Aside from having an absolutely awesome name, Wake Forest offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke graciously took time from preparing for Saturday’s game against Maryland at Byrd Stadium to talk the Terps’ defense, the Demon Deacons’ offense and just how Wake Forest plans to replace injured wide receiver Michael Campanaro.
Thank you for taking the time, Coach. When you’ve watched Maryland’s defense on film throughout this week, what stands out from the eighth-ranked Terps?
Through these first games, you see a very sound defense. There’s no chinks in the armor, there’s no glaring weaknesses that you can go after. There’s just solid talent and solid schemes. Not a lot of mistakes and missed assignments. They play good coverage behind it, a very solid front, linebackers who can get to the ball.
When they do blitz, there’s not a lot of tip-offs that it’s coming. They do a very good job making their blitz look like their base. They do a good job of changing those coverages behind those blitzes. They’ll play the same blitzes with several different coverages, which makes it really tough on a quarterback, first to identify the blitz and know whether it’s going to be hot or not, so it creates a lot of post-snap work. You just look like you’re getting another snap out of the base defense, and wham here they come. It’s nothing earth-shattering, but they’re doing a good job.
So in these instances, how do you prepare a quarterback to face such a disguised blitz defense?
Use some false cadences, see if the defense will lean into that. You give the appearance of asking for the football, and hopefully the defense has started to roll into their rotation. The safety is spinning or outside linebacker creeping into the football. Hopefully that will give you an indication of what’s coming.
It’s tough to tell on tape, especially with an under-center cadence. They’ve done a very good job of disguising their intentions. What they’ve done well is showing blitz intentions and it’s not a blitz. They’re just playing base. They just give the appearance of blitzes and they’re just not doing it.
Throughout the week, Maryland’s defensive linemen have preached the importance of halting the Deacons’ offensive linemen from reaching the second level to halt this run-first attack. From Wake’s standpoint, how truly crucial is this?
To me, that’s the key to the game. We’ve been trying to establish a better running game. We started running the ball very poorly this season, we’ve picked it up the last two games, but it’s still not where we want to be. To to use play-action off the run to keep people honest, keep the back ends back and take some pressure off your offensive line. It’s what it comes down to, can we get by their defensive line, get into the next level which we’ve been able to do the past couple weeks, we’ll have a shot. If it’s runs for one and two yards all game, that’s going to make for a long day.
With Michael Campanaro out, how much does this affect your offense? Maryland Coach Randy Edsall and others have suggested that you can just plug in other wide receivers to do the same things as Campanaro. Is this feasible?
I’d like to say we could just plug somebody else in, but Mike was a great player for us. Losing him is a big deal. It’s a scheme where the guy who’s played that position has a lot of catches. Going back to Kenny Moore, who broke ACC record for single-season receptions, who played the Z. D.J. Boldin, who had over 1,000 yards, played the Z. Mike had over 800 yards his freshman year playing the Z, and was well onto his way to 1,000 this year.
It’s going to be tough to replace him. That Z for us is a special guy, a guy who goes over the middle a bunch, and it’s not how you draw it up in the playbook. It takes feel and fearlessness to go over the middle, and you have to have a good feel for slipping into open windows. We’re at open auditions right now to be that guy. I thin its’ going to be tough to replace Mike. We’re counting the days until he comes back.
So who replaces Campanaro?
I’d like to say our scheme will hold up, but it’s tough when you lose one of your best players on offense. We’re going to practice a couple of guys at that spot, then go with either Terence Davis [pictured at left] or Lovell Jackson. We’re giving all the reps to those two guys to try to come in and be the guy that replaces Mike. I’m sure you’ll see one of those two. Most of the balls ended up going to Terence because he was in that spot. He didn’t play as good as he wanted to against Duke last week. Made a couple catches, should have made a couple more and had that fumble. He’s got to raise his game, because that’s a big position for him.
(Bonus!) What’s the team’s mood entering this game, coming off a loss to Duke with the chance to play a top 10 defense?
It’s mixed for us, because we’re coming off a loss. There’s the challenge ahead of you and the loss that’s behind you. We’re still stinging from the loss we took, and we had four turnovers on offense. I think our guys remember those four turnovers, and understand that those probably cost us that football game. I think them to hold onto that memory, and not have those turnovers again. We have that behind us that’s lingering. There are so many close football games at Wake Forest, and we cannot afford turnovers on our end.
Looking forward, it’s a great challenge looking at Maryland. They have a very sound, very productive defense. We’re seeing turnovers on tape there too. Every time we see, we have to remember, we can’t do that, can’t be silly and have that fumble or interception or batted b all that gets picked off. I think they see the problems behind us and the challenges ahead of us. The mood’s good. Our guys are ready to go and mix it up.