Skylar Jones leads the sweepstakes to become the next quarterback for Wake Forest, but there were other more certain issues as the Demon Deacons exited spring workouts.
The Demon Deacons will be a more run-oriented team than during the past few seasons. Still, the spread offense is intact.
The Demon Deacons expect to use an option approach, which was mostly abandoned when four-year starter Riley Skinner took snaps.
"Next fall, it would take something really unusual to put us under center," coach Jim Grobe said of the general formation of the offense.
Jones gained 21 yards on the ground and threw for 38 on 4-for-5 passing in the final spring scrimmage. He worked the most with the first-team unit.
Brendan Cross completed 9 of 12 passes for 17 yards. Cross (slight concussion) and Ted Stachitas (hamstring) dealt with injuries during the spring, so that cut down on their chances to emerge atop the depth chart.
"You can see Ted and Brendan have some talent," Grobe said. "The guy who takes the first snap (in the opener) against Presbyterian will, first of all, be the most durable."
The most interesting play of the scrimmage might have been a reverse with receiver Marshall Williams throwing to Stachitas for a 33-yard pickup.
Running backs Josh Adams and Brandon Pendergrass had a total of five carries in the last scrimmage. Grobe said he's not concerned with the top-line running backs.
"It's a whole new offense," Adams said.NOTES, QUOTES
--There should be opportunities for receivers to impact the rushing attack during the 2010 season, much like then-receiver Kenneth Moore did in 2006 and 2007. WR Devon Brown scooted down the sideline for a 65-yard touchdown run in the last spring scrimmage.
--K Jimmy Newman was used in double duty at times during the spring, launching a 62-yard punt in one special teams segment of a scrimmage. He showed surprising consistency in punting while still trying to improve on his field-goal range. He connected on a 52-yarder during one scrimmage, then went 3-for-4 on field goals during the last spring session. He could be in line to displace P Shane Popham, but it's unclear how comfortable coach Jim Grobe will be having him handle the kicking and punting.
--CB D.J. Jones was moved to quarterback late in the spring session because of depth depletion at the position. This came after Jones had received some kudos from the coaching staff for making progress at his natural position on defense.
--QB Skylar Jones made the transition back to quarterback after spending time as a receiver during the 2009 fall. He rarely made it on to the field as a receiver, but he exits spring practice as the leading candidate to be the starting quarterback when the season begins. He showed the ability to throw the ball with some accuracy during the spring, something that was the biggest issue facing him along with learning the details of the offense.
--NG Nikita Whitlock is undersized to be playing in the interior of the defensive line, but the Demon Deacons moved him back there from linebacker during spring drills. The rising redshirt freshman didn't seem comfortable at linebacker, so it was deemed best to give him a good look at the position in which he excelled during high school.
--TE Jonathan Garcia enrolled in January and appears capable of making an impact in the coming season. He arrives at a position that was low on production in 2009, so there might be opportunities.
--S Alex Frye returned to the good graces of the coaching staff after a 2009 season during which he was suspended at one point because his presence wasn't a positive influence. He worked out at cornerback in large part in the spring and his position could be permanently switched after the workouts are evaluated heading into summer.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think we've got two guys who are competing and two guys who can win for us." -- Coach Jim Grobe on depth-chart battles at numerous positions, suggesting that it's a positive situation developing that should serve the team well.STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 OUTLOOK: This might be a season of lowered expectations from those viewing the Demon Deacons from the outside, and that's something more in line with the program's history. The Demon Deacons were left out of the bowl picture for the first time in four years last season, so there should be renewed motivation.
If nothing else, Wake Forest learned to avoid taking winning for granted, and coach Jim Grobe said that should be a good lesson for his team. This will largely look like a remade team with a new first-string quarterback after Riley Skinner's four-year hold on that role.
With the offense geared more toward running the ball, there will be a need for running backs to show more toughness than in recent years. The Demon Deacons got away from the grind-it-out mentality and that might need to return in order for them to have sustained success in 2010.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The quarterback competition went differently than some observers expected, particularly because of injuries during the spring. That left QB Skylar Jones as the favorite and he worked the most with the top unit during the April 17 spring scrimmage. The Demon Deacons appear content with keeping the spread formation, even though the option will be a main part of the offense. They can do this without putting the quarterback under center. There's a strong group of receivers, and one of the goals will be finding ways to make good use of them in what will be a run-first offense.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: This unit has become considerably younger on the line and at the linebacker positions. The idea was to keep things rather vanilla during the spring to see which players reacted the best. So by the time the season starts, there might be more complexity to the schemes on this side of scrimmage. The secondary had been untested a year ago, but that's an area that will be crucial to the success as the guys up front gain more seasoning.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: Rising sophomore K Jimmy Newman had a particularly strong spring session as he worked on showing more consistency. The punting situation might be less fluid because P Shane Popham underwent arthroscopic knee surgery. The Demon Deacons will be looking to gain more out of their return units because those had been some strong areas during seasons when offense was limited.
TE Jonathan Garcia -- He is on board for spring practice because he graduated early from high school. That gives him an edge, and he's playing a position that wasn't all that productive in 2009. It's a rare spot that could open up to a true freshman, with much of that based on if Garcia's development is swift.
DL Antonio Ford -- He is a potential impact player, but it first must be determined what position he'll play. He's starting out on the defensive side, but that could be reconsidered. He's in spring practice as another early enrollee, so some of this could be decided before the summer.
QB Tanner Price -- He will arrive at a time when there are no guarantees at the quarterback position. "Tanner Price, who knows?" coach Jim Grobe said, not ruling out anything at the position. Given that a former walk-on held the backup position in 2009, it's reasonable to suggest that the coaching staff will look into all options.
--CB Josh Bush, whose medical condition was a major concern at the end of the last season when a blood clot developed and surgery was required, made a strong spring showing. He stepped into a primary role and that eased concerns about his health and depth in the secondary.
--C Garrick Williams emerged as a suitable center during spring workouts after the Demon Deacons had multiple injuries that reduced options at that position. He was mentioned several times as a pleasant surprise during the spring.
--P Shane Popham had surgery on his left knee (non-kicking leg), though he should be back by the summer.
--LB Lee Malchow hopes to be cleared for full activity in May as he continues to recover from a broken leg suffered in November's game at Georgia Tech.
--CB Dominique Tate wasn't enrolled at the school during the spring and so it's unlikely he'll be reinstated by the time the 2010 season starts. His role had increased dramatically during the 2009 season.
Previous Report: 04/11/2010