The Tulane Green Wave take on the Duke Blue Devils September 24th in Durham

BDN Previews Duke Football’s Week 4 matchup with Tulane

The Tulane Green Wave take on the Duke Blue Devils September 24th in Durham

After a tough September stretch of hosting Stanford and then traveling to Boston College, the Blue Devils return home on September 24 to close out the first month of the season with a homecoming game against Tulane. Duke fans would be thrilled for the Blue Devils to enter this matchup with a 2-1 record, but most expect a 1-2 start to the 2011 season, meaning that Duke will need to get back on track against the Green Wave.

Duke and Tulane had similar campaigns in 2010, with both teams showing tremendous offensive potential, but unable to consistently slow opposing offenses. The Green Wave finished the season with a 4-8 record, which included a 17-14 road victory at Rutgers. Led by freshman sensation Orleans Darkwa, the Tulane offense posted its highest point total in 6 years, and with 7 starters returning, QB Ryan Griffin and the offense appear poised for a big 2011 season. Defensively, the Green Wave gave up an average of over 37 points per game, but return 7 starters in 2011, including two star transfers. Former Duke LB Trent Mackey and former Iowa DE Dezman Moses have both developed into All-Conference USA candidates and headline the 2011 Tulane defense. Overall, it appears that the Green Wave are prepared to improve upon last season’s 6th place finish and compete for the program’s first winning season since 2002.

Speaking of 2002, we are fortunate enough to have help from Stephen Segari, a member of the Green Wave program from 1999-2002 and a current moderator at goTULA.NEt. Stephen has a unique perspective on Tulane Football and we know you’ll enjoy reading his thoughts on Duke’s September 24th opponent.

BDN: Tulane and Duke are far from familiar foes, having last met on the gridiron in 1973. Both teams, however, have had similar struggles in recent years, with the Green Wave’s last winning season in 2002 and the Blue Devils’ last bowl trip all the way back in 1995. What are some of the challenges that have led to Tulane’s recent struggles? With four straight losing seasons, is Head Coach Bob Toledo on the hot seat in 2011?

Through the years, the biggest challenge to success of Tulane football has been Tulane. With self-imposed admission standards above the NCAA minimum, the Green Wave are at an immediate disadvantage and must work hard to bring in the same high school talent other schools can easily accept. While a lot of the blame does fall on Toledo and the coaching staff for the dismal record the past 4 seasons, many fans recognize that the coaches are working with one hand tied behind their backs.

Toledo is definitely on the hot seat in his 5th season. Anything short of a bowl appearance (the Greenies need 7 wins this year because of the 13 game schedule ending with Hawaii), Toledo will be shown the door. Others feel that regardless of a bowl game and the season outcome, Toledo will move on and/or retire.

BDN: As a member of the last Tulane team to post a winning season, can you summarize your experience as a Green Wave football player? What are the strengths of the Tulane program and where do you think the program is headed in 2011 and beyond?

Coming off of the perfect 12-0 season of 1998, the Green Wave were poised to have their 3rd winning season in a row in 1999. Instead of hiring offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez to replace the departing Tommy Bowden, the Tulane president and athletic director went in a different direction and hired Chris Scelfo. His first year was my freshman year. Playing for the Green Wave was tough, challenging, and in the end, definitely rewarding. In my senior year of 2002, we were invited to play in the Hawaii bowl on Christmas night and finished with a record of 8-5. Of course, the 2002 season was the last winning season for Tulane Football. There are still way too many questions, and not enough answers, for the program in 2011 and beyond. For the program, it’s time for the athletic director Rick Dickson, and university president Scott Cowen to step up, drop the flawed Tulane Model (higher admission standards for athletes vs. NCAA minimums), actively communicate with the Tulane athletics community, and direct adequate resources (both financial and facilities) to Tulane football.

BDN: The Green Wave finished 2010 with a 4-8 record, which included an impressive road win at Rutgers and the team’s highest offensive output in six seasons. Can you give us a brief scouting report on emerging star RB Orleans Darkwa? With the loss of offensive coordinator Dan Dodd, what changes do you expect to see on offense in 2011?

Running backs Orleans Darkwa and Andre Anderson are head and shoulders above the rest of the offense. Compared to the offensive line and wide receiver play during Spring ball, much of the burden will be on the shoulders of Darkwa this fall. Look for Orleans to pick up right where he left off last year, where his rookie rushing total surpassed the former record set by current Pittsburgh Steeler Mewelde Moore. The loss of Dodd shouldn’t have that noticeable of an effect on the offense, since Toledo and Dodd were so close at the hip.

Former Blue Devil LB Trent Mackey anchors the Tulane defense. Photo credit: tulanegreenwave.com

BDN: Similar to the Blue Devils, Tulane struggled to slow their opponents’ offenses in 2010. Former Blue Devil Trent Mackey has quickly developed into an All-Conference-quality linebacker at Tulane and leads the Green Wave defense along with Iowa transfer DE Dezman Moses. What adjustments have been made this offseason to improve on 2010′s results? What should be the strengths and weaknesses for the Tulane defense in 2011?

Special teams in 2010 were a real deal breaker for the Green Wave, specifically the kickoff team. With the average starting position of opponents’ at or near the 40, the Tulane defense often had their backs to the wall even before stepping on the field. Through spring ball, no noticeable, major changes were made to the defense from last year. Mackey and Moses were the 2 defensive standouts of the spring game. The linebacking core looked solid, but the DB still had some work to do… many blown coverages in the 2010 season. The strengths should definitely be Mackey and Moses (defensive line and linebackers) with our possible weaknesses being our secondary.

BDN: With two relatively unknown opponents, it’s difficult to predict the outcome of the September 24th showdown in Durham. What do you expect to see from Duke and what does Tulane need to do to pull off a key non-conference road win?

Every matchup in the 2011 season will be a challenge for Tulane. No games are given wins. I look for a tough fought 60 minutes of football. For Tulane to have a chance to be in the game at the end, we will need to eliminate the mistakes that plagued us last season: No more kickoff returns for opponents past the 40, no more blown DB coverages, and improved blocking by the o-line.

We look forward to playing the Blue Devils, but know that every game is a must win, and every game will be a challenge.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Stephen!

 

Previous week: September 17, Duke at Boston College

Next week: October 1, Duke at Florida International

Bayard Rustin WR Anthony Nash committed to Duke in July

Duke Football gets a commitment from 6’4″ WR Anthony Nash

Bayard Rustin's Anthony Nash committed to Duke on Sunday

Despite the recent success of Duke’s All-ACC receivers Donovan Varner and Conner Vernon, the program has lacked a long, physical receiver to create match-up problems with opposing cornerbacks. On Sunday, the Blue Devils added exactly that type of player with the verbal commitment of 6’4” 180 pound wide receiver Anthony Nash. Nash had a standout junior year at Bayard Rustin HS in West Chester, finishing with 62 catches for over 1300 yards and 16 touchdowns. His efforts earned him 1st Team All-League and 2nd Team All-Area in Pennsylvania. After a slow start to his recruitment, Nash made a name for himself on the east coast summer camp circuit. The big receiver chose the Blue Devils over North Carolina, Boston College, Purdue, and Penn State. BDN first spoke with Anthony after he earned a scholarship offer at Duke’s camp earlier this summer, and the newest Blue Devil checked in with BDN again shortly after he spoke with the Duke coaching staff today.

 

BDN: How did you come to the decision to commit to Duke today?

I had a conversation with my coach and my family and were talking about all the schools. We were talking about Duke and North Carolina, because I went to North Carolina this weekend. And I just felt like Duke would be the better fit for me for my future and my education in the long run. So I went with Duke.

BDN: You mentioned North Carolina as a school you were considering. What other schools were you seriously considering?

Boston College, Purdue, and the other school was Penn State.

BDN: What did the Duke coaching staff have to say when you informed them of your decision today?

They were thrilled. They were really happy. They were pumped up. Definitely Coach Cut, I talked to him and he said I made his day, so that felt good.

BDN: What are your plans for the rest of your summer?

Just to keep working hard and focus on my senior year.

BDN: Is there anything you want to say to Duke football fans?

Just be excited. Be excited.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Anthony, and congratulations.

Thanks!

Austin Rivers interview from N.C. Pro Am

BDN caught up to Austin Rivers during the N.C. Pro Am this past Thursday.  Rivers seems relaxed in the spotlight and has been working with former Duke great Jay Williams.  After the game he was surrounded by his family who came our to see him play and the aforementioned Williams.  You will also see an appearance from Kyrie Irving sporting his Cleveland Cavaliers brim.

BDN Premium bringing the heat – Las Vegas coverage begins

It’s hot as Hades outside but it’s even hotter inside Blue Devil Nation Premium as our unmatched AAU Basketball coverage continues starting mid day.  Thus far, BDN has had representatives at 95% of all the major events and that allows us to live stream information shortly after it happens on the members only message board.

Recruitiniks across the nation all know that Las Vegas features three key tournaments as the season winds down.  BDN’s Recruiting Analyst Andrew Slater is on the scene in Sin City to bring you his own unique style of coverage that’s a major hit with our members.

Slater is all about the details and he let’s you know who the Duke coaches and other coaches are watching and brings you incredibly informative and in depth interviews with key Duke targets.  He is well prepared and informed for what to look for so that his reporting is extremely efficient.

He reaches into a vast pool of knowledge of the circuit and as always has a complete Duke focus unlike most corporate sites that depend on their national guys.  It’s a form of personal coverage that makes fans feel like they are right there.

Just go to the BDN Premium tab up top and look at the vast amount of prospect interviews we’ve had after covering the Adidas Invitational, LeBron James Skills Academy and the Nike EYBL Peach Jam.  And the archives are full of prior offerings of interest as well.

BDN Premium has set itself apart from our competitors every summer and it’s time for you to see what you are missing.  If you want to be well informed and constantly entertained by our Duke-centric coverage, join today!

Exciting changes are in the works at BDN Premium as well and you can be a part of that as it starts unfolding in the near future.  If it is a Duke Athletic happening, BDN is always on the scene, live and in person

If you are not satisfied with what you see, I will give you 24 hours and send you a full refund upon request.  That is how certain we are that you’ll love Blue Devil Nation Premium, our extended all access site subscription.

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Football Friday summoned the psychic world to assist with 2011 ACC Football predictions

BDN’s Football Friday Prognosticates

So, how are you beating the heat? Well, here’s a suggestion. Find yourself a cold beverage and sit down for some Football Friday here at BDN. If you aren’t a BDN Premium Member yet, you’re really missing out. Go ahead and join now to get the best coverage of Duke, year-round. All the cool kids are doing it.

The Duke secondary suffered a blow this week with the loss of Issac Blakeney for 2011

Issac Blakeney out for 2011

Head Coach David Cutcliffe announced on Thursday that safety Issac Blakeney has been suspended from the university for failure to meet continuing academic eligibility requirements and will miss the 2011 season. “Issac is a valuable member of the Duke Football family and I look forward to him returning to full eligibility in January of 2012,” said Cutcliffe.

Obviously, this is a huge blow to the Blue Devils’ depth at safety. Those who saw Blakeney in the spring game got a glimpse of his potential in the Duke secondary. In order for the new 4-2-5 scheme to be successful, players like August Campbell, Jordon Byas, and maybe even true freshman Chris Tavarez will have to step up alongside seniors Matt Daniels and Lee Butler. BDN wishes Issac the best of luck as he gets himself back on track; we’re pulling for him.

Football Friday summoned the psychic world to assist with 2011 ACC Football predictions

2011 ACC Predictions

In anticipation of the ACC’s Football Kickoff, Football Friday would like to share some of our completely unqualified predictions for the 2011 ACC football season. We figured that by next Friday, you will have heard enough media predictions, but this week, you’ll read every word. Here is the most important prediction we’ll make: none of these predictions will matter by December. In fact, most will be thrown out the window by September 3. In a year where only THREE teams will return their unquestioned starting quarterback from 2010, our second prediction is that the ACC will be pure chaos in 2011. Please keep these first two predictions in mind as we prognosticate.

The road to Charlotte will have to go through the defending ACC Champs in Blacksburg

ACC Coastal Division

The last four ACC Champions have come from the Coastal Division, and for that reason, we start here.

  1. Virginia Tech: the road to Charlotte still has to go through defending ACC Champion Virginia Tech, who lose ACC POY Tyrod Taylor, along with tailbacks Ryan Williams and Darren Evans. Overall, the Hokies return just 11 starters, 6 on offense and 5 on defense (including just one defensive lineman). All accounts suggest that redshirt-sophomore QB Logan Thomas and junior TB David Wilson are poised for breakout seasons for the Hokies. Head Coach Frank Beamer seems to have the annual luxury of reloading his roster, rather than rebuilding it, and the Hokies should put together another top-25 season and hold the top spot in the ACC Coastal Division.
  2. Miami: I’m probably buying the Hurricanes a little early in their first year under Al Golden, but by all accounts, the new Head Coach knows how to recruit and knows how to win. Miami has always had talent, and with better discipline and execution, I think this will be a much improved team over recent editions. Road contests at Maryland, Virginia Tech, UNC, and Florida State will pose a significant challenge, but the Hurricanes have some of the best athletes in the conference.
  3. Georgia Tech: I always underestimate Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jackets, so they’ll probably finish higher ( I didn’t want to break from tradition). There are several unproven new faces on offense and Al Groh’s defense needs to take a big step forward, but mostly, I think GT has one of the more favorable schedules, with their only ACC road contests at NC State, Virginia, Miami, and Duke.
  4. North Carolina: I’m selling the 2011 Tar Heels, and I realize I have them lower than most pundits. There are too many unsettled off-field issues, a first-year starting quarterback, the loss of a bunch of NFL draft picks, and a schedule that includes road games at Georgia Tech, Clemson, NC State, and Virginia Tech. Reading between the lines, it seems that even embattled Head Coach Butch Davis has been attempting to lower expectations, calling this a “transition year” for the program.
  5. Duke: As you can see by my underwhelming review of the Coastal Division teams in front of them, if things go right in Durham, there’s no reason Duke couldn’t end up with their highest finish in several years. Realistically, the young defensive line will have to mature ahead of schedule and the offense will have to prove it can run the ball consistently for Duke to become a serious threat in the division.
  6. Virginia: Many will probably place UVA ahead of Duke, but I’m not sold on the 2011 Wahoos, especially given their quarterback controversy. I interpreted the reports out of Charlottesville to indicate that none of their inexperienced QBs performed well enough to earn the starting job, which is an ominous sign for a team that also loses its leading rusher. Sure, Chase Minnifield and the defense should be solid, but road tests at UNC, Miami, Maryland, and FSU will be a stiff challenge.

    The Seminoles appear ready to challenge for an ACC Championship in 2011

ACC Atlantic Division

Though the Coastal Division has produced the last four ACC Champions, the Atlantic Division Champion should challenge for an Orange Bowl berth in 2011. I’m not sure there will be significant improvement elsewhere in the division, however.

  1. Florida State: Florida State claimed the Atlantic Division title in 2010 in Jimbo Fisher’s first season as Head Coach, and the Seminoles show no sign of slowing down. FSU will return a veteran group in all three phases in 2011 with 18 starters returning overall. Of all the ACC’s new full-time starting QBs, junior EJ Manuel has the most experience, having filled in for the injury-plagued Christian Ponder in each of the last two seasons. The expectation is that the 2011 Seminoles will be the class of the ACC, and should they win on September 17th against Oklahoma, they could vault towards the top of the national computer rankings.
  2. Clemson: With the recruiting classes Head Coach Dabo Swinney is bringing in, they have to be better than 6-7, right? That’s pretty much my basis for placing them here. They do draw FSU at home, but are stuck with facing the two Techs from the Coastal Division, both on the road. I’ve heard good reports about new QB Tajh Boyd and new OC Chad Morris’ offense, but maybe the Clemson folks have just been drinking too much orange Gatorade.
  3. Boston College: I really like the 2011 Eagles team and think they have the potential to make a lot of noise in the ACC, but have one of the toughest schedules. Their defense can be dominant at times and their offense should be improved if Chase Rettig can develop consistency and chemistry with his receivers. Montel Harris and Andre Williams should be one of the top tailback duos in the conference, if not the country. Division games at Clemson and a nationally-televised Thursday night home game against FSU will likely determine whether the Eagles will be serious contenders for the Atlantic division title.
  4. NC State: new QB Mike Glennon better be good, and he better be good from his first snap. With the transfer of Russell Wilson, all eyes will be on Glennon and fans will be quick to turn on Head Coach Tom O’Brien and the Wolfpack if things don’t go swimmingly. The Wolfpack probably have one of the lightest schedules in the ACC and will also probably finish higher than I have them picked as a result, but I don’t know if Glennon can live up to expectations, and I don’t know if he knows who he’s going to throw the ball to.
  5. Maryland: The surprise team of 2010 earned Ralph Friedgen ACC Coach of the Year honors and a pink slip. New Head Coach Randy Edsall will have a veteran team to work with, but even with ACC Freshman of the Year Danny O’Brien back under center, the offense will not be nearly as explosive with the loss of WR Torrey Smith and RB Da’Rell Scott. The Terps will face a tough ACC road schedule and the offense will experience growing pains without its top two weapons from 2010.
  6. Wake Forest: Of all the picks, this one may be the easiest. I don’t see a ton of reason for optimism in Winston-Salem, though the Deacs will return 17 starters from last year’s squad that finished with a 1-7 ACC record (yes, the 1 win was against Duke). We say it every year, but this is a must-win game on the schedule for Duke (and every other ACC team).

ACC Champion: Florida State

ACC Player of the Year: EJ Manuel, Florida State

ACC Coach of the Year:  Al Golden, Miami

Ok, now that all of that conventional stuff is out of the way, let’s look at some fun categories.

Coaches on the Hot Seat

I think there are four, at varying levels.

Butch Davis: how he still has a job is a mystery to most objective observers.

Dabo Swinney: we know he can recruit, but how long does he have to prove he can coach?

Jim Grobe: almost unthinkable just a few years ago, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of optimism in Winston-Salem these days and another finish in the cellar would have to put him on shaky ground.

Tom O’Brien: he must enjoy working without job security in Raleigh. After winning support with an impressive 2010 season, the questionable handling of the Russell Wilson situation has placed the Wolfpack Head Coach back under scrutiny.

ACC Game of the Year

October 8, Miami at Virginia Tech

ACC Bust of the Year

I think this is a neck and neck race with the UNC and NC State quarterbacks. I’m not suggesting they’re not ultimately going to be good players, but there’s a ton of pressure on them in their first season as starters. Bryn Renner at least has a good group of receivers returning, so I’ll say that Glennon will struggle to live up to the unrealistic expectations placed on him by Russell Wilson’s departure.

ACC Surprise of the Year

Maybe I’m a year or two ahead of myself here, but I really think Al Golden is going to put the Miami Hurricanes back on the map. He’ll have to figure out his quarterback situation, but he’s got an All-ACC caliber running back in Lamar Miller and a ton of high-level athletes across the depth chart. I think the rest of the conference has forgotten just how good “The U” can be.

Can the Blue Devils upset the Tar Heels and re-claim the Victory Bell this year?

ACC Upset of the Year

For the sake of the conference, let’s all hope that we don’t see another FCS team upset an ACC opponent as we have in recent years. But within the conference, let’s say that the Blue Devils travel to Chapel Hill on November 26 with a 5-6 record. The Tar Heels have been mired in controversy all season and the public outcry against Head Coach Butch Davis continues to mount. Behind huge performances from seniors Donovan Varner and Cooper Helfet, the Blue Devils emerge with the Victory Bell and secure bowl eligibility for the first time since the 1994 season.

Hey, I figured I’d end on that note to leave you feeling good about the upcoming season. With regards to all these predictions, as they say, that’s why they play the games. BDN will have full coverage from next week’s ACC Football Kickoff in Pinehurst and of course,  we’ll follow the Blue Devils all season long. WE ARE DUKE.