Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe spoke to reporters Wednesday in the Atlantic Coast Conference weekly media teleconference. Grobe's Demon Deacons (4-1 overall, 3-0 ACC) have a huge conference showdown on Saturday at BB&T Field against Virginia Tech.
COACH GROBE: We had a good win this past weekend against Florida State. I thought Florida State's kids played really, really hard. I thought they had a great plan coming in. I thought our kids played really, really hard. It was just one of those really good football games that went right down to the wire. Both teams played hard enough to win.
You hated to see either team lose that game, but we were certainly happy to get out of it with a win. Feel very fortunate for Saturday.
How has Tanner Price evolved as a passer this year? What's he doing better than he was last year?
COACH GROBE: He's got a little better help, I think. Last year I tried to tell everybody I thought Tanner was potentially going to be a good quarterback for us, but we need to give him more help. I think he's getting a little more support out of the guys around him than he did last year, but also he's just making better decisions. He's taking better care of the football.
Last year, I think there were some situations where he tried to force throws, and he's trying not to do that in the first five games. So far he's taking care of the ball pretty good. He just has a better understanding of our offense right now. I think he has a pretty good feel for what we're trying to do offensively, and what we're asking him to do. It's just about what you would expect out of a kid that's got a year of experience under his belt.
Three of your offensive stars are all from the state of Texas. How did that become such a pipeline for you guys?
COACH GROBE: When we hired Tim Billings to come in, he was coaching our wide receivers. Then I moved him over to defense. He's helping coordinate the defense right now with Brian Knorr, but Tim is a Texas guy. He's from Texas. He's familiar with Texas.
When he got in here, he felt like he could get out there and get some things done, so that's how that all got started. We're actually using two or three coaches in Texas right now, only because very similar to what we found in Florida, there are so many kids that you've got more of a chance with more populated states with not only finding a good football player, but somebody to come to Wake Forest and do the job academically. So Tim's been our in-road to Texas.
When we wrote it on the preseason media poll, you guys get picked last in the Atlantic Division. That's my question, I wondered did you laugh at all of us when that happened? Did you have a feeling this team was much improved even in July, even before training camp started? Or has this been something that's developed over the past month or two?
COACH GROBE: I really did. I thought we were going to be a lot better football team. Our problem going in or my problem going in was how tough our schedule was going to be. We've got so many good football teams on our schedule. That problem's not changed.
I think we are a much better football team than we were last year. But, again, we've got a seven-game stretch coming up where every team we play has lots of talent, and we're going to have to play really good to have a chance. So I felt really, really good about our football team. I just knew we had a brutal schedule.
What is Josh Harris' status this week? Is he good to go and fully healthy?
COACH GROBE: Well, he came out last night to practice, but we couldn't do much with him. He was really tight last night. I don't know what his status will be today. We'll try to get him out there to do what we can. I think our trainer kind of feels like by Saturday he'll be full speed and ready to go. Got a shot to do that.
My problem is if you can't practice, are you going to be able to play well on Saturday? And that is the key. So many times kids think if I get healthy, I'll be ready to go. But if you haven't gotten any practice time in, it's hard to play well. So our concern is really twofold: We want to get Josh healthy, certainly, but he needs to get some reps if he's going to play Saturday. So he could be full speed and ready to roll. So they're going to try to find a way to get some practice reps in.
In 59 years of ACC football, this is the first time Wake's been 3-0. I just wondered first, what you make of that, and then, second, what does it say about this year's team?
COACH GROBE: Well, honestly, Bill, it shocked me a little bit when I learned that. It seems kind of amazing that in 59 years you never started 3-0 in the league. But at the same time it's probably something you look back on down the road and feel good about.
But right now we've got seven really good football teams on our schedule. Of course, maybe the best one's coming in this week. I don't know. I think Virginia Tech last week played great and had a great win against Miami. So what we're trying to do is just try to stay focused on the next game and not worry too much about what we just did.
Their offense putting up 38 points and their quarterback was incredibly accurate in the game against Miami. What are your impressions of them and how can you slow them down some?
COACH GROBE: It's going to be tough. I saw where Coach (Mike) O'Cain made the statement where he thought in all his years coaching, he thought that might be the best quarterback performance he can remember. He's coached a lot of great quarterbacks.
We felt like we were going to have a battle on our hands no matter what, and then to see Logan Thomas play as well as he did (against Miami last weekend). They may have one of the best running backs, certainly one of the best running backs in the ACC, maybe in the whole country in David Wilson and some veteran offensive linemen to knock you out up front, and they've got a good group of receivers to throw to.
This is one of those deals where Logan Thomas certainly stepped up last week. I think his whole supporting cast stepped up. They were just so impressive running and throwing the football. That is the problem that Virginia Tech brings to us.
Not only are they talented, but they're well-coached. They're schemed running the option, running the football and then throwing the football down the field. It is just really tough for us defensively. We're having to really work hard to try to figure out a way to slow those guys down.
Last year you guys ran into Andrew Luck, and Tyrod Taylor, and your defensive stats kind of reflected that. But you seemed so much better on that side of the ball this season. Is it a case of just another year older and more mature or are there some other things at work there?
COACH GROBE: Well, I don't think there is any question that a year of experience has helped us. I think last year we got our nose bloodied by about everybody, and in some cases, we couldn't even keep the game in reach. I mean, it just got out of hand early.
So we're playing better this year. We've only had five football games, but defensively we're playing better. I think the number one thing is we're just a little bit more experienced. I think that would be the top thing. I like what our defensive coaches have done the first five games with our kids.
But I think you've got to give the kids some credit. I think they got embarrassed last year. They're trying to play harder, they're trying to play well enough to keep us in games where last year we weren't even able to stay in the game.
I know a lot of your success in the past has been based on redshirting young men and developing them. Reading through your game notes, this is the biggest offensive line Wake Forest has ever had. Is that a reflection of that red shirting process?
COACH GROBE: I think so. Four of our starters up front are seniors. Joe Looney started for us, actually, as a true freshman, but the other three guys red shirted. We've got four seniors in the offensive line, and I've never been a coach that felt like the size of the offensive line was the most important thing. I think they've got to be able to move their feet and make blocks and those type of things.
This is a group that's an older group of guys and they work together pretty well. They've been running our schemes for a while. So we've got to get better. I wasn't happy with the way we protected and blocked last week. So we've got to improve. But it is a good group to lead your football team.
Virginia Tech's got four seniors up front on their offensive line. When you've got old guys in the offensive line, I think it really helps you when you're trying to get the ball to your skill players.
The Virginia Tech defense has beaten up Miami, gashed them pretty good and just got physical and ran it on them. Your thoughts facing this Bud Foster wounded defense on Saturday?
COACH GROBE: Well, I think Miami's got some great talent. That is the one thing. When you watch Jacory Harris and their running back (Lamar Miller) is one of the better players (in the ACC). I think he and David Wilson are one-two right now leading the ACC in rushing, and two of the better running backs in the country.
So I think what you've got to start with is I think Miami's got great personnel at the skill positions, a couple wide receivers that are big play, home run guys, and really veteran quarterbacks.
I think part of last week was just Bud's guys had to go against some really, really talented people. But I think we never face anybody defensively that's any better coached than Virginia Tech. I think Bud Foster and his guys do as good a job at coaching as anybody we ever played against.
So the thing that you noticed is not only do they have a lot of talent, but they have a great scheme and their kids play great fundamental football. So we know we're in for a battle. I know they've had some injuries up front, but they've got some of the more talented kids (we've faced this season), especially at linebacker and in the secondary.
I like the kids that they had up front last week against Miami, watching them play. I thought their kids were real physical and chased the football and did all the things that Bud's defenses are known for.
We've got a battle on our hands. I know we're not even considering any of the guys they might have injured. We know they're going to come in here and play great defense.