Back in the swing
Wake Forest senior running back Josh Harris made up for lost time in a hurry.
When the Demon Deacons started preseason practice earlier this month, Harris was back home in Texas, ruled academically ineligible by the NCAA and awaiting an appeal of that ruling. Harris won his case and will be the starting tailback when the Demon Deacons open the season Thursday night at BB&T Field against Football Championship Subdivision member Presbyterian.
To win back his spot, Harris had to climb over redshirt sophomore Deandre Martin, redshirt freshman Dominique Gibson and Joshua Wilhite on depth chart.
Harris had the advantage of experience and production, having gained 1,760 yards for his career and being the leading returning rusher from last year with 680 yards. Martin, the other back with experience, was a close second last year with 484 yards.
But something else worked in Harris’s favor. Since returning, he’s displayed a better work ethic, according to coach Jim Grobe.
“Josh seems to be a new guy,” Grobe said. “He’s been nothing but a pleasant surprise. Everything about him has been good so far in things like attitude and work ethic. And he smiles all the time like he is having fun.
“The other three have a lot of talent, but Josh has been the most consistent and dependable guy. If the others show up every day and prove they can be dependable, they could play a lot of snaps also. ... We were giving the other guys their share. They were running like they wanted to take Josh’s job, but he has been running like the doesn’t want to lose it.”
Like all players, Harris couldn’t start immediately start practice in full pads. As per NCAA rules, he had to practice first in helmet only, then helmet and shoulder pads (known as shells) before starting full contact.
What played to his advantage was that he very quickly got back into the swing of Grobe’s return to more of a running offense, a decision reached after their pass-heavy attack struggled last season when the only dependable receiver, Michael Campanaro, was injured.
“One thing that help Josh when he came back, the other guys were getting their reps so he didn’t have to be the guy, he was a guy,” Grobe said. “The good thing was his recall from spring was phenomenal. I can’t think of a mistake that he made that was glaring. I don’t know if he studied during his break, but he stepped right back in mentally and has a real good grasp of what we are trying to do.”
Just what the Deacons will try to do on offense this season will be on public display for the first time against the Blue Hose after Grobe closed all of the team’s scrimmages from view by outsiders. Wake is expected to run more of an option-oriented offense, with quarterback Tanner Price running more and throwing less in addition to more work for the running backs.
Grobe indicated that he will not hold back on using some of his playbook to keep as a surprise for league-foe Boston College next week.
“We don’t have that mentality as coaches,” Grobe said. “We’re taking more game plan than we probably should into the first one because you don’t know what you are going to get into. We’re going to err on the other side. We’re not going to worry about what we show Boston College and worry more about winning the game. To win them all, you’ve got to win the first one.
“As a coaching staff, we’re trying to get the players to focus on the first one. With that second game being an ACC game, that’s tough because you are hoping the players aren’t looking beyond Thursday night. I don’t think they will because it is our first game. Certainly, the coaches are going to try to do all the good stuff that will help us win this game.”
What: Presbyterian (0-0) at Wake Forest (0-0)
Where: BB&T Field, Winston-Salem
When: 6:30 p.m.
Series: Wake leads 6-4-1
Last meeting: Wake won 53-13 in 2010