BDN Recruiting analyst Andrew Slater is currently sending back live reports to members on the Blue Devil Nation Premium Message Board. He's checking out the skills portion of opening night at the LeBron James Skills Academy and he'll float to Akron for the Adidas Invitational this week. He will of course be checking in with all the major Duke prospects as the coaching staff can see prospects play during the open period and will be present at the events. Don't miss any of the reports from BDN by joining today. We set the standard for complete AAU Basketball coverage of Duke prospects and we are sure you'll enjoy what we have to offer. Whether you like in person player analysis, prospect videos, or our famous in depth interviews, BDN brings you the highest quality of coverage available on any Duke site.
Is it September 3rd yet? Well, not quite, Duke Football faithful, but we know the feeling. With 60 days until kickoff, it's no longer too early to take an in-depth look at Duke's 2011 opponents. Over the next several weeks, BDN will team up with other college football insiders to preview the 2011 Duke schedule. Season tickets are on sale now at GoDuke.com, or through the Duke Ticket Office at (919) 681-BLUE.
For the Blue Devils, there is no game more important than the first one, which is a September 3rd matchup with the Richmond Spiders under the lights in Wallace Wade Stadium. Duke has opened with home games against the Spiders twice in recent years, and Richmond has emerged victorious in both contests. The last meeting occurred in 2009; the Spiders were the aggressors from the start, spoiling the opening to Duke QB Thad Lewis' record-setting senior year with a 24-16 victory. Though the Blue Devils outgained the Spiders overall, Richmond was able to control the line of scrimmage, stifling the Duke running game and scoring two touchdowns on the ground. Mike London has since left the program for Charlottesville, and in 2010, the Spiders finished 6-5 under first year Head Coach Latrell Scott. Though many of the coaches and players have changed, the Spiders are still expected to be among the top programs in the FCS in 2011, and their strengths continue to be along the line of scrimmage. In 2010, Duke struggled to consistently run the ball effectively and was among the worst FBS defenses against the run, making the 2011 opener with Richmond an intriguing early season test for the Blue Devils.
To get an inside look at the 2011 Spiders, BDN was fortunate enough to have the help of David Weissman, Online Sports Editor for The Collegian at the University of Richmond.
BDN: Richmond will have to replace several starters from last year's defense, including CAA Defensive Player of the Year Eric McBride. Which players are expected to step up this fall, and which positions still have question marks?
BDN: Richmond has won both of their last two trips to Durham. Why do you think the Spiders have had success against the Blue Devils?
BDN: If you were an opposing coach, how would you plan to attack the Richmond defense and slow the Spiders' offense?
Next Week: September 10, Stanford at Duke.
Firstly, Happy Independence Day Blue Devil Nation! We've taken it easy around here this holiday weekend in order to recharge our batteries for what will be a busy month. BDN has a long track record of covering all of the major recruiting events to bring you our always dependable coverage which has set the standard for all who cover the Blue Devils. The basketball coaches are allowed on the road in July and they'll be putting in a lot of miles in the air while narrowing down who they'll continue to recruit.
The North Carolina Pro Am is underway as well with the action getting going again this Thursday. BDN was in attendance for the opening session which featured Nolan Smith rocking his newly fitted Portland Blazers shorts. The only active Duke player there was Mason Plumlee, who dropped 24 points, almost all on dunks helping his team shake off a 5 point half time deficit to win by 18. There may or may not be a lot of players there this week, but you can bet that the following week will be quite interesting. BDN has a long history of NC Pro Am coverage, so bookmark us now.
There has been a bevy of new Duke Football verbals of late where Coach David Cutcliffe and his staff are filling their needs at breakneck pace. Be sure to check out our football recruiting coverage which is making waves of late. Duke kicks off their season in 61 days against Richmond. BDN will cover pre season practices in August, so stay tuned for weekly reports from camp. Coach Cutcliffe also announced some changes to football staff this past week.
At the end of the month, I head to the ACC Football Kickoff event in Pinehurst, North Carolina. There, I will predict the conference standings and first two All ACC teams. I'm already settled in with most of my predictions but there are some key battles for a couple of All ACC spots. Speaking of key battles, I am really looking forward to the Oklahoma at Florida State game on September the 17th for a Nole upset would be a huge boost for the conference. The Noles are my clear pick for first in the Atlantic Division.
After an untimely and serious eye injury, former Duke standout Jon Scheyer is joining Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel. This team is of course a big time European League power where Scheyer will get plenty of exposure, much like former Blue Devil Trajan Langdon who recently retired from CSKA Moscow who made the All Decade Team.
In the "In case you missed it," department, check out this article former Duke great, Dick Groat. I remember his jersey hanging in Cameron Indoor Stadium when it was still called Duke Indoor Stadium back in the day. Is this where I enter my "Everything was better back in the day," schtick? Seriously, Groat was a phenomenal baseball player with the Pittsburgh Pirates and a hoops legend in the fifties while at Duke. I always thought to myself, "Man that jersey looks small," but a look at Groats accomplishments makes me realize that it must have been an optical illusion.
One thing for certain is that players need to be careful in certain settings these days. Social Media has opened up a venue for their thoughts to be read by all. The problem is that some fans or say twitter followers, indeed have their own agenda and some are just plain whack. Kyrie Irving is the latest victim in that he has quite the stalker who seems more than just a little intent on causing the top draft pick some trouble. Check out this link where Adam Zangoria offers his two cents and be careful what you think is factual. Again, social media has created a forum which flat out obsessed people can attempt to harass you and yes, even I have been a victim of this.
When you're the head coach of an ACC football program, it can be hard to get away. Duke Head Coach David Cutcliffe knows the feeling, as he and his family have been on vacation this past week, while his phone has continued to ring with prospects wanting to commit to the Blue Devils. On Saturday, Coach Cutcliffe received the good news from Michael Westray, a 6'2" 185 pound safety prospect from Westlake HS in Waldorf, Maryland. Duke fans should be familiar with the Westlake program, as it is also the alma mater of freshman Duke LB Jon Woodruff. After playing primarily defensive line at Westlake, Woodruff is making the transition to linebacker at the college level. The newest Blue Devil, Westray, will make a similar move, as he slides over to safety after playing mostly cornerback in high school. Westray earned offers this summer from Duke and North Carolina State after impressive performances on the camp circuit, where he was clocked with a 4.4 second 40-yard dash. Prior to his commitment, Westray had also received interest from Maryland, Penn State, Pittsburgh, and Wake Forest. The Duke coaching staff is excited to see Westray develop at safety, and believe they have stolen two very good prospects out of Maryland this year in Westray and DE Allen Jackson. Blue Devil fans can get a look at Westray's junior highlights here.
BDN caught up with the newest Blue Devil over the holiday weekend.
BDN: How did you arrive at your decision to commit to Duke?
Duke has always been there from day one, as part of my recruiting process as a player, as a student-athlete. They were one of the first schools to show me attention and they’ve been showing it consistently. My recruiting coordinator, Coach Zac Roper, has been very close to me, my head coach, and my family as a whole. That’s been a big part of my commitment. I’ve been to the campus twice, once for the camp and one on an unofficial visit. I enjoyed myself both times, I enjoyed the coaching staff and I enjoyed the whole vibe I got there. Another thing is one of my teammates from last year commited to Duke as well, Jonathan Woodruff.
BDN: How did you inform the Duke coaching staff about your decision and what did they say to you?
I was in the office of my high school head coach, and we called Coach Cutcliffe. He called Coach Cutcliffe directly and I said, “Coach, I want to be a Blue Devil.” He was excited, he was on vacation actually, and he said “well my vacation is going to be a whole lot better now, my dinner is going to taste a lot better tonight,” and stuff like that.
BDN: You’ve played all over the field in high school. Where do the coaches see you fitting in at Duke and what do you hope to bring to the program?
They put me at safety and I really hope to be an impact player for the team, get after this ACC championship.
BDN: Now that you’ve made your decision, what are your plans for the rest of your summer?
I’m just focusing on my football team, my high school football team, preparing, lifting weights, things like that.
BDN: Thanks a lot, Mike, and welcome to Duke.
Even on a holiday weekend, it’s still time for BDN’s Football Friday, a weekly look inside the world of Duke Football. If you enjoy this weekly column, please consider becoming a BDN Premium Member and joining our growing community of Duke Football fans. As we say goodbye to the month of June, it’s time to look back at an eventful month in Duke Football, and look ahead to the 2011 season, which kicks off in just 63 days!!! Of course, it's always football season at Football Friday.
It’s finally here!
Next week kicks off the release of college football’s preseason award lists. What, you thought I was talking about Harry Potter? Oh, please. Starting on Tuesday, the College Football Awards Association will release their preseason award watch lists. While Duke still has a long way to go in regards to earning the respect of the national college football community, there are a few Duke players who should be nominated. On Wednesday, the Biletnikoff (top WR) and Mackey Award (top TE) watch lists will be announced, and Duke’s Conner Vernon, Donovan Varner, and Cooper Helfet are certainly deserving of consideration. As a 2010 semi-finalist, Duke’s Will Snyderwine should be named to the Lou Groza Award watch list on Thursday. Of course, the awards will ultimately be earned on the field, but it’s important for Duke players to receive the preseason recognition they deserve.
Changing of the guard
Head Coach David Cutcliffe announced a few changes to his football staff today. “We are very excited with our recent hires and adjustments to the staff,” Cutcliffe stated. “I have either coached or fostered long term relationships with each of these young people and their families. It is great to surround yourself with people you deeply care for and know are winners on and off the field. We approach the 2011 season with great enthusiasm." Among the changes, the staff welcomes back former Blue Devil All-American defensive lineman Vince Oghobaase as a staff assistant. John Russell, a former NFL and Wake Forest linebacker, joins the staff as a graduate assistant, and current recruiting assistant Ben Loebner has been promoted to a graduate assistant. Former Duke All-ACC cornerback Leon Wright has been named a Defensive Operations assistant and Jomar Wright switches his title from graduate assistant to recruiting assistant. Marcus Johnson, a former NFL and All-SEC offensive lineman, joins the Duke strength and conditioning staff. Welcome to all the new coaches, and good luck this fall!
Boy, that escalated quickly…
Duke entered the month of June with four verbal commitments in the class of 2012: TE Erich Schneider, DE Allen Jackson, SAF Dwayne Norman, and LB Deion Williams. We now leave the month of June with twelve verbal commitments, capped off by a big week, in which the Blue Devils added their QB of the future in Thomas Sirk and one of the top TEs in the state in Dan Beilinson. BDN members were the first to hear about these commitments, and we’ll continue to bring you the best Duke Football recruiting coverage around.
Get ‘em while they’re hot…
With only a handful of scholarships remaining in the class of 2012, Duke is hoping to land a few impact players over the next several weeks. As we’ve mentioned earlier, the Blue Devils will need to add a RB in this class, and Tarboro’s Todd Gurley, along with Charlotte’s Jela Duncan, remain the coaching staff’s top two priorities. Gurley recently won a national championship in track and will represent the US in France later this summer. The Duke staff continues to work hard on the recruiting trail, hoping to cap off the class of 2012 with a program-changer or two like WR Drae Bowles or DT Korren Kirven. A quick look at the 2011 Duke roster shows that Duke will graduate 18 players this season. Duke is certainly hopeful that the group of redshirt-juniors will stay with the program for their final year of eligibility in 2012, meaning that scholarships are getting tight in the class of 2012. For those remaining prospects considering Duke offers, the smart move would be to act quickly.
“I’m going to go out on a limb and say they’ll go bowling…”
With the NFL lockout dragging on, Duke has been fortunate to have former QB Thad Lewis around campus for most of the summer. BDN caught up with the Blue Devil record-holder earlier this summer, and GoDuke featured an interview earlier this week. Thad has big expectations for Sean Renfree and the Blue Devils in 2011, and after leading Duke to 5 wins in his senior year, he knows what it takes to win in the ACC.
Reasons for optimism
Overall, there is tremendous optimism around the Duke Football program, and many fans (with a few outspoken exceptions) have high hopes for the 2011 season. Starting next week, BDN will take an in-depth look at each of Duke’s 2011 opponents, beginning with the Richmond Spiders. We’re fortunate to have been able to team up with some great writers from other schools to give us an inside look at Duke’s competition. In general, though, we know Duke faces a tough schedule this fall, and after a 3-win season in 2010, why all the optimism? Before we start analyzing Duke's opponents, let’s take a brief look at some 2010 statistics, and a 2011 position group assessment.
- In 2010, Duke lost 4 games by 6 points or less.
- Duke had 43 trips to the redzone in 2010, but found the end zone only 22 times, barely 50% of the time. Luckily, pre-season All-ACC kicker Will Snyderwine was able to add 16 field goals to help keep the Blue Devils in games.
- The 3rd quarter was unkind to the 2010 Blue Devils. Duke either had a lead, or were within 1 score at halftime in 8 of their 12 games, but only won 3 games.
- Finishing games was also difficult for the 2010 Duke team, as they had a lead or were within 1 score entering the 4th quarter in 6 of their 12 games, but again, only won 3 games.
- Turnover margin may have been the key statistic to Duke’s 2010 season, but there is reason for optimism. Over the first 7 games, Duke had a turnover margin of -12 (21 to 9), but a turnover margin of +1 in their final 5 games (7 to 8).
- The much-maligned Duke defense had difficult pressuring the quarterback all season, but again, there was subtle improvement. With just 4 sacks through their first 6 games, Duke finished with 8 sacks in their final 6 games. Five of Duke’s final six opponents were bowl teams.
QB: Duke returns their top two quarterbacks in 2011 in starting redshirt-junior Sean Renfree and sophomore backup Brandon Connette. With a year of starting experience under his belt, the expectations are sky-high for Renfree, who Coach Cutcliffe described as having a “great” spring. Anthony Boone will add depth to the position after redshirting in 2010.
RB: Duke returns all five of their running backs from 2010, led by junior Desmond Scott, who has paced the Blue Devils in rushing as both a freshman and a sophomore. Duke improved their rushing yards by 46.5 yards per game from 2009 to 2010, and scored 13 more touchdowns on the ground. With all of their top rushers and blockers returning, there is no reason not to expect similar improvement in 2011.
WR: Duke loses Austin Kelly, who had been a solid receiver for the program in his four years in Durham, but brings back All-ACC receivers Donovan Varner and Conner Vernon. Sophomore Brandon Braxton, after catching 14 passes in 2010, is expected to see an increased role as he fills in for Kelly. Tyree Watkins and Corey Gattis are two more underclassmen expected to fill out the depth chart at receiver in 2011.
TE: By the end of the 2011 season, junior college transfer Cooper Helfet established himself as one of Renfree’s favorite targets, and one of the top tight ends in the ACC. After a slow start and a nagging ankle injury, Helfet finished with at least 4 catches in his final 5 games, including a 122-yard game against Virginia. Redshirt-senior Danny Parker rejoins the tight end corps after the graduation of Brett Huffman and Brandon King. Redshirt-freshman Braxton Deaver is expected to compete for a starting spot this fall, and true freshman David Reeves is one of the top prospects in Duke’s class of 2011.
OL: Duke will return four of five starters in 2011, the lone loss being center Bryan Morgan. With Brian Moore sliding over to center from right guard, Duke’s entire offensive line should weigh in at 275 pounds or greater; redshirt-freshman Takoby Cofield and Laken Tomlinson both eclipse 300 pounds and are expected to compete for snaps.
DL: This position is the big question mark on the 2011 Duke team, but there are plenty of reasons to expect improvement over 2010. Despite losing starters Patrick Egboh and Wes Oglesby, Duke will add seven (7!) redshirt-freshmen to the depth chart along the defensive line in 2011. The Blue Devils return redshirt-senior Charlie Hatcher, along with redshirt-junior Kenny Anunike, redshirt-sophomore Justin Foxx, and redshirt-sophomore Sydney Sarmiento. This spring, however, it was the redshirt-freshmen who earned the highest accolades from the Duke coaching staff, led by DE Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo and DT Jamal Bruce. With the coaching of Rick Petri, athleticism of the young redshirt-freshmen, and overall increased depth, this is a unit that should improve week-to-week in 2011 and give the Blue Devils a chance to win ball games.
LB: While most fans are concerned about the Blue Devils’ defensive line, the linebackers are another area that needs to improve from 2010, but has significant losses. Leading tackler Abraham Kromah has graduated along with Damian Thornton and Adam Banks. Standout freshman Kelby Brown returns after knee surgery, but is expected to be a full participant in fall camp. Duke has to hope that junior Austin Gamble and redshirt-sophomore Kevin Rojas, who have shown flashes of potential in the past, are ready for a breakout season in 2011. Coach Jim Collins has developed some great linebackers at Duke, and he will need to work his magic this year, as outside of those top three, the depth chart will be filled with first-year players in redshirt-freshman C.J. France, freshman Kyler Brown, freshman Britton Grier, freshman David Helton, and freshman Jon Woodruff.
CB: The loss of senior Chris Rwabukamba will be sorely missed within the Duke secondary, but the coaching staff believes the Blue Devils have several athletes ready to step up at cornerback, led by redshirt-sophomore Ross Cockrell. Despite an inconsistent freshman year as a starter, Cockrell finished 6th on the team with 60 tackles, and led the Blue Devils with 3 interceptions and was 2nd with 7 pass break-ups. Cockrell should take a step forward, as will senior Johnny Williams, in his second full year at cornerback. Zach Greene, Tony Foster, and Lex Butler will fill out the depth chart, but they may be pushed by freshmen Jared Boyd and Tim Burton.
SAF: The strongest positon group on Duke’s defense is safety, and the new 4-2-5 defense is designed to exploit that strength. Senior Matt Daniels should be poised for an All-ACC caliber year alongside fellow senior Lee Butler. The Duke staff has high expectations for redshirt-sophomore August Campbell and redshirt-freshman Issac Blakeney.
ST: Duke’s special teams has developed into a strength in recent years, and with Will Snyderwine handling the placekicking, it should remain a strength in 2011. Freshman Will Monday is expected to come in and compete with senior Alex King for the starting punter job, and it should be a good competition to watch in August.
Man, I thought it was going to be a short column this week. That never works out. If you’ve missed any of our recruiting coverage over the past month, be sure to catch up, as it is sure to be a sprint to the finish here in July. The entire class of 2011 will be on campus starting this weekend, and on behalf of all of us in the Blue Devil Nation, welcome to Duke! We have big expectations for this class, and we know they’ll have great success in Durham.
Some upcoming highlights to note – we will kickoff our 2011 previews next week with Richmond and Stanford, so be sure to check back for those. We’ll also run an in-depth interview with one of Duke’s top running back prospects this weekend, so check back in between fireworks shows. Be sure to join our Facebook group and follow us on Twitter. Have a great holiday weekend! Until next week, WE ARE DUKE.
Questions? Comments? Let us know!