Wake Forest running back Chris Barclay wants to be a physical therapist after college, but this season he’ll be breaking ankles rather than mending them. Described as a “shake and bake” back by running backs coach Billy Mitchell, Barclay looks to be a star in one of the ACC’s most talented backfields. Barclay, who led the ACC in rushing last season with 99.3 yards per game, is only one third of the Wake Forest running attack. The three “B’s”—Cornelius Birgs, D’Angelo Bryant and Barclay—led the ACC’s top rushing offense last season and are all returning for a Wake Forest team that went 5-7 and 3-5 in the ACC in 2003. Blocking for the Demon Deacon trio is an offensive line anchored by senior Blake Lingruen, who is on the preseason watch list for the Outland Trophy—the award for the nation’s best lineman. “Blake is our leader on offense right now. He’s our bell cow,” said head coach Jim Grobe, now in his 4th season at the helm. Although the Demon Deacons led the ACC in rushing in 2003, their mediocre pass offense, averaging only 151.5 yards per game, prevented them from being one of the top teams in the league. Coaches, however, describe this year’s receiving corps as one of the team’s strengths. Last season, Jason Anderson was one of the top wide receivers in the ACC and Willie Idlette was a freshman All-American at the all purpose position. He will step into a primary receiving role this season. Wake Forest will have to rely on their offense to put up big numbers, as defense remains the biggest question mark going into 2004. The defense includes eight returning starters from last year’s team, but they ranked second to last in the conference in total defense, pass defense and rushing defense. “Many of the guys we’re asking to play right now do not have a lot of game experience,” Grobe said. “I like what we’re doing structure-wise; it’s just finding the right guys to play it.” Senior cornerback Eric King, who says he models his game after NFL star Champ Bailey, is a bright spot on defense. The 2003 team MVP, King was the first Wake Forest defensive back to be named first team All-ACC since 1987. “King is just a great player and he had a great spring. We take him for granted sometimes because he is so dependable,” Grobe said. The Demon Deacons will have their work cut out this year as the face four opponents in the preseason top 25 including fifth-ranked Florida State. They will also finish the regular season with a trip to the Orange Bowl to play ACC newcomer and perennial national powerhouse Miami. Wake Forest plays Duke on October 30. Last season the Demon Deacons embarrassed Duke on homecoming, leading to the dismissal of head coach Carl Franks.
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