This week, The Chronicle’s Andrew Margius spoke to Old Gold and Black’s Sports Editor Ty Kraniak about this weekend’s contest between Duke and Wake Forest.
The Chronicle: Coming into the year there was some uncertainty as to how Wake Forest would perform given that only 11 starters were returning. Yet, after four weeks, the Demon Deacons have surprised many with three victories. What would you say have been the biggest strengths and weaknesses of the team thus far?
Ty Kraniak: One of the biggest weaknesses has been our offensive line, which only returned one starter from last year in our center Garrick Williams. Also, we’ve had a lot of injuries over the offseason so it’s been difficult. However, we have great play makers around quarterback Tanner Price—such as wide receiver Michael Campanaro and running backs Josh Harris and DeAndre Martin —that have really played well thus far. Their ability to step up on the offensive end despite the young line has definitely been a highlight.
TC: Junior Tanner Price has shown extreme poise at the end of games this season, leading late fourth-quarter drives against North Carolina as well as Army last week. What do you think has spurred his success early this season?
TK: Tanner has matured a lot this season. His success really started last year when no one was expecting too much out of the team. As he started picking up some unexpected wins last season, he gained a lot of confidence in his arm that has transferred into this year. He is the type of kid who’s focused not just on the football field, but in the classroom as well, where he was an Academic All-ACC. You don’t see much of him outside of the classroom, weight room or football field, and I think that focus has really translated into on-the-field success.
TC: Despite being slightly undersized at 5-foot-11, 195 lbs. junior Michael Campanaro has performed well this season. He’s scored nearly as many touchdowns in the first four weeks (three) as he did all last season (four). What do you feel have been his keys to success this year?
TK: Camp has been relentless in the weight room and got a lot stronger in the offseason. And obviously he’s gifted with speed and the ability to make great cuts. I tend to compare him to the Wes Welker type–a smaller guy in stature that makes great plays and reads. However, the big difference from last year is that Camp was unnoticed. He was overshadowed in the press by Chris Givens, who was drafted in the fourth round last year and currently plays with the St. Louis Rams. Camp really has great field vision with the ability to make top cups that are tough for defenses to stop. It’s staring to show.
TC: After giving up 52 points to Florida State, the Demon Deacons were able to recover against an Army squad that really challenged the defense with their triple-option attack. Now they face a Duke team that predominantly scores through the air. How do you feel the defense will stack up this week against Sean Renfree and the Blue Devil passing game?
TK: This week is almost a 180 from last. Sean Renfree is obviously very talented, however one of the biggest strengths of our defense is defending the pass. With Merrill Noel at corner – a third team All-American for freshmen last season – and a strong secondary, the pass defense has been solid all year. Against Bryn Renner and Carolina, they did a pretty good job. Obviously against Florida State we had trouble defending the run, as Chris Thompson is a great running back. And that’s something Wake has to improve upon. But while we gave up a lot of yards on the ground against Army, we took away the big play for the most part. Bottom line though, our defense is strong against the pass, which plays into our hands for this week.
TC: Is there anything in particular that you think is a point of emphasis in Wake’s game plan for Saturday?
TK: I think it’s the same as any other week. One thing we try to do that is especially important is win the turnover margin. Wake had to rely on getting turnovers to beat Florida State last year in its big 35-30 win. And for the most part, we don’t turn it over too much, as ball security is definitely stressed. Playing well on special teams is also important. Against Florida State there definitely were some negative signs, and I don’t think they had as great a day as they could have. Wake is a team that doesn’t rely on the big plays but focuses on the little things, and those little things add up to win football games.
TC: So, do you have a prediction for Saturday?
TK: The last 12 years have gone Wake’s way, but the last six have been incredibly close. Duke has a great team this year and I think it will be a dogfight for 60 minutes. But I have to go with Wake here. Final score 24-17 in favor of the Deacons.