Wake Forest travels to Duke on October 22 in a tough in-state battle.

Duke will try to snap Wake Forest’s series win streak on October 22

Wake Forest travels to Duke on October 22 in a tough in-state battle.

The Blue Devils and Demon Deacons played a shootout last September in Winston-Salem. Sean Renfree and the Duke offense piled on 48 points, but fell to Wake Forest 55-48 on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Wake Forest has had the Blue Devils’ number in recent years, winning the last 11 contests in the rivalry that dates back to 1889; in fact, Head Coach Jim Grobe has never lost to Duke during his tenure. The in-state rivals will clash again this fall, as the Blue Devils will play host to the Demon Deacons on October 22.

BDN is fortunate to have the help of Blogger So Dear to give us an excellent inside look at the 2011 Demon Deacons.

BDN: After finding themselves on top of the ACC in 2006, Wake Forest is now coming off back-to-back losing seasons in 2009 and 2010. What do the Demon Deacons need to do to return to bowl eligibility in 2011? With Wake Forest picked to finish last in the ACC Atlantic Division again, is it conceivable that Head Coach Jim Grobe could be on the hot seat?

BSD: For Wake to get back to a bowl game this year we will need to make sure that we establish a solid running game and that quarterback Tanner Price stays healthy. Last season the Deacs were caught up in formation changes half way through the year on defense as we moved from a conventional 4-3 to a more exotic 3-4, which provides a different look at the line of scrimmage. Since this change was made half way through the year, and implemented for the first time at the Maryland game (a 5+ touchdown loss), Wake had some struggles on the defensive side of the ball that were hopefully a one season issue. Numbers-wise for Wake to make a bowl our best chances come by beating Syracuse, N.C. State, Gardner-Webb, Maryland, Duke, and Vandy. Of those games, only the Syracuse and Duke games are on the road. It will be difficult to get to six wins simply because of the strength of our schedule. Aside from Gardner-Webb our three OOC games are Vanderbilt, Syracuse, and Notre Dame. We also are unfortunate that we have Virginia Tech and Florida State at home in back to back weeks which are almost assuredly losses as strong as those teams look this year. If those teams were both on the road or even one of them were on the road perhaps we would have an easier game to get a W in from the confines of BB&T Field.

I don’t really think Grobe would be on the hot seat after this year unless we see the same type season as we did last year. While 3-9 is not desirable it’s realistic that Wake Forest is going to have years which are akin to last year. The major criticism that came from the fan base was the way in which we were completely non-competitive in a majority of games. After the Duke game and a 2-0 start, we lost 9 games in a row, most of which were by double digits. If we go something like 1-11 and only beat Gardner-Webb I certainly think his seat would be at least luke warm.

Tanner Price led the Demon Deacons to a shootout victory over Duke last season- Blogger So Dear Photo

BDN: The Blue Devils and Demon Deacons both finished at the bottom of the ACC in defense in 2010, and the teams’ defensive struggles were exemplified in their September 11th 55-48 shootout. Duke is hopeful that a group of young redshirt-freshmen will improve their defensive depth and effectiveness in 2011. With 9 starters returning, what improvements are expected for the Wake Forest defense? What questions remain heading into training camp?

BSD: Like I alluded to earlier, Wake struggled last year on the defensive side of the ball because of the jump we made to the 3-4 halfway through the season. So far this season the defense has looked better in preseason practices, and has really made some strides to get to a competitive level. The 3-4 provides a completely different look up front than the 4-3, an advantage against teams from the get go. A large number of teams in college run the 4-3 look and offenses are used to lining up against it. The 3-4 provides an additional linebacker to the front level and really varies the different ways the blitz can be brought. From the offense’s perspective it can be daunting as there are always seven guys in the box and you never know which side the blitz is coming from or how many guys are coming in on the rush. I’m not expecting Wake to shut everyone out, but I wouldn’t expect Wake and Duke to have a 55-48 shootout when we meet this year in Durham either.

BDN: While the two programs had similar struggles defensively in 2010, Duke and Wake Forest were mirror images of each other on offense. While the Blue Devils were able to move the ball through the air, the Demon Deacons stuck to the ground, led by Josh Harris and Tanner Price. What are the expectations for Harris and Price in their second season of ACC football? What are the keys for the offense to be more consistent in 2011?

BSD: Yeah, both the Deacons and the Devils were able to have at least some consistency on the offensive side of the ball. The biggest question for Wake this year is going to be just that: how consistently will we be able to move the ball downfield? Price and Harris are both sophomores. Harris has the additional experience of a redshirt year, but Price came onto campus late last July and was the starter a month and a half later. Experience is always going to be an issue for quarterbacks where studying tape and just playing the game counts for so much. The key for Wake though aside from these guys is going to have to be the offensive line. While it’s anchored by an experienced group it has really struggled to open up holes for the running game and to adequately protect Tanner. If Price has time to drop back, set his feet, and throw he is deadly accurate, but he simply didn’t have that opportunity much last year. The receiving corps is set up well with senior Danny Dembry as the most likely go to target as a possession guy, junior Chris Givens and sophomore Michael Campanaro as the flankers, and then freshmen Matt James and Brandon Terry as compliments to Dembry as bigger, possession-type receivers. If the line can get some leverage up front, our offense has the potential to be a real threat this year.

BDN: At this year’s ACC Football Kickoff, OG Joe Looney declared the Blue Devils as the Demon Deacons’ biggest rival. From the Duke perspective, the Blue Devils need to start beating their in-state ACC rivals to take the next step forward as a program. Can you describe this rivalry from Wake Forest’s perspective? With all of their recent success against the Blue devils, why do you think the Wake Forest fans and players consider Duke to be their top rival over other ACC programs?

BSD: Since Grobe got to Wake, we have had a ton of success against in-state opponents and it really was one of the keys to Wake’s bowl run a couple of years ago. When I was growing up my view of the Wake-Duke game was that it was a futility battle. No offense to either programs, but I remember a handful of games where the teams combined didn’t have more than 2 or 3 wins so it was always a question mark as to what would happen. The 2006 game with you guys is generally viewed as the most pivotal moment of the season. Had Vaughn not blocked that field goal as time expired to preserve Wake’s 14-13 win, we certainly would not have gone to the Orange Bowl or won the ACC that year. To be blunt though, it is a game that right now I always expect to win. Obviously the 11 game winning streak (dating back throughout Grobe’s entire tenure) will have to end sometime and this year is just as likely as any of them. Wake typically handles Duke fairly well at Wallace Wade though, and a struggle at BB&T. Looney probably considers Duke to be Wake’s biggest rival from a recruiting vantage point, as well as the fact that we have had so much recent success. Both Wake and Duke are battling the same problems in football: small school, lack of a football history, and being in a state where UNC, NC State, and App State, are the first schools thought of when football fans think of North Carolina. For Wake or Duke to be successful on the ACC level I believe they must be successful within the state first and foremost since at least two of the eight conference games every year are against a team from North Carolina.

BDN: The Blue Devils and Demon Deacons are one of the oldest rivalries within the ACC, with the two programs having first met in 1889, with Duke holding a 53-36-2 all-time record, despite Wake Forest’s current 11-game winning streak in the series. In the last few years, it seems that every game between the two schools has come down to the final possession. What do you expect to see from this year’s matchup on October 22nd in Durham?

BSD: I always love watching Wake play Duke, as I said anything can happen and the games are typically exciting (if not nerve-wracking). While it’s pretty early to make a prediction, I honestly believe that Wake will win this one and stretch the winning streak to 12. I’ll certainly be there on October 22nd to watch the game as it’s just a short drive down 40 and tickets are easy to come by. I think that it will probably be another high scoring game as it always is when the teams meet, and that it will probably once again come down to the final possession. Wake needs to force some turnovers, run some zone blitzes to keep Renfree from being able to set his feet and throw deep, and establish a running game to get the victory. I’ll make my way-too-early guess though: 38-34 Wake on a late touchdown run by Harris.

BDN: Thanks so much for answering our questions. Good luck this season!

Previous game: Florida State at Duke, October 15

Next game: Virginia Tech at Duke, October 29

Sean Renfree paced the Blue Devil offense in a situational scrimmage Tuesday evening. -BDN Photo

Renfree Highlights 60-snap scrimmage

Sean Renfree paced the Blue Devil offense in a situational scrimmage Tuesday evening. -BDN Photo

DURHAM, N.C. – Redshirt junior quarterback Sean Renfree completed 12-of-14 passes for 101 yards and one touchdown to highlight Duke’s 60-play situational scrimmage on Tuesday night at the Brooks Practice Facility.

Renfree’s scoring toss covered 10 yards to senior wideout Donovan Varner while senior tight end Cooper Helfet caught a scrimmage-high three passes for 45 yards.

“We got some good work in tonight,” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said.  “We put ourselves in game-like situations to get a better feel.  This is the best camp we’ve had since we’ve been here.  It has been very competitive and very physical.  From August 8th until now, we’ve become a better football team.”

Sophomore running back Juwan Thompson headlined the ground attack with a 20-yard touchdown run.  The Blue Devils scrimmaged without the services of running backs Patrick Kurunwune and Josh Snead, and Cutcliffe expressed concern with the depth at the position.

“Josh Snead got hurt yesterday,” Cutcliffe said.  “We’ll wait for further evaluation by our medical staff before giving an update.  Patrick has missed some time.  Jay (Hollingsworth) has missed some time.  You do the math.”

Duke’s defense received a lift when senior safety Matt Daniels returned a fumble 29 yards for a touchdown.

The Blue Devils open the 2011 season at home against Richmond on September 3 at 7 p.m. in Wallace Wade Stadium.  Tickets are available online at www.GoDuke.com/tickets or by calling the Duke Athletics Ticket Office at 919-681-2583.

Sean Renfree talks recent scrimmage

BDN caught up to Sean Renfree after a recent practice and got his thoughts on his last scrimmage.

How do you feel you perfomed in the scrimmage?

As for my performance, I thought it was lacking at times in situational stuff but we were in a good rhythm throwing the ball there for a while.  Conner, Donovan were great out there and as a group I though we were solid and that the offense was clicking.

You have a lot of offensive weapons this season.  That has to be nice.

No doubt.  When you say we’ve got a lot of good weapons, it’s true.  We’ve got older guys that have proven themselves and they’re some of the best players in the ACC.  Now, we have young players stepping in and making plays.  It’s encouraging to know that when guys come in you won’t miss a beat.

What do you think of the run by Juwan Thompson?

Usually people don’t keep going when Matt hits them like that.  It was truly an amazing run and takes a lot of drive to get hit like that, cut across the field.  He’s a big, strong back and he’ll help us this year.

The running backs looked good today in that the top three guys all had a big day.

To have a run game like that and know you don’t have to throw fifty times a game to win makes a huge difference.

What happened on the turnover where Desmond Johnson got the interception and returned it for a touchdown? [News & Observer]

I was trying to do to much there, it was stupid and I should have taken the sack.  I talked to Coach Roper after and he said you have to know when to take the sack and not always try and make a play.

 

 

 

Monday Musings – Duke goes 3-0 in China, football gearing up

Duke finished up their three game tour of China with a 93-78 victory over the Junior Olympic team.  Fans have to love the intensity Miles Plumlee has brought in the contests.  The senior has an obvious early role as the starter in the middle and the Blue Devils seem to be looking for him more.  His brother, Mason had a nice performance as well.  It is also nice that Ryan Kelly has been very consistent with his play.  And remember, Duke is not near showing their hand or how they’ll attack opposing defenses this coming season.

Seth Curry ran the point guard position well in the Blue Devils victory.  It is pretty clear that Curry is option number one early on in the pre season on the offensive end.  If there are any doubts Curry cannot run the point, they’ve been dispelled.

Coach K has started the process of breaking down talented freshman Austin Rivers game.  In high school, Rivers always had the ball in his hands but at Duke, that will be Curry’s role in that he’ll run the point.  Rivers struggled most of today but he’ll be fine now that he knows the battle that lies ahead.  That battle will be to as so many have said, let the game come to him and dribble less, never pulling up his dribble until he has a good option.  I’m not too worried about Austin, and can assure you that there will be games he takes over this coming season.

Richmond is ranked 16th in the preseason and have won the last two games with Duke.  Make no mistake that Blue Devil fans are ready to defeat the Spiders for both previous losses were devastating in that they were season opening games.  We’ll have a pre season camp review coming tomorrow, so be sure to check back by and see the latest.

The Duke Women’s Soccer team gained their consecutive 2-0 victory to go 2-0 on the season.

And here, you can view game notes for Duke versus Richmond game, which is less than two weeks away.  Be sure to check out the David Cutcliffe radio show which is held at the Washington-Duke Inn and golf club every Monday evening.  You can stop by and watch the show live or tune into 620 the Buzz.

In closing this weeks abbreviated column, here is a link to China Daily where Coach K was asked about his return to where Team USA won Gold.

 

 

Duke and Virginia look headed for another thriller in Wallace Wade Stadium -Lance Images

Duke Football will look to make it 4 in a row against Virginia on November 12

Duke's Desmond Scott dove for the game-winning TD last year against UVA -Lance Images

The Blue Devils emerged victorious against the Cavaliers in a shootout last year in Durham. RB Desmond Scott’s late touchdown run put the Blue Devils ahead and capped the thrilling 55-48 victory. Under Head Coach David Cutcliffe, Duke is 3-0 against Virginia, and will travel to Charlottesville on November 12th to try and extend that streak, while the Cavaliers will certainly be looking for revenge.

This week, BDN welcomes back Kris Wright, editor of TheSabre.com, to answer a few questions about the 2011 Virginia football team.

BDN: The 2010 Cavaliers had an up-and-down injury-plagued season, but return a veteran group of 18 starters in 2011. The depth chart on both sides of the ball is filled with upperclassmen, led by All-ACC candidates Chase Minnifield, Cam Johnson, and Kris Burd. What are the keys for this Virginia team? How good can they be?

The biggest key for this team is doing better with the big play. The defense allowed a ton of big plays last season, including quite a few against Duke, that cost the team a lot of points. Still, the coaches believe those mistakes are correctable and that when the defense played well last season, it played really well. Offensively, UVa ranked last in the ACC in scoring plays of more than 25 yards so that meant the offense had to sustain long drives all the way into the red zone and then execute to score. If some playmakers can crank out some big plays to help put up points, it would take some pressure off the whole team. Long story short: big plays influenced a lot of outcomes for Virginia last season and that’s one area that could improve the overall results. So how good can the Cavaliers be? With a favorable schedule set-up (3 non-conference home games and arguably the most winnable ACC games at home), they have a shot at bowl eligibility in 2011.

Sophomore Michael Rocco appears to be the front-runner for the UVA QB job -TheSabre.com

BDN: Quarterback is undoubtedly the biggest question mark for the 2011 Cavaliers, and it appears to be an interesting competition, to say the least. Recently, it appears that sophomore Michael Rocco has emerged as the leading candidate. Given the overall youth and inexperience at the position, can you give us a brief scouting report on Rocco and the UVA QBs? 

TheSabre.com has projected Michael Rocco as the likely starter since early in spring practice and he does appear to have emerged as the week one starter for now. From a football family full of high school coaches, Rocco has a high football IQ so he processes schemes and reads defenses well. With a decent amount of arm strength thrown in, he looks like a guy that can deliver the ball to a growing list of playmaking options on offense. The debate for the No. 2 QB slot right now is between true freshman and January enrollee David Watford and redshirt sophomore Ross Metheny. Watford is a dual threat quarterback that has good pocket mobility and an improving throwing motion after coming from a run-heavy offense in high school; the biggest question right now for UVa coaches is whether Watford is ready to play now or does he need a redshirt season first. I’m going to bet that he plays at least in a reserve role in 2011. That leaves Metheny, a left-hander with good mobility as well, as the third option. Metheny appears to grasp the offense and do well with the shorter throws so he could be a safe option if the other two quarterbacks can’t take care of the football.

BDN: Though the majority of starters return, the Wahoos will have to replace QB Marc Verica and RB Keith Payne. What are the expectations for the 2011 Cavalier offense? Other than QB, what question marks remain to be answered in training camp?

Virginia does have to replace starting quarterback Marc Verica, the ACC’s leading scorer in running back Keith Payne, and UVa’s leading receiver in terms of 2010 yards Dontrelle Inman. With that said, if the quarterback situation works out, there’s not too much concern with filling those spots at Virginia as offensive coordinator Bill Lazor puts together the system’s second season. Perry Jones matched Payne’s 4.5 yards per carry last season and he finished with nearly 1,000 yards of offense (655 rushing and 262 receiving). You mentioned earlier that Kris Burd is back at receiver and Tim Smith returns from injury there too after showing great promise as a true freshman. The tight ends and offensive line return everyone that was getting significant snaps late in 2010 too. Then you add highly regarded recruits like redshirt freshman Kevin Parks, a Salisbury, N.C. product, and true freshmen Darius Jennings and Dominique Terrell to the mix as well. So it looks like the offense should have some firepower if a quarterback can execute his part of the equation. The biggest question beyond that is who will replace Payne’s points. That’s probably going to be a list of names vs. one guy.

BDN: Given the talent on the UVA defense, it’s hard to believe that Duke was able to put up 55 points a year ago in Durham. With the combination of talent and experience, this appears to be a group capable of dominating ACC opponents. What are the keys for this unit to be successful in 2011? Who is expected to step up alongside Minnifield and Johnson?

No question about it, the defense struggled in a major way in 2010. Duke posted 489 yards and 55 points last season – those numbers were more than 100 yards and 25 points better than the Devils’ season averages. It wasn’t a one-week hiccup either. UVa struggled with almost everyone on the schedule last season. As mentioned earlier, big plays really hurt so that’s the top item to fix. Part of the problem appeared to be the transition from a 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 scheme as well as players swapping positions to bolster the speed on defense. That change didn’t produce a high number of sacks and turnovers as expected though because Virginia wasn’t consistent with a pass rush or in pass coverage. So the coaches hope the second year in the 4-3 helps with a lot of the mistakes and consistency issues. We’ll see. If that improvement is going to happen, some names to watch include defensive lineman Matt Conrath, linebacker Steve Greer, and safeties Rodney McLeod and Corey Mosley. If the middle of the defense plays better, those names will be involved somehow. Also keep an eye on true freshman Demetrious Nicholson at corner – he appears to be a real talent so far in fall camp.

BDN: Virginia and Duke played one of the most exciting games in the ACC in Durham last fall. The Blue Devils have had the Cavaliers’ number under Head Coach David Cutcliffe, winning each of the last three meetings. Virginia will be hungry for revenge on November 12 in Charlottesville. What do you think will be the keys to the game this fall? Can it possibly match last year’s shoot-out?

It’s a long time to November! If I had to guess right now based on last season’s trends, I’d say the keys for Virginia will be containing big plays and Duke’s running threats at quarterback. Those two items basically cost the Hoos a shootout win in 2010. For Duke, I think the keys will be to disrupt a veteran offensive line and the running game to put pressure on the young UVa quarterbacks to perform. I don’t see a shootout forming this time around, though. I’m going to guess the game will be in the 20’s.

BDN: Thanks for your insight, Kris. Good luck this season!

 

Previous week: November 5, Duke @ Miami

Next week: November 19, Georgia Tech @ Duke

Duke Football Practice Reports – QB’s drill in new facility

BDN Photo

BDN will take in this evenings scrimmage and a report will come shortly thereafter.  Coach Cutcliffe is feverishly getting his Blue Devils ready for their home opener against Richmond, a game that is a mere 15 days away.  Here is a practice clip to hold you over while we prepare some good stuff, BDN style for you.  In this clip, the Duke quarterbacks go through a drill in the new practice facility.