Wake Forest's Offense Evolves from Power to Pizazz

Dec. 30, 2006

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) -Riley Skinner doesn't have any problem operating Wake Forest's unique offense. Just don't ask him to describe it.

"People ask me what kind of offense we run (and) I don't know what to say, just because there are so many different things to do in that offense," the Demon Deacons' quarterback said Saturday.

Just how strange is Wake Forest's scheme? A wide receiver starts at running back, a former quarterback is at receiver and the playbook is full of trickery and misdirection.

They're all components of an unconventional offense which helped lead the 15th-ranked Demon Deacons (11-2) to the best season in school history and an Orange Bowl berth opposite No. 5 Louisville (11-1) on Tuesday night.

Offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke "does such a good job of tying everything together and disguising certain plays as other plays," Skinner said. "It's not every day when you get to go out and block as a quarterback or catch a pass."

In recent years that might have been unheard of at Wake Forest, where the system was predicated on power and the plan, Lobotzke said, was to "ride Chris Barclay's shoulders to victory."

Behind the bruising Barclay, Wake Forest routinely led the Atlantic Coast Conference in rushing yet somehow managed to finish near the bottom of the league standings.

This year, out of necessity, the system was tweaked twice.

When Barclay graduated, the Demon Deacons were left without a reliable running back. So coaches scrapped the I-formation and planned to run elements of the option from the shotgun, a move designed to take advantage of quarterback Ben Mauk's knack for throwing on the run.

The plan was to "try to help our quarterbacks by getting deeper in the pocket pre-snap, and let them see the field (and) also create some opportunities for some option plays," Lobotzke said.

But those plans were tossed in the third quarter of the season opener. Mauk was lost for the season with a broken right arm and dislocated right shoulder.



Skinner, a redshirt freshman, was summoned from the bench, and the coaches adjusted the scheme once again to make use of their new quarterback's strong arm.

"When Ben went down, we shifted again from being a shotgun option team to being more of a predetermined shotgun-run team, with more drop-back passes," Lobotzke said. "Not that Ben Mauk couldn't throw drop-back (passes). It's just we had to find more of those for Riley because that's really what he did."

Other injuries led to additional tinkering. When running back Micah Andrews suffered a season-ending injury and Kevin Harris also was injured, coach Jim Grobe moved receiver Kenneth Moore into the backfield.

"Each game, my body gets stronger, gets used to taking the pounding," Moore said. "I haven't (been) hit like that since high school."

Former quarterback Nate Morton is playing receiver. A staple of the Demon Deacons' grab bag of trick plays, Morton threw a touchdown pass to Skinner against Clemson.

Wake Forest also routinely runs end-arounds so opponents won't know who's carrying the ball. It's that kind of creativity that allows the Demon Deacons to stay a step ahead of bigger, more talented foes.

"That's the big part of our offense - getting people out of position so the offensive line can get" downfield, Moore said. "We have a fast offensive line. They're not that big, but they get (downfield) real good. Misdirection, just getting people out of their position to make plays, if you have good skill position (players) you can do that."

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