Even without Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest’s offenses poses a challenge


(Associated Press)

Michael Campanaro’s return to the Maryland area will have to wait. Wake Forest’s junior wide receiver, a Clarksville native and the 2008 All-Met offensive player of the year out of River Hill, broke the back of his right hand against Duke last week. Surgery wasn’t necessary, but he’ll miss at least three weeks. Camponaro has 38 catches for 429 yards and three touchdowns this season.

Wake’s top receiving threat, who finished fourth in the ACC in receptions per game last season and has named after him quite possibly the greatest Simpsons parody song ever written about a college football player, might be out, but Maryland Coach Randy Edsall isn’t breathing easy. With Campanaro out, Terence Davis had a 100-yard game against the Blue Devils.

“I’m sure they will just plug somebody in to do a lot of the same things that he has done,” Edsall said. “Maybe not so much in terms of handling the ball off and the speed sweeps and those sort of things. In the passing game they have somebody that can go in and play that position.”

Defensive end A.J. Francis said he felt for Campanaro, and reiterated Edsall’s opinion that the Demon Deacons will simply “run the same plays with different guys.”

Concerning the rest of Wake’s offense, which ranks 11th in the ACC, ahead of only Maryland, Francis pointed to the stretch attack, a run-first system with heavy play-action led by junior quarterback Tanner Price, and a corps of patient running backs who hit the gap hard.

But the Demon Deacons have a relatively inexperienced offensive line, not unlike the Terps. While they start two sophomores, two juniors and a senior up front, Francis said he’s never faced this group before. Clogging up lanes with Joe Vellano and Darius Kilgo would change the levels of Wake Forest’s linemen and knock them out of the hole.

“It’ll be a learning experience, just getting accustomed to how these guys play,” Francis said. “This week the big thing is the first quarter, getting a feel of how these guys. You can watch all the film you want, but until you play against them you can’t get a feel.”

Over the bye week, Maryland focused on eliminating mental errors and stopping third-down conversions. Opponents are converting 37.7 percent of third downs against the Terps this season, seventh-best in the ACC, but it’s been a problem area in past weeks. West Virginia’s fourth-quarter drive that put the Mountaineers up 31-14 was extended by two third-down conversions, including a 34-yard touchdown pass on third and 15 from Geno Smith to Tavon Austin.

“Well you look at what you call during different downs and distances,” defensive coordinator Brian Stewart said. “Third and short what were you calling, third and long what were you calling, what would you do over again, is it the call or is it the execution of the call. And then put all of those things down on paper, as a staff we look at it and kind of come to a conclusion after that.”

As far as Maryland’s defense, which ranks eighth nationally in yards per game allowed, don’t expect Stewart to champion that number just yet. The Terps have a loftier goal in mind: No. 1 in the ACC.

“I still think we’re a work in progress,” Stewart said. “We’re giving up way too many big plays, we got to be better on third down, and we got to tackle the catch. I just think that fortunately that’s a plus that we’re ranked and that we’re playing well. But there’s a lot of work and I think as long as we respect the process as a staff and as our players do, we can continue to get better and grow as a defense.”

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.

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Alex Prewitt · October 4, 2012