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The Time is Right for a Change

By Matt Osborne
SouthernPigskin.com
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Wake Forest has made some modifications to its offensive scheme, which means that it could be time for a new starting quarterback.

Under the direction of Jim Grobe, the Wake Forest program has been built around the philosophy that experience usually translates into success.

Until the Demon Deacons’ recent contest against Presbyterian, the most true freshmen to have appeared in a season opener for Wake Forest under Grobe was three.

The Demon Deacons played 10 true freshmen against the Blue Hose.

Despite that recent statistical anomaly, over the years Grobe has almost always sided with his most veteran and experienced players. Much of that philosophical approach stemmed from the fact that the Demon Deacons could not recruit at the same level as some of the conference’s perennial contenders, and it was thought that employing an older team could somewhat lessen the talent gap.

Heading into 2013, there was a prevailing sentiment amongst many members of the media that Wake Forest would vastly improve upon its five wins from 2012.

One of the main reasons for the optimism surrounding the Demon Deacons’ team was the return of quarterback Tanner Price, a senior with three years of starting experience under his belt. Entering his final season, Price had completed 618-of-1073 career passes (57.6%) for 6,666 yards and 39 touchdowns, ranking him as one of the top five signal callers, from a statistical standpoint, in program history.

Returning All-ACC performer and fellow senior Michael Campanaro at receiver, while also bringing in a multitude of talented freshmen playmakers on the perimeter, Price appeared poised for a huge senior campaign.

Unfortunately for the Texas native, the offensive line would quickly intervene in his plans for a big season.

Due to a combination of injuries, transfers, dismissals from the program and just an overall lack of talent, Wake Forest’s offensive line has had trouble blocking whoever is lined up against it dating back to the spring. In fact, it was during the annual Spring Game that the Demon Deacons’ two split-squad teams finished with a total of three combined points.

Hoping to make up for his unit’s deficiencies along the offensive front, offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke decided to incorporate more option principles into his offensive attack for the 2013 season. Option plays, while sometimes difficult to execute, allow the offensive line to produce more double teams, giving the unit a distinct numbers advantage as far as blocking is concerned. 

After beating an FCS Presbyterian squad by 24, the Demon Deacons had their first real opportunity to test out their modified offensive scheme in a Friday night showdown against ACC Atlantic foe Boston College.

Needless to say, the results were less than desirable.

Facing an Eagles defense which finished second-to-last in the conference in rushing defense in 2012, Wake Forest managed a mere 55 yards rushing on 39 attempts, good for a 1.4 yards per carry average.

To make matters even worse, Price, a pro-style quarterback by nature, looked extremely uncomfortable in his new system, making a series of bad decisions, including losing two fumbles, as the Demon Deacons dropped their conference opener by two touchdowns.

Grobe’s system worked relatively well in Winston-Salem for a number of years, but given the current offensive system being employed by the coaching staff, perhaps it is time to get a little younger under center.

The transition to more option concepts, although unsuccessful against Boston College, at least makes logical sense from a schematic standpoint. The Demon Deacons are exceptionally weak along the offensive line, and this system allows them to utilize more double teams while also allowing for a series of decisions from the quarterback to neutralize unblocked defenders.

The new offense, however, is a poor schematic fit for Wake Forest’s incumbent quarterback.

In his first three seasons as starter, Price ran for fewer than 100 total yards on the ground, a sign of his lack of athleticism required to run the option. Friday night just further served the point of proving that Price is not a sound fit for this offense, as he looked incredibly lost in trying to make the split-second decisions required of him by the scheme.

If the scheme currently in place is the one which gives you the best chance to win games, then the only solution is to give another quarterback a shot at starting.

Redshirt freshman Tyler Cameron was one of the crown jewels of Wake Forest’s 2012 recruiting class. Rated as the No. 9 dual-threat quarterback in the nation by Rivals.com, Cameron enrolled early at Wake Forest to give himself more time to learn the offense.

Although he has attempted just one pass in his career, Cameron is a quarterback who is used to handling the football in the running game. He led his high school team in both passing and rushing during his prep career, and his high school coach called him the best all-around athlete he has coached in his 35-year career.

Switching back to a more conventional offense is also an option for Wake Forest, but given the struggles of the offensive line, such a move would ultimately end up in disaster.

If college football truly is a business, sometimes you have to make difficult and unpopular decisions in order to maximize your team’s chances of winning.

For Coach Grobe, that decision is to insert Cameron as his new starting quarterback.

Matt Osborne - Matt Osborne currently serves as the director of recruiting and lead editor for Southern Pigskin. His work has been published in a number of national publications, including USA Today. Although he loves all levels of football, Matt's number one joy in his life is his relationship with Jesus Christ. Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattOsborne200. For media requests, please email Matt at matt@southernpigskin.com.