Campanaro ready for senior season at Wake

Jul. 11, 2013 @ 05:00 PM

Wake Forest's Michael Campanaro is one of the best receivers in the nation.

He's also pretty effective when he runs with it — and throws it, too.

Campanaro enters his senior season as the Atlantic Coast Conference's top returning receiver and has proven to be a trick-play threat.

And he hopes that versatility can help lead the Demon Deacons to his first winning season with them.

Campanaro had an ACC-best 7.9 catches per game in 2012 and had three games with at least 10 receptions. He could've had more, had a broken hand not kept him out of two games.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Campanaro said the goal is "to be more consistent this year and have those games every week."

Campanaro enters his final season at Wake Forest as the nation's fourth-leading returning receiver.

"I've never seen him more focused and in the kind of shape that he's in right now," said his father, Atillio Campanaro, who began coaching him at age 7. "You guys are going to see it."

His per-game average was the second-highest mark in ACC history, behind only North Carolina State's Torry Holt (8.0) in 1998.

He had a team-best 871 all-purpose yards, was the Demon Deacons' third-leading rusher and was responsible for nearly 25 percent of the team's total yardage — either receiving, rushing or passing.

He's dangerous when coach Jim Grobe dials up trick plays and asks him to pass. Campanaro has a passer rating of 481.6 with three touchdown passes among his four career completions — including a 39-yard scoring strike to Terence Davis against N.C. State.

That do-it-all attitude was born on the Pop Warner and high school fields back in Clarksville, Md. He played a handful of positions on both sides of the ball, and Attilio Campanaro said "we couldn't pull him off the field."

"I kind of have always been in the middle of the play, just taking a lot of hits, delivering a lot of hits, and that's kind of where I developed my toughness," Michael Campanaro said.

Now he's hoping to stay healthy for the entirety of his final season.

He missed time with injuries in each of the past two years, tweaking his hamstring against N.C. State in 2011 and breaking his hand early in the Duke game last September.

When he left against the Blue Devils, the offense struggled: In two full games without Campanaro, quarterback Tanner Price — a career 58 percent passer — hit on just 35 percent of his throws in a loss at Maryland and a close win at Virginia.

Campanaro also missed the Demon Deacons' spring game after having ankle surgery, and that final scrimmage was less than impressive for an offense missing handful of key players. It ended with a 3-0 final, was scoreless until the 14th possession and included just two snaps inside the red zone.

"The main priority was definitely getting my ankle healthy and back ... getting it strong and more flexible," Campanaro said. "I think the biggest thing is just staying healthy. Getting away from the broken hands and hurt ankles and being out there for my team 100 percent and ready to go."

Campanaro says not to judge the Demon Deacons solely on that spring scrimmage because they didn't want to show too much. With Campanaro and Price leading the offense and a defense that looks strong on paper, Wake Forest could challenge for just its second bowl appearance since 2008 — the year before Campanaro arrived.

The Demon Deacons have finished under .500 in each of the four years Campanaro has been on campus, with one postseason appearance — a loss to Mississippi State in the 2011 Music City Bowl that dropped their record to 6-7.

But they've been marked as a popular candidate for a turnaround season — and their senior receiver believes it could happen.

"I think if we come in this year just focused and we can stay healthy, I think we'll have a huge year," Campanaro said. "We want to get back to the ACC championship. We have a lot of good senior leadership on this team. ... We're definitely going to sneak up on some teams."