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Syracuse vs. Wake Forest: Scouting The Demon Deacons

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Glory has a short time span. The Wake Forest University football program is an example of that. Just five years ago, the Demon Deacons defied the odds -- preseason predictions had them finish dead last in the ACC -- by winning 11 games -- one of those a 20-10 victory over Syracuse University -- collecting the Atlantic Coast Conference's Atlantic Division title and earning a BCS-bowl berth. For the first time since the 1970s, the Deacons were on their way to the top of the college football world.

However, it didn't last long as the program followed its best season with a 9-4 record in 2007, then were 8-5 in 2008. By the end of the 2009 campaign the Deacons had dropped below .500 (5-7) and the future wasn't getting any brighter. Last year, Wake Forest finished 3-9 overall and was considered one of the worst BCS-conference programs.

On Thursday, SU will begin its  2011 season at home against Wake Forest (8 p.m. on ESPN3). Here's a brief look at what the predicted 30,000 Orange fans will see from their non-confernece opponent.

Opponent: Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3-9 overall in '10.)

Head coach: Jim Grobe

Grobe, who begins his 11th year at Wake Forest, was "the next big thing" after helping the Demon Deacons reach a BCS-bowl game. However, the '09 NFL Draft stripped Wake Forest of a lot of its talent, which included linebacker Aaron Curry, who was the fourth overall pick and a Butkus Award winner, And now Grobe is trying to rebuild.

Offense: Sophomore Tanner Price is the Demon Deacons starting quarterback. Last season, Price (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) was efficient as a true freshman, tossing for 1,349 yards, seven touchdowns and compiling a passer rating of 106.8.

This season, the lefty will be protected by an offensive line that returns four of its five starters, and will hand the ball off to sophomore running back Josh Harris, who's an All-Conference candidate. In 2010, Harris (5-10, 205) totaled 720-rushing yards and seven TDs, while splitting time with senior Josh Adams.

"(Harris) has tremendous speed," writes Lindys Sports. "Showed what he is capable of when he rushed for 241 yards against Virginia Tech, which was the most-ever against the Hokies. Also scored twice vs. Tech. ... Has been clocked at 4.34 in the 40-yard dash and ran a 10.7-second 100 meters this spring despite a sore hamstring."

Offensive coordinator, Steed Lobotzke, runs a very complex ball-controlled attack -- which is probably why the Deacons offense has struggled in recent years because it takes awhile for players to adapt. It also does not help that Wake Forest hasn't had the talent. This year, Harris is expected to take a step up, while wide receivers senior Danny Dembry (6-2, 185) and junior Chris Givens (6-0, 195), should be steady targets for Price.

"Steed Lobotzke is a bright man, but he outthinks himself sometimes," wrote SB Nation's Wake Forest Blog Blogger So Dear in late June. "He falls in love with play calls or overanalyzes defenses. He, and the rest of the coaching staff, honestly, needs to trust his personnel and the team as a whole."

Defense: During last season, under new coordinators Tim Billings and Brian Knorr, the Deacons switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme. The move came a little too late as Wake Forest allowed more than 35 points per game, the most in the ACC.

Wake Forest, which returns nine starters on defense, is hoping that a full offseason helped players learn the new system and their roles, which will lead to vast improvements.

Currently, senior outside linebacker Kyle Wilber is expected to be the Deacons' impact player. 

"He was the player maker on defense last season when he was mostly lining up at defensive end," writes USA Today. "His move to linebacker is expected to give him more freedom to make plays and the Demon Deacons are counting on. If the shift in position sticks, they could be sacrificing something in pass rushing with Wilber in another role. Wilber is the most accomplished player on the defense and the Demon Deacons don't have the luxury of allowing him to ease into the new position."

Last time these two programs met: This is the second meeting between SU and Wake Forest. In '06, the Demon Deacons defeated the visiting Orange, 20-10. Senior linebacker Kelvin Smith had 16 solo tackles in the contest, while starting quarterback Perry Patterson threw for just 45 yards on 6-of-19 attempts. All time, The Orange are 67-76-2 against ACC teams.

Conclusion: This is a rebuilding Wake Forest squad that features some talent, but not enough to pose a threat to an up-and-coming SU program.