Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe spoke with the media Wednesday morning on the Atlantic Coast Conference football teleconference shortly before catching a plane to New York for Thursday night's game against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome.
THE MODERATOR: We now welcome Wake Forest head football coach Jim Grobe. We'll ask for a brief opening statement and then go to questions.
COACH GROBE: I think we're to the point now where we've got to go play a football game. The truth is we'd probably like three or four more weeks to get ready. I'm sure the players are ready to go. I don't think we can get much better practicing against each other right now.
Unfortunately, we have an opener against a really good football team in Syracuse. I think our guys are ready to go play a game.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Grobe.
Q. Coach, a couple years ago when Riley (Skinner) was a freshman and sophomore, what was impressive about him, he had such tremendous leadership qualities for a young guy. Has Tanner Price shown any of those qualities in the off-season?
COACH GROBE: That's a great point. That's exactly what Tanner Price has done. And he did it last year as a true freshman. Riley at least had an opportunity to spend a year on the scout team. He was one year further along. Tanner and Riley are similar in their leadership qualities in that any time we lose a football game, Riley never blamed the team. He always put the burden on himself. Tanner is exactly the same way. Very similar.
All through that last season where we had so many tough losses, everybody talked about the quarterback; the reality was the supporting guys didn't really help him a whole lot at times. But Tanner never pointed fingers. He was a kid that always took the responsibility and took the challenge to play better. That's the kind of quarterback that a team rallies around.
Q. Riley had a stronger supporting cast. Did it make it easier for Tanner to make this transition?
COACH GROBE: Well, I think it's something that's innate to him, to be honest with you. He's just got it. He's a kid that had a lot of success in high school. Had not had much success here last year at Wake. He hasn't pointed fingers. That's nothing we've taught him. He's a great teammate, good character. A lot of the guys around him were young guys.
You're exactly right, when Riley was right with Kenny Moore and some of the supporting cast guys, they helped Riley. I think this year we're a little stronger at the other team positions. Hopefully a running back emerges, hopefully a go-to receiver like Kenny Moore emerges that would help Tanner out.
Q. Jim, I know that questions don't start getting answered for sure until you play. At the end of fall camp, what do you think you learned about your team that you weren't sure about going into the start?
COACH GROBE: Well, I think the thing more than anything else that we've learned from our team this fall is that we've got a really close-knit group. I think we've probably competed as hard against each other offensively and defensively as any team I've coached, had a couple of scrimmages that were kind of knock-down, drag-out, get-after-each other scrimmages.
After every bit of competition, our guys are getting together, laughing, having fun together. There's no offense, defense, it's just a close-knit team. I haven't really felt the past couple years that our kids have been as close as they are right now. I think that's something that all of our coaches feel good about.
Q. Is that the kind of thing, that team chemistry, that develops? Are there reasons some teams develop better chemistry than others? What's happening with this team?
COACH GROBE: Well, I think that we all as coaches try to figure out the right buttons to push to get everybody together on the same page. We always talk team concepts to our kids. We try to downplay the individual part of the game. But I think in reality it's just every year the makeup of your squad, there's a different
chemistry every year. Sometimes they mix really, really well, and sometimes they don't.
This just seems to be a very unselfish group of guys. I wish I could say that we've had the biggest part of it. I think more than anything else we just got a really nice group of kids in this class.
Q. Coach, looking at your depth at offensive tackle, a couple of seniors. Talk about how you feel going into tomorrow night with a couple veteran tackles.
COACH GROBE: That's really key for us. One of the things for us that's going to be really, really important is Dennis Godfrey on the left side has had a history of being injured and missing some game time. We need Dennis to stay healthy all year.
I think the right side with Doug Weaver, Doug has been a dependable, durable guy. We feel really good about Doug. Steven Chase, the backup tackle on the left side, has had a good August. We hope he's going to be able to spell Dennis a little bit. I think Daniel Blitch, the big tackle that's the redshirt freshman might even be able to give Doug Weaver a little bit of a break over there.
Those two are guys that are fifth-year guys for us that really need to play well. If Weaver and Godfrey play well for us, it's going to make us a lot better.
Q. Jim, what concerns do you have about Syracuse as you head into this game?
COACH GROBE: As much as anything, they're a good, solid football team from last year. They were 8-5, went to a bowl game, won their bowl game. They have most of their guys back on the offensive side of the ball. They have changes defensively. They're a very well-coached football team.
I think more than anything else that is bothersome for me and our coaching staff is that we're still not a veteran football team in a lot of places. I think we're a better football team right now than we were last year. But the toughest thing I think for all coaches is when you know opening the season you're playing a team that's good enough that if you make very many mistakes you're going to get beat.
Going into the game, our concerns are we're playing a really good Syracuse team. But more than anything else our concerns are trying to take care of the football, not lose the turnover battle, not have too many dumb penalties right out of the blocks.
We hope we can play really well on special teams. We haven't really had many live snaps with special teams. Those are the areas you're always concerned about, aside from the fact that Syracuse is a really good football team and really more than you want to open with. I think our concerns focus on our kids trying to play smart football without beating ourselves.