NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 30: Josh Boyd #97 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs sacks quarterback Tanner Price #10 of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during play at the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl at LP Field on December 30, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. Mississippi State won 23-17. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Today begins our first article in a two-week long series of looking at the Wake Forest roster and really breaking down every player on it. We will do this by examining each player at the position, talking about their strengths and weaknesses, and where they fit in on the depth chart.
On Friday of each week we will release the (very early) two-deep depth chart of the offense (this week), and the defense (next week). Each day you can check in after 9 or 10 in the morning and read all about a position in particular.
Here is the schedule once again for those that missed it from the other night:
Today we begin with the quarterbacks and basically what Tanner Price holds in store for us this year!
Editors Note: Don't forget to also check in tonight and tomorrow morning for coverage of the first night of the Triad Pro-Am Summer League featuring all of the Wake Forest scholarship players!
Click through the jump for a breakdown of the quarterbacks that will figure into the equation at some point this year for the Deacs!
Last year we saw Tanner Price develop from a kid who took his lumps as a true freshman in 2010 to a mature teenager, wise beyond his years. Hopefully, this year Price will develop from an adolescent who has impressed at times to a full-blown man who dominates the ACC and runs the team. Backing him up at this point will probably be Brendan Cross (RS-Jr), followed by Kevin Sousa (RS-Fr) and Tyler Cameron (Fr).
From all indications, it seems like the backup position is pretty wide open, and it will be entertaining to watch and see who grabs that job leading up to the Liberty game.
Pat Long (RS-Fr), Matt Grasmeyer (RS-Fr) and Patrick Thompson (RS-So) also return to the team, along with new addition Maddox Stamey (Fr).
The unit as a whole (primarily Tanner Price's doing) 253.2. YPG (39th in FBS), on 35.2 attempts per game (also 39th overall in the FBS). The 133.71 cumulative passer rating ranked 51st in the FBS, while the eight interceptions as a team ranked 19th in the country. Most of these numbers ranked in the top half of the Football Bowl Subdivision, and if the efficiency of the passing offense overall can be replicated, then I think most Wake fans will be quite happy. Consistency is king though, and that lacked from time to time from the unit.
First of all let's take a look at starter Price:
Tanner Price (6'2, 205)
Price experienced one of the best turnarounds at the QB position in the conference between his freshman and sophomore seasons. During his freshman campaign he threw seven TDs to eight INTs with a 57 percent completion percentage. Last year, he skyrocketed his TD number to 20 and lowered his INT number to six at a 60 percent completion rate, despite throwing the ball 181 more times.
I have to admit that I completely forgot how well Tanner played last year until I just looked back at the numbers. He was no doubt aided by the great Chris Givens (fourth-round draft pick to the STL Rams), but regardless of who your primary receiver is, that kind of turnaround over the course of one off-season is extremely impressive.
The powerful lefty threw an interception in only four games last year, and three of them came in Chapel Hill against UNC on October 29th. The drop in his numbers as the year went on came from defenses adjusting to our offense and what they expected to see, as well as playing against better defenses overall. I am sure that consistency throughout the season will be the biggest thing that Price is focused on this year.
With an experienced receiving crew returning, the loss of Chris Givens should not hurt the productivity for Tanner as long as the offensive line (the biggest question on the team by far this year) can give him enough time to find the open man.
It also bears noting that when paired with a feasible running game, Price was able to manage the game and pick apart the defense. When the running game slowed at times, Tanner tried to do too much and that led to inconsistencies and interceptions. Tomorrow we will look at running backs, but hopefully they will be able to provide Price with another threat on offense to help him out.
Brendan Cross (6'2, 200)
Brendan Cross, who once (along with Ted Stachitas) challenged Price for the starting job two years ago, is looking to take the backup position this year. He will be battled by Sousa and Thompson for that spot as well. Cross has seen spot back-up time over the past two years due to injuries and blowouts, and has shown that he cannot only throw the ball but run it at times too. Heaven forbid Price were to go down with an injury (as he did last year against Syracuse in the season opener), it would be interesting to see if Cross would be able to step in and run the offense.
Last year, Cross saw action in just two games (Syracuse and Gardner-Webb). During those two games, he completed the only pass he attempted and ran for 11 yards on two runs. Despite this limited play, Cross will be vital on the practice field and the sideline.
Brendan is a great guy on and off the field for Wake Forest and represents the university very well. His commitment to the team and his role on it is extremely refreshing, as he was one of my favorite athletes from my time at Wake Forest.
Kevin Sousa (6'3, 230)
The prized recruit that Wake Forest landed over Michigan and Miami has concluded his redshirt season and will now look to help the Deacs out, should the duty fall to him. The dual-threat QB with 4.6 speed from Lake Nona High School in Orlando, FL will likely start the season as the third or fourth option for the Deacs. Sousa will be competing with the other guys to see who will back up Tanner. How well he does this year could go a long way in determining how he will fall on the depth chart for years to come. The interesting thing about Sousa for most Wake fans is not only his elite running ability for a QB, but also that he is competing with Tyler Cameron now for QB of the future once Tanner Price leaves Mother So Dear.
Sousa is coming back from a wrist injury last year that kept him out for a good part of the year. If I had to guess I would say that Sousa will likely compete with Patrick Thompson for third string behind Price and Cross.
Patrick Thompson (6'2, 210)
Patrick Thompson saw his first action as a collegiate player last year when he took snaps in the Gardner-Webb game. He redshirted in 2010 and provides the Deacs with a great deal of maturity and practice players for the younger guys. Although Thompson will likely not see a lot of action this year, he is extremely important in developing the younger guys and serving as depth for a position that figures to get beat around a fair amount if the offensive line doesn't shape up.
Tyler Cameron (6'3, 210)
Like Kevin Sousa, Tyler Cameron (who enrolled at Wake Forest a semester early), is coming off of an injury (shoulder surgery), and if I had to guess, will redshirt this year for Jim Grobe. He missed all of spring practice because of the injury, but hopefully picked up a good bit of maturity by enrolling and watching the older guys work and practice.
With the depth that we have right now in Sousa, Thompson and Cross, it is not urgent that Cameron get back out there and risk re-injuring himself. Cameron is also considered a dual-threat QB and chose Wake Forest over LSU, Michigan State and Tennessee. Regardless of who comes out on top down the road between Sousa and Cameron, Wake Forest is in great shape at the QB position if these guys develop as they are supposed to.
As his high school head coach said in this quote posted on the Wake Forest official website:
"I've been a coach for 35 years and Tyler is, without a doubt, the best all-around football player I've ever coached. He's a tremendous athlete and a great leader who has sacrificed a lot in his career for the team. And besides football, however good he is at football, he's a better person and individual. He has always gone out of his way to help kids who might be less fortunate - it's one of the things we stress in our program. He's blessed with the talent and he knows not everybody else has the chance to play the game. Wake Forest got a steal.
"I think he'll do well with the transition. I know he loves the coaching staff, and [former NFL quarterback and Jupiter offensive coordinator] Eric Kresser really took Tyler's game to the next level last year on recognizing defenses. We really put a lot of pressure on him to make pre-snap reads. He's a kid that just has a great understanding of the game." - Jupiter High School Head Coach Charlie Persson
The quarterback position is not just set for this year, but the next several years, provided the younger guys work hard and stay at Wake for the duration of their career. I think that this year, Tanner Price is going to surprise a lot of people. He was overlooked in-conference a lot last year, but I think he is going to play so well this year that it is nearly impossible to forget about him. His mobility and durability will be tested a fair amount with the youth and inexperience of the offensive line, and it will be extremely important for him to stay healthy and learn when to take hits.
In the same vein, the biggest concern right now is probably the lack of an experienced backup. Ted Stachitas was the experienced backup last year (although I guess that didn't turn out as well as some would have liked given the Syracuse game), and the Deacs lack that this year. Thompson and Cross have been around for a while now, but it is still up in the air as to whether or not they would be a serviceable backup if it came down to it. Hopefully Kevin Sousa will come back from his injury strong and push the guys in front of him to be at their best.
The QB position should definitely be a positive for the Deacs this year because it is Tanner Price's year to shine. The receiving corps should still be pretty solid, and I would expect for Campanaro and Sherman Ragland to step up and fill in the void left by Givens. I think that Price will contend with FSU (EJ Manuel), Clemson (Tajh Boyd), Virginia Tech (Logan Thomas) and N.C. State (Mike Glennon) for top QB in the league this year.