Offensive identity. Defensive consistency. Inability to make clutch plays. Wake Forest football fans pointed to a lot of things to try and explain the Demon Deacons' disappointing 2009 campaign. But what if I said that a lack of leadership was the real problem? That's what freshman star Chris Givens thinks was wrong, and he's making it his mission to fix that problem in 2010.
Givens had an incredible freshman season, recording 629 receiving yards and 8 touchdown grabs, while also adding over 100 yards on the ground. His efforts earned him a spot on Rivals.com's All-ACC freshman team.
However, if you talked to Givens about his play, you'd think he failed miserably. But in his mind, because the team didn't meet their expectations, neither did he.
"I watched all of the games from last year and I played OK, but I didn't play to my potential" explained Givens. "I know it was my first year, but I was somewhat disappointed. I thought I held back early on [because of knee injuries he suffered in high school], but even when I got comfortable, I wasn't the yards after catch guy that I know I can be.
"Nor the leader that the team needs me to be" he added emphatically.
The leadership aspect was something that Wake Forest never had to worry about during the previous seasons, mainly because of guys like Aaron Curry, Alphonso Smith, and others. Anybody who watched a Demon Deacon practice during those years can vividly recall AC constantly (and loudly) pushing his teammates to go faster, think sharper, and try harder.
While the 2009 Deacs had some great young men, nobody really stepped into the role of an emotional leader that was left vacant when Curry was drafted in the first round by the Seattle Seahawks.
"That's exactly what a couple of people told me, and honestly, that's all I'm focused on [for next year]. I want to become the leader of the team like he was. The leadership part of my game will definitely change in 2010."
Givens plans on leading by example, and with his words.
"I'm going to be more vocal, lead by example, and be our emotional leader" Givens stated. "It's going to be about practicing harder, getting stronger and tougher, and making sure that we come together and push towards the same goals. There are so many things that I want this team to accomplish."
And he's not alone. After a disappointing 2009 season, the Demon Deacons possess a young, but extremely talented and hungry group of players. There will be a lot of inexperience out on the field, but arguably as much athletic ability as the Deacs have seen under Jim Grobe's direction.
"We feel like we have one of the best wide receiver corps in the conference, and our offense as a whole has been working extremely hard this offseason. I couldn't be more proud of the way our guys have worked."
With spring practice starting on Tuesday, Givens will get his shot to become a leader on this team. And if his leadership abilities are anything like his production, the Deacs could be in for a special season.
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