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November 8, 2012

Slowing down Michael Campanaro isn't easy



Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe this week compared star junior wide receiver Michael Campanaro coming out of high school to another former Demon Deacon standout in Kenneth Moore.

Moore caught 98 passes for 1,011 yards and five touchdowns in 2007 for Wake Forest. He also averaged 10.4 yards on 34 punt returns for a touchdown, 17.2 yards on 10 kickoff returns and even rushed 44 times for 316 yards and three scores.

D.J. Boldin followed in 2008 as the next feature receiver at Wake Forest. He caught 81 passes for 848 yards and three touchdowns, and added 80 yards on 25 carries.

Wake Forest was more balanced in 2009 and 2010 with Marshall Williams, Devon Brown and Chris Givens. However, Givens emerged last year. Givens caught 83 passes for 1,330 yards and nine touchdowns, and added 77 yards on 14 carries before going pro a year early and getting drafted by the St. Louis Rams.

Campanaro quietly wasn't too shabby himself a year ago. He caught 73 passes for 833 yards and two scores, and also helped out on kickoff returns and punt returns.

NC State fans might recall Campanaro for the first time playing running back against the Wolfpack in 2010. The Demon Deacons were struggling running the football and put the Clarksville, Md., product at running back. He rushed for 67 yards on 19 carries in the Wolfpack's 38-3 victory and was known for one particular play.

NC State middle linebacker Nate Irving delivered a vicious hit on the redshirt freshman, but he picked himself up off the ground and kept on playing.

"He has a great feel for the game," said NC State coach Tom O'Brien following Thursday's practice. "He understands cracks and seams and how to get himself in position to get open."

Campanaro has overcome a broken hand to lead Wake Forest with 60 catches for 604 yards and six touchdowns in seven games played. His ability to be on the same page as junior lefty quarterback Tanner Price makes him difficult to contain as Boston College found out last weekend. Campanaro caught 16 passes for 123 yards and three scores in a 28-14 victory.

"They've got something going where they can anticipate where the holes are and where they are supposed to be," said O'Brien, who expects Wake Forest to continue the trend of opposing teams trying trick plays against his defense.

Junior running back Josh Harris tries to complement the passing game. The 5-11, 210-pounder has rushed for at least 73 yards in five of the last six games.

"Harris is a really good running back and Price gets him into good plays, and they do a good job schematically to put themselves in position to run downhill," O'Brien said.

O'Brien said NC State's offense had plenty to work on this past week following the 33-6 loss to Virginia last Saturday. The Wolfpack running game has struggled, and will face the Demon Deacons without injured redshirt junior right guard Duran Christophe (concussion), who was filling in for injured fifth-year senior right guard Zach Allen (foot surgery).

The Wolfpack have also lost senior running back James Washington (knee injury) and redshirt sophomore running back Mustafa Greene (kicked off the team) for the year.

"That [the running game] is something we have to continue to work on," O'Brien said. "It's going to take a concerted effort from the guys up front but also the guys carrying the football. We have to scheme some things to help us run the ball better."

O'Brien mentioned he might suggest the direction of what he wants out of the offense, but he leaves the play-calling to offensive coordinator Dana Bible. He filled in for Bible in 2009 when he was diagnosed with leukemia.

"Having done it before, interfering with guys trying to call plays is a bad thing," O'Brien said. "They spend all week getting into a rhythm, understanding what they want in certain situations, and the more you interrupt, the worst it gets in a play-caller."

NC State will try to run the football against Wake Forest's 3-4 scheme, which is led by redshirt junior nose tackle Nikita Whitlock.

"Any 3-4, the moving parts make it different than anything else," O'Brien said. "The three guys with their hands on the ground, they are the known rushers. The other four guys, you basically got eight guys standing up that become potential blitzers or movement guys."


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