March 6, 2012

Notable position changes

It is not uncommon for players to switch positions during the offseason.

Deacons Illustrated breaks down Wake Forest's position changes and the impact they will have on the Demon Deacons.

Ramon Booi battled a knee injury and had Nikita Whitlock in front of him, making it difficult for him to see the field. So the 6-foot-6, 300-pound senior from Jacksonville, Fla. moved to the offensive line.

"He'll get a good spring with Coach [Jonathan] Himebauch," Jim Grobe said. "I think he's got the ability. It's just whether he can settle into the mental part of it instead of being in that 'ball moves, I go forward' mentality. Now he's got to think a little bit before the snap. We'll see how quickly he can pick that up."

Grobe added that he thinks Booi has the athleticism to play tackle and size for guard. This may improve Wake's depth on the o-line, which is a point of concern after the Demon Deacons lost four starters up front to graduation.

Depth across the defensive line is of equal if not greater concern for Grobe and his staff, especially after the Deacs finished eighth in the ACC in rush-defense (167.5 yards rushing allowed per game) and were tied for last in the ACC in sacks (eight).

Johnny Garcia moved from tight end to defensive end, and Grobe is hopeful Frank Souza will see more action after stepping out from nose guard to defensive end.

"Souza, that's a guy who can be a factor for us at defensive end," Grobe said. "With Souza the problem we've got with him is you're behind Nikita Whitlock. We'll probably play him some at nose guard this spring, but we really see him being a defensive end and may actually have to develop some depth out of some of the freshmen that are coming in at the nose guard position, because of all the kids on our football team the one that's hard to move is Nikita. You hate to have a good player back him up, and I think Frank Souza has a chance to be a good player."

If Souza can quickly grasp the tricks of the trade at his new position he will provide Wake Forest with some much-needed depth and versatility on its d-line.

Justin Jackson came on strong in the second half of the season as one of the most reliable players on Wake's defense. In 2011 he recorded 59 tackles (tied for fifth on the team), 6.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and two pass breakups.

He will take his playmaking speed from inside linebacker to outside linebacker, which will add stability and athleticism to a vacated by Kyle Wilber.

"That's a thing that I think will help us in the long run, but be a little shaky for us in the spring," Grobe said. "I think that moving Justin to outside backer is going to be really good for us, because I think he's a guy that'll be a great speed rusher off the edge and will do a good job back in coverage."

Daniel Vogelsang was moved from defensive end to outside linebacker in an effort to add depth.

More position changes are expected this spring and in training camp this fall.


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