Less than an hour after Wake Forest's 23-17 loss to Mississippi State in the Music City Bowl Chris Givens announced he was turning pro a year early, making Michael Campanaro the go-to-receiver for the Demon Deacons this fall.
Givens, who was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, caught 83 passes for nine touchdowns and broke Ricky Proehl's school record for most yards receiving in a single season with 1,330 yards, leaving big shoes for Campanaro, a 5-foot-11 and 195-pound redshirt junior from Baltimore, Md., to fill.
"I've been in that role my whole life," Campanaro said. "Throughout high school I was 35 carries a game, 20 tackles a game. My high school relied a lot on me making plays like that. I'm excited. I knew when Chris left I was going to have to step into that role. I was excited to see him leave, because the NFL that's his dream, but I was also excited, because I knew that I was going to have a shot with a lot of responsibility."
"I think a lot of fans are expecting a lot of things out of me, but I think I'm going to surprise a lot of people as well. I'm really looking forward to this year."
Campanaro surprised people last season, experts and fans alike, after spending most of his freshman year as a kick returner and a reserve wide receiver before making the switch to running back late 2010. He returned to wide receiver as a sophomore to breakout as a dynamic playmaker, finishing with 73 receptions for 833 yards and two touchdowns. He also completed 3-4 passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns to one interception, and returned a punt 50 yards for a touchdown.
"[With Campanaro] just being able to get in and out of defenses you got to be a special kid when you work the middle of the field," Wake Forest wide receivers coach Lonnie Galloway said. "He's good at seeing how people are trying to play him and just accepting what people are giving him. He's special in that way. He has that background of playing running back, which helps him seeing how people are trying to play him and he has good hands."
Galloway knows Campanaro is dependable, but the water is murky as the evaluation of the corps gets deeper.
Terence Davis brings experience to the position, but the 6-foot-2 and 205-pound redshirt senior from Lilborn, Ga. has struggled to cement himself as a leader in the rotation.
He caught 20 passes for 269 yards and five touchdowns last season, but saw limited action as a sophomore and missed all of 2009 after tearing his ACL in pre-season practice. The Demon Deacons need him to emerge as a reliable target this fall to take pressure off Campanaro.
"T.D.'s [Davis] made some plays and Sherman Ragland's made some plays and Matt James made some plays and a couple of the freshman boys look good early, but I'm just looking for some consistency within the group, because we're a group first," Galloway said. "There's simple ways to do different things and take people away, so we need to find three guys that can play."
Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe said if four or five guys can prove themselves to be reliable contributors then the Deacs will feature a bunch of three-wide sets. Grobe added if they cannot reach that level of production then Wake will employ more two-wide sets.
"They just need to be more consistent," Grobe said. "The talent is there. I don't worry about the talent at wide receiver. We just got to have dependable guys."
"A guy that could be a real factor for us is Lovell Jackson. He's been kind of shoulder, hamstring. There's always something wrong with Lovell. If we can get him to be durable he could solve a lot of problems for us, because he's got freaky talent. He's one of the faster kids on the team, and can be a great kickoff return guy."
Maybe not much of a surprise, but certainly someone Grobe and his staff are hoping will step up in a significant way this fall is redshirt freshman Sherman Ragland.
The 6-foot-2 and 195-pound Durham, NC native performed well in Wake's first scrimmage of the pre-season, catching two passes for 56 yards and a touchdown.
"He's playing really well right now," Campanaro said. "He's got incredible agility [and] ability. His athleticism is off the charts, great hands. He's going to be the guy who I think can stretch the field."
Other names to be on the lookout for …
Faces of the future …