Game Week – Eron Riley Interview

[private]Eron Riley has the potential to score on any possession when he's on the field. Riley hauled in a career high 9 touchdowns last season to go with a 20.8 average. Riley took the time to talk about his team and the enthusiasm surrounding Duke Football going into the season opener against James Madison.

It’s game week! What are your thoughts on Saturday’s game?

This is what we’ve been waiting for since our loss to Carolina in November. All these off season workouts we’re running will pay off. We’re ready to hit somebody besides our own teammates.

Coach Cutcliffe said Duke just wants to concentrate on Duke and not so much James Madison. Is that the way you feel?

We can watch tape and prepare, but we will control what we can go and we’ll go out there and play our game and we feel like things will take care of themselves. It’s my last season and we have a new coach and a new enthusiasm around campus, so I’m excited and hope we have a good crowd this Saturday.

What changes will fans notice that is different than in years past?

We’ll play a lot more people and run a lot more formations. We’ll spread the ball around – a lot of people will have the ball in their hands.

You have a new offensive system. Do you feel like you’ve got it down pat?

When he got hired, we had our playbooks first thing. We spent a lot of time in our playbooks mentally. So by the time took it to the field we picked up pretty quickly on it.

Is there a noticeable difference in the excitement level on campus?

A lot more! Even on our first day of class, people were asking are you ready for the game. Many said we’re going to be out there … just words of encouragement.

The students have moved back to the home side, in well, several years. How will it feel to have the Duke fans and students together?

I think it is really good to have the students behind us and hearing them cheering and yelling for us.

Do you like the new offense?

Yes, I really like it. I get to line up as a slot sometimes. It’s versatile and I really like it. We use each others talents to make us better.
Is it important to win this game? Do you feel any pressure to win?

It’s always important to win. Yes, especially with all the promotions and enthusiasm around campus. If we go out there and lose, people can say same old Duke. I feel like we have to go out there and make a statement.[/private]

The latest on hot prospect Josh Hairston

I just got off the phone with Josh Hairston and had an enlightening interview.  [private]His school list is the same, Ohio State, Clemson, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Duke.  He mentioned Memphis, but I feel they are out of it by his answers.  He said he got out of school at 2:20 yesterday and Coach K called him at 2:21.  His family is arranging a visit and that date will likely be September 13th.  In fact, I am sure this is the date which they will come down.  He had nice things to say about Duke despite the fact that I approached him as a national site.  I got comments on all the teams involved in the process.  Duke is the only school that has a set unofficial visit at this time.  It seems the staff wasted little time and hit American soil running.  Josh mentioned that he talks to Andre Dawkins and Nolan Smith a lot and more.  He likes OSU a lot, but distance could be a factor in that he wants to be close to home.  You will get the whole interview by tommorow but I wanted to give a bit of information early on instead of a tease.  Trust me, it will pick up around here and you will get some of the best quality interviews around.  My general feeling?  Duke is the team to beat for his services.  Stay tuned for the entire interview![/private]

Some tough out-of-conference opponents

[private]The 2008-09 out of conference schedule contains strong foes to complement the always tough ACC games. Duke will face off against three pre-season Top 25 programs in Davidson, Georgetown, and Purdue, with the possibility of facing a fourth, UCLA, in the Coaches versus Cancer tournament. The Purdue game is a road game on December 2, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

The early season road game at Purdue will be a litmus test for the Blue Devils. Purdue, ranked number six in the CBS Sportsline preseason poll, returns all but one player off of last season’s 27-9 squad. Small forward Robbie Hummel was First Team All Big Ten, guard E’Twaun Moore was Second Team All Big Ten, and guard Chris Kramer was voted Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. The Boilermakers are talented and experienced as they return 65.1 of the 69.6 points per game scored last season. On defense, Purdue forced their opponents to turn the ball over an average of 17.4 times per game. This will be a tough road game and should be a good indicator of Duke’s toughness.

Davidson travels to Cameron on January 7, 2009, and of course that means sensational Stephen Curry will be in the house. Curry was named the Mid-Majors Player-of-the-Year by The Southern Conference Champions lost point guard Jason Richards, and 6-8 forwards Thomas Sanders and Boris Meno whom combined for 27.1 points per game and were the teams second, third, and fourth leading scorers behind Curry’s 25.9 points per game. 6-10 230 pound center Frank Ben-Eze is the Wildcats lone new freshman. The loss of point guard Jason Richards who averaged a national best 8.1 assists per game will be tough to overcome and Duke should hold off Davidson to secure a home court victory.

Duke faces the Georgetown Hoyas, on January 17, 2009, in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Hoyas, who lost leading scorer Roy Hibbert to graduation and the NBA, have suffered two off season transfers in Vernon Macklin and Jeremiah Rivers. Starting guard Jonathan Wallace, 10.7 points and 2.6 assists per game, and Patrick Ewing, Jr., 6.1 points per game, have also graduated so the Hoyas have lots of holes to fill. Four new freshmen will need to contribute early for Georgetown. Highly sought after power forward Greg Monroe is one of the new Hoyas who are ranked number 15 in the CBS Sportsline preseason poll. Georgetown should push the Blue Devils but they will be too inexperienced to win on the road in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

According to how the brackets play out, Duke could face UCLA in the Coaches versus Cancer Tournament in Madison Square Gardens in November. The Bruins lost Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, and Luc Mbah a Moute to the NBA, but Darren Collison and Josh Shipp return and the Bruins bring in the nation’s number one rated recruiting class, which includes McDonald’s All-Americans Jrue Holiday and Malcolm Lee. A game against UCLA in MSG would be an early test for the Blue Devils equivalent to last season’s match-up against Marquette. A Duke – UCLA match-up should be an even and very tough game.

The Blue Devils will be deep and experienced this season with 12 scholarship players including seven upper classmen on the roster. As always, the ACC schedule will be tough and the out of conference games highlighted here will assist in preparing Duke for the tough competition they must defeat in March in order to continue playing into April.[/private]

Game Week – Cutcliffe talks to the media, part I

[private]Coach Cutcliffe addressed the media today with the emphasis on changing the culture of Duke Football and asking the fans to be in the stands early.

Opening statements - We are going to have a Blue Out.  So, we want everybody to wear blue to the game.  We want to see a sea of blue in the stadium.

Just evaluating our team, there are three phases that have happened already.  There's winter conditioning, there is spring practice and summer conditioning work.  All three phases, we've gotten better.  Is it good enough?  I'm not saying that.  But we're at a point of being so far away, that we have miles to go before we sleep, so to speak.  The fourth phase is the season.  It's very obvious we are better as a team.  I can give some specifics.

We are much better in the kicking game.  Again, consider where we were!  So, much better is not good enough to this point in my opinion.  But we are much better!  Our punting, our place kicking ... our kickoff has been excellent.  I like our ability to be a good return team!  Our coverage has been much better than what it's been.  I think we can make some things happen.  I think we can block some kicks.

As far as throwing and catching the ball -- I was very concerned after spring practice.  They (team) struggled with that.  Our throwing and catching was really poor.  It has now reached the point where it is much better.  Again, it's a little too inconsistent than what I like, but I'm pleased with the progress.

One of the areas I'm most pleased with is the pass coverage.  I think our secondary has done a tremendous job at this point.  I hope it is an indication of them improving, not our receivers not being able to separate.  There has been a tremendous job done by Coach Jones and Coach MacIntyre in that regard.

Our tackling has been better.  You can't play good defense ... the scheme doesn't matter if you can't tackle.  Our tackling is not where it should be at this time, but it is better than any point in spring practice.  If I had to lift something quickly right now, I would pray for great tackling.

The biggest concern I have, although there is improvement are both fronts.  Our front on defense is much better, but I have a major concern about depth there.  The offensive line is the same thing.  There has been drastic improvement, but it's still not where it needs to be and the depth is horrendous at this point.

Overall, the thing that has helped us get better is better practice habits.  I knew the first time I saw this team that was an issue.  We sometimes try to revert back to 0-12, 1-11 habits.  That's what we're here for is to make them understand you practice with the same intensity and the same execution which never waivers and we lose focus.  Our jobs as coaches is to immediately correct that.  If we continue to do that through the season, by the time we get to November, we can be a good football team.  We are not the most talented team in the conference, but we need to be a good football team and if you are a good football team you can carry into the fourth quarter and win the game.

On the importance of a good showing on Saturday night ... Thank goodness there's expectations.  I like that.  Obviously I know of the importance of going out and playing well and people coming back.  The biggest challenge is to generate the interest have some expectations.  If you don't go in expecting to do well, you generally will not.

On changing the culture and the mentality of players -  We have them everyday since last January and we've made progress in that regard.  The thing we had to do was get the people enthused, get them in the stands, sell the stadium out.  There has been too much finger pointing when it comes to Duke Football.  We all have to take responsibility..  Our Administration has been a part of this and very supportive and they've declared that they want to change the culture of football at Duke and we are taking that serious.  I'm not going to be afraid to challenge people.  If it's not good enough on their end then I need to let them know.  They can be mad if they want, but we are serious about changing the football program.

Part 2 is coming soon. Pictured is Coach David Cutcliffe and new Athletic Director, Kevin White. (copyright BDNP)[/private]

Members Update

[private]We are entering your names into the new site's system and hope to make the permanent move soon.  Your patience has been appreciated.  I can assure you that once the dust clears and refinements have been made, the information will be what you have come to expect from BDN.

It's been a really crazy month with the Olympics and start of the Cutcliffe era.  As you know, I covered the return at RDU and will have some comments from that by the weekend.  Also, Coach is addressing the local and national media tomorrow and I will be there to bring you the happenings.

I have a few interviews lined up and some already in the bag.  For instance, I talked to Duke commitment Andre Dawkins tonight to finish up an article for a  publication.  Of course, you will hear it all later.

I know you want to know if he has talked to Josh Hairston.  The answer is they talk often.  Andre said Josh would take another unofficial to Duke and likely other schools in the coming month, making a decision as early as late September.

"Coach K called me before the Gold Medal game which was pretty cool," said Dawkins.  He went onto say he would likely call Coach tonight.

Dawkins played with Tyler Thornton as a youngster, but doesn't talk to him as much as Josh.  He plans on getting Tyler's number though.  Dawkins wants to play for K so bad that he worried about a jump to the NBA after coaching the likes of LeBron and Kobe.

We are turning over some stones to find out what is up, making sure information is accurate before it is released.  You can count on an update in the coming days.

We will cover football recruiting as we have basketball.  Look for talks with prospects starting next week.  As I have mentioned, we will keep football information free for two months in an effort to draw fans in.  While I realize the core of my members are hoops fanatics, covering football will bring other fans who love basketball as well.

So, don't fret too much faithful members!  We will steady the ship soon enough, making it through the seas of change.[/private]