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August 29, 2011In so many ways, Wake Forest's offensive success this season hinges on the play of its wide receivers.
While naturally the Demon Deacon offensive line has to play well and provide the necessary time for Tanner Price while making holes for running backs Josh Harris and Brandon Pendergrass, the receivers can make everyone's jobs easier if they can get open and make plays.
Wake spent this spring and more recently in training camp replacing two of its top three receivers from a season ago---West Virginia transfer Devon Brown and the graduated Marshall Williams.
The return of Chris Givens, the team's leading receiver from 2010 in terms of yardage (514) and touchdowns (4), provides some continuity, but Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe is looking for the fourth-year junior to step up even more and provide more of an example on and off the field.
"We've got a guy in Chris Givens who is one of the faster guys on our football team, but has not been very consistent, and has got to develop a better work ethic in the weight room and on the practice field," said Grobe.
Givens certainly has a chance to be a standout this fall catching passes from Price in Wake's multiple offense, but it's largely on him to do what's necessary to get there.
"He's got to kind of earn his way into being that kind of guy, but he's got the potential to be one of those guys," added Grobe of Givens.
The longtime Wake head coach is satisfied with what he's seen out of some of those receivers playing around Givens---a group that includes fifth-year senior Danny Dembry and sophomore Michael Campanaro.
"We've got a good supporting cast of receivers that can work their way in," said Grobe.
"I like what we did this spring. We've still got to catch the ball better, you know. We've got some fast guys. We've got some guys that can move down the field."
"The guy that I was really impressed with this spring was Michael Campanaro."
In a nutshell, Grobe is looking for a guy to emerge at receiver for the Demon Deacons that Price can depend on to get open and make a catch every time he really needs a completion.
Grobe has coached such a player before, and out of Dembry, Campanaro, Givens, and the rest, he needs at least one of them to become that kind of player for the Demon Deacons this fall.
"We're looking for that 'Go-To' guy, kind of a Kenny Moore kind of guy that Riley (Skinner) had. And we had several offensive plays, offensive throws, that Riley pretty much knew that coming out from center that he was going with the ball to Kenny Moore," Grobe said.
"Mike Campanaro is probably the closest guy we've got to that right now."
One thing that's spurred along the competition this summer in training camp and now that the Demon Deacons are in 'game week' mode getting ready for Thursday night's season opener at Syracuse is the fact that it's not set in stone that the offense will have multiple receivers on the field all the time.
It can't be forgotten that Wake returns tight end Cameron Ford and fullback Tommy Bohanon, who each tied for fourth on the team in receptions last season with 11.
Ford's 120 receiving yards ranked fourth on the team, while fellow tight end Andrew Parker added 37 yards on six receptions.
"I think the best position we're in right now, is I think in Tommy Bohanon we've got a really good fullback, and I think in Andrew Parker and Cameron Ford, we've got a couple of really nice tight ends. And so we've got a very competitive situation for whether we want to put two, three, or four wide receivers on the field," Grobe said.
For guys like Dembry, Givens, and Campanaro, making plays means being on the field.
The flip side is if they're not making plays, it makes the decision much easier for Grobe and offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke to try and work players like Bohanon, Ford, and Parker into the offensive play-calling more often.
"Those wide receivers, if they want to be out there, they better really earn it. Because if they're not, we're going to have a fullback and tight end on the field all the time," Grobe said.
"The main thing is if the wideouts will step up and produce, we're going to have more three and four-wideout sets, and if we need to, we're very capable of hunkering down and playing more fullback and tight end sets."
"I think what that does, it just makes it very competitive. You've got to earn snaps. You've got to earn a way to get on the field," Grobe added.