Wake Forest's revolving door at quarterback
If there's one thing to remember about Wake Forest's return to relevancy in college football over the last five years -- which included an ACC championship and a trip to the Orange Bowl -- it was the record-setting play of former quarterback Riley Skinner.
So it should come as no surprise that the Demon Deacons' return to normalcy this season -- they averaged five wins in Coach Jim Grobe's first five years before Skinner arrived on campus as opposed to eight wins with Skinner behind center -- can be traced directly back to instability at the quarterback position.
In 2010, Wake Forest has half as many victories (two) as quarterbacks used (four). The constant turnover has left the Demon Deacons reeling with four straight losses heading into Saturday's game against Virginia Tech. They originally started the year with Ted Stachitas -- Tim Tebow's replacement at Nease High in Florida -- under center, and harbored thoughts of playing a more option-oriented style.
But Stachitas broke a bone in his left hand against Duke in the second week of the season. His replacement, freshman Tanner Price, suffered a concussion two weeks later during a 31-0 loss to Florida State. The following week a third quarterback, junior Skylar Jones, got a majority of the snaps against Georgia Tech, but then he suffered a turf toe injury. Freshman Brendan Cross has also been used in relief at times.
Last week, though, in a heartbreaking 28-27 loss to Navy, Wake Forest finally got some encouraging news when Price returned to the lineup and showed off some Skinner-like skills throwing the football. In that game, Price finished with 326 yards and two touchdowns and broke almost every school record for single-game passing by a true freshman.
"With all the injuries we've had at the quarterback position, we just kind of bit the bullet last week, and decided to try and do some things that we felt Tanner would be effective at," Grobe said. "We still have some option stuff in our offense, but we took some of that out and hung our hat on him throwing the ball."
The change in philosophy resulted in what Grobe said was "as much improvement as any kid I've had in any of my programs in a week's time." Coach Frank Beamer added that Price did not resemble a freshman against Navy and even compared him to Skinner at one point.
Price relied on a lot of short routes last week, and was particularly effective throwing on the run. But game planning against him at this point is somewhat difficult simply because there really isn't a wealth of information on Price or this re-configured Wake Forest offense just yet.
Still, it would surprise nobody if Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster dialed up the pressure even more than usual facing a freshman whose only appearance away from home came in that defeat to Florida State.
"I haven’t seen the package for this week, if we’re going to be blitzing a lot, but knowing Coach Foster and knowing us as a defense the past few weeks, we’ve been putting a lot of pressure and a lot of blitzes," linebacker Bruce Taylor said Tuesday. "I figure with him being younger and they have some guys beat up and they have the freshman in there, we’ll probably go with some line pressures coming in towards him.”
| October 14, 2010; 1:08 PM ET
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