Game Week Preview: Wake Forest
The Tar Heels hit the road to Winston-Salem to take on Wake Forest at BB&T Field. If you can't make the trip, the game is available regionally on television. At my house, for example, that means Fox Sports South, so check your local listings.
This weekend's game is a match between two former Air Force assistants. First-year Tar Heel head coach Larry Fedora worked on Fisher DeBerry's staff in 1997 and 1998. Wake Forest's Jim Grobe, in his 12th season in Winston-Salem, was at the Academy from 1984-1994.
Last week, Carolina (1-0) defeated Elon at home, 62-0. Wake Forest got past Liberty, 20-17, in Winston-Salem.
Let's take a look at how the teams match up:
Carolina junior Bryn Renner was 14-21 for 236 yards, three touchdowns and an interception last week against Elon. Renner played just one series after halftime.
Junior quarterback Tanner Price went 16-28 with a touchdown an an interception. That pick was the first in 181 pass attempts for Price, who is notoriously stingy. A season ago, Price threw an interception for every 70.3 pass attempts.
Tar Heel redshirt sophomore Giovani Bernard scored three touchdowns Saturday, one via the pass, one via the run, and one via punt return. Bernard finished with 203 all-purpose yards (93 yards rushing on 9 carries). Bernard left the game with a knee injury and did not play in the second half. Larry Fedora said Bernard could have returned to action, but there was no need. Romar Morris (49 yards on 10 carries, 30 yards receiving) and A.J. Blue (39 yards, 2 TDS, 13 yards receiving, one fumble) played in relief of Bernard.
Redshirt freshman DeAndre Martin rushed 21 times for 74 yards and the go-ahead touchdown last weekend. Martin came in for the injured Josh Harris, who is back atop the depth chart this week.
Carolina used 14 receivers Saturday, none catching more than three balls. Erik Highsmith had three catches for 44 yards. Tight end Eric Ebron had two grabs for 53 yards. Bernard, Jheranie Boyd and tight end Jack Tabb had the receiving touchdowns for the Tar Heels. Ten of Carolina's 14 receivers had 10 or more yards through the air.
Flanker Michael Campanaro leads the Demon Deacons' air attack. A week ago, he had nine grabs for 96 yards and a score. No other player had more than two receptions.
The Tar Heels' line paved the way for 243 rushing yards last week. The veteran group also kept Renner and Marquise Williams off their backs.
Senior center Garrick Williams is the only returning starter for Wake Forest. No other lineman had more than 140 snaps coming in to 2012. The Demon Deacons rushed for 98 yards, and Price was sacked once, against Liberty.
Carolina relies on junior end Kareem Martin and tackle Sylvester Williams as veterans up front. Williams had two tackles, both of them sacks, a week ago. He also tipped a pass that was intercepted by teammate Jabari Price. Martin had three tackles. At the Bandit position, Dion Guy had five tackles. True freshman Shakeel Rashad also made a splash in his collegiate debut, coming through with three tackles, two of them for loss.
Preseason All-ACC nose guard Nikita Whitlock headlines Wake Forest's three-man front. He came into the season with 24.5 tackles for loss, second among active ACC players. Kris Redding and Zach Thompson flank him.
Kevin Reddick leads the way on defense for the Tar Heels. The New Bern senior had five tackles a week ago. Joining him are sophomore Travis Hughes at weakside linebacker and Gene Robinson at ram.
Senior weakside linebacker Riley Haynes had ten tackles against the Flames. Mike Olson had nine from the middle linebacker position.
Carolina's Jabari Price came back from a hand injury a year ago to record six tackles, two pass breakups and an interception. Pete Mangum (ram) and Tre Boston (safety) rounded out the top three in tackles last week. The Tar Heel secondary shut down Elon receiver Aaron Mellette, who was held to two catches for just nine yards.
Merrill Noel had 21 passes defended a year ago, tied for the most nationally. Against Liberty, junior safety AJ Marshall had six tackles, two passes broken up and an interception return for a touchdown. Cornerback Kevin Johnson had ten tackles, including a sack, last week.
Carolina set an ACC record with 260 punt return yards on nine returns. Bernard, Roy Smith and Erik Highsmith all played on return. The Tar Heels continue to go without T.J. Thorpe, though Morris and Blue have stepped up on kickoff return. But with the shutout, the Tar Heels returned just a single kickoff a year ago. Kicker Casey Barth needs just one field goal to tie brother Connor for the school record.
Wake Forest's Campanaro and Lovell Jackson were responsible for 50 return yards against Liberty (three punts, one kickoff). Kicker Jimmy Newman missed his only field goal attempt, from 47 yards, but averaged better than 64 yards on kickoffs.
What to watch for on Saturday:
Wake Forest needs to establish the run in order to set up the pass for Price and Campanaro. That will be easier to do if Harris plays. Carolina was able to get into the backfield against Elon, but this is certainly a step up in competition. That's true for both teams, however. The Tar Heels look to continue to push the pace on offense. They'll try to keep Whitlock busy and open up running lanes for Bernard. Tanner Price doesn't like to throw interceptions, but with a blitz-happy defense in front of him, he may get pressured into making some poor throws.