Deacs looking for more from ground game

The ACC’s leading active career rusher does not play for heavyweights Florida State or Clemson.

Surprise: That distinction belongs to Wake Forest, which had one of the worst running games in the country last year.

Senior Josh Harris enters this fall as the league’s leading active career rusher with 1,760 career rushing yards and a 4.8 per-carry average. Needless to say, the Deacs are still looking for more this fall from both Harris and the entire running game. Wake Forest ranked No. 113 in the country last season in rushing offense.

While Harris has been a highlight for the Deacs’ offense, his success has been fleeting and his durability questioned, thanks in part to a nagging hamstring injury. This spring, emphasizing the run was a priority in the playbook, and offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke said three running backs the staff thinks it can count on have emerged.

Heading into fall camp, Harris is leading the depth chart as expected, followed by Deandre Martin and Josh Wilhite, who redshirted last year. Lobotzke compared Wilhite to former Deac and all-time leading rusher Chris Barclay in that he’s quick, shifty, and can stop and start. The staff is also willing to give Dez Wortham from Texas a shot at playing time.

"Last year we were just abysmal at running the ball, from start to finish," Lobotzke said. "We really couldn’t get much going. We dedicated most of the spring to trying to run the ball better in different ways to get them between the tackles, get them in space, one-back sets, two-back sets, gun, pistol, everything, just trying different things and studying every good running team that’s out there in college football, trying to steal stuff from people."

They’ve also asked quarterback Tanner Price to get more involved in the running game.

“We've really got to get back to running the football,” coach Jim Grobe said. "The key to that is having him run the football. We did that as a freshman, then we got him knocked out at Florida State running the football. It panicked us a little bit. Then we went back to being more of a pocket football team and making him throw the football all the time. You know, you really need a good offensive line and a great group of receivers to do that.

"But this past year when we weren't as strong at receiver and had all those issues with injuries and whatnot on the offensive line, we just put too much on Tanner to throw the football," he said. "So we've got to get back to where we know Tanner can throw the football, but we've got to get back to where we don't live and die with the throw game. I think asking him to run the football more is going to be the thing that our offense needs.”