Former Duke LB Abraham Kromah picks against the BDN Staff

Former Duke linebacker Abaraham Kromah, fresh off a CFL workout, picks against the BDN Staff this week. The standings are ugly. Suffice it to say, Bob Green is still in the lead.

 

Mark Watson - FIU got caught looking ahead last week and lost their first game of the season.  Duke must be on their toes at all times, for FIU is all about the big play.  Duke has now gained confidence, but Renfree will not have as much time as he did against Tulane.  The Blue Devils will go all out in that they have a bye week coming and that effort will help them to their third straight victory.  Duke 34, FIU 28.

Bob Green - FIU will test the Duke defense with their team speed, but the Blue Devils’ overall superior talent level will persevere.  On offense, Duke will look to strike hard early, and achieve balance by mixing some runs and multiple short passes with long throws to deep threat Conner Vernon.  A key statistic to keep an eye on is Time of Possession as through four games Duke is ranked #7 in the FBS at 34:29, while FIU is #104 at 27:06.  With Lee Butler unavailable due to injury, true freshman Jamison Crowder will handle punt return duties in addition to his normal role returning kick-offs.  Before this season is over, I expect Crowder to break out with a big return or two and this weekend in Miami would be a great time for Crowder to shine.   Duke 27, FIU 21

Patrick Cacchio - ESPNU was wise to televise this game, as it should be both entertaining and competitive. Both offenses feature explosive talents that are likely to put up points on the board. The Blue Devil defense is playing with renewed confidence after two victories, while the Golden Panthers will look to fight back from a disappointing conference loss to Louisiana-Lafayette. Uncle Mo is on the Duke side, and it should be enough to carry the Blue Devils into their off week at 3-2 behind another strong performance by Sean Renfree.  Duke 31, FIU 27

Andrew Slater – Florida International will look to get back on track as they take on the Blue Devils for their homecoming game. Their two offensive stars, QB Wes Carroll and WR Ty Hilton, were banged up last week against Louisiana, but are supposed to be healthy enough to go against their second BCS opponent of the season. Hilton was impressive earlier in the season when he racked up 201 yards against Louisville on national television, while the senior Carroll broke many of the school’s passing records on last season’s bowl run. Last week, RB Kedrick Rhodes stepped up and tried to fill the void by rushing for 157 yards in FIU’s first loss of the season. Defensively, they should be concerned about Duke’s resurgent passing attack, which is now averaging over 300 yards per game. QB Sean Renfree has been able to pick apart defenses by throwing short, accurate (72.7% completion percentage) passes to his tough and relatively deep receiving corps. RB Juwan Thompson distinguished himself last week by averaging nearly five yards per carry and getting his first two TDs of the season. The season-ending injury to Kenny Anunike will be a big one as he helped Duke finally establish a consistent pass rush and was the ACC’s sack leader through the first four games. Matt Daniels, the team’s leading tackler, will need to rally the troops and keep the momentum moving forward in South Florida. Even without their two stars, this dangerous FIU team was able to score 31 points last week. FIU 31, Duke 28.

Abraham Kromah - FIU will look to put pressure on Sean Renfree after his most recent performance against Tulane and it will be up to the Blue Devils’ offensive line to neutralize it. If this happens Duke will have a field day, considering the defense is really coming into their own. Senior Safety Matt Daniels is playing like a Thorpe Award finalists and will not allow a pass to be completed nor a run to break for more than 7 yards as he looks to lead the Duke defense to it’s third straight victory. Look for former all-conference receiver Don Varner to have a breakout game, assuming FIU will spend most of their time double covering Vernon (after his stellar performance last week). Duke 28, FIU 10

FIU hosts Duke on October 1 for a Homecoming night game in Miami

BDN Previews Duke’s week 5 trip to FIU

FIU hosts Duke on October 1 for a Homecoming night game in Miami

The Blue Devils will look to make it three in a row on Saturday as they travel to FIU to take on the Golden Panthers. The matchup will be televised on ESPNU at 7PM ET and will also be FIU’s Homecoming Game. Duke evened their record at 2-2 last week with a convincing win over Tulane behind impressive performances by QB Sean Renfree and the Blue Devil defense. Renfree finished with 278 passing yards and 1 touchdown, and added 2 rushing touchdowns as well. The Blue Devil defense held the Green Wave without an offensive touchdown for the first three quarters and allowed just 2.5 yards per carry for the game. Despite numerous injuries, including the loss of ACC sacks leader DE Kenny Anunike for the season, Duke dominated the game, controlling the ball for 36:12 while building a 48-13 lead by early in the 4th quarter.

FIU is one of the youngest programs in the FBS, having played its first season in just 2002. The Golden Panthers are coming off their first winning season in 2010, which saw them claim a Sun Belt Conference co-Championship and a Little Ceasar’s Pizza Bowl victory. When the Golden Panthers take the field, all eyes are on Heisman Trophy candidate T.Y. Hilton, the reigning Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year and one of the most exciting players in all of college football. Hilton lines up at wide receiver for the FIU offense, but also handles the punt and kickoff return duties. This season, Hilton helped FIU to a fast 3-0 start to the season, including over 200 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns against Louisville in week 2. A hamstring injury limited Hilton in week 4 against Louisiana-Lafayette, and the Golden Panthers dropped to 3-1 after a 36-31 defeat to their Sun Belt Conference rival. The Blue Devil defense will have a stiff test on Saturday night as they try to slow the speedy Hilton and the Golden Panthers.

KEYS FOR DUKE

1.       Contain T.Y. Hilton

When you face a talent such as Hilton, the key is to minimize his impact on the game, both offensively and on special teams. The probable return of CB Ross Cockrell should help the Duke defense keep tabs on the speedy Hilton, who is utilized in a variety of roles in the FIU spread offense. With Hilton as his favorite target, redshirt-senior QB Wes Carroll has completed over 61% of his passes and thrown for 3 touchdowns. After injuries to Hilton and Carroll forced FIU to rely heavily on RB Kedrick Rhodes in week 4, expect the Golden Panthers to try and get their passing game back on track against Duke. Paul Asack and Alex King would be wise to try and avoid good return opportunities for the always dangerous Hilton.

FIU's T.Y. Hilton is one of the top players in all of college football

2.       Match FIU’s speed

Relying heavily on the fertile South Florida recruiting grounds, Head Coach Mario Cristobal has built this FIU team around speed, headlined by Hilton, but exemplified up and down the roster. The Golden Panthers are balanced on offense, averaging 198 yards passing and 138 yards rushing per game. Defensively, FIU ranks fifth in the country with 15 sacks per game and has also recorded 7 tackles for loss. On special teams, Hilton averages over 33 yards per kickoff return, good for 4th in the nation. Under David Cutcliffe, Duke has made a deliberate effort to improve their team speed, and it will be put to the test in all phases against a FIU team capable of making explosive plays all over the field.

3.       Protect Sean Renfree

Renfree has played outstanding over the past two weeks, spreading the ball around the field to his deep group of receivers and leading Duke to a top-20 passing offense in the country. The Duke offensive line has allowed 8 sacks so far on the season, but Duke fans have seen Renfree sustain several other hard hits. Against an athletic FIU pass rush, the Blue Devil offensive line will have to provide Renfree enough time to deliver the ball down the field to South Florida natives Conner Vernon and Donovan Varner. If Renfree is able to establish a rhythm with his receivers against a FIU secondary that allowed 363 passing yards to Louisville, the Blue Devils will be in good shape.

GAME ANALYSIS

Turnovers

FIU +2, Duke -3

What a difference a year makes. The Blue Devils have significantly cut down on their turnovers from a year ago and find themselves playing better football as a result. The Duke defense is still struggling to turn opponents over, but have managed to force a few key miscues. With a redshirt-senior QB in Wes Carroll, the Duke defense likely will again have difficulty winning the turnover battle on Saturday.

Sacks

FIU 15, Duke 7

The Duke offensive line will have its hands full as they try to protect Sean Renfree against one of the top 5 pass rushes in the country. FIU’s defensive speed will particularly challenge the Blue Devils with their blitz packages, as they will try to penetrate Duke’s pass protection. With Brian Moore still sidelined, Duke will need another strong effort from redshirt-freshmen Laken Tomlinson and Takoby Cofield.

3rd Down

Duke 46%, FIU 29%

Duke’s success on 3rd down has been a big part of their #7 national ranking in time of possession. The Blue Devils have converted 28/61 3rd down opportunities while holding opponents to just a 38% conversion rate. Conversely, FIU has struggled to sustain drives, picking up just 14/49 3rd downs while allowing opponents to be successful on 35% of their opportunities. Both 3rd and 4th down conversions have been key to their current 2-game winning streak, and they’ll look to continue that success on Saturday.

Explosives

T.Y. Hilton is explosive, and FIU’s speed can burn opponents. If Hilton is allowed to make plays for the Golden Panthers, it will be a long night for Blue Devil fans. Duke, of course, has playmakers of their own. If it is to be a happy homecoming for Conner Vernon and Donovan Varner, Duke will have to continue to get them the ball down the field. Freshman Jamison Crowder showed a glimpse of his explosiveness last week with a punt return touchdown that was later voided by penalty. With Crowder and Hilton in the return game, there will be explosive athletes on both sides of the ball in all phases on Saturday.

Rushing TDs

Duke 10, FIU 9

Coach Cut says, “When you run out of room to throw the football, find a way to run the ball in.” Despite the loss of QB Brandon Connette, RB Desmond Scott, and RB Josh Snead, the Blue Devils have been successful rushing the football in the red zone in their past two contests. In fact, Duke was able to convert all 7 of their red zone chances against Tulane, including 2 rushing scores for Sean Renfree and 2 more for Juwan Thompson. With the possible return of Scott and/or Snead, the Blue Devils will have plenty of weapons to punch it in on the ground. For FIU, Kedrick Rhodes has been the primary threat on the ground, but the always-dangerous Hilton can run it in from anywhere.

Field Goals

FIU 5/6, Duke 2/8

Welcome back, Will Snyderwine the All-American. After a disastrous start to the 2011 season, the Blue Devils’ kicker got back on track with a 40-yard FG against Tulane. Though he is still nursing an ankle injury, Duke fans should be able to breathe a small sigh of relief when the Blue Devils line up for a field goal. FIU’s Jack Griffin has been perfect from inside 50 yards so far in 2011.

Penalties

Duke 20-168 yards, FIU 21-183 yards

The Blue Devils continue to clean up their act, but are far from playing error-free. Against an energized and veteran FIU team, Duke will have a very small margin for error on Saturday, meaning that penalties could be costly. The Blue Devils will have to match the Golden Panthers’ speed with good fundamentals and avoid ill-advised penalties.

PREDICTION

ESPNU was wise to televise this game, as it should be both entertaining and competitive. Both offenses feature explosive talents that are likely to put up points on the board. The Blue Devil defense is playing with renewed confidence after two victories, while the Golden Panthers will look to fight back from a disappointing conference loss to Louisiana-Lafayette. Uncle Mo is on the Duke side, and it should be enough to carry the Blue Devils into their off week at 3-2 behind another strong performance by Sean Renfree.

Duke 31, FIU 27

Sean Renfree talks of the win and this weeks opponent

Blue Devil Nation recently  caught up with an upbeat Sean Renfree who spoke of his rushing touchdowns and overall play against Tulane.  This session was shared and a good portion of the questions were from my pal, Al Featherston of GoDuke.com

How does Duke keep this two game winning streak going?

We’ve got to keep working.  We have some injuries on the team, so we need young guys to come up and step into those positions which I’m sure they will.  If we continue to work and get better we can follow the momentum to the next game.

Were you glad that the Connette or Boone package was sacked in favor of you in the red zone against Tulane?

I don’t think about it that way but we had success every time we were down there against Tulane.  We were able to run it, throw it and it helped that Coach saw we would be able to do that in the red zone against Tulane.  I don’t know what their plan is this week, but haven’t thought about it like that.

You had three running touchdowns in the last two games and three passing touchdowns …

Right … [smiling]

So you are trying to show what you can do in there?

Those runs are not really schemed up for me where I am suppose tp be running the football.  It’s been a case of reading what the defense gives me and when you have to run, you run.  We’ve only had one call where I got the call and I pretty much went in untouched, so there was great blocking.

You seemed to be seeing the field really well in the win over Tulane.  Of course, you had good blocking but can you speak to that?

Yeah, just trying to me more composed.  Out guys were getting open so it wasn’t hard to get those reads.  I just did my job and when the receivers are going to get open, it makes my job simple if I am accurate.

Is it easier to prepare for the coming week after a win or a loss?

Winning makes everything easier and you feel better he next day but it is a challenge for guys to respond, especially after a win.  You still have to make corrections.

Can you speak of Juwon Thompson and his averaging close to 5 yards per carry this season and how that helps?

It makes my job a lot easier and the line doesn’t have to pass block on every play.  It makes us more multiple and keeps defenses on their toes.  If you run the ball successfully, it opens up the play action and we were able to do that a couple of times last week.

Now, if it were me, I’d have spiked the ball and whooped it up after those touchdowns.  You were just really cool about it, all business if you will. [joking] And then you ran back to the bench like it was no big deal.

Uh, [smiling] it wasn’t about me on those touchdowns they were pretty easy and well executed from our guys.  And I don’t want to hear anything from coach, so it wouldn’t be good for me to get a 15 yard penalty or anything like that.  If our guys make big plays they don’t celebrate, so I’m not going to either.

You’re too humble, Sean [laughing]

Yeah, well. [laughing]

You would have had another touchdown if there were NFL rules.  The pass to Vernon would where he slides in untouched, that’s an NFL touchdown.

Right, right, I didn’t think about that.  I’m not too worried, we got it on the one and scored.

How important is it to get to over .500 against Florida International who comes into the game the favorite?

I think if we were to go 3-2 it would help.  We are going to have a break the week after and a bye week, so if we can go into that week on a positive and get everybody healthy that would be great.  But if we are under .500 we have to fight and in ACC play as well to get back even.  It would help us long term if we can get a win this week.

 

 

2011 Nike Peach Jam 003

Offers Rolling in for Matt Jones – will visit Countdown to Craziness

Matt Jones is a 6-5 shooting guard out of the state of Texas where he plays for DeSota High School.  Jones soared up the rankings while playing with his AAU team, the Texas Titans over the summer.  Jones is a a flat out dangerous outside shooter who nails down the three ball on a regular basis.  The Blue Devils offered Jones after Coach K and his staff took a look at him at the Peach Jam in Augusta, South Carolina.  Jones was very excited about the offer at that time and he is looking forward to attending Countdown to Craziness in a couple of weeks.  Since the Duke offer, a lot of other schools starting making their moves.  We are talking the likes of Arizona, Kansas and North Carolina here, so it is safe to say, Jones will not slip under the radar again.  BDN spoke with Jones recently and we discussed the schools recruiting him and his thoughts on them among many other things.  Here is the latest BDN Premium offering for members.

The last time we spoke was during the Peach Jam in July.  What have you been doing since that time?

Since then I’ve just been going to school and doing the work and working out with my high school team.  I have been trying to get stronger, more explosive, things like that.

What kind of team will DeSoto put on the court this year?  Do you have a lot of guys back?

We should be very experienced with a bunch of seniors. I have confidence in that they know what they are doing, so we should have a pretty good team this year and be contenders for the state title.

Now, your projected position at the college level is the off guard.  What position do you play in high school?

In high school, I am sometimes a [private] wing guard, but we play a four guard system and I will play the four.

Can you list the schools that are recruiting you the hardest?

Kansas, Duke , Florida, Arizona, Baylor, just a lot of teams.  North Carolina, Arkansas, teams like that.

What about Kansas?  Can you talk about what you like about them?

I really like Kansas.  Coach Self has been in a couple of times to see me, so they are really good, I oculd see myself going there.

Arizona?

Same, just the same.  Coach Miller is really cool and I like where the team is headed.

How about the other schools listed?

With North Carolina, Coach Williams just tells me what he’s done with players as for Baylor, I really like their coaching staff with Coach Drew, Coach Mills.  Like with Texas, it’s kind of like the home school.

How many of these schools have offered you?

All of them.

When did UNC start recruiting you?

They came in the first or second day they could. Coach Williams and Coach Robinson.  Coach Williams called and offered me and it was a great honor.

Do you talk with other prospects?

I talk to Kasey Hill a lot.

Do you two discuss possibly playing with each other?

Yes sir.  Of course.

I know from past discussions that you are big on faith, playing for an AAU team where it is the center piece.  Can you speak to that and how it helps you?

In life it helps me to make the right decision and gives me more confidence in that I am doing what God wants me to do.  It gives me more things to play for and I want to give God all my glory.  It just makes me work harder and gets me through things people don’t want to do.

You were 6-4 last time we spoke.  Any changes there?

Yes, I’m 6-5, 190 now.

Do you have a favorite basketball memory?

My favorite basketball memory was probably during my freshman year at DeSoto High School and it was a rivalry game in district and I hit the game winning three.

Okay, you know I run a Duke site but we like to try and remain objective around here.  What do you think of Duke?

Duke is great, a great school. Coach K is just a really great person on and off the court, a great mentor and he’s really cool.  I’m really looking forward to going there for Countdown to Craziness and see the campus and social life and atmosphere.  I can definitely see myself going to Duke.

And you will soon be on the Duke campus for Countdown to Craziness ..

I am looking forward to it.  So many people have told me about it and how crazy it is.

Do you speak with any Duke players or prospects?

I talk to Rasheed (Sulaimon) a lot, but not any current players.

What is your basketball dream?

My basketball dream is to get my education doing something I love in playing basketball.  But first, getting a scholorship and going somewhere where I can play for championships and hopefully go to the next level.

What kind of staff do you like?  Easy going, serious or intense, etc.

I mean, I have experienced two coaching styles.  In AAU, it’s a laid-back style and in high school it’s more yelling at you … I am used to both of them.  As long as the coach has the my best interest at heart as a player and person.

And who will help you make a decision on where you will play your collegiate career?

My parents, AAU coaches and high school coaches.

Tell me something about Matt Jones that most people wouldn’t know.

I always wanted to sing so … (laughs) Some people say I get on their nerves, but that’s the way I let it out, so …

And what do you like to sing?

I like singing Beyonce and other stuff.  Whatever I have going at that time.

Thanks for your time Matt and good luck with the process and finding the right school for you.

Thank you. [/private]

BDN chats up Duke LB Kelby Brown

BDN was on hand for today’s weekly football press conference and we caught up to Duke LB Kelby Brown who relishes the role of a leader on defense.

Now that you have a couple of wins, does this create a hunger for more?

Having two straight wins, we’re trying to take advantage and build on that.  I think the more we win the hungrier we’ll get so it’s a great feeling and it’s awesome finally getting a home win. The campus was alive and everybody was excited and people were coming up saying great game and that’s something that we love.  So, the hunger is building and building.

The defense played well against Tulane and only let up a touchdown in the 4th quarter.  Can elaborate about the comfort level with the 4-2-5 defense?

Each week we’ve gained a little more confidence in our defensive scheme.  Obviously last week was a great chance to say, hey look, were going to stop this team and they’re not going to do anything against us and for most of the game that is pretty much how it went.

You are just a sophomore but already a leader on this team.  Can you speak to that?

It’s something that I am kind of used to in that I was a leader in high school.  Even last year I had to kind of step up and lead as a freshman because I am a real vocal person,  so I did to try and keep the energy up on the field.  It’s something that I love to do.  Being a leader is just natural for me.

How tough was it to lose Kenny Anunike for the season?

Hard hit!  He was playing so well and made big play after big play.  He is such a great person to so it is a huge loss.  We have to move forward and have great guys behind him but a tough loss such a good guy.