The Stanford Cardinal host Wake Forest on Saturday at Stanford Stadium. The nationally televised match-up against the Demon Deacons provides a chance for Stanford to give some payback after Wake won a 24-17 victory in 2009. We take a look at the offense, defense and special teams and analyze each match-up in the game.
SECONDARY - STANFORD The Stanford secondary played extremely well throughout the night against UCLA, limiting QB Kevin Prince to 39 yards passing on just 6 completions. Both CB Richard Sherman and SS Delano Howell had critical pass break-ups on two vertical routes that previously have been struggles and clearly demonstrates the progress that this year's secondary has experienced. For those that like stats, here is an interesting one?.Stanford currently ranks second in the Pac-10 and 7th nationally in pass defense, allowing just 97 yards per game, after finishing the 2009 season ranked 110th nationally in the same category, allowing 264.7 yards a game. I know it is only 2 games into the season, and the secondary has yet to be truly tested by a legitimate passing QB. But when is the last time Stanford has been ranked in the Top 10 in pass defense in at any point early or late over the past decade. Congratulations goes out to the entire secondary, and the entire defense for that matter.
The run support by the secondary was also very solid. Obviously junior safety Michael Thomas had a career night stripping not one, but two balls away from UCLA runners, and returning one for a score to put the nail in the coffin. Thomas garnered Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week honors for his efforts. And rightfully so. But aside MT3's outstanding performance, the secondary did an outstanding job of limiting several of UCLA's more positive runs by Jonathan Franklin. Yes that game was a 35-0 shutout at the end of the game. But there were numerous moments within the game where the UCLA looked like it was starting to mount some momentum, but th secondary did a nice job of either limiting the big play or creating a turnover to thwart the UCLA surge. This bodes well for future games and future success. Not saying that this is the second coming of the 1992 Cardinal secondary with John Lynch, Darrien Gordon, and Vaughn Bryant. But this is a much improved unit that is working to improve and help this team win ball games. And they did just that Saturday against UCLA in the Rose Bowl.
PASSING ATTACK - WAKE Wake Forest under Jim Grobe institutes a "run-first, run-second, run-third, pass if we have to" offensive philosophy. Grobe prior to his head coaching stints at Ohio and then Wake Forest is a long-time, ex-Air Force Academy option guy. That is what he knows, and that is what he wants his teams to do. He is one of the pioneers in what has now taken over most of college football, similar to what you are seeing currently with the Nevada "Pistol". Nearly a decade ago, when Grobe took over in Winston-Salem, Wake Forest was utilizing the "Gun Run Zone Option" scheme that many teams are now almost exclusively using. Combining that base offense, Wake Forest utilizes reverses, fake reverses, fly sweeps, and fake fly sweeps to widen the field laterally for their downhill zone running scheme. But Wake is not afraid to throw the ball under Grobe. Recently graduated QB Riley Skinner is the most decorated passer in Wake Forest football history with 9,762 yards passing and 60 Passing TDs. Initially taking over the reins for Skinner was sophomore QB Ted Stachitas. Stachitas, who followed Tim Tebow at Nease HS in Florida, is more of a runner than a pure passer. And with him in the game, Wake Forest leans heavily on their option run game. He is fearless and tough, but not really talented as a runner aside from that he is fearless and tough.
Fortunately for Wake, and I fear unfortunately for Stanford, Stachitas was dinged in the Duke game with a hand injury and may not be good to go for this week's Stanford contest. He will probably dress and be ready to go if needed. But with the injury to Stachitas, Wake Forest can now fully commit to true freshman QB Tanner Price. To be honest, it was only a matter of time before this happened organically at Wake Forest. Price can do it all, both running and passing. And it was evidenced by his performance in little over one half of play combined play versus Duke last week, where Price was 12-of-19 passes for 190 yards and 3 TD completions. Price was equally adept with the run game, rushing for 56 yards and a TD. Price should not be a stranger to the Stanford coaching staff. He participated in the Jim Harbaugh QB Academy and impressed the coaching staff enough to merit an offer from the camp. However on the next day, while flying back home to Texas, he opted to verbally commit to Wake Forest and Jim Grobe. Price showed in the Duke game what he is capable of. He is extremely smart and savvy, despite his lack of college experience, though he most certainly played in front of much bigger crowds in high school, coming from Westlake HS in Austin, Texas. That being said, with Price at the helm, Wake Forest has shown a little less motion, most likely to make it easier for Price and his reads. That helps Stanford a little, because the pre-snap motion is a signature of Grobe's run game. What does not help Stanford is that with Price, the Deacons become a much more legitimate threat in the passing game, which in turn again helps the running game.
Wake Forest has some real WRs to throw to. Senior WR Marshall Williams had the great game last week, catching 2 passes for 2 TDs and 51 yards, as well as completing an 81 yard TD strike on a reverse pass to fellow WR Chris Givens. Technically a backup on the depth chart but quite possibly Wake's most talent receiver is Givens. He had a monster game against Duke with 4 receptions for 159 yards and 1 TD. And the swing WR/RB that you and the Stanford defense will constantly have to key is Junior WR/RB Devon Brown. Brown is an excellent combination of speed, agility, and toughness. Built like a RB, but with the hands of a WR, he is the guy to watch out for in both the underneath passing routes, and more importantly the fly sweeps, reverses, and options pitches that Wake utilizes early and often. Make no mistake about it. Wake Forest can now effectively deal the ball with Price back there at QB, though I don't get the feeling that they want him running too much even though he is more than capable. And most importantly for the secondary this week, and unlike last week where the Stanford secondary physically matched well with the taller, longer starting WRs of UCLA (6'3" Taylor Embree and 6'5" Nelson Rosario) with our tall, long Cornerbacks Richard Sherman at 6'3" and Johnson Bademosi at a solid 6'1", Wake Forest's WR are medium to small in stature, fast, quick and explosive with their speed. Again this will be a test throughout this game for the Cardinal.
ADVANTAGE - WAKE FOREST
LINEBACKERS - STANFORD Preseason All-Pac 10 LB Shayne Skov again did not play last week against UCLA, though he is presumed to be up for this week against Wake Forest. Nonetheless, the Stanford linebackers might have played even better as a unit than the previous week against Sac State. In particular, Owen Marecic legitimately was a stud, actively playing both ways throughout the game. Not spot duty on both sides of the ball for a little more than a half like last week or spot duty on both sides of the ball in the 2009 Oregon game. But actually taking a majority of the snaps on both offense and defense in the 35-0 Stanford win against UCLA from start to finish. No, Marecic is not great with lateral movement or in space. But when he hits you, on offense or defense, he hits you. In particular, UCLA's RB Martin Coleman can attest to how hard Owen hits, as can some poor UCLA LB who was erased off the TV screen on one goal lead running play. The new 3-4 defense unveiling also allowed Stanford fans to get their first chance at watching converted DE's Chase Thomas and Thomas Keiser in their new OLB positions. Thomas seems slightly more comfortable. But Keiser was active in the game and had a nice sack with an outstanding pass rush over a helpless UCLA TE and a late INT off of a Terrence Stephens tipped pass. Max Bergen continued to show well, as did Chike Amajoyi off the bench. With the first game of the 3-4 pitching a shutout, fans have to be excited about the prospects of the overall defensive improvement and productivity for the Cardinal in future games.
GROUND ATTACK - WAKE Like we said earlier, the running game (and stopping and/or limiting the running game) is the key to beating Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons are averaging 322.0 yards a game on the ground, which ranks 4th in the nation, granted against lackluster rushing defenses from Presbyterian and Duke. If you read the preseason magazines and/or believed the internet recruiting gurus, you would be led to believe that Wake Forest's biggest rushing threat and the key to Saturday night's Cardinal victory would be centered on stopping Senior RB Josh Adams. Adams was the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2007, currently has 1,946 career rushing yards, and ranks 10th on Wake Forest's all-time rushing list. On top of that, Adams is a reliable receiving threat out of the backfield with 79 career receptions. But for some reason or another, either by injury or something else, Josh Adams is not the man this year. Yes, he started the first game of the season versus Presbyterian. But Wake Forest was quick to pull him down last week. So far this season, Adams has only produced 50 rushing yards. Most likely in spite of his past production, Wake Forest has found a newer, younger, better model in redshirt freshman RB Josh Harris. Harris got a number of his carries in the Duke game. And he was more than impressive. Harris showed explosiveness, agility, determination, speed, and aggressive running style that has the potential to give Stanford and every other defense fits. More than anything, Harris seemed to get stronger as the Duke game went on. Wake Forest has a number of other RB options at their disposal. Aside from Harris and Adams, Wake Forest's Junior RB Brandon Pendergrass and Sophomore FB/RB Tommy Bohanon have both gotten significant carries in the past. Pendergrass has accumulated nearly a 1,000 yards in his Wake Forest rushing career.
Aside from their running game options, Wake Forest implements is various forms of rushing and passing trickeration with Devon Brown. He is a strong runner and finishes his runs, whether the ball is thrown or pitched to him. It is all the same to Brown. He just gets to the corner and downfield as fast as possible. Obviously to run their triple option rushing attack the QB has to be a viable part of their, for lack of a better word, option. And Price is more than capable and willing. I question whether Grobe will expose him to that much. But I also doubt Grobe worries too much about individuals. His players are merely cogs in the wheel for his scheme. The Stanford defense, and particularly the linebackers definitely have their biggest challenge yet and maybe the greatest challenge this year with the Wake Forest running game coming into Palo Alto this week. Stanford has limited its first two opponents to 103.0 yards a game in rushing. But that number is likely to go up after this game. The key to victory will be limiting the Wake Forest rushing attack, and not allowing it to dominate the game like it was able to last year in Winston-Salem.
ADVANTAGE - WAKE FOREST
DEFENSIVE LINE - STANFORD The DL for Stanford's 3-4 package under new DC Vic Fangio had a great coming out party in their first game of implementation against UCLA's Offense. Senior NT Sione Fua and junior DE Matthew Masifilo both had a pair of nice sacks. And overall the defensive line did a nice job of containing the UCLA run game, collapsing the pocket, and applying consistent pressure on Kevin Prince when he attempted to pass. For the season, the Cardinal defense, led by the DL play, has registered 6 sacks to go along with 3 fumble recoveries, and 2 interceptions. This week will be an interesting test. Perhaps not a more challenging individual test, but more of a collective one for the entire unit. Wake Forest's unconventional offensive design with its zone-running scheme, run options, reverses and fake reverses, and a creative pass protections based off their dominant running game will test the DL and the defense in its overall effectiveness. Statistically, the DL will have a drop in their production this week. They probably won't have many sacks, if any. Wake Forest has yet to give up any sacks. However that is mainly a product of scheme, getting the ball out of the quarterback's hand quickly than their overall pass protection ability. But more importantly, the Stanford DL needs to be stout and a force in the run game to stop the Wake Forest offensively. Essentially, Stanford's ability or inability to control the line scrimmage will pretty much dictate the outcome of this game. The DL in particular needs to eliminate the effectiveness of the inside zone run in order to allow the linebackers and secondary to more effectively track and contain the perimeter running game of the Deacons.
OFFENSIVE LINE - WAKE FOREST The Wake Forest offensive line is neither deep nor experienced. By Jim Grobe's own admission last week prior to the Duke game, he admitted that does not know what his team and coaching staff would do if they lost more than one offensive lineman during the course of the 2010 season. On top of that lack of depth, the line has only 3 players that had ever started a game prior to the 2010 season, and legitimately only 2 starters with significant playing time. Senior center Russell Nenon is the most experienced starter on the team with 27 career starts. Junior guard Joe Looney has 20 career starts. The only other offensive lineman to start a game at Wake Forest is RT Doug Weaver, who has started a collective 4 games to date. That being said, this is well-coached offensive line for Wake Forest. And despite not being incredibly athletic, they play hard and have shown the ability to be most effective, granted against lesser opponents in Presbyterian and Duke previously this year. The matchup between the Wake OL and the Stanford DL will be interesting test of Stanford's individual ability and experience to Wake Forest's collective offense scheme and inexperience. Follow this subplot throughout Saturday's game. You will know early whether Stanford is in for a dogfight until the very end, or you can safely plan on leaving early to crack open your second case of wine at your tailgate in the Grove.
ADVANTAGE - STANFORD
PASSING ATTACK - STANFORD Yes, Andrew Luck struggled slightly against UCLA. But I think any team in America would love to 'struggle' to a 35-0 win against a nationally recognized team like UCLA. Anyone. Alabama to Western Kentucky. The reality is that yes, Luck had a couple of less than great throws. But the problem is that we are so comfortable with seeing him perform at such a consistently high level that we as fans have been spoiled. The reality is that even though Andrew Luck statistically did not put up big numbers he did his primary job which was to bring home the win for Stanford. And the reality is that he made plays even in spite of what outsiders, or even insiders, might have thought. Luck managed the game so well, and UCLA's secondary was not chopped liver. They are actually quite good led by Rahim Moore, who led the nation last year with 10 picks. And although Luck did not have his best day passing against UCLA, he put Stanford in the right situations to win the game. He did not force a bad throw, and instead displayed his deceptive athleticism running the ball for first downs and keeping drives alive. The Stanford wide receiver group did not have its best day either. UCLA's secondary did a nice job of sticking to our wide receivers and tight ends, limiting Stanford passing opportunities. Stanford, even against solid competition, is still able to schematically produce some opportunities. And you saw that with the two, well-executed, play-action passes by Luck for scores. Again I go back to the two passing TDs and zero Interceptions for a shut-out victory at UCLA is a good day at the office.
The return of WR Chris Owusu is expected this week against Wake Forest, even if in a limited role. And it is much needed. Stanford has struggled to find that WR that can be a vertical threat. Swing TE/WR is about the closest thing Stanford has had for a 3rd WR over the past two games. The young WRs eventually need to step up. The emergence of Drew Terrell will be interesting to see if it is really an injury or ability that is the limiting factor. In a backup QB role, Alex Loukas continues to flash his athletic ability with yet another impressive run. Not surprising to Stanford fans, but the guy has some wheels and athleticism with the ball in his hand, particularly at the QB spot. Would love to see Stanford continue to expand his role with an aggressive package. Of course that means not playing Luck, which is hard to do. But it is probably in the works, just waiting for the right opponent and time. Stanford is also utilizing the Pistol a bit. Not a ton, but enough. And so it seems that was just not a one-game trick in the Sacramento State game to mess with UCLA's DC. Back to the Wake Forest game, expect Andrew Luck to have a big game. Most likely through the air more this week than with his feet. Just realize that the W is all he cares about?.and all we should too!
SECONDARY - WAKE The secondary for Wake Forest will be an interesting challenge. One can look at the numbers that Wake Forest gave up to Duke and think that all Stanford and Andrew Luck have to do is dial up pass after pass throughout the day and watch the yards and TDs pile up. And there is some validity that there will be opportunities out there for Stanford and Luck. Duke's QB Sean Renfree was 17 for 19 in the first half of last week's Wake Forest game. And the two incompletions were perfectly thrown passes that hit his Duke WRs in stride and were tipped up in the air for Wake interceptions. Renfree could have been 19 for 19, a perfect half. Which is ridiculous for any QB at any level. But make no mistake about it. Duke's QB is for real. Another sidenote, Jim Harbaugh and Stanford offered Renfree out of HS. And he did attend the Jim Harbaugh QB Academy. He was a legitimate option to our beloved Andrew Luck before he committed. Aside from the recruiting connection, Renfree is legit. The funny part about the Wake- Duke game is that the WRs did not help Renfree much aside from gift-wrapping the 2 picks. They dropped even more balls. He probably could have had another 100 yards of production.
But to be honest, Wake is comfortable in giving up yards, both on the ground and in the passing game. What they want is the ball. In 2008, Wake Forest led the nation in takeaways with 37. The Deacons recorded 19 fumble recoveries and 18 interceptions on the year. Wake was ranked 15th in the nation in interceptions and 3rd nationally in fumble recoveries. In contrast, for 2009, Wake Forest fell to 111th in the nation with just 15 takeaways (9 interceptions, 6 fumbles). In 2010, Wake Forest has already forced a total of 5 turnovers in two games. Basically, the coaching staff at Wake Forest realizes that they don't match up well with teams, particularly on defense. Their front seven in particular does not match up well at all. But on the backend, they have some ballhawks that will try to make the big plays. That is their deal. Senior FS Alex Frye is a ballhawk and already has three INTS on the season. Sophomore CB Kenny Okoro is young, talented, and willing to gamble. Junior SS Cyhl Quarles is a solid, physical tackler and junior CB Josh Burn is more than capable. Backup freshman S Daniel Mack is a bigger hitter and plays a fair amount, as does true freshman CB A.J. Marshall.
ADVANTAGE - STANFORD
RUSHING ATTACK - STANFORD Senior RB Jeremy Stewart might be able to go this week. Who knows? Well only one man knows. Two if you count Jeremy. But last week against UCLA, Sophomore RB Stepfan Taylor stepped in and did a fine job of running the ball effectively for Stanford. Taylor made his presence felt throughout the game with his 20 carries for 81 yards as well as a catch for 17 yards. Tyler Gaffney saw his role expand with 8 carries for 28 yards, though I thought he had missed a TD opportunity near the goalline. And true freshman RB Anthony Wilkerson continued to show flashes as well that have at least one writer very excited about his ultimate prospects at Stanford.
Again the Stanford QBs stole the show away from the RBs in the run game. Andrew Luck, struggled a bit in the passing game. But he certainly made up for it with some critical runs throughout the UCLA game. Very similar to the 2009 USC game in my opinion. And similarly, Stanford came away with the much needed W.
This week against Wake Forest is going to be interesting for the Stanford Cardinal and the rushing attack. Last year, even with Heisman Trophy Runner-Up Toby Gerhart at the RB position, Stanford struggled to get the run game consistently going. And that is what Wake Forest does. They don't out man you, they know they can't win that game. Instead, they try to get you into bad situations. To stop the run game, they selectively blitz your tendencies. And try to beat you with timely deception and effective schemes over even attempting to fight straight up and win individual matchups.
Regardless of what the pundits say, and whatever you think of our running game by committee, I believe we are all in agreement that we do outmatch these guys and hold the advantage in this particular aspect. But that is no different than Just last year with Toby. The key to winning is to not get dissuaded, mostly by ourselves, not by what Wake Forest may do. We cannot get talked out of the running game by Wake Forest's sleight of hand and even potential early defensive success for the Deacons. The best analogy I can give is with Nascar Racing (appropriate for the opponent this week)?..we just have to go through the smoke and trust that we will come out in one piece on the other side, without hesitation or taking our foot off the accelerator. Obviously that helps with early rushing success. But even if it is not there early. I believe Stanford has to continually keep pounding the rock at Wake Forest, believing that eventually that things will average out. And preventing the game from getting away from Stanford because of score and other circumstances that mask the randomness of a few, select plays in favor of the Deacons. The establishment of a consistent running game early will be key to the game for Stanford. Expect RB Stephan Taylor to have his best game yet for Stanford.
LINEBACKERS - WAKE FOREST Overall, the Wake Forest Linebackers are a solid crew. Ironically they are all fairly similar in size, stature, and ability. Not ironically because two of the starter linebackers are brothers, Hunter and Riley Haynes. They are collectively tough, strong, and stout at the point of the attack. They are well-coached and all play with high motor. More interestingly is how they adjust to the various different defensive looks that will throw at opposing offenses. Junior DE Tristan Dority is the adjuster from the DL. He will either play down in their 4-3 packages or he will be up and playing as an OLB in their 3-4 packages. Sophomore OLB Joey Ehrmann will man the Sam LB on the strong side in their 43 package and he also will extend out and adjust in their 34 package. The Haynes brothers man the two ILB positions, with senior LB Hunter Haynes taking the middle linebacker position, while sophomore LB Riley Haynes handles the Will LB. Dority is a good all around football player and he is a good fit to be the swing defensive end/outside linebacker for Wake Forest. He is very similar to our Chase Thomas and Thomas Keiser OLB combination in many ways. This is not the best group of LBs that Stanford will face this season. But they are a test, and most importantly the next test.
ADVANTAGE - STANFORD
OFFENSIVE LINE - STANFORD The Stanford offensive line had another solid outing against UCLA last week, rushing for 211 yards on 49 carries for a 4.3 yard average, and helping Stanford amass 362 total yards and 35 points against the Bruins. Despite the impressive production, the offense and OL is still being questioned by some outsiders. Overall, despite the somewhat lowered production relative to the week before, the OL improved as a unit. Pass protection was very solid, as Andrew Luck often had plenty of time to throw for the most part. And in the run game, you saw some Stanford start to impose its will on the Bruins maybe a little more than previously against Sac State. In particular, Derek Hall showed some flashes, one time launching a Bruin DE 6-7 yard off the ball on a short yardage run play. Impressive to me because this was at the point of attack, not some backside block.
Life moves on for the Cardinal without TE Levine Toilolo. The TE combination of Reuland/Fleener/Ertz did a solid job. And converted OL James McGillicuddy played with two different jerseys in the UCLA game (#80 when at TE, and #74 when playing OG) and did well as usual. The Demon Deacons DL will be a test for the Stanford OL this week, particularly Wake pass-rushing DE Wilber, who had 3 sacks against Presbyterian and was all over Duke QB Sean Renfree last week applying constant pressure.
DEFENSIVE LINE - WAKE FOREST The Wake Forest defensive line is similar to their OL. They are not deep, however they are well coached and will play hard. More importantly, the Wake Forest DL and defense overall is schematically positioned to take advantage or their strengths and limit their weaknesses. Junior DE Kyle Wilber is the man on the DL to be concerned about most. That being said, Jonathan Martin should not have a problem with him in pass protection. But it will be a test for Derek Hall, if he is left on an island one-on-one with Wilber. Duke did exactly that to their OT several times throughout their game and Wilber made them pay. Junior DE Tristan Dorty is a solid run defender and overall just a good football player. He is less of pass rushing threat than Wilber, but he can go.
Schematically, Wake Forest has shifted their philosophy over the years. Early on in the Grobe era, they were primarily a 3-3-5 team, playing a lot of Cover 3. However, either due to personnel or by choice, this 2010 Wake Forest defense rotates from being a 4-3 Sam Under Defense to a traditional 3-4 along with an occasional 4-3 Over Front to shake things up. They do implement some 4-2-5 for their Nickel package as well as the 3-4. Interestingly, for their 3-4 package they will often kick out their heavier NT out of the game and slide down redshirt freshman DT Nikita Whitlock who is only 5'11" - 235 lbs. He has a high motor and plays well with his hands in order to maintain himself at such a light weight at the inside position. Whitlock may be the smallest NT in country. It is impressive for him individually, but collectively symptomatic of the lack of depth that Wake Forest has up front. Don't get me wrong, it is impressive that Whitlock can play inside at all and he plays effectively. But this is not ideal for any team. Stanford should be able to move the ball effectively on the ground. And it starts with imposing their will on Wake Forest upfront. The size and talent differential significantly favors Stanford. But Stanford still has to go out and do it on the field.
Wake will try to disguise and confuse Stanford with variety of looks, stunts and blitzes. And they might have success in spurts. But as long as the team and coaching staff is committed to running the ball, things should work out. Specifically, I would not be surprised to see the Stanford coaching staff go to some unbalanced line formations early on the game to get things rolling early, as well as some additional pre-snap shifts and motions. Duke utilized some unbalanced formations a few times in their Wake Forest game and had some success running the ball with it. Stanford has done this a lot last year later in the season in 2009 after the Wake Forest game. And I would not be surprised at all to see it come out early and often versus the Demon Deacons this year.
ADVANTAGE - STANFORD
SPECIAL TEAMS -STANFORD The Stanford special teams showed well on Saturday versus UCLA. Kickoff coverage was solid, highlighted by a Johnson Bademosi big hit on the opening KO to start the 2nd Half. Daniel Zychlinski netted 52.3 yard average on his 3 punts and the coverage was solid. Unfortunately, the return game within Stanford's special teams have been disappointing to date. Granted we have not needed the return team to be special quite yet. But at some point this season, Stanford will need more of a contribution from their return game. Chris Owusu might be available for the Wake Forest game. But my guess is that he will be down one more week before we see his return to the field, particularly on the kickoff returns. Again, his contributions are sorely missed. But at the same time, we have been winning without him so far. So it has not affected the outcome. Without Owusu, Stanford lacks the homerun threat in the kickoff return game. Doug Baldwin has been a pleasant surprise on offense in Owusu's absence. But he has struggled returning punts, averaging only 3.3 yards per return. The good news is that he has been solid catching the ball. Which is the first, second, and third primary objective of any punt returner. However, Baldwin needs to increase his production after the catch or Stanford might want to consider bringing someone else along. Perhaps Terrell or Usua Amanam. We shall see.
SPECIAL TEAMS - WAKE FOREST The Wake Forest special teams Units has not been particularly "special" to date. Though there are not bad either and fully capable of making plays if given the opportunity. Junior punter Shane Popham has a 41.3 average this season. Sophomore PK Jimmy Newman converted on 11 of his 17 FG attempts as a true freshman in 2009, and has made 1 of 2 FGs in 2010. He separately got a workout in last week, converting 6 of 6 on the extra points. Senior long snapper Greg Bechtel has had 255 consecutive good snaps without a problem. Sophomore WR Chris Givens is a talented with the ball in his hand, on regular downs and in the team returns. Against Duke, he also scooped-up a fumbled snap and returned it 18 yards for a score. Freshman Kick Returner Michael Campanaro is pretty average to me, but continually is getting hyped internally by the coaching staff. Junior WR/RB Devon Brown returns the punts for the Deacons. And he is a real threat to break tackles and make plays. This is pretty much an even match-up on paper. Both teams are capable and have somewhat underperformed to date. Expect one of the two Special Teams units to break out with a solid performance. Just too tough to tell which team that will be.