LB Caron Bracy (PHOTO - Brian Westerholt /Sports On Film)

2003 Statistics

Coach: Jim Grobe
18-18, 3 years
2003 Record: 5-7
at Boston College WON 32-28
at Virginia LOST 24-27
at Duke WON 42-13
at Florida State LOST 24-48
at North Carolina LOST 34-42

2003 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2004 Outlook

Head coach Jim Grobe's fundamentally sound team will again be competitive in the ACC. The Deacons seldom beat themselves, but opponents with strong offenses, especially ones that use a ball-control approach, will continue to beat them. Wake's offense has the personnel to get into shootouts and control the clock themselves, but it remains to be seen if Grobe will loosen the reins enough to permit this type of approach. His ball-control approach works well, but large, quick defenses are capable of handling the variables Wake employs.

The Deacons' only chance of moving beyond the middle of the pack in the ACC is to let it all hang out on both sides of the ball, but especially on D. So they will need to compensate for their lack of size and strength by aggressively challenging teams with their athleticism. Stunts, blitzes, and stacking the box are what we prescribe. If they could even be close to as creative on this side of the ball as they are on offense…you know the rest.

Since we have seen the flashes of instantaneous brilliance and logical patience displayed by these young men during 2003, experience can be the X-factor that places them up on that next level. It will be each team member's ability to look inward and grow that will make or break the campaign's outcome. The will definitely show up each week, so any game is winnable for these guys, especially early. But, modestly, another five or six win season and possible minor bowl bid is in the cards for Wake Forest, which is really an accomplishment for such a small school playing on such a big stage. Coach Grobe's instant success by Wake Forest standards does not allow him the ability to sneak up on opponents anymore, as evident by their 3-1 start last season (including big wins over NC State and Boston College and a near miss versus Purdue), which ultimately saw the Deacs drop six of their last eight in extremely disappointing fashion. Unfortunately, teams like Wake Forest garner lower preseason respect in the newly formed ACC. Any results producing a bowl invite in 2004 have to be considered a major success. The conference is that brutal.

Projected 2004 record: 5-6
QB - 3 DL - 2.5
RB - 3.5 LB - 3
WR - 3 DB - 3.5
OL - 2.5 ..

Passing: Cory Randolph, 246-144-10, 1773 yds., 8 TD

Rushing: Chris Barclay, 235 att., 1192 yds., 12 TD

Receiving: Jason Anderson, 44 rec., 751 yds., 6 TD

Scoring: Chris Barclay, 12 TD, 72 pts.

Punting: Ryan Plackemeier, 57 punts, 45.6 avg.

Kicking: Ryan Plackemeier, 5-7 FG, 16-16 PAT

Tackles: Caron Bracy, 90 tot., 68 solo

Sacks: Jerome Nichols, 2 sacks; Bryan Andrews, 2 sacks

Interceptions: Eric King, 3 for 127 yds.

Kickoff Returns: Willie Idlette, 20 ret., 20.5 avg.

Punt Returns: Willie Idlette, 21 ret., 7.0 avg., 1 TD


WR Jason Anderson (PHOTO - Brian Westerholt/Sports On Film)
OFFENSE: Nick Burney-FB, Josh Warren-TE, Tyson Clabo-OG/OT, Mark Moroz-OT, Craig Jones-OG, Anthony Young-WR
DEFENSE: Kellen Brantley-RLB, Obi Chukwumah-LB, Dion Williams-LLB, Quintin Williams-FS, Daryl Shaw-CB

Junior Cory Randolph, who started all 12 games and took the vast majority of snaps a year ago, will blossom in his second year as the starting signal caller. He needs to improve his decision making, particularly when it comes to knowing when to stay in the pocket for play development, and when to use his agility and run. He has a strong and accurate arm and will be more effective in third-down situations. Randolph completed nearly 59 percent of his passes and emerged as one of the team's top ball carriers last year. In fact, his 404 rushing yards last season leads all returning ACC quarterbacks, matched only by the Hokies' Bryan Randall, who also had 404 in 2003. Randolph will need to stay healthy, since no other quarterback on the roster has ever thrown a pass in college. Although Coach Grobe insists Randolph is "the guy" going into the fall, that doesn't mean he won't be challenged. Redshirt freshman Ben Mauk, who came to Wake Forest highly-touted, worked hard and made a statement in the spring. Mauk closed out camp with his strongest performance, completing 6-of-8 passes for 102 yards in the final scrimmage.

Running Back
Chris Barclay doesn't receive much attention…that is, from anyone except opponent's defensive coordinators. Barclay developed into a workhorse and finished the '03 season by gaining 243 yards against a tough Maryland D and earning second-team All-ACC honors while posting the second-best season rushing total in school history. He is surprisingly tough for his size (5'10", 173), has good speed/quickness, and is a capable receiver. Joining Barclay in the backfield is fellow junior Cornelius Birgs, who is primarily a short yardage runner that can play either the FB or TB spot. He will have to improve his productivity and blocking for Barclay. Sophomore D'Angelo Bryant showed flashes in limited playing time after being converted from safety during last preseason and will serve as a primary backup. Bryant was impressive as a true rookie last year, and looked even better in the spring, showing none of the fumbling problems he encountered last fall.

Wide Receiver
Jason Anderson will be Wake's primary receiving threat this season. Anderson has emerged as one of the team leaders. His height and the precision with which he runs pass routes make him a very effective possession receiver. Anderson returns as one of the top receivers in the ACC, and his career yards-per-catch average of 18.5 is currently a WFU record and second among active ACC receivers. Willie Idlette is a good compliment to Anderson, possessing a game-breaking explosiveness that he will show more consistently. Idlette, a freshman All-America selection at the all-purpose position, was the league's top rookie in all-purpose yards last season, which makes him also dangerous on end-around plays as evident in breaking a 75-yarder last season. Chris Davis brings more speed to the Deacon attack. Like Idlette, he is a threat both receiving and rushing. Nate Morton, a converted quarterback, finished strong last season and will add quality depth at the position.

Tight End
Wake Forest doesn't utilize the tight end much in the passing game, but senior R. D. Montgomery gives them the option of changing that. Montgomery, a converted linebacker, stands 6'6" and allows Randolph to check-down option when he is pressured. Redshirt freshman Zac Selmon emerged as the front-runner after a good showing this spring. A solid group of players aren't far behind. With a clean bill of health, Wake Forest will go five-deep at this position.

Offensive Line
A look at the offensive line begins with anchor, center Blake Lingruen, a two-year starter. Lingruen was a stalwart for the Deacs this spring despite undergoing surgery prior spring practice for an injured hand. The rest of the offensive line positions, however, are still undecided going into preseason camp. While that leaves the door wide open for all the players, it gives the coaches cause for concern. The Demon Deacons have placed a guard on the All-ACC team the past three seasons, and Steve Vallos was set to extend that streak before being switched over to the tackle spot in spring. Vallos frequently graded out in the high 80's to low 90's as a redshirt freshman, and had four games with 11 or more knockdowns. He will anchor the line along with center Blake Lingruen and guard Craig Jones. Lingruen often graded out in the low 90's as a junior, and his veteran leadership is critical this year. Other projected starters, Greg Adkins and Wesley Bryant, are question marks. Both showed marginal potential in limited action last but are still unproven. The biggest concern is depth.

Deacon coach Jim Grobe is known for teams that run the ball (1st in the ACC again last year) and don't commit turnovers. This year's team again should excel in both areas, but they now have the talent to open up the offense. Cory Randolph has a year of experience under his belt and a talented group of receivers. Look for their creative running approach to be expanded upon, and that itself is enough for most defenses. But look for Grobe to also utilize his backs and tight end this time around in a passing attack that has the potential to keep opposing defenses back on their heels even that much more. The offensive line is key, for its development is likely to take a few repetitions before becoming a cohesive segment with all of the new faces and position changes. But Grobe has been a master with this unique misdirection system no matter who apparently lines up front.


RB Chris Barclay (PHOTO - Brian Westerholt/Sports On Film)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Cory Radolph-Jr (6-1, 194) Ben Mauk-Fr (6-1, 205)
FB Cornelius Birgs-Jr (5-10, 214) Damon McWhite-So (6-2, 253)
RB Chris Barclay-Jr (5-10, 173) D'Angelo Bryant-So (6-2, 239)
WR Jason Anderson-Sr (6-3, 195) Nate Morton-So (6-4, 196)
WR Willie Idlette-So (5-11, 175) Chris Davis-Jr (5-11, 182)
TE Zac Selmon-Fr (6-5, 234) R.D. Montgomery-Sr (6-6, 233)
OT Wesley Bryant-Jr (6-4, 302) Matt Brim-Fr (6-6, 305)
OG Joe Salsich-Sr (6-4, 281) Louis Frazier-Fr (6-4, 298)
C Blake Lingruen-Sr (6-4, 282) Steve Justice-Fr (6-4, 280)
OG Greg Adkins-Jr (6-3, 284) Arby Jones-So (6-4, 255)
OT Steve Vallos-So (6-3, 297) Brodie Overstreet-Fr (6-7, 310)
K Matt Wisnosky-Jr (6-3, 184) Ryan Plackemeier-Jr (6-4, 246)



Defensive Line
The two position groups that perhaps saw the most change during the spring were the defensive line and linebackers. The coaching staff feels they finally have the players and the depth to institute a four-man front on defense, while, at the same time, not abandoning the 3-3-5 nickel package they've used the last three seasons. End Jerome Nichols will be Wake Forest's big playmaker. Last season, the senior became the first Deacon lineman to intercept a pass since 1988. Nichols also led the team with 11 tackles for loss. He is big enough to push offensive linemen backwards and, too, is quick enough to get around them. Joining Nichols at the other end is sophomore Jyles Tucker, who earned a starting spot late last season as a true freshman with his speed and aggressiveness. The starting nose tackle is senior Goryal Scales. His work ethic and leadership were recognized even before he cracked the starting lineup last season. Cori Stukes, the best athlete on the defensive line, will now be utilized as the other starting tackle in the new alignment. DE John Finklea (who missed spring with a torn Achilles tendon and should be back in August), will give coaches 12 varsity defensive linemen. Wake's line is small and will again have trouble both stopping the run and pressuring quarterbacks. But their unity and determination will overcome enough so that they hold their own by campaign's end.

The most position shifting occurred within the linebacker corps, where coaches moved players to slots that more closely matched their abilities while improving the overall athleticism of the group. Brad White enters his third year as a Deacons' starting linebacker. He can the cover the entire field, yet seldom forces turnovers or negative yardage plays. Accordingly, he is better in pass coverage than stopping the run and has thus been moved to the weakside slot while sophomore Pierre Easley slid up at middle. Senior Caron Bracy, who made quite an impact as the starter at the bandit position the last two seasons, shifted to strongside linebacker due to his more physical nature. Also worth mentioning are the six linebackers signed in this year's recruiting class. While the coaching staff prefers to redshirt as many true rookies as possible each year, Grobe left the door open for any of the six linebackers to come in and make an impact.

Defensive Back
Wake Forest's secondary will be one of the more experienced in the nation, utilizing three seniors as returning starters. Yet, several redshirt freshmen and sophomores stated their case for playing time in spring practice. The leader is corner Eric King, Team MVP and the first Deacon defensive back to earn All-ACC recognition since 1987. King is an outstanding cover man and led the ACC in '03 with 18 passes defended. Starting at the other corner is Marcus McGruder, a tough competitor and strong tackler who is getting pushed by talented Riley Swanson and his ability to force turnovers. The third senior in the secondary is Warren Braxton, a two-year starter at strong safety who moved to free safety this spring and is competing with sophomore Josh Gattis. The strong safety position now features sophomore Patrick Ghee and junior Dominic Anderson, who returns to the position after suffering a season-ending injury at running back in 2003. The experience of the returners, coupled with the additional depth in the secondary, will allow Wake Forest to adjust their defensive schemes as needed this fall.

Wake Forest gave up nearly 29 points per game as they finished 107th in total defense, and although there is some hope for improvement, more will be needed to push Wake over the middle of the ACC tier. Another concern once again is the lack of pressure placed on opposing QBs, while their small defensive line is likely to get pushed around in the running game. The best approach would be to turn their secondary loose and play more aggressively, putting more emphasis on forcing turnovers. In turn, the Deacons need to, at least, blitz more often. Their strongest hand is in the secondary, where King and Braxton have the ability to disrupt opposing offenses. This is a defense that opponents can control the ball on, which means they can also dictate a game's tempo.


CB Eric King (PHOTO - Brian Westerholt/Sports On Film)


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Jerome Nichols-Sr (6-2, 273) John Finklea-Jr (6-5, 273)
NT Goryal Scales-Jr (6-0, 283) Zachary Stukes-Fr (6-4, 279)
DT Cori Stukes-Jr (6-1, 272) Jeromy Jones-Fr (6-3, 275)
DE Matthew Robinson-Fr (6-2, 226) Jyles Tucker-So (6-4, 250)
SLB Caron Bracy-Sr (6-0, 226) James Adams-So (6-3, 223)
MLB Pierre Easley-So (6-0, 246) Napoleon Sykes-So (5-10, 220)
WLB Brad White-Sr (6-2, 232) Jason Pratt-Jr (6-1, 226)
CB Eric King-Sr (5-10, 185) Aaron Mason-Fr (5-10, 190)
CB Marcus McGruder-Sr (5-9, 188) Riley Swanson-So (6-0, 178)
SS Patrick Ghee-So (6-2, 204) Dominic Anderson-Jr (6-0, 206)
FS Josh Gattis-So (6-2, 196) Warren Braxton-Sr (6-0, 203)
P Ryan Plackemeier-Jr (6-4, 246) Steve Hale-Jr (6-0, 204)




Matt Wisnosky beat out Ryan Plackemeier for the job last season and was solid on placements and kickoffs. Since he is not yet a proven field goal kicker, he will need to perform well or risk losing his starting position.

Ryan Plackemeier is the best punter in school history and one of the best in the nation with 45-plus per try. He ranked fifth in all of I-A, yet the team was oddly only 20th-ranked in net punting. The coaching staff will look for a better short game from him. He placed only 11 of his 57 punts inside the opponents' 20, a number that needs to increase to help Wake's defense.

Return Game
Willie Idelette will again handle the bulk of kick returning duties for the Deacons this season. He is fast and elusive enough to be a very dangerous return specialist, but his production was inconsistent last season when compared to his sporatic highlight material. With better blocking by the kick return squads, Idelette will make some big plays running back kicks this season as well. Eric King will again help out on kickoffs and also look to improve on his so-so numbers from last year.