ACC Football: More is less for Deacons
WINSTON-SALEM- Wake Forest might not have to do more with less for much longer.
Coach Jim Grobe said Tuesday that it’s possible that injured receivers Michael Campanaro and Sherman Ragland III could play Thursday night against No. 14 Clemson.
Campanaro led the Atlantic Coast Conference with 38 receptions when he broke his right hand Sept. 29 against Duke. Grobe says Campanaro has been catching tennis balls in practice and says team doctors will decide his status. Ragland missed the Virginia game last week with an abdominal strain.
Neither player was listed on the depth chart released Tuesday, and Grobe says his game plan does not include the pair “because we don’t know if we’re going to have them or not.
“So the good news is, we’re getting some guys healthy, but I think the worst part of that is, we may not know until we get out there Thursday night,” he added. “We’ve got to plan to not have them, and if we have them, it would be a bonus. And if you have them, does that change your thinking? I guess we won’t know any more than Clemson does.”
Those potential returns come just as the Demon Deacons (4-3, 2-3) were figuring out how to make do with a lineup that has been in a seemingly constant state of flux due to injuries and suspensions.
They’ve played all year with a makeshift offensive line, saw their defensive statistics balloon when their nose guard missed two early games due to injury and had eight players serve suspensions of varying length for off-field incidents.
“When you have issues with injuries and you’re kind of plugging offensive linemen in, you’re plugging receivers in, you try to scheme up people so much that you make too many mistakes,” Grobe said. “We’re almost drawing plays in the dirt now, trying to figure out how, without ‘Camp’ and Sherman … you’re trying to do it with smoke and mirrors.”
After losing tight, turnover-filled games to Duke and Maryland, Wake Forest scraped out a 16-10 victory over Virginia in which it gained just 213 total yards – its fewest in an ACC win since 1966. That kept the Demon Deacons in contention for a second straight bowl berth.
But the holes in the lineup have led to a noticeable dropoff in quarterback Tanner Price’s numbers. He’s completing just over half of his passes this season and averaging 189 yards with what Grobe says is “a skeleton crew around him,” after hitting 60 percent of his throws and averaging 232 yards last season.
“Seeing all your teammates injured, you know that your importance is increasing and you really need to be healthy so you can play the whole game, if that’s necessary,” receiver Brandon Terry said. “We’ve been watching film harder and really looking and focusing. Our roles are becoming more important now.”
Some of Wake Forest’s holes are of its own doing.
On Oct. 5, Grobe suspended six players – including second-leading rusher DeAndre Martin, top tackler Mike Olson and reigning ACC defensive rookie of the year Merrill Noel – for the Maryland game three weeks ago because they violated undisclosed team rules.
A week later, safety Duran Lowe and offensive tackle Devin Bolling were suspended indefinitely for violating unidentified athletic department policy. Both players were arrested Oct. 9 by Winston-Salem police. Lowe was charged with possession with intent to sell and distribute marijuana. Bolling was charged with possession of marijuana.
“We’re really, as a unit, trying to put it behind us,” linebacker Riley Haynes said. “We know they made mistakes, and they’re doing everything they can to work as hard as possible and do all the right things.”