No Rainy Days with This Monday – Duke Punter Named All ACC

Will Monday, Duke Freshman, All ACC - Photo, Mark Watson, BDN

DURHAM, N.C. - Several years ago a sugary pop group named the Carpenters had a big hit on the charts called "Rainy Days and Mondays."  The lyrics went like this:  "Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down."  There was a time when that type of gloominess and despair applied to Duke's kicking game, but Will Monday has changed all that.

A couple of weeks ago, Monday, Duke's freshman punter, was in class when a friend messaged him on Facebook telling him he'd been selected to the All-ACC team. Monday was elated at the news. "It's something that has definitely been one of my goals and to win it as a freshman, and it means a lot to me and has helped me achieve one of my goals," he said. But Monday had to admit that he actually was not surprised; in fact, he expected the honor.

That's one of the things I learned about the ACC's best punter during our recent conversation. Monday places very high expectations on himself, and does not consider failure to be an option. To him, being the top punter in the ACC is just a start. What he really wants is to be the best in the entire nation. And it's that kind of confidence in his abilities plus his desire to improve further that should drive him towards his goal of being named 1st team All-American.

The youthful Monday, son of Bedford and Judy Monday, hails from Flowery Branch, Georgia. And when asked who congratulated him first on the all-ACC selection, Monday said, "Well, my parents were very happy for me. They were so excited knowing this is something I had been wanting, to be able to be named the best at your position in my freshman year, and so they were proud of how much I have worked to get this. I got texts from my coaches and high school teammates as well."

Monday was a known commodity coming out of high school, ranked as the best schoolboy punter in most of the recruiting ratings. The expectations that come with those rankings are something he learned to deal with early on, so it was no surprise that he was cool under the pressure of big-time college football, right out of the gate. "I felt pressure in high school. I felt pressure in camps and I felt pressure when I got here. But it is not something I am not used to and I have always put expectations on myself to succeed and be the best I can at every opportunity. So while it is challenging, you have to keep your head up and move on to the next play."

Standing 6'4" and weighing in at 210 pounds, Monday is not likely the butt of kicker jokes. In fact, he played baseball, basketball and soccer before trying out as a kicker for his high school football team as a freshman. So we're talking about an athlete here. "I started kicking in my freshman year in high school and did really well," said Monday. "After my sophomore season in high school I really figured out the punting thing, and I have a better frame to be a punter than a kicker. So I went with it, started going to a bunch of camps and started to get recognition. I quickly saw I had an opportunity to get a scholarship in this sport, and it worked out for me with concern to both education and football."

Monday was recruited by pretty much everybody, and could practically name his school. But he bought into what Duke Coach David Cutcliffe and his staff were selling. "I always liked Duke growing up and the school has always intrigued me. I was a basketball fan when I was little and living in Charlotte. When an opportunity came available, I met with the coaches and liked what they had going on in Durham. They seemed like they were looking out for you and they told us you would grow as a man in our program. I was able to use football to get to a great school, one that without football I would not have been able to go to, and at Duke I think I have really maxed my opportunities in both education and football."

Patience does not come easily to a confident young man, especially when he's accustomed to being a star on the athletic field. But before Monday sent his first punt booming in Wallace Wade Stadium, he had to sit out a year as a redshirt. It was not easy sitting behind Duke punter Alex King, who transferred to Texas for his senior season, as he knew Monday was gaining on him quickly. But the redshirt used that extra year to learn from the sidelines, getting stronger every day, and thus the wait -- while difficult -- proved worth it in the end.

"It was definitely tough (to redshirt) always being a starter throughout high school, and having to come here and sit on the bench. But it was an experience I'm glad I got to be a part of, and I learned a lot giving me time to figure out the coaches and how they did things at Duke. And it allowed me to get stronger and better at what I do," Monday said.

When Duke heads to the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, a lot of people will analyze how exactly they got there. When doing so it's going to be hard not to notice the big improvement in the Blue Devils' kicking game. Monday's teammate, placekicker Ross Martin, has been earning honors of his own of late, and the two freshmen have stimulated high hopes for a bright future in Durham. "Ross (Martin) and I met each other while at summer camps, so we knew each other. And when he came here, I knew right away that we would have a bond that would carry us through our four years and we would flourish together. Ross is a good guy with his head on straight and from a good family, so we meshed right away."

It's been 18 years since Duke last played in a bowl game, and had the Blue Devils not solidified their kicking game it wouldn't have happened this year either. The days of chip shot field goals being botched as time elapses or a key punt being shanked are over for the foreseeable future. And if the rest of the team commits to perfecting their game in the same way that Will Monday has, then the best of Blue Devil football is yet to come.

Jabari Parker set to make decision December 20th?

Key Duke prospect Jabari Parker

Word came out of Detroit, Michigan today that the nation's top rated prospect, Jabari Parker, would choose his college destination on December 20th. While that date has yet to be absolutely confirmed, it falls in line with what the Parker family has said all along --their son wanted to make a a decision before his high school season in order to take the pressure off and enjoy his senior year.

Parker is considered a sure bet at every level, and his addition would make any team a contender.  It has long been thought by those who have followed his recruitment that Duke and Michigan State were neck and neck for his services. Parker, who is of Mormon faith, also lists BYU, Florida and Stanford as finalists.

You can see Parker in action this Thursday evening when his Chicago Simeon High team takes on DeSoto, a team that feature future Duke shooting guard Matt Jones. The game will be telecast by ESPN with a 9:30 PM start time.

For more information and the latest thoughts on Parker, join Blue Devil Nation Premium, our extended subscription service. There you can read multiple past interviews and hear from knowledgeable folks who have seen him play upwards of 20 times each, as our staff has covered his recruitment for more than two years . We also have our latest Duke Basketball Recruiting Update posted on the members message board.

Lake Brantley LB Dominic Zanca McDonald switches to Duke

Hard-hitting Florida LB Dominic Zanca-McDonald is down to Duke and Tennessee.

The 2013 Duke defense got better today, as the Blue Devils secured a verbal commitment from 6’2″ 240 pound LB Dominic Zanca-McDonald from Lake Brantley High School in Altamonte Springs, Florida. The top LB prospect had committed to Tennessee back in April before a disappointing season in Knoxville resulted in a complete coaching staff change. After an official visit to Durham and a conversation with new Volunteer Head Coach Butch Jones, the play-making linebacker switched his pledge to the Blue Devils. After a standout senior season where he racked up 17 tackles for loss and 9 sacks, Zanca had scholarship offers from Duke, Purdue, and Tennessee, along with interest from a number of top ACC and SEC schools.

"I'm a Blue Devil!" Zanca told BDN earlier today. His relationship with Duke's LB Coach Jim Collins and Head Coach David Cutcliffe played a big role in his decision. "I told them about it yesterday and they were really pumped," he said, "I just feel like I fit in with the staff from Duke better than the new staff [at Tennessee]. I love everything about my visit and I'm excited to be there in the spring."

Dominic will graduate from Lake Brantley this month and enroll at Duke in January. He asked BDN to pass along the following to Duke fans: "Get ready to see some head-banging when I get to Duke!"

BDN caught up with the newest Blue Devil shortly after his official visit.

Check out his highlights here.

Welcome to Duke, Dominic!



Highly-recruited CB Evrett Edwards is ready to enroll at Duke

CB Evrett Edwards took his official visit this weekend and will enroll with Quay Mann and Parker Boehme in January.

With the upcoming graduation of Lee Butler and Tony Foster, one of the most inexperienced positions facing the 2013 Blue Devils will be at cornerback. Fortunately, two prized prospects in the class of 2013 will be enrolling in January to get a head start on their preparation for their freshman season. Both Quay Mann and Evrett Edwards were on campus this past weekend for their official visit, and both are looking forward to getting back on campus in January.

Edwards is a 6'0" 165 pound cornerback out of Woodbridge, Virginia. After committing to the Blue Devils in March, his recruitment took off, and he quickly picked up over a dozen scholarship offers, with interest from many more powerhouse programs. The speedy cornerback put together an outstanding senior campaign, playing on both sides of the ball for Woodbridge High School. Edwards was hosted by All-ACC cornerback Ross Cockrell on his official visit, and the Blue Devils hope that he can replicate Cockrell's success on the field as a shutdown cornerback. BDN caught up with Edwards after his official visit on Sunday. [private]

How did your official visit go this weekend?

It was wonderful.

Who did you get to hang out with and who was your host?

My host was Ross.  I hung out with Ross, Jared, Tony, Bryon Fields, and Breon Borders.  Johnell and T.J. were the two wide receivers from Florida.

I heard from those receivers that you guys had a little back and forth going on about competing in practice next year.

Yeah, you know just wide receivers and cornerbacks.

What kind of things did you get to talk about with the other players?

Well, I did ask Ross and Lee and Lex what you all expect from me.  They kept telling me how I had a chance to come in and get on the field fast and how much of an advantage I have because I’m coming in this spring.   They basically just explained campus life too.

How did it feel to be at Duke? How did you get along with the coaches?

I had a real good time when I spoke with Coach Cut and Coach Knowles and Coach Jones.  I felt real comfortable there, felt relaxed.  It was real easy to speak with the kids.  Again, I just felt really comfortable.

Obviously, you're trying to get back to Duke soon to enroll in January. What do you have planned between now and then?

Finish all this homework.

Going to finish out your senior year strong?

Yes sir.

Before I let you go, can you just sum up how you felt your senior season went overall?

We went to the playoffs and lost.  I had a really, really good year, actually.  I was targeted 12 times and only two balls were completed for like a total of 20 yards. I kind of got bored on defense, but I played well on offense.  I had close to 600 total yards this year, three touch downs; I forget how many catches exactly.

Congratulations on your great senior year. I know Duke fans are excited to have you on campus and see you play next fall.

I can't wait to get on campus.

Thanks a lot, Evrett!

No problem. Thank you.


Duke Basketball is Exceeding Expectations

Coach K has his team playing at a high level.

DURHAM, N.C. - Back in March, I remember sitting down and trying to figure out what to say after Duke's loss to Lehigh in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. I realized that there really were no words that could comfort anyone after the upset loss, so I told it like it was. The team did not look like a Duke basketball team that evening. The defense was suspect overall, and it felt as if Lehigh and Duke changed uniforms that day, for the guys in brown were the aggressors.Granted, Duke was without the services of Ryan Kelly in that game.  That certainly affected team chemistry, and the Blue Devils had to alter their whole approach on the fly, but still, the performance versus Lehigh was very un-Duke-like.  That realization served as an off-season motivator for all involved.

Duke would later learn that Austin Rivers was taking his game to the NBA, and then there would be a couple of misses on prospects that the staff had recruited for a long time. Everybody in the media pounced, getting their shots in on Duke while they could.  Rivals on the recruiting trail did so as well, going negative like never before.

Over the summer, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski led Team USA to a second consecutive Olympic gold medal; two-thirds of his staff traveled with the team as well. The whispers began that Duke's team would not be as developed when the season started as they would have been had Krzyzewski not been "distracted" by serving his country at the highest level.

In the pre-season, most in the media succumbed to the lazy "what have you done for me lately" shtick, failing to actually look at what the Blue Devils had on this year's team, and just assuming that Duke would not respond well to last season's tailspin and be the same team as the one that went out to Lehigh. Duke was not talked about in the same way as were teams like Kentucky or Indiana, at all.

Many had the Blue Devils ranked in the mid-teens nationally, and many pre-season ACC projections surfaced with Duke being ranked third or even fourth in their own league.

Locally, all the media could focus on was N.C. State, a team that had a decent late-season run in 2012 and returned many of its players, and they did add a big recruiting class. Nobody seemed concerned that this group really hasn't done a thing on the court yet. But the Wolfpack were the chic pick, and were eventually selected as the pre-season favorite.

Those same people who picked N.C. State to win the league seemingly slept on the fact that Duke had three battle-tested seniors returning in Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, and Seth Curry. They also chose N.C. State's Rodney Purvis as the pre-season ACC Rookie of the Year; he's the second best freshman on his team to date. While Purvis is truly a talent, there are few that would trade him today for Duke's Rasheed Sulaimon, who has been a coach's dream. In addition, the Wolfpack's talented C.J. Leslie was slated to be the ACC Player of the Year. This despite his history of inconsistency. In the meantime, Mason Plumlee, who worked all off-season to improve his game, was an afterthought.

Over the summer when Krzyzewski addressed the media, there was the hint of a sly smile on his face when asked what it was like to be picked behind UNC and N.C. State, and how he felt about those two teams getting all the publicity.  You could almost sense him licking his chops, loving every second of Duke being underestimated, content to have all the talk be about the others.

History shows us that Duke and Krzyzewski are at their best when questions and worry abound. In 2010 they lost rising sophomore Elliot Williams via transfer to Memphis just before the season started, and there was talk that Krzyzewski -- coming off his successful duties with Team USA --  had neglected his day job.  The fan base also went into "Chicken Little" mode, in particular on the message boards. "Duke has no athletes," many exclaimed, as they stated confidently that the Blue Devils would be a good team but was not a national contender.   Duke would be running shooting guard Jon Scheyer at the point all season and were too slow to have any hope of competing, the minions claimed.  There was doom and gloom in the air.

We all know how history played out. Duke won the national championship with a spectacular run, with seniors and two savvy juniors leading the way.

This year's team is comparable, but every team is of course unique.  This time, all of the "What have you done for me lately?" types are being forced to jump on the bandwagon of an undefeated team, a team that is battle-tested like no other team in the history of college basketball at such an early date.

What this tells us is that the Duke staff had a plan all along.  Implementation of that plan meant the nation gaining another gold medal in Mens Basketball while at the same time Coach K and company were pushing all the right buttons in the off-season to maximize Duke's opportunities for improvement as well.  Not an easy balancing act, but it's an accomplishment which is finally starting to be recognized.

Duke does not look anything like the team which lost to Lehigh a season ago. They instead look like a team in every sense of the word. They play together, they're unselfish, and they are focused. Their defense is once again a strength.  Each starter is a threat to score when on the court.

The Blue Devils have taken on all comers in a season where there is no one dominant team, and they've done so in a way that has made it clear that this team will be a factor come March.  After rolling through the likes of Kentucky, Virginia Commonwealth, Minnesota, Louisville and Ohio State, there will be no sneaking up on anybody.  Duke is and always will be the team circled on an opposing teams' schedules, so tests are coming.   There is plenty of work left to be done and a long season ahead, as the ACC season has yet to get underway, but what an early season resumé this bunch has put together.   To date, the Blue Devils look as good as anybody.  But now, the team must learn how to play with the weight of what will soon be immense expectations.

The Blue Devils are now in an eleven day break, their longest of the season, after whipping another formerly undefeated team in Temple. During this time, Duke will get plenty of hype, and the next stage for this team is handling new-found expectations, the same ones some of us had all along including a coach with a sly smile loving that his Blue Devils were being overlooked early on.

Because if the question is "What have you done for me lately?"  the answer to that question is "Plenty."

2013 WR commit Johnell Barnes enjoys his official visit to Duke

2013 WR commit Johnell Barnes enjoyed his official visit to Durham.

With the pending graduation of Conner Vernon and Desmond Scott, the Blue Devils will be forced to rely on a young group of wide receivers in 2013. One of the most promising young Blue Devil prospects is 2013 verbal commitment Johnell Barnes. Barnes blew up on the recruiting trail earlier this year with impressive performances on the camp and combine circuit. The 6'1" 165 receiver committed to Duke back in June over offers from Connecticut, FIU, Hawaii, Iowa State, Northwestern, South Florida, Wake Forest, West Virginia, and several others. Barnes and his family were on campus this past weekend for his official visit and caught up with BDN afterwards.


How did your official visit go overall?

Well, the visit went very well for my parents and I.  I had a great time.  It was fun.  A lot of food.  My parents had a wonderful time.  It couldn't get any better, you know.  I felt like I was home.

That's great! There's obviously a lot of excitement around Duke football with their bowl game coming up. What did you talk about with the Duke players and your fellow commits?

I was pretty much talking to other prospects about what position they play.  We were joking around.  Some of them were cornerbacks, so we were joking around telling each other we're going to compete against each other and stuff like that.  As far as Duke going to a bowl, we're very happy about that.  I know that the program is thriving.

Duke has had a lot of success in the passing game, led by guys like Conner Vernon and Jamison Crowder. Can you talk a little about how the Duke coaches expect you to fit in the offense?

Duke is pretty much expecting me to come in and fill in the Conner Vernon place.  Duke has thrown the ball very much.  That's what I want.  I want the ball in my hands.  I like that about Duke.  They throw the ball a lot.  And the receivers are out there to catch it.  I look forward to playing with Crowder and the other receivers.

I know that you and T.J. Douglas are close. Can you talk a little about your relationship with him?

We were with each other pretty much the whole weekend. We grew up playing flag football when we were like five.  We became best friends in elementary school, separated a little in middle school and high school, but football keeps us connected.  That's how we just started back talking again.  I played him in a game, and we keep in touch on Facebook, and other social networks.

That's really cool that you'll be playing the same position together in college.

Yes, sir.

Now that you've had some time to look back, how do you think your season went overall?

I think we could have topped off our season a little better than we did. I'm sure. That's how it goes.  You win some, you lose some.  Unfortunately, we lost, but  I think I had a great season overall.  I had many catches.  I had many yards.  I'll have to check on those stats.  I haven't looked at my stats in a while.

Congratulations, you've had a great career and a great senior year.

Thank you. Absolutely, I had a great season.

You've just finished up your official visit and you have Signing Day coming up in a couple months. What else are your plans for the rest of your senior year?

Right now I'm in basketball, playing basketball right now.  I will be, most likely, doing track, running track and pretty much just staying on my academics.

I'm sure that will keep you busy! Good luck with the rest of your senior year and thanks for taking a few minutes to speak with me. Duke fans will be excited to see you in Wallace Wade Stadium next fall!

Yes sir, thank you.