Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe was the first to appear on the ACC-wide coaches' teleconference Wednesday morning, and the Demon Deacons' skipper went into detail about the strides the team made throughout spring football.
Deacons Illustrated has a transcription of the entirety of Coach Grobe's media segment:
COACH GROBE: I think spring went well for us. We got a lot of work done. A lot of younger kids got reps. We gave everybody a good dose of football this spring to give them a chance to compete, and we've got a pretty good idea going into the fall who we have to count on.
As I think most coaches would tell you, if you stay healthy in the spring you're happy. We're a pretty healthy football team right now, and we're looking forward to getting back in August.
You've talked about hoping to shore up the running game. Talk about that, and doing that with a young offensive line. And also, can you fill me in on where Josh Harris is physically?
COACH GROBE: I think we're going to have the running backs to get the job done. I think the key is whether we're going to be able to get them blocked up front or not. I think we've got two or three kids right now in the offensive linemen that we feel good really about---that we don't have any questions about. And we've got to come up with two or three kids that can be starters for us and win for us, and I think they're there.
That (the offensive line) is the only group that I wish we had a few more practices for this spring. But I think we're going to develop those guys. I like the athleticism of our offensive line.
I think Josh Harris stayed healthy throughout all our workouts. He actually ran a little bit of track there at the end of spring. His hamstring seems fine. I think one of the things that's helping Josh is a good competition with Orville Reynolds and DeAndre Martin and Tyler Jackson. We have got some kids who had some good springs at running back, and competition always makes you better.
Are you starting to get back now to the point where you've got some upperclassmen, you've got some experience now? And if so, how much farther along are you this year because you've got some experience at key positions like at cornerback and elsewhere on defense, more than the past couple of seasons?
COACH GROBE: I think we're better. I don't think there's any question. Certainly it starts at quarterback, anytime you have got a veteran quarterback coming back for us.
Tanner Price is a young guy, but he has got two full seasons of starting under his belt, and he seemed even better this spring---a lot better on his control underneath, that type of stuff that he struggled with a little bit last year. But he had a great spring, so it starts with that.
Defensively, I think we've got a chance to be pretty good because we've got got really good foot speed. It reminds you of some of the defenses we had a few years ago, that could all run to the football. So I think we are deeper.
I think that's the key for us. I think that a couple of the years that we've struggled have been when we didn't have enough depth, and a couple of injuries just took us from being a competitive team to not competitive, especially a couple of years ago when we had so many injuries. But we are a little bit deeper right now, and I think we've got a chance to be a good football team. We just play so many good teams that we're going to hope that we're going to be in the fourth quarter with a chance, and see if we can't get the ball to bounce the right way.
With so few returning starters on offense, how important was this to have a productive spring for everybody? And how important is August going to be for you to get that offensive line unit gelled?
COACH GROBE: August will be very important to us. As I mentioned, I would have loved to have given our offensive linemen a few more practices this spring. The defense pretty much had the upper hand. But I like the other positions. We've got really good talent at the wide receiver position and the running back position, and obviously with Tanner back at quarterback. I like what some of the tight ends and fullbacks did this spring.
I think the real key for us is being a solidified front with five good offensive linemen, and I think they're there. I think we just need more work, so August is going to be very important.
I think our skill guys---especially our receivers---need to become more consistent, but I think the key for us in August will be continuing to improve that offensive line. But we made great strides this spring.
You mentioned the wide receiving situation. How do you replace Chris Givens, and do you see anything from the young guys that gives you confidence that you'll have guys that can go out there catch the ball?
COACH GROBE: Yeah, I think so. Terence Davis is going to be a senior. He had knee surgery a couple of years ago, and this is the first time he's really looked comfortable for us. I think he's a kid that can help us.
Matt James and Brandon Terry are two 6-5 receivers that can run and can adjust to the football, very athletic. And then Sherman Ragland, the freshman that we redshirted last year, has some special ability. So I think we've got the talent there.
I think the thing that happened this spring is all of those receivers except Michael Campanaro, who is very consistent, but all the other receivers made some big plays this spring, but didn't make some plays that were kind of routine. I think the key for that group is to be more consistent. We've certainly got more than enough talent for Tanner to throw the ball to.
On the other side of the ball, is the 3-4 a permanent defense for Wake Forest now as opposed to just something that filled the gap for you for a year?
COACH GROBE: No, that's what we want to do. That's what we've wanted to do. We're a little tentative at some positions, but we're a 3-4 team. We'll have some different packages, but I thought last year one of the things that hurt us last year defensively is we kind of went back and forth between three and four man fronts. On the board that looks good, but we just didn't play real good fundamental football defensively, although we played really, really hard.
I think being settled into one package, and maybe not having as much flexibility, but maybe having the kids play a little faster will help us.
The pass rush was obviously a problem last year, and you've lost both starting DEs. What do you project?
COACH GROBE: I think we're going to be better just from the scheme. In the 3-4, outside linebackers have got to be more of a factor in pass rush. I don't think Joey Ehrmann had a sack, (except) maybe one in the bowl game. I can't remember. But with those outside linebackers, they've got to be really productive.
I think Zach Thompson is a pretty special player at DE, and obviously Nikita Whitlock is very talented . I think Kris Redding really came on this spring. And we've got a couple of young guys, guys like Desmond Floyd who I think can be good players for us.
But I think we're going to be able to pressure the quarterback more. I think the key for us is can we pressure the quarterback without having to dial up a lot of blitzes from your outside linebackers. I think with our outside linebackers giving us a little bit more pressure, which they did this spring, and a little production inside, I think we'll be able to put more pressure on the quarterback.