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August 10, 2011Wake Forest is looking to make some noise in the ACC Atlantic Division standings in 2011 coming off a disappointing 2010 season that watched the Demon Deacons fall to 3-9 overall, with just one conference triumph.
The media didn't express much confidence in Wake's chances of a revival this fall, as they picked the Deacons sixth in the Atlantic in the recent ACC Kickoff in Pinehurst.
In fact, one sportswriter Deacons Illustrated spoke with in Pinehurst thought that Wake could very well go winless in league play this fall.
But if you're a Wake Forest fan, you've got to have some optimism that the prognosticators are wrong based on what head coach Jim Grobe has been saying about his team.
Grobe isn't upset about the fact that his team was picked dead-last in its division because he believes this team is capable of achieving more than that.
"I think that's where we belong. I would think that after last year, being 3-9 and playing as many freshmen as we played last year (we'd be picked last)," Grobe said. "I think this is probably where we should start the season, but I'm certainly hopeful that's not where we end up at the end of the year."
"I don't have a problem with that (the sixth place prognostication)," he added.
Grobe was quick to point out that his finest hour in Winston-Salem---winning an ACC title back in the fall of 2006---came a few months after many of these same media members picked the Demon Deacons to pick dead-last in the Atlantic Division.
"We've got to always keep in mind that the year we won the ACC, we were picked last," Grobe said.
"Nobody knew that Riley Skinner was going to be our quarterback. We thought Ben Mauk was our quarterback, and if we had known Riley Skinner was going to be our quarterback, we probably would have been picked seventh in our division."
Grobe brought up multiple times in Pinehurst that he's seeing something a little different out of this year's group of Demon Deacon players---a spirit and intensity that didn't seem to be there a year ago.
"There's a little bit of something I can't describe that's going on right now, but it feels very similar to when some of those great players (back in 2006) were young," said Grobe. "I think we've got some of those guys in our program. We just had to play too many of them as freshmen last year."
"I think the thing that I'm most excited about is there's something going on with my football team right now. This spring, you could tell at spring practice, there's a little more competitiveness."
"There's a little edge to this football team. They're not happy with the way things went last year. The expectations are different at Wake Forest now," Grobe continued.
Coming off a 2010 season that saw many key players such as quarterback Tanner Price, running back Josh Harris, and defenders such as A.J. Marshall thrown to the wolves as true freshmen, the Demon Deacons are in much better position to be competitive this year.
Having its key skill players a year older, along with having a wealth of juniors and seniors along the offensive and defensive lines, could prove to be huge for Wake Forest as they look to prove people wrong and make a rise in the league standings.
"I will be honest with you. At Wake Forest, we're a football team that if our coaches and players develop like they should over a five-year period, by the time our kids are juniors and seniors, if we've done a good job developing them and they've done a good job working in the weight room and at practice and all kinds those things that you need to do, then we can be very competitive in this league," Grobe said.
"And the years like last year where we had very few seniors, we haven't developed very well and we had to play too many freshmen, we're not going to fare very well. I'm assuming that our sophomores are going to play a lot better than they did as freshmen last year."
"At Wake Forest, we've proven we can do it (win a league title)," Grobe added. "But the problem is its not a guarantee. We're not just going to just reload every year and come back and be competitive in the league."
"I feel like this year we're a much better football team than we were last year. We've got a really tough schedule again. But there is something going on right now. There's a little bit of electricity in the air right now, and I've just got a feeling that we're going to bounce back and be a much better team this year than we were last year."
Wake plays a challenging schedule that includes non-conference opponents Syracuse, Notre Dame, and Vanderbilt to go along with its conference games.
But Grobe says that he's focusing on his own team as he prepares with the team this month in training camp.
"I think from our standpoint as coaches, the best thing we can do is take care of our players and our programs and try to be as competitive this fall as we can possibly be," he said.
"Every year college football is going to take twists and turns, but for me as a football coach, the best thing I can do is teach my kids how to block and tackle as best as they possibly can."
"The thing I've got to do is get my team ready to play a brutal schedule this fall. My thoughts are to get my football team ready to play," Grobe added.
Stay tuned to Deacons Illustrated throughout the month of August on what it will take for Wake Forest to get back in the race in the ACC Atlantic Division.