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August 29, 2012Wake Forest sophomore cornerback Merrill Noel suffered a hamstring injury during practice Monday evening, and head coach Jim Grobe provided an update to reporters Wednesday during the ACC's first teleconference of the regular season.
While Noel was held out of Tuesday's practice as a precaution, Grobe expressed optimism that the returning starter will be fine to play in Saturday's season opener at BB&T Field against Liberty.
"I think his status is okay. We've got to be careful with him because he's a good player," Grobe said of Noel. "He wanted to practice yesterday (Tuesday) and we wouldn't let him practice, so it wasn't a deal where he couldn't."
Noel tweaked his hamstring while returning kickoffs Monday evening and he had some soreness in the back of his leg Tuesday, which helped motivate the Wake Forest coaches and medical staff to hold him out of practice.
"I guess it's a hamstring, right at the back of his knee," Grobe said. "He was just running Monday night. We had him returning kickoffs, and he was just running up the field and kind of stumbled and fell down."
"It didn't seem to be a big deal at the time. He popped up and walked off with no problems, and yesterday it seemed to be a little sore but I think he was better."
"We're just going to be careful with him, but I think he'll be fine," Grobe continued.
The Demon Deacon coaches and Wake Forest's legions of gridiron fans are looking for big things out of Noel---known affectionately as 'Bud' around Winston-Salem and in his native Florida---coming off an outstanding redshirt freshman season last fall in which multiple outlets, including Rivals.com, named him a Freshman All-American.
"He likes it (playing the sport of football)," said Grobe of Noel. "I think that's the key. He loves the game. Everything that he does that has competition as part of it, he gets fired up for it. And you don't find a lot of guys like him, because he enjoys the competition in practice."
"He's not a bad drill guy and he's good in the weight room and those kinds of things, but when it really becomes offense against defense, and him against the wideout, that's when he just lights up. You can tell he just enjoys every bit of competition, and I think that's what makes him a great football player."
Noel is a key component of a veteran 2012 Demon Deacon secondary that also features returning players such as Daniel Mack, Chibuikem Okoro, and A.J. Marshall, among others.