Coach Jim Grobe of Wake Forest didn’t throw a fit when Colin Summers was flagged for a personal foul last Saturday at N.C. State.
He was more inclined to throw a party.
“I was so excited when he got the personal foul the other night,” Grobe said. “I couldn’t believe it. And it ended up being a goofy call. I’m not being critical.
“He’s just a great kid. He’s a great kid.”
Great kids don’t always make great football players, especially when they’re offensive linemen known for being nice.
Even so, Summers has handled himself well in his first season as a full-time starter. Grobe considers him, along with senior center Garrick Williams, one of the two constants in a unit beset by youth, inexperience and season-ending injuries to junior tackle Steven Chase and sophomore guard Antonio Ford.
“You know what’s funny? Going into the season we really felt that like he was the guy we had to worry about,’’ Grobe said. “At the right-tackle spot, that was the one we had to worry about — just because of experience. We thought he was talented, but we worried about him.
“But now with Steven out and Antonio out, he’s like the one that when he screws it up you say ‘Oh, Colin screwed it up?’ Colin’s the guy that when he screws up it up, it’s like ‘Now the wheels are off.’”
Summers, a 6-5, 315-pound sophomore from Raleigh, benefitted from playing 133 offensive plays last season while alternating with senior Michael Hoag at guard. Although he is physically probably more suited for guard, he settled in at right tackle last spring and has not been dislodged since.
Along the way he has absorbed all the nuances of the position, of which there are far more than most people outside the game realize.
“Getting a chance to play last year, splitting time with Mike Hoag, was a great learning experience,” Summers said. “He was kind of my mentor. I learned a lot from him.
“Being able to start this year, I’ve learned a lot. It’s a lot more strategic than I ever thought it would be, reading the defenses, reading stances and stuff like that. It was kind of a whole new perspective on the game because of that.”
No positions in football are more intertwined than those in the offensive line, a big reason the Deacons have struggled so to score points. Of the 120 programs in NCAA’s FBS, Wake Forest ranks 111th in total offense and 106th in scoring offense going into Saturday’s game at Notre Dame.
The Deacons opened with their fifth different lineup on the offensive line against N.C. State, when they managed only 185 total yards in the 37-6 thumping.
It was apparent from the first day of preseason practice that the fate of the season would rest on the ability of Grobe, offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke and offensive-line coach Jonathan Himebaugh to build an efficient offensive line almost from scratch after losing four seniors from last season. No unit has received more blame for the five losses in the last eight games.
Summers said the linemen have continued to buck each other up.
“We just do our own thing,” Summers said. “We don’t listen to a lot of what people think. That’s just going to break us down even more.
“We try and get groups together. The front five, we try to watch film together. We usually do a team-dinner thing Thursday night.”
Regardless of whether the Deacons win one of their final two games to become bowl eligible, the first order of business come spring practices will be the same as it was last spring. Without a strong, steady offensive line, it will take more than seniors Tanner Price, Michael Campanaro, Josh Harris, Zach Thompson, Mike Olson, Justin Jackson and A.J. Marshall to get Wake Forest back into ACC contention.
A return from injuries by Chase and Ford would help, as would a saltier, nastier Colin Summers.
“He’s a pretty good football player right now,’’ Grobe said. “But with offensive conditioning and more strength — he’s got to be a little grittier, a little tougher.
“He’s just a nice kid. And he’s got to be a little tougher. But I think that will come just from age and experience. I’m hopeful by the time he gets out of here he can be one of our better offensive linemen.’’