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August 3, 2012

Positional breakdowns part one: O-Line

Change is often painful, especially when it is out with the old and in with new.

That is exactly the predicament Wake Forest is in after the departure of four starters from its offensive line, including second team All-ACC left guard Joe Looney following last season's run to the Music City Bowl.

The off-season addition of offensive line coach Jonathan Himebauch to Wake's coaching staff frees offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke up to focus more on game-planning and play-calling duties, which should help offset the losses up front.

"Himey brings some really good experience to the offensive line and I think he brings some good ideas in protections and running the football that are going to help us, but more than anything he's got those guys stirred up," Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe said. "There's some new energy over there."

Wake Forest ranked 11th in the ACC in sacks allowed last season with 35 and averaged a meager 114.6 yards rushing per game (ninth in the ACC), so the challenge for this young offensive line is to improve its pass-protection and open running lanes.

Redshirt senior center Garrick Williams is the only full-time starter returning up front, while redshirt junior left tackle Steven Chase and redshirt sophomore right tackle Colin Summers add significant experience.

"I feel really good about Garrick Williams,"Grobe said. "He can be solid at center. If you're going to lose four linemen you want to lose guards and tackles; you don't want to lose your center, so I think Garrick is a good starting point."

Williams graded out at 80-percent for the season, and was fourth on the team with 42.5 knockdown blocks in 2011. Chase, who started three of the 11 games he played in, graded out at 77-percent for the year, including a season-high 89-percent against Virginia Tech. Summers recorded a team-high seven knockdown blocks at Clemson, had 3.5 more against Maryland, and finished the season with a 79-percent blocking grade.

Antonio Ford, who was Looney's backup, looks to start at left guard this fall. He was hampered with a sprained ankle during spring practice.

Grobe said Frank Souza, who made the switch from nose guard to offensive line in the spring will likely move down from left tackle to right guard since Chase's return to the team.

"I feel pretty good that we've got five guys coming back in August that we can win with," Grobe said. "Our concern is going to be finding a third tackle, finding a third guard and a backup center. We're not sure of who any of those guys might be right now, but I think going into August I feel like we can put a starting five out there that can get the job done."

Key backups …

--- Whit Barnes (center), Daniel Blitch (right guard), Devin Bolling (right tackle), Ramon Booi (left tackle), Dylan Intemann (right guard) and Cody Preble (left guard) will add depth and compete for playing time.

Key additions …

--- Wake signed offensive guard Ty Hayworth and offensive tackles Will Smith and Joel Suggs in its 2012 recruiting class. The trio will likely redshirt this fall, but bring in some much-needed bodies to a lean unit.

Stay tuned to Deacons Illustrated as we provide in-depth analysis on each position group this pre-season.


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