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Jim Grobe was disappointed with last season after a string of bad bounces and some poor off-field decisions by players.
Associated Press | File 2012
Wake Forest QB Tanner Price (left) is sacked during last year’s game against Notre Dame. In his career, Price has started 34 games and passed for 6,666 yards.
Associated Press | File 2012
Jim Grobe has the highest winning percentage of any Wake Forest coach since 1950, but that percentage dipped to .497 after 2012 became the fourth losing season in a row.
Thursday, August 1, 2013
As openly as Wake Forest fans express their disenchantment with athletic director Ron Wellman and men’s basketball coach Jeff Bzdelik, it’s very seldom that anybody lashes out at Demon Deacons football coach Jim Grobe.
Maybe that’s because Grobe won’t hesitate to second-guess himself.
Grobe, in his 13th season at Wake, is the dean of the current class of 14 ACC coaches. He has the highest winning percentage of any Wake coach since 1950, but that winning percentage dipped to .497 after a 5-7 season in 2012 , the Deacs’ fourth losing season in a row.
“We shouldn’t have been 5-7,” said Grobe at the ACC’s recent football kickoff. “We should have won more than five. There’s not a lot of wiggle room at Wake. You’ve got to have all the things go right — staying healthy, having the ball bounce the right way, having kids make right decisions off the field.
“I don’t think there was as much grumbling among the fans as there was among the coaches and players. We were just as disappointed as the fans by the end of the year. Honestly, by the end of the year, we were a bad football team.”
The Deacons gave up 120 points in losing their last three games. That included a 55-21 home loss to Vanderbilt in the season finale, preceded by road losses to N.C. State 37-6 and Notre Dame 38-0.
“We were beat up,” Grobe said. “We had an issue with our team being discouraged about decisions some of our guys made that got them in trouble. So, by the end of the year, not only were we on fumes, but we were playing teams like Notre Dame and Vanderbilt.”
Eight players were suspended from the team, two after arrests on charges of possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute. Four starters were suspended before an Oct. 6 visit to Maryland, where the Deacons lost 19-14.
“When we had some kids make some poor decisions and miss playing time, our boosters would come up and say, ‘What were the kids thinking?’ ” Grobe said. “I’d ask them, ‘What were you thinking when you were 20?’ And they’d be like, ‘Oh, yeah, OK.’
“Kids make silly decisions sometimes. And, at the same time, [with] some of the things we punish with playing time, other schools might not blink. It happened at a terrible time. It happened at a time when we needed a couple of wins to get to seven.”
Wake Forest traditionally has had one of the most passing-oriented offenses in the ACC, often because the Deacons were playing from behind. However, Wake averaged more than 200 rushing yards per game during Grobe’s first four seasons, 2001-04.
Last year, the Deacons rushed for barely 100 yards per game (1,206 yards in 12 games) and Wake quarterbacks were sacked 27 times.
Flanker Mike Campanaro missed two games with a hand injury and did not start in a third game but finished with 79 receptions, giving him consecutive seasons with 70 or more.
“What we learned last year is, we probably got into too much of a comfort zone with Mike Campanaro,” Grobe said. “I think [quarterback] Tanner [Price] did, too. We got to the point where almost every play we called was to Mike; then, Mike got hurt and we had nobody to go to.”
Grobe indicated that the Deacs will look at ways to get Campanaro the ball in space, possibly with some of the “orbit” sweeps that teams once found difficult to contain.
“The deal is, I’ve never seen a good defensive team that didn’t have help from the offense,” Grobe said. “We were so anemic offensively; too many three-and-outs put the defense back on the field. That gets back to throwing the football too much.”
Price, a starter since his freshman season in 2010, has started 34 games in his career and passed for 6,666 yards and 34 touchdowns. He was one of five ACC quarterbacks invited to the Manning Passing Academy this summer.
“I don’t think we’ve really maxed out Tanner’s ability because Tanner was a 1,000-yard rusher his senior year in high school and he’s a guy who can help us run the football,” Grobe said. “We probably stayed in that ‘baby Tanner’ mode too long.”
Notre Dame and Presbyterian, two of Wake’s nonconference opponents last year, will be replaced by Liberty and Louisiana-Monroe. ACC opponents North Carolina and Virginia will be replaced by Miami and Syracuse.
“Last year was just kind of embarrassing for me personally because that’s my football team,” Grobe said, “[but] I really don’t know that our program’s leveled off.
“We’re in that middle range where, if the ball bounces right, you’re a seven- or eight-win team. If the ball doesn’t bounce right, you’re a five-win team.”
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