43 with 343 passing yards with two touchdowns and interceptions each) and some mop-up duty two years ago (4-for-8 with 37 passing yards and a pick).
Andre Ellington missed the 2010 matchup with the knee injury, but made up for it last year with two scores and 140 total yards.
Jaron Brown has had two of his career games against Wake, hauling in six catches for 78 yards and a touchdown last season and five for 93 and a score in 2010. Other notable receiver numbers include Brandon Ford (51 yards and a touchdown in ’11), DeAndre Hopkins (74 yards and a touchdown over two seasons) and Sammy Watkins (five catches for 62 yards in ’11, injured in the second half).
Chandler Catanzaro split late-game field goal attempts last season, eventually hitting the 43-yard game-winner, and was 3-for-3 in 2010 with a long of 43 as well.
Defensively, safeties Rashard Hall and Xavier Brewer each had eight tackles last season, while Corico Hawkins has 12 career tackles (2 for loss) with a sack against the Deacs.
Trends: The home team is 8-2 in this series over the last 10 games, but Wake Forest has split the last two in Winston-Salem (the 2008 Deacs win being Tommy Bowden’s last game as Clemson’s head coach). The Tigers have won five of the last six by a 29.5 to 13.3 average final. The favored team has covered the spread in four of the last five matchups (last year the exception). Jim Grobe’s Demon Deacons are 3-3 in home October matchups over the last three seasons, including the 35-30 win over FSU last year and a 28-27 loss to Navy in 2010.
2011 Wake Forest Schedule
Sept. 1 at Syracuse – L 36-29 (OT)
Sept. 10 NC STATE – W 34-27
Sept. 17 GARDNER-WEBB – W 48-5
Sept. 24 Bye
Oct. 1 at Boston College – W 27-19
Oct. 8 FLORIDA STATE – W 35-30
Oct. 15 VIRGINIA TECH – L 38-17
Oct. 22 at Duke – W 24-23
Oct. 29 at North Carolina – L 49-24
Nov. 5 NOTRE DAME – L 24-17
Nov. 12 at Clemson – L 31-28
Nov. 19 MARYLAND – W 31-10
Nov. 26 VANDERBILT – L 41-7
Dec. 30 Mississippi State – L 23-17