Three Key Matchups:
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
3) Kyle Wilber vs. Baylor Offensive Tackles
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.
WAKE FOREST (0-0)
SPECIAL TEAMS PREVIEW
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.
WAKE FOREST (0-0)
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
Today, looking forward to BU's season opener at Wake Forest, we'll preview the Demon Deacon offense.
WAKE FOREST (0-0)
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
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
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
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:
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.