Sunshine State Key to Wake’s Success
By Garrett Strunk
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Head coach Jim Grobe has thrived at finding under-the-radar recruits from the state of Florida.
How can a school with the smallest undergraduate enrollment in major college football stay competitive with the four other FBS programs in their state and in their own conference? The answer: By dipping into the state of Florida where they have landed some of their best players.
We'll start our adventure in the 2002 recruiting class, which is the year when Scout and Rivals began their databases. It also happens to be head coach Jim Grobe's second season at Wake Forest, which makes it as good of a starting point as any. According to Rivals, 30% (62/209) of Wake Forest's high school recruits during the 2002 season came from Florida, and 32% (30/95) of the current roster came from the Sunshine State.
In comparison, only 22% (45/209) of Wake Forest's incoming recruits have come from the state of North Carolina since 2002, with the current roster standing at 20% (19/95). You could rightfully say that the Demon Deacons are more of a Florida team despite being located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
With all of these Floridians, how has Wake Forest fared on the football field against their in-state rivals since 2002? The results speak for themselves:
vs Duke 10-0
vs North Carolina 3-3
vs NC State 6-4
vs East Carolina 4-0
They also have the distinction of being the 2006 ACC champions, an accomplishment that has eluded the other three ACC members in the state of North Carolina since Duke won it in 1989. Wake's ACC Championship was earned thanks in large part to their Florida connections, as players such as Sam Swank, D.J. Bolden, Alphonso Smith and Riley Skinner were key contributors to that team.
In this coming season, Wake Forest will once again rely heavily on the production from it's native Florida players:
CB Merrill Noel: 2011 stats - 66 tackles, 19 pass break-ups, 2 interception. Freshman All American.
LB Scott Betros: 2011 stats – 59 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble. Projected starter.
LB Riley Haynes: 2011 stats – 52 tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss. Projected starter.
LB Zachary Allen: 2011 stats – 24 tackles, 1 tackles for loss. Projected starter.
DT Frank Souza: 2011 stats – 6 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble. Primary back up.
OL Ramon Booi: Moved from defense. Projected starter.
RB Orville Reynolds: 2011 stats – 109 rushing yards. Primary back up.
QB Kevin Sousa: Red-shirted in 2011. Primary back up.
Last season Wake Forest came within a few points of representing the Atlantic Division in the ACC Championship Game, falling to Clemson in the determining game 31-28. Wake is not expected to win the ACC, let alone the Atlantic Division this coming season, but they should not be counted out just yet. Those overlooked Florida kids that were passed on by FSU and Miami would like nothing more than to prove that the little private school they chose to attend in Winston-Salem, North Carolina belongs on the same stage as the rest of their conference brethren.