As part of Testudo Times' 2013 football coverage, staffer Alex Kirshner is corresponding with opposing teams' beat writers and SB Nation bloggers for each week on the Terrapins' schedule. This week, we check in with J.P. Mundy of Blogger So Dear, SB Nation’s Wake Forest Demon Deacons site. Be sure to check in there for more from Winston-Salem.
TT: Wake Forest is 3-3 and coming off a nice win against N.C. State, proceeded by a drubbing against an excellent Clemson team. What do you make of the Deacs at this point in the year? Are they a bowl team?
JM: Wake Forest has now played five good quarters of offense through six games this season: N.C. State and the fourth quarter at Army. The one big difference between those games is offensive scheme. Offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke and passing game coordinator Tom Elrod did a good job tweaking the scheme for N.C. State, confusing the Wolfpack defense with multiple empty-back sets and wide line splits. If the Deacs have truly ditched the woefully ineffective option package installed during the preseason, they have a chance to not only make a bowl but also ruin someone’s season.
TT: Could you describe the offensive and defensive systems Wake uses under Jim Grobe?
JM: The defense is somewhat easier to explain. Wake Forest uses a 3-4 scheme designed to keep rushers bottled up and receivers in front of defenders. To the frustration of many, Wake Forest has usually given opposing receivers plenty of cushion at the line of scrimmage. This eliminates the big play threat, for the most part, but allows the offense to dink-and-dunk until they either score or make a mistake. I’ve written this a million times this season, but the most successful Deacon defenses have caused 30-plus turnovers in a season. This defense is no different, and is easily the strength of the Wake Forest program.
TT: Quarterback Tanner Price was great both through the air and on the ground last week, and his overall numbers look good in 2013. Is Price a legitimate dual-threat QB, and should Terps fans be worried about him?
JM: I wouldn’t say that Price is a legitimate dual-threat weapon in the backfield, but he will make a defense pay if they give him enough of a window. N.C. State did, and he almost rushed for 100 yards. He’s been running with confidence and authority since the debacle at Boston College, and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that there has been less and less option in the game plan since that time, as well.
TT: The Deacs' rushing averages, as a team, are very low, and Price has carried more than anybody else on the roster. Is that indicative of a lack of talented tailbacks, a lousy offensive line, both or something else?
JM: Wake Forest has, I feel, talent in the backfield but it lacks the blue-collar lunch pail attitude of former Deacs (and Jim Grobe favorites) like Chris Barclay and Micah Andrews. Josh Harris has carried the burden of "potential" since his masterful performance against Virginia Tech as a freshman, and fans are still waiting for his encore.
Grobe has lamented the Deacs’ inability to get people blocked more than once this season, and he is not just talking about the offensive line. The Deacs’ offensive schemes under Grobe depend on good blocking at every position. State found out what happens when Grobe gets what he wants. I’ll tell you this- if at some point you look at the box score on Saturday, and a Wake rusher not named Price has 100 yards, you are losing.
TT: Is receiver Michael Campanaro as good as his huge lines suggest?
JM: Yes. And yes, yes, yes. Michael Campanaro needs 11 catches to break the school record for receiving, and leads the ACC in receptions per game (8.8). He also ranks in the top 25 nationally in virtually every receiving category. The guy doesn’t get ruffled, is a selfless teammate and an invaluable leader. All you need to know about Campanaro is that he got All-Conference honors last year despite missing games to injury.
TT: Maryland has had some problems getting the ball to its best player, Stefon Diggs, over the last few games. Does Wake's secondary (and pass rush) have the pieces to stop him?
JM: I said at the beginning of the season that Wake’s secondary had a chance to be something special. The Deacons’ cornerbacks, Merrill "Bud" Noel and Kevin Johnson are ball-hawking defensive backs who are also excellent tacklers. Many players believe Johnson is the best athlete on the team, period. Safeties A.J. Marshall and Ryan Janvion, Clemson game notwithstanding, round out a secondary that I believe is one of the best in the country. Trying to fit the football in a small window against these guys will have you throwing stuff against the wall.
TT: The Terps have been at their defensive best when they've generated tons of sacks off a devastating pass rush, but they've been badly picked apart when they haven't gotten pressure on quarterbacks. How's Wake's offensive line play been?
JM: See above. The best part of the offensive line so far is that they’re still healthy. Cory Helms, a true freshman, was thrown right into the fire on day one and has responded like a seasoned veteran. I truly think if the offense has found a scheme it likes, then the offensive line play will improve dramatically.
TT: Lastly, what's your score prediction?
JM: This one is tough. I haven’t seen much of Maryland, except to know that they are on the right track under Randy Edsall, and they have a special player in Diggs. I think this will be a close game, mostly because of the stakes. If Maryland wins, it means bowl eligibility in the Terps’ final season in the ACC. A Wake Forest wins moves the Deacs to 4-3 with a realistic shot at a bowl game. It’s Homecoming in Winston-Salem, as well.
If Wake Forest uses the offense they showed against N.C. State as a base, and creates two turnovers, I believe that will be enough. If they revert to the option offense of the five games prior, then you can expect a Maryland victory and a resounding chorus of boos.
I’ll go with the Deacs, 24-20.