2014 ACC Wish Lists: Wake Forest, North Carolina State
Wake Forest and North Carolina State both wallowed at the bottom of the ACC's Atlantic Division in 2013. They will need to make major improvements to avoid another year in the basement in 2014.
The first job for Wake Forest's new head coach Dave Clawson will be to find a quarterback to replace Tanner Price, who started 46 games under center for the Demon Deacons dating back to his freshman year. Patrick Thompson and Tyler Cameron are expected to compete for the starting job. Right now the job may be leaning toward Cameron, who ranked as the No. 9 dual-threat quarterback in the 2012 recruiting class according to one service and chose Wake Forest over offers from LSU, Tennessee, UCLA and Louisville. Cameron would also be a long-term solution for the Demon Deacons, as he will only be a redshirt sophomore in 2014.
Whomever gets the quarterback job must be less reliant on one player to make the difference in games. In 2013, Michael Campanero was the key to any of Wake Forest's offensive success. In only eight games Campanero hauled in 67 catches for 803 yards and six touchdowns. But in the four games that Campanero did not play in, Wake Forest only had 14, seven, 12 and 16 pass completions as a team and averaged only about 140 yards through the air. Thankfully for the Demon Deacons, they return a young and experienced wide receiver corps to make up for the loss of Campanero with players like Tyree Harris, Jonathan Williams and Jared Crump.
Wake Forest must also improve in the running game. The Demon Deacons rushed for fewer than 100 yards in six games in 2013, putting more pressure on the passing game. Wake Forest now loses its top two rushers in Josh Harris and Price, leaving rising redshirt sophomore Dominique Gibson as the top returning running back.
On defense, Wake Forest loses five of their top eight tacklers including Nikita Whitlock and linebackers Mike Olson and Justin Jackson. The two leading tacklers, Ryan Janvion and Brandon Chubb, do return and will anchor a defense that does bring back a number of players with game experience, although for many it is limited experience.
To say Dave Doeren's first year at North Carolina State was rough would be putting it lightly. The Wolfpack staggered to a 3-9 record without a single win in conference. Doeren has already taken a major step in the right direction by naming former Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett as his starting quarterback. That comes as no surprise as Pete Thomas threw nine interceptions to only four touchdowns in 2013.
Brissett will not have the Wolfpack's top receiver Rashard Smith or Quintin Payton to throw to, but Bryan Underwood, Jumichael Ramos and Marquez Valdez-Scantling are all returning for N.C.State. The Wolfpack will hope that their experience can help their new quarterback as he gets settled into the starting role.
Despite hope at the quarterback position, much more will be expected from the offensive line, which gave up 36 sacks in 2013. Only starting left guard Duran Christophe is leaving, so N.C. State will hope the experience up front pays off in 2014.
On the defensive side of the ball, N.C. State loses its top two tacklers in Robert Caldwell and Dontae Johnson. Still, the defense returns most of its starters, meaning improvement is likely. One key spot the defense must improve is its red zone defense. The Wolfpack D only stopped opponents from scoring three times once they reached the red zone.