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The Last Word
12:55 A.M., SATURDAY, SEPT. 5, 2009

Three Key Matchups:
1) The Two Quarterbacks
The Deacons are quite experienced with three returning starters. However, Wake returns only one starter beyond the line, and those likely are the players who will most have their hands full with Griffin. Brandon Ghee is the lone returning starter in the secondary, and he's a good one. But with youth and relative inexperience elsewhere behind the line, the Deacons will be challenged by Griffin's arm and his feet. It will be important for the Wake linemen to hold containment and not let RG3 scramble outside the pocket on broken-down pass plays. At the same time, though, Griffin has the ability to pick apart a defense with his arm if the pass rush is slow to develop. In looking at Griffin against the Wake defense, we'll harken to Deacon head coach Jim Grobe's words: "We left (Floyd Casey) stadium thinking we were glad (Griffin) didn't start the game, and glad we didn't play them in the third or fourth game. As it turned out, we were right."

Meanwile, Wake signal caller Riley Skinner can pick apart a defense with the best of them, evident by the fact that he's one of the more accurate passers in Division I FBS history. Furthermore, Skinner is a proven winner and a very poised leader. He must find a new best friend in the passing game with D.J. Boldin gone, but Skinner likely has the moxy to handle such a transition. Baylor has more experience in more spots defensively than does Wake Forest, but will that transition into slowing down Skinner? We'll see.

2) Phil Taylor vs. Russell Nenon
Most people who are 185 pounds are not as fleet afoot as the 6-foot-4, 355-pound Taylor. Much praise has been heaped on the Penn State transfer, including being named preseason Big 12 Conference Newcomer of the Year. But that matters nil now; it's time to prove the medal. Nenon anchors the Wake line at center and will bear much of the responsibility load for containing the Bears' load in Taylor. Another thing to watch will be Trey Bryant; it will be interesting to see if attention paid to Taylor translates into more opportunity for Bryant.

3) Kyle Wilber vs. Baylor Offensive Tackles
Wilber, a 2008 Freshman All-American, started each of the last seven games for the Deacons last season and finished with 42 tackles, including 6.5 stops behind the line and 3.0 sacks. At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, Baylor tackles Danny Watkins and Philip Blake (both junior college transfers in their first seasons at Baylor) will have their hands full. It will be baptism by fire for Watkins and Blake.

 

News and Notes: Baylor will unveil white helmets for today's game. It marks the first time the Bears have worn white hats since the 1971 season. ... Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe was a finalist for the Baylor coaching spot when Guy Morriss was hired following the 2002 season. ... Five Deacons hail from the Lone Star State: offensive guard Ryan Britt (Grapevine-Heritage), wide receiver Chris Givens (Wylie), running back Josh Harris (Duncanville), defensive end Kevin Smith (Plano-East) and linebacker Nikita Whitlock (Wiley). Givens and Whitlock were prep teammates of Baylor freshman tight end Jarod Monk; however, Monk did not make the trip to Winston-Salem.


Previewing the Opponent: WF Special Teams
5:55 P.M., FRIDAY, SEPT. 4, 2009
OFFENSE | DEFENSE | SPECIAL TEAMS/INTANGIBLES

WAKE FOREST (0-0)
Head Coach: Jim Grobe, ninth season at Wake Forest
Last Season: 8-5, 4-4 (third in ACC Atlantic Division)
Series: Baylor leads 4-1 (WF won last meeting -- 41-13 in Waco last season)

SPECIAL TEAMS PREVIEW
Kicker/Punter:
Sophomore Shane Popham returns to handle kicking and punting duties for the Demon Deacons after being thrust into the role in an emergency situation last season. He was called upon in the season's fith game (Clemson) to fill the shoes of starter Sam Swank, who sustained a quad strain during practice that week. Popham relinquished place kicking duties upon Swank's return to the field in late November but handled punting and kickoff duties the remainder of the season. He was perfect on nine PAT attempts and connected on 7-of-12 field goal tries with a long of 44 yards; three of his 12 misses were from 40-plus yards and six of his seven makes were from inside 40 yards. Popham played a key role in his first career game, connecting on field goals of 22 and 32 yards in the Deacons' 12-7 victory over Clemson. Three weeks later against Duke, he hit three field goals, including the career-long 44-yarder and a 28-yard game-winner in overtime, and he earned ACC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for that performance. Popham averaged 39.2 yards on 54 punts last season with a long of 59 yards; he pinned the opponent inside the 20-yard line 19 times and had four touchbacks. Four of his 19 punts inside the opponent's 20 came in that Clemson game; couple that with the two game-deciding field goals, and it appears as though he knows how to handle a pressure situation. Popham's punting improved as the season progressed as he averaged over 40 yards per punt in four of the season's final five games.

Return Specialists: Sophomore Devon Brown (wide receiver) and junior Alex Frye (free safety) handled 67.4 percent of Wake Forest's kickoff returns last season. Both are back this season and figure to be in the mix. Brown averaged 21.9 yards on 16 returns with a long of 55 yards, while Frye averaged 22.1 yards with a long of 57 yards. Sophomore C.J. Washington (backup cornerback) also should get a look; although, he averaged only 13.6 yards on nine returns last season. Don't be surprised if sophomore Brandon Pendergrass (running back) stands deep at some point, as well. ,,, Alphonso Smith averaged 5.1 yards on 21 punt returns last season; he now plays for the Denver Broncos. D.J. Boldin returned seven punts with an 8.1-yard average; he, too, is no longer a Deacon. No one else returned more than one punt for Wake last season, so punt return duties will be virtually a completely new face this year. Brown, Frye, Washington and Pendergrass are likely candidates.

Other: Junior Greg Bechtel returns as the primary long snapper for the Deacons. Bechtel started last season as the snapper for punts but took over all snapping duties early in the season. He was graded perfect on all snaps for the year. ... Senior Ryan McManus (backup quarterback) serves as Wake's holder. McManus also serves as backup long snapper and has seen time on punt coverage during his career.


Previewing the Opponent: Wake Forest Defense
11:05 P.M., THURSDAY, SEPT. 3, 2009
OFFENSE | DEFENSE | SPECIAL TEAMS/INTANGIBLES (coming Friday)

WAKE FOREST (0-0)
Head Coach: Jim Grobe, ninth season at Wake Forest
Last Season: 8-5, 4-4 (third in ACC Atlantic Division)
Series: Baylor leads 4-1 (WF won last meeting -- 41-13 in Waco last season)

DEFENSIVE PREVIEW
Overview:
Wake Forest uses a traditional 4-3-4 defense. The Demons boasted one of the nation's stiffest defenses last year, ranking 16th nationally overall (296.7 ypg), 29th against the run (124.2 ypg), 12th in pass efficiency (105.0) and 16th in scoring (18.3 ppg). However, Wake lost seven starters from that defense, including Americans linebacker Aaron Curry and cornerback Alphonso Smith. Curry led the Deacons with seven tackles in last year's game at Baylor, while Smith had an interception and batted away two other passes. Smith went on to be the lone unanimous pick on the All-ACC defensive squad after nabbing seven opponent passes and breaking up another 13. The four returning starters, though, are good ones, and Wake has built enough depth over the past few years to fill spots; however, it will take someone special to fill Curry's shoes (105 tackles, 16.0 TFL). ... Wake is a very opportunistic defense; the Deacons led the ACC and ranked fifth nationally with a plus-1.3 per-game turnover margin a year ago, helped largely by producing 37 turnovers.

Line: Senior nose guard Boo Robinson anchors the Deacons defensive line, and he's the team's most experienced defensive player (26 career starts, including 12 last year). Robinson tallied 47 tackles last year (6.0 behind the line) and led the Deacons with 5.0 sacks. Joining Robinson up the middle is senior tackle John Russell (17 career starts, including all 13 games last year), who had 38 tackles with 7.0 behind the line and 4.0 sacks. The ends are both relatively young in sophomores Tristan Dorty and Kyle Wilber; although, Wilber did slide into a starting role for last year's final seven games.

Linebackers: All three linebackers are first-year starters. The middle will be anchored by either junior Matt Woodlief or senior Dominique Midgett (don't be fooled by the name; Midgett is 6-foot-2). Woodlief has played in all 26 Wake games over the past two seasons, logging 41 tackles; however, he has never started a game. Midgett is no stranger to the field (40 career games) but has only started one game (2007 at Navy). He has 24 career tackles, 17 of which came in 2007. On the outside is senior Jonathan Jones and junior Hunter Haynes. Jones, who played 11 games last year and recorded six tackles with one forced fumble, moves into the starting role after backing up Curry each of the past two seasons. He has size at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds. Haynes has played all 26 games over the past two years but has only two starts (both in 2007). At 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, though, he knows how to tackle; Haynes has logged 65 tackles with 4.5 stops behind the line and 2.5 tackles over the past two years. He earned All-ACC Freshman Team honors and was the team's top freshman tackler in 2007 with 41 stops and 2.0 sacks.

Secondary: Behind linemen Robinson, Russell and Wilber, only one Deacon defensive player has more than two career starts under his belt. That is senior cornerback Brandon Ghee, who was responsible for 35 tackles, one interception and seven pass breakups last year; he also led Wake with four forced fumbles in 2008. The other three secondary starters are newbies with junior free safety Alex Frye (21 career games) being the most experienced. Frye logged 13 tackels with one interception and one forced fumble in nine games last season, making one start. Sophomore Cyhl Quarles played in all 13 games last season but most of that was on special teams (only one of his five tackles was on defense). Frye and Quarles loom large in the secondary, both standing at 6-foot-3. Opposite Ghee on the corner is sophomore Michael Williams, who saw mostly special teams action in five games last season.


Previewing the Opponent: Wake Forest Offense
7:15 P.M., WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 2, 2009
OFFENSE | DEFENSE (coming Thursday) | SPECIAL TEAMS/INTANGIBLES (coming Friday)

Each week, leading up to a Saturday game, This is Bear Country will breakdown the Bears' opponent over a three-day period. Every Wednesday, we'll look at the offense, followed by the defense on Thursday, wrapping it up with special teams and intangibles.

Today, looking forward to BU's season opener at Wake Forest, we'll preview the Demon Deacon offense.

WAKE FOREST (0-0)
Head Coach: Jim Grobe, ninth season at Wake Forest
Last Season: 8-5, 4-4 (third in ACC Atlantic Division)
Series: Baylor leads 4-1 (WF won last meeting -- 41-13 in Waco last season)

OFFENSIVE PREVIEW
Quarterback:
Nearly everything pertinent to Wake Forest's offense begins and ends with Riley Skinner. The senior signal caller is the second most experienced quarterback in Division I FBS in terms of games started behind only Texas' Colt McCoy. Skinner, who has 37 caps to his credit with 23 in succession, also is one of the nation's most accurate passers; he owns Wake Forest career records for completion percentage (.673) and passing efficiency (132.33) and is the winningest quarterback in program history with 26 career victories as a starter. In last year's 29-19 Wake victory over Navy in the EagleBank Bowl, Skinner established an NCAA bowl record for single-game completion percentage as he connected on all 11 pass attempts. His career numbers are impressive (639-of-949, 6602 yards, 34 touchdowns, 25 interceptions). Skinner was an honorable mention All-ACC selection last season after earning second-team all-conference honors as a freshman in 2006 when he led the Demon Deacons to an ACC title. As a sophomore in 2007, he led the nation with a .724 completion percentage, but he tossed more interceptions (13) than touchdowns (12). Still, he has led Wake to three consecutive bowl games, the only quarterback in school history to accomplish that feat. Don't expect much on the ground from Skinner, who has 105 rushing yards on 217 career carries; although, he has scored one rushing touchdown each of the past two seasons. ... Behind Skinner is senior Ryan McManus, who serves as holder on field goals and PATs. His lone career action was in the waning seconds of last year's Baylor game.

Running Back: Expect a three-headed monster in the backfield for Wake Forest with senior Kevin Harris, junior Josh Adams and Brandon Pendergrass splitting time. In fact, Jim Grobe has gone so far as to say that the Baylor game will be essentially and audition for the starting job between those three. Harris, a Phil Steele preseason third-team All-ACC selection, was the star of last year's EagleBank Bowl, rushing 24 times for a career-high 136 yards (Wake's highest individual rushing output of the season). He has only three career starts to his credit but has appeared in 33 games with 629 yards and seven touchdowns on 135 carries. Adams started nine games as a freshman in 2007 and seven games last year, appearing in 23 of the Deacons' 26 games over the past two seasons. He burst onto the scene with 953 yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman but was slowed early in the 2008 season due to off-season knee surgery and was hampered must of the season by injuries. Adams finished with 402 yards and four touchdowns last season when he averaged more than a yard per carry less than in 2007. Pendergrass led the Deacons with 528 yards rushing and 150 carries last season with five touchdowns. He started each of the season's final five games. Pendergrass scored on a three-yard run at Baylor last season. ... Leading the way for that trio is senior fullback Mike Rinfrette, listed as the nation's 16th-best fullback by Phil Steele. Rinfrette, who began his career on defense, has but 31 carries for 82 yards and two touchdowns over the past two seasons but is an exceptional lead blocker at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds.

Receivers: Wake Forest has a covey of quality receivers, but Skinner must find a new favorite target after the eligibility expiration of D.J. Boldin (81 receptions, 848 yards, three touchdowns last season). No other Deacon caught more than 26 passes last year. Juniors Jordan Williams (1-3-0) and Marshall Williams (26-390-2) figure to split time at one wide-out spot, while freshman Chris Givens and sophomore Devon Brown (10-134-1) are expected to rotate at the other spot. Marshall Williams was second on the team in receptions last season and is one of only two returning non-backs to amass at least 10 receptions last season. The other is senior tight end Ben Wooster (24-211-3), who finds himself third on the depth chart to open the season. Ahead of him are sophomores Andrew Parker (7-106-0) and Cameron Ford (1-8-0), but all three should see ample time. ... Don't be surprised if Skinner uses his running backs in the passing game quite a bit. Pendergrass was fifth on the team last year with 19 receptions, while Adams was sixth with 16.

Line: Wake Forest boasts an extremely experienced offensive line as the five projected starters have amassed 92 career starts. Senior Chris DeGeare moves to left tackle from right guard after taking a redshirt last year. A preseason All-ACC selection, DeGeare has 23 career starts to his credit. Senior Jeff Griffin moved into DeGeare's spot at right guard last season; he has 29 career starts including 14 in succession. Junior Russell Nenon anchors the line at center; he started all 13 games last season. Senior right tackle Joe Birdsong gives the Decons a third lineman with at least 20 career starts, logging exactly that many. The least experienced starter on the line is sophomore left guard Joe Looney, who managed to start seven games as a true freshman last year. That quintet goes 6-4, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 across with an average weight of 301 pounds. DeGeare is the beast of the bunch at 335 pounds. One reserve lineman has starting experience; sophomore Doug Weaver (listed second at right tackle) started two games last season.


Lots of Media Tuesday
9:15 P.M., TUESDAY, SEPT. 1, 2009
RELATED CONTENT: "A View From the Hill"

The first day of September brought the first media luncheon of the season, where Coach Briles and several Baylor players met with local press at the Simpson Center to answer questions about the upcoming season and Saturday's opener at Wake Forest.

Tuesday also brought plenty of media attention, as several articles were published about Baylor football. ESPN.com's ACC blogger, Heather Dinich, wrote about the problems RG3 presents to the Wake Forest defense this Saturday. Her counterpart in Big 12 land, Tim Griffin, posted a blog about how much more prepared Baylor is this year to open the season vs. the Demon Deacons than they were in 2008 with a new coach and quarterback. 

From North Carolina came a story from Dan Collins in the Winston-Salem Journal previewing Saturday's game and coining a brand-new nickname for Robert Griffin III, the "Baylor Blur."

But perhaps the most interesting story on Tuesday came from the Waco Tribune-Herald blog and beat writer John Werner, concerning a Fort Worth couple that is naming their soon-to-be-born son after Baylor's quarterback.


Big12Sports.com Baylor Preview
9:20 A.M., MONDAY, AUG. 31, 2009
RELATED CONTENT: "A View From the Hill"

The Big 12's official website, Big12Sports.com, visited each member school during the fall and is posting video previews prior to the kickoff of the 2009 season. The Baylor preview is now up and can be viewed here. Enjoy.


It's Game Week
10:45 P.M., SUNDAY, AUG. 30, 2009
RELATED CONTENT: "A View From the Hill"

The Bears wrapped up Fall Camp 2009 with a practice and scrimmage Thursday. After a few days of light lifting and rest, we've arrived at Game Week and full preparations for Wake Forest next Saturday.

In case you missed it, here are some recent positional video previews by BaylorBears.com to whet your appetite:

Video preview - 2009 Linebackers

Video preview - 2009 Quarterbacks

Video preview - 2009 Tight Ends

Video preview - 2009 Running Backs

Video preview - 2009 Receivers

Sic 'em.


Sunday Reading
10:00 P.M., SUNDAY, AUG. 30, 2009
RELATED CONTENT: "A View From the Hill"

Two good articles to point out for your perusal: John Werner's column in Sunday's Waco Tribune-Herald, "Stir-Crazy Bears ready for Wake Forest." Wednesday Jordan Godwin of the Houston Chronicle wrote about Baylor's "chain reaction" of success.

Also, one of BaylorBears.com's official blogs, Cuttin' in the Baylor Line returned from a summer hiatus this week, as alumnus Justin Cange penned his first column of the year, "A Decade of Devotion" about the hope surrounding this year's team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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