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Can’t Put a Price on Leadership

By Matthew Osborne
SouthernPigskin.com
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Tanner Price is entering his fourth season as the full-time starter at quarterback for Wake Forest.

Leadership is a necessary and critical component to becoming a successful starting quarterback in major college football.

Without a steadying hand behind the wheel, a program is destined to violently veer off of the road to success, ending up instead in a ditch of gloom and misery.

Leadership is important to any football team, but it is a character trait which becomes even more imperative when, like Wake Forest’s Tanner Price, you are on the verge of entering your fourth season as the most important player in your program.

Price, who became the Demon Deacon’s full-time starter early in his true freshman season, has been a constant presence under center since 2010.

After putting up respectable numbers in nine starts as a true freshman, Price became one of the better signal callers in the ACC as a sophomore. Playing behind an experienced offensive line and throwing to talented wide receivers Michael Campanaro and Chris Givens, Price completed 60% of his passes while throwing for over 3,000 yards, 20 touchdowns and just six interceptions.

Those statistical figures took a drastic turn for the worse in 2012, however, as the Wake Forest offense was forced to deal with an exceptionally young and inexperienced offensive line, as well as a dearth of quality receivers aside from Campanaro. With less offensive talent flanking his side, Price completed just 55% of his passes as a junior, throwing for just 2,300 yards and 12 touchdowns, while seeing his interception total rise to seven.

From afar, it appeared that Price would be armed with a more dangerous and experienced complement of offensive players in 2013, as the Demon Deacons were set to return the vast majority of their starters.

While the prevailing sentiment was that Wake Forest would be more experienced on offense this fall, much like a soap opera, a series of twists and turns have left offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke searching for a modified plan of attack.

The Demon Deacons have just eight healthy offensive linemen available for this Saturday’s spring game due to a myriad of issues: Garrick Williams and Gabe Irby ran out of eligibility, Dylan Heartsill’s career ended prematurely due to a back injury, Devin Bolling decided to graduate early, Daniel Blitch transferred to UNC-Charlotte, Colin Summers will not play in 2013 due to blood clots and Steven Chase and Antonio Ford are still recovering from injuries which occurred last season.

Though Chase and Ford are expected to be back at full strength in time for the season, there are still legitimate concerns about the overall talent and depth of this offensive front.

Considering the concerns surrounding an offensive line which played a part in producing the worst rushing offense in the league last season, the onus is once again back on Price’s left shoulder to carry the load for the Wake Forest offense.

It is a troubling conundrum for the Wake Forest offense, as the Demon Deacons will also be attempting to replace one of their leading receivers from last fall: Terence Davis. Davis registered 43 receptions, 544 yards and two touchdowns a year ago.

Underclassmen Brandon Terry, Sherman Ragland III and Deandre Martin all displayed flashes of potential last fall, but they will now all be leaned upon for significant production to replace what the Deacs are losing to graduation. Senior Michael Campanaro is one of the most dynamic athletes in the conference, but he cannot carry the receiving production by himself.

Again, the lack of proven depth, aside from Campanaro, at the receiver position once again means that it will be up to Price to find ways to get it done under center.

An inexperienced offensive line and a young corps of receivers would certainly count as legitimate explanations for a sub-par offensive output this fall, but they cannot serve as excuses. In the game of the football, a quarterback is simply judged by his production and how well he leads his team to victory; not by how he was affected by the talent around him.

It undoubtedly will not be an easy go of things for Price this fall, but in order for the Demon Deacons to once again assert themselves as legitimate contenders in the conference, it will take an amazing display of courage and leadership from their veteran quarterback.

Physical tools are fun to talk about, but the intangibles will make or break this season for the Deacs.

Matthew Osborne - With an extensive background in both writing and high school recruiting, Matt serves as the Editor and Director of Recruiting for Southern Pigskin. Once serving as the South Region Senior Scout for a national scouting service, Matt is very familiar with the top football prospects in the south. If it is a weekend in the fall, you can rest assured that Matt is on the road watching some of the top high school and college games in the region. To keep up with all of the latest recruiting news in the south, be sure to follow Matt on Twitter: @MattOsborneSP. You can email him at matt@southernpigskin.com.