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October 19, 2012

In the trenches: Wake at Virginia

Wake Forest (3-3, 1-3 ACC) had a much-needed bye following its second loss in a row, a 19-14 letdown at Maryland (4-2, 2-0 ACC), before its date in Charlottesville with a woeful Virginia (2-5, 0-3 ACC) team.

Deacons Illustrated discussed Wake's upcoming challenge with CavsCorner.com managing editor Brad Franklin.

What is Virginia's situation at quarterback, and should Wake Forest expect to see Phillip Sims and Michael Rocco? "Virginia's quarterback situation might seem cloudy but it's really simple: Phillip Sims is the starter and Wake won't see Michael Rocco unless Sims is injured or very ineffective, even in the 2-minute drill. This will be Sims' third start and there is an expectation that he needs time to settle into the starting role. Having said that, Virginia showed against Maryland last weekend that it will look to Rocco if Sims can't score points."

Who are the biggest offensive threats the Demon Deacons should be aware of and why? "This is an offense in flux, so to speak. Things have been so disjointed that the statistics will tell you one thing but it won't be right. Truth is, at different times this season UVa has had a lot of success both in the passing game and on the ground. Problem is, the Cavaliers haven't done it regularly. The team's best receiver coming into the season (junior Tim Smith) is very likely out for this third straight game due to a lower leg injury. That's left Darius Jennings, E.J. Scott, and Dominique Terrell as the primary wide receivers, and in that order. They've all had issues with drops, though, and generally when the Wahoos have really done well throwing it's been fourth-string tight end Jake McGee that comes up with the big plays. Don't let his place on the depth chart fool you. He's UVa's most-physical receiver and will see plenty of routes from a more traditional TE spot but also from the slot. But really, the offense right now begins and ends with Kevin Parks, a sophomore running back from North Carolina who set the record for most rushing TDs by a freshman last year. He's really come on in recent games, being a much more decisive runner. Perry Jones, who was Mr. Everything for Virginia last season, has been a shadow of his former self this season and I wouldn't expect that to change this week."

What can Wake expect from the Cavaliers schematically on defense? UVa is in the third year of running a 4-3 and it's about as basic as you can get. The Cavs play off the receivers, much to Virginia's detriment, and haven't shown too much blitzing or stunting. They will rotate frequently on the defensive line and they'll show a Nickel pretty regularly but the secondary (which starts four sophomores) gets even younger in the Nickel when it brings in freshman corner Maurice Canady. The quarterback pressure that UVa has generated this season has come from its defensive ends. The Hoos will be without their best rusher, Billy Schautz, again this week and so a lot of the weight of creating any pressure will fall to true freshman Eli Harold."

What can UVA's struggles be attributed to most? "The biggest problem that UVa has had this season has been that no unit (offense, defense, special teams) is consistent and whenever there's a point in a game where all three parts can fail in succession, they will. A dropped pass on a 3rd down leads to a low punt and quality return by the opponent, helped by a penalty sets up the opposing offense in good field position and the defense promptly gives up a big play. Turnovers, drops, penalties, missed tackles, horrible kick/punt coverage, you name it. There are parts of games where things go well but inevitably, at some point it will all suddenly go horribly wrong. This is an offense that gains yards but turns it over too much and doesn't score enough, a defense that gives up four or five plays a game that kill all of the other steadiness it has provided, and a special teams group that has been horrible in every aspect. UVa's struggles have come from being a team that is on the wrong side of the turnover margin above all."

What is Virginia's injury report, and significantly should it affect the Cavs? "The two biggest losses this week look to be Smith and Schautz. Jones suffered a concussion last week but has practiced all week and has been cleared to play. Jennings was slowed by nagging injuries the past two weeks but played through them. Overall, the Cavaliers are relatively healthy aside from missing their best WR and best DE."


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