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March 16, 2010

Quarterback question looming for Wake

The last time Wake Forest took a chance on a redshirt freshman quarterback, Riley Skinner led the Demon Deacons to an ACC title and started for four seasons.

Now that Skinner finally has ended his career, the Deacons could tab another redshirt freshman to replace him.

Brendan Cross heads into spring practice as one of the leading candidates for the starting job, and the quarterback competition is the main story line as Wake Forest gears up for the 2010 season.

Here's a look at how Wake Forest stacks up.

Marshall Williams caught 60 passes for 867 yards and six touchdowns last season.
Coach: Jim Grobe
Last season: 5-7 overall, 3-5 in the ACC
Spring dates: March 16-April 17
(minimum of six starts)
Offense (6): TB Josh Adams, WR Devon Brown, G Joe Looney, C Russell Nenon, TE Andrew Parker, WR Marshall Williams.
Defense (8): FS Josh Bush, E Tristan Dorty, FS Alex Frye, LB Hunter Haynes, CB Kenny Okoro, SS Cyhl Quarles, E Kyle Wilber, LB Matt Woodlief.
Special teams (2): K Jimmy Newman, P Shane Popham.
Positions of strength

Wake Forest is well-stocked in the receiving corps with the return of Devon Brown (61 catches, 671 yards, 6 TDs), Marshall Williams (60-867-6) and Chris Givens (45-629). The uncertain quarterback situation makes it unlikely the trio will match last season's production, but they still should give opposing defenses plenty of headaches. The Deacons also have plenty of depth at defensive end. Tristan Dorty recorded six tackles for loss last season, and Kyle Wilber delivered three sacks as a redshirt freshman two years ago before a broken leg limited him last season.

Help is needed

The lack of an experienced quarterback could make this a rebuilding season. The candidates have plenty of talent, but they lack Skinner's experience. Wake relied heavily last season on Skinner, who threw for 3,160 yards and 26 touchdowns. The Deacons will need to be much more balanced this season because they can't expect that kind of production from a first-year starter. Wake Forest's second-biggest question mark is at defensive tackle as the Deacons attempt to replace departed starters John Russell and Boo Robinson. The offensive line also lacks experience.

Three guys to watch

QB Brendan Cross: The redshirt freshman is the most likely candidate to replace Skinner. Cross, the son of former San Francisco 49ers center Randy Cross, threw for 1,658 yards and rushed for 568 yards his senior year at Chattahoochee (Ga.) High School. He will be competing with sophomore Ted Stachitas, who followed Tim Tebow as the starter at Ponte Vedra Beach (Fla.) Nease, and junior Skylar Jones.

WR Chris Givens: We typically reserve this section of our previews for guys who weren't in the starting lineup this season, so Givens technically qualifies for inclusion. Even though he didn't crack the starting lineup as a freshman last season, Givens still caught eight touchdown passes and delivered consecutive 100-yard performances against N.C. State and Maryland. If he keeps up his rapid rate of improvement, Givens could challenge for All-ACC honors this season.

DE Gelo Orange: After moving from linebacker to defensive end last season, Orange made 32 tackles and delivered three sacks. Now that he's had more time to adjust to his new position, Orange could be primed for a breakthrough season.

The pressure is on

FB Tommy Bohanon: Wake Forest's lack of depth at fullback will force Bohanon into a featured role. After backing up Mike Rinfrette as a freshman last season, Bohanon almost certainly will step into the starting lineup this season. The Deacons will need him to help out in pass protection since they will have a first-year starting quarterback working behind two first-year starting tackles.

The buzz

Wake coach Jim Grobe shuffled his staff in the offseason and now seems to have the assistants at their most ideal positions. When defensive coordinator Dean Hood and quarterbacks coach Jeff Mullen left after the 2008 season, Steve Russ joined the staff. Russ played linebacker for the Denver Broncos and had spent most of his coaching career on the defensive side of the ball, but he coached Wake Forest's tight ends and fullbacks because that's where Grobe had a staff opening. Russ now finally gets a chance to coach Wake's linebackers, while defensive coordinator Brad Lambert goes from coaching linebackers to working with the safeties.

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.

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