WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) -Brett Hodges could have been Riley Skinner last year, taking over at quarterback and leading Wake Forest's improbable ride to the Orange Bowl.
Then, a separated shoulder late in preseason camp put him on the sideline while Skinner replaced the injured Ben Mauk and developed into the ACC's rookie of the year.
Now, in a twist of irony, a year later it's Skinner who's out with a separated shoulder while Hodges takes his turn leading the Demon Deacons this week when he makes his first start against No. 16 Nebraska.
``It's almost exactly like last year, almost,'' Hodges said Tuesday. ``Since what happened last year, coming into the season, you've got to be ready. ... He went on to take us to the Orange Bowl and did outstanding. That's just something that, coming into this season, (I thought), 'I've got to prepare in case something like that happens again.'''
Something did happen. During the season opener at Boston College, Skinner injured his throwing shoulder late in the third quarter. Hodges was summoned and completed 17-of-23 passes for 130 yards with a touchdown and an interception in what has become a familiar scene at Wake Forest.
Certainly the situations are different. While Mauk's injury cost him the entire 2006 season, Skinner's is nowhere near that severe - he's listed as doubtful for this week. And Skinner seemingly had a much easier job in his first start, which came against perennially walkover Duke, not the nationally ranked and tradition-rich Cornhuskers.
``It doesn't matter who it is, I've got to go in the film room, I've got to concentrate and take that to Saturday,'' Hodges said. ``Whether it's the No. 1 team in the country or a I-AA team, you've got to go out there with the same mentality.''
The sophomore quarterbacks both stand 6-foot-1, were members of the same recruiting class and have such similar styles and other intangibles that their teammates have described them as interchangeable.
``Brett probably gives us a little bit more athletic ability, as far as running around, moving his feet, maybe being able at some point to run a little bit of option,'' coach Jim Grobe said. ``Riley's probably a little bit more of a pure passer type of guy, but both kids are very similar in their competitiveness and their ability to go out and lead a team. ... It's just a matter of getting Brett enough experience that we can expand a little bit.''
Little more than a year ago, Hodges and Skinner were redshirt freshmen locked in a tight battle for the right to back up Mauk. Grobe had trouble deciding on a second-stringer, describing the situation as ``just like a prize fight.''
Shortly before the opener against Syracuse, Hodges separated his shoulder, giving the job to Skinner by default and setting him up to step in for Mauk and lead the Demon Deacons to a school-record 11 wins and their first Atlantic Coast Conference title since 1970.
Occasionally, the question nagged Hodges: If he hadn't been hurt, could he have led the team to similar results?
``It's something I couldn't keep whining about because that would just hurt the team, to keep pounding and pounding on that,'' he said. ``Who knows what would have happened? If I would have played, maybe we wouldn't have gotten to the Orange Bowl. Riley went in there and kept winning and winning, and I was 100 percent behind him.''
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