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DURHAM – BDN was on hand for the Blue Devils’ final scrimmage of the 2012 preseason, in which the first-team offense scored 7 touchdowns on 7 possessions. In his comments, Head Coach David Cutcliffe was very pleased with his team’s effort on Tuesday night. He also speaks of his disappointment at the NCAA’s decision to deny transfer Jeremy Cash immediate eligibility, and talks about Duke’s Red Zone offense.
DURHAM, N.C. – Redshirt senior quarterback Sean Renfree completed all 10 of his pass attempts for 235 yards and two touchdowns in Duke’s final gridiron scrimmage. The Blue Devils open the 2012 season on Saturday, September 1 at home against FIU.
Renfree hit tight end Issac Blakeney for a 15-yard scoring toss before closing his night’s work with a 75-yard touchdown pass to wideout Conner Vernon. The Renfree-to-Blakeney tandem also hooked up for a 68-yard completion.
Backup quarterback Anthony Boone was four-of-four through the air for 72 yards with a pair of touchdowns. Rookie signal caller Thomas Sirk, operating the second unit and the first string defense, was seven-of-17 passing for 68 yards while rushing seven times for an additional 41 yards.
Duke’s ground game was paced by junior Juwan Thompson, who picked up 72 yards on six attempts, while redshirt sophomore Josh Snead contributed 47 yards on six carries including a five-yard touchdown. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Brandon Connette added two rushing touchdowns on the night.
Duke head coach David Cutcliffe announced that Duke’s appeal to the NCAA for immediate eligibility for transfer Jeremy Cash has been denied. Cash enrolled at Duke in January after spending the previous two semesters at Ohio State.
Mark your calendars for October 19th and 20th, for that will be a heck of a weekend for Duke Athletics. On Friday, October 19th the always popular Countdown to Craziness event kicks off the basketball season, and the following day Duke hosts arch rival North Carolina in football. While schools can kick off the basketball season a week earlier with Midnight Madness-type events, Duke is not doing that this year, so CTC was moved back a week in Durham. Regardless, there will be little sleep for the BDN staff as we cover all the events, as we have in seasons past.
The Meet the Blue Devils football event went down this past weekend, as 1500 Duke fans turned out to meet this season’s team. Fans got a chance to mingle with players and coaches while seeing the positive changes in the football facilities. Duke unveiled its team posters (ripe for autographs for the youngsters) along with the new helmets and new season ticket plans.
Duke Women’s Soccer is hot and ranked #2 in the nation. The team crushed Elon this past weekend, and they next take to the field in the UNC Nike Classic on August 24th at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill.
Be sure to check out our BDN Open Group Facebook Page where we load a lot of photos in an environment that more or less acts as our free message board. Of course, BDN’s only true message board is reserved for premium members, who have full site access where they get all the latest inside tidbits and nuggets on the program, as well as a place to discuss recruiting with other members. Here is a link to the Facebook site, where you can see photos from the latest scrimmage and Meet the Devils Day. BDN Facebook Group
Speaking of photos, BDN has long used our own photographers, and we do not mind others using our pictures — provided proper credit is given. All of our photos are copyrighted, and we enjoy bringing you up close and personal with Duke Athletics through the medium. But far too many other sites are now using photos without permission and without crediting the original source. If you want to use our photos, please contact us beforehand. Most recently, we had to remove two photos from a gambling site whose operators felt it was their right to swipe them and tag them as their own. It’s not.
On a related subject, it’s becoming more apparent to me that on today’s web, it can be hard to tell the difference between opinions offered without benefit of real on-scene access and reporting, and opinions offered by those who do have the benefit of firsthand views of a program. The BDN staff regularly attends all Duke athletic functions and media events. Our team is in the trenches doing the work, enabling us to present an “eyes on” view of the subject matter. Why am I mentioning this? There is a growing trend out there of “reporters” and self-styled “insiders” offering what I’ll generously term “borrowed information.” A recent blog post came to our attention that consisted of BDN reports being simply copied verbatim, with a few minor word changes, and being passed off as the blogger’s own work. The bottom line is that you can trust what you read here as being original in every way. We like what we do, and we make the effort to get out there to cover Duke athletics in a comprehensive, professional, and honest way.
Back to the on-the-field stuff: The September 1 home opener against Florida International looms, and it should be a good one. For those unfamiliar with the Panthers, they return 18 starters from a season ago, when they were a bowl team. The problem with playing an upstart program is that many fans underestimate teams they haven’t heard that much about, setting themselves up for surprise and disappointment when they realize these guys can play. I can tell you firsthand that Duke will have to bring their “A” game to beat this team. Adding to the pressure is that, given the difficult schedule the Blue Devils face this year, many are already coining this a “must win.” I think Duke will be ready but they’ll need the 12th man, meaning a fired-up home crowd, to come out of the gates strong this year and get a win against a quality opponent.
Have a good Monday folks.
DURHAM – The Blue Devils held their second scrimmage of training camp on Friday night, and BDN was on hand to talk to two of the stars of the game afterwards. After being granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA, veteran Lee Butler is back at cornerback and ready to have a big final year for the Blue Devils alongside Ross Cockrell. For the second straight scrimmage, Butler came away with an impressive interception. A former cornerback for the Blue Devils, Garett Patterson was recently moved to wide receiver during training camp, where he starred for the offense on Friday night. The redshirt-junior hauled in 5 catches for 80 yards, including a 49-yard touchdown.
DURHAM – We’ll start where we did on Monday. Health. On Friday, the Blue Devils were not nearly as fortunate as they were on Monday, seeing several key players go down with injuries throughout practice. Three safeties went down during warm-ups, LB David Helton was injured on the opening kickoff, and during the scrimmage, Kenny Anunike, Jamal Wallace, Sydney Sarmiento, and others, were banged up. Fortunately, after practice, Coach Cutcliffe felt all the injuries were minor and does not expect anyone to miss significant time at this point. Among players who have been sidelined with injuries, DE Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo appears closest to returning. LB Britton Grier continues to play with a cast on his arm. LB Kelby Brown continues to participate in drills, but remains non-contact.
Now, to what we saw on the field. While each scrimmage this week was just a snapshot in time, taking the two together gives a better idea to the development of this Duke team. For example, Brandon Connette and Desmond Scott, both playing new positions this fall, looked much more confident on Friday than on Monday. Connette finished the day with 2 touchdowns, a 15-yard reception and a 36-yard run. Scott hauled in 6 catches for 39 yards. Perhaps the biggest story of the night was the newest Blue Devil to transition to WR, former CB Garett Patterson. Patterson, whom BDN spoke to after the game, is playing WR for the first time since high school and hauled in 5 catches for 80 yards, including a 49 yard touchdown.
Looking at the two scrimmages together, there is no question that Duke’s defense was much improved from Monday to Friday, and senior CB Lee Butler agreed after the game. At times on Friday, the defense was nearly dominant, forcing three and outs, forcing a fumble, and coming away with 2 interceptions. The contributions came from all over the field. Butler made another acrobatic interception. Freshman LB Deion Williams looks like a player who is ready to contribute this fall. CB Tony Foster came away with the second interception. Redshirt-freshman LB Kyler Brown was again a force in the middle of the Blue Devil defense, especially with Helton going down early.
Some of the young players are still learning the ropes. Freshman WR Anthony Nash fumbled on a reverse and struggled to get open all night. Freshmen RB Jela Duncan and Shaq Powell were both good, but unable to break the big run expected from them. Up front, Carlos Wray, Keilin Rayner, and Michael Mann all looked like they could be playmakers down the road, but will have to be more consistent. After a big game on Monday, TE Issac Blakeney was a non-factor on Friday; conversely, TE David Reeves looked better overall on Friday night.
Special teams continue to look special. Ross Martin was perfect, connecting from 43 and 48 yards. Will Monday was able to punt the ball where he wanted in drills and game simulations. After a bobble, Tim Burton broke off a kick return for a touchdown, showing off his tremendous speed once he found a seam. Of course, the success in the return game could indicate that kick coverage might be an issue, but given that Duke has been a pretty good coverage team in recent years, I think the credit goes to the return men. They have to prove they can do it under game pressure, but the special teams unit looks like a group that could win Duke a game or two this fall.
In the least important category, Duke wore their black helmets in the scrimmage, paired with blue and white practice jerseys. The scrimmage on Friday was much more of a game atmosphere, with a small crowd of parents in the stands, the team rushing onto the field at the start, and even an abbreviated halftime. The Blue Devils’ final scrimmage of training camp will be next Tuesday evening and is closed to the public.
Duke hosts their annual Meet the Blue Devils day in Pascal Field House today at 6:00 PM. Free posters and autographs are available to all who attend, as well as the opportunity for photographs with the 2012 Blue Devils.
Coach Cutcliffe comments