Deacs' recruiting quietly making strides

Pop quiz: Name the Atlantic Division team that won the 2006 ACC title, played in the Orange Bowl, and then had every single starter on defense from that roster go to the NFL.

If you said Wake Forest, consider yourself a true ACC fan.

Not every defender from that roster was drafted, but every one signed an NFL contract, according to Wake Forest recruiting coordinator Ray McCartney. Nationally, it was one of the best recruiting classes ever, and it is sure to be remembered as one of if not the best classes in Wake Forest history.

While the Deacs are unlikely to ever sign such a class again, they have made significant strides over the past two years that could help the program elbow its way back to the top of the Atlantic Division standings. This year’s 25-member recruiting class was the biggest in the Jim Grobe era, and it fulfilled its top priority of enhancing team speed, particularly on defense.

“The two classes we’ve taken this year and a year ago we feel have been solid from top to bottom and are going to help us get back on way to where we want to be, which is a perennial bowl contender, and to compete for the ACC championship,” McCartney said. “It wasn’t too long ago -- the year before last -- that we’re a missed field goal from beating Clemson in Death Valley to win the championship of our division and play Virginia Tech. We can get close, but we’re trying to kick the door down, and we think the last two classes will help that on the way.”

The Deacs signed five outside linebackers -- all of whom were within the 6-foot-6 range, between 215-230 pounds -- long, athletic players who can run, change direction well, are highly competitive and versatile enough to move into different positions up front. The top recruit in the class is four-star outside linebacker Lance Virgile, from Saint Thomas Aquinas High School in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. The staff also upgraded its secondary by finding big corners who can move to safety.

Offensively, the staff was tasked with rebuilding the offensive line, which was ravaged with injuries to four projected starters last year. The Deacs fared well with four signees, including two or three who are talented enough to see significant playing time early. Wake Forest also had to replenish its kicking game, and did that with Mike Weaver, a dual-threat athlete who can punt, kick, and bury the ball in the back of the end zone.

“Something else we’re searching for and I think we’re back on track with is finding kids that absolutely have a great passion for the game of football, that wake up every morning thinking about winning championships and what they can do to get better as an athlete and to help us win,” McCartney said. “Sometimes bigger, faster, stronger is not the only barometer of success.”

It will certainly help, though, that the Deacs have improved in all of those categories over the past two years.