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August 12, 2011Deacons Illustrated caught up with Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe following a practice this week to get an up-to-date breakdown on where the Demon Deacons are.
What's the attitude like right now, as you prepare to go to full pads?
"It's great right now. We've had a lot of fun the first three practices. The kids have worked really hard. We've been in summer school, so the last two days we've been in final exams with our guys. We'll see how they feel tonight after two days of taking exams, but our first three practices were really good."
I know it's early, but I also know that you had a lot of injuries last year, so getting some of those guys back like now healthy how do they look so far?
"Our guys are doing good. We've got a couple of guys that had knee surgeries in the off-season that are a little sore, and had some inflammation, but I think that's typical. I don't think that's anything we wouldn't expect."
"Quite frankly we worked hard enough the first three days everybody is a little bit sore, so we feel good about where we are right now. We're pretty healthy. We had some kids who were border-line in the spring, and went ahead and got things fixed, shoulders and what not, so those guys are doing really, really well."
"I think of all the kids that we have that had surgery we think all of them will be full-speed by the first game, and ready to go."
Of those guys, who has made the most progress recovery-wise?
"Well I think typically what happens the guys that have anything upper-body-wise you know we had some guys right at the end of the season that had wrists and hands that had to be fixed, a couple of kids with shoulders that got fixed."
"Those are typically the guys that have an easier time recovering. Guys that have knee problems that have knee surgery in the off-season those are the guys that usually take a little bit longer to come back. I guess the one guy that's having a little bit of a problem is our tight end Jonathan Garcia."
"He hurt his knee toward the end of the fall last year. I think he got hurt maybe November, and had knee surgery, and so you're looking at nine months. He's just getting to the point where he ought to start feeling good, and he's a little bit sore right now, but most of our guys that were injured are in good shape."
With the weekend coming up what are you trying to get out of these next couple of days as you get ready for the scrimmage?
"We're probably like most people. We're trying to take a look at the freshmen, the true freshmen that are here right now. We're also trying to look at the kids we redshirted last year, and trying to get as quick of an evaluation on these guys as we can."
"One of the problems that we've got is that the new kids are just trying to pick up the blocking schemes and the defensive calls, and those sort of things you know we're different even from high school teams in that in college you have no contact in the summer."
"We're not allowed to be with our kids in the summer. We're not allowed to be with them in the weight room. We're not allowed to come on the field with them."
"We're not allowed to coach them in any way throughout the summer, so these kids that are just in and out of high school right now not only trying to prove themselves physically, but they've got to learn what we're doing, and that's what we see right now. For the next two or three days our big focus is in teaching, but not just teaching fundamentals, trying to get the young guys caught up on x's and o's."
On playing true freshmen.
"Of all of our freshmen that are here right now probably the two guys that have the best chance of getting on the field would be our punter and our kicker, Alex Kinal, a kid from Australia, and then Chad Hedlund, the kid from Texas, the kicker.
Those are the guys that would probably have the quickest chance at getting on the field, probably the two guys we're looking the hardest at contributing right away."
On kicker Jimmy Newman.
"Jimmy was hurt last year, and really didn't kick very well. He made some field goals, which was a good thing. Of course offensively we weren't very good last year. We didn't have the opportunity to kick a lot of field goals. He hit a 48-yarder."
"In some cases we went for things, because we were behind and we decided not to kick field goals, trying to get first downs, so that we might get touchdowns, but really poor kicking off last year."
"We looked at Chad Hedlin as possibly helping us on kickoffs, and he's looked really good, but the funny thing is Jimmy is completely healthy now. Jimmy Newman, he's kicking great right now. I think probably a little bit he's healthy, but also he's got some really good competition now, so I think that's what we were looking for."
"Both Alex Kinal, the punter, and Chad Hedlund, the kicker, we were looking for guys to come in and push those other guys. The best thing about us is we've got some numbers now in our punters and kickers to give us a little bit of competition."
Do you feel like your seniors are providing good leadership?
"Oh yeah. We've got a great group of seniors. Last year we didn't have bad seniors. We just didn't have any numbers, but we had maybe four or five guys that were starting every week, and so we were just so thin numbers-wise."
"We ended up starting 13 freshmen at one time, three of them true freshmen and 10 of them redshirts. That's just not the way we've been successful. We've been successful playing more veteran players, so our numbers are up."
"I think we're somewhere in the ballpark of possibly starting 10 to12 seniors this year. If you mix that in with some pretty good juniors and sophomores that could make us a much more competitive football team, and not only do we have seniors that are pretty good players, but I think the key thing is that they're pretty good guys where the rest of the team likes them, respects them, they work hard. And we've got a good chemistry right now that we've been lacking the last couple of years."
"It could be the numbers of seniors. It also felt like we just didn't have a real close-knit football team, and these guys seem like they're a little bit on a mission, and they're having a lot of fun going against each other. It's good. There's a little spark, a little enthusiasm, something, a little piece to this team right now that's maybe been missing for a couple of years."
On the season's schedule.
"I think the players are excited, and they should be. If I was a player I would love to play the schedule that we're playing, but as coaches we've really got our work cut out for us. I think last year we played nine bowl teams. I think five or six of them had Heisman Trophy candidates at quarterback, and I think five of the teams we played last year finished in the final Top 25."
"Going into this season we've got nine bowl teams from last year on our schedule, so it's the kind of schedule that is one players want to play, fans want to see, but from a coaching standpoint it's a really big challenge for us. Unfortunately with the schedule we play you can be a really good football team, and not have a whole lot to show for it."
"There are some teams out there that are going to win six or seven games if they threw their scout team on the field, because of the way they have been able to schedule, but for us we maybe have one game on our schedule that people would expect us to win."
"We've got a couple of games on our schedule that you'd flip a coin, and we've probably got nine right now if you're just looking at last year you've got nine on our schedule people don't think we can win. We've got to play our best football every time out."