Duke Football – The Midweek Report

The Duke Blue Devils football team will take on Troy this weekend in Wallace Wade Stadium in a game which represents the schools homecoming.  Duke is coming off a tough loss to Pitt in a game that dropped the team to 0-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and they’ll look to gain some momentum with a win this Saturday.  Here are some video interviews with Dave Harding, Jamison Crowder and Kenny Anunike.

Trip-McNeill-3-7-13

Friday Night Lights: Checking Out the Week 5 Action

Trip-McNeill-3-7-13Welcome back Blue Devil faithful to another edition of Friday Night Lights where Blue Devil Nation provides readers with updated information on future Blue Devils high school action. This week’s update includes comments from Trip McNeill, Johnathan Lloyd, Tinashe Bere and Chris Taylor.

We start out with a bit of disappointing news from Pennsylvania.

Running back Shai McKenzie is a player we followed closely last season so we are sad to report he tore his ACL last Friday night and is out for the season. He recently cut his list to five schools with Duke not making the shortened list. Four of his five are ACC schools: Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh so there is a good possibility we will see McKenzie on the opposite (wrong) sideline at Wallace Wade Stadium in future years. The fifth school on McKenzie’s list is Arkansas.

Blue Devil Nation wishes McKenzie a speedy and full recovery, and good luck in his future college career. We would have loved to have you!

Duke’s newest verbal commit, running back Shaun Wilson ran for 208 yards and three touchdowns as West Mecklenburg upset Independence 40-33 on Thursday night. Wilson is an exciting runner who possesses speed and elusiveness.

Davie County defeated Thomasville 43-7 by emphasizing the running game. Offensive lineman Trip McNeill commented, “The team played really well. We had a great week at practice and it showed big.” Davie County improves to 2-3 on the year and will host Reagan on Friday for their Homecoming Game.

Johnathan Lloyd rushed for 119 yards and three touchdowns as Southern Alamance won their third consecutive game with a 48-28 victory over Southwest Guilford. In describing the game, Lloyd commented, “The offense was really clicking. The line played outstanding and the receivers made plays.” Lloyd also threw a touchdown pass in the victory.

Southern Alamance improves to 4-1 on the season.

Tinashe Bere recorded a quarterback sack as Sycamore defeated Middlesex 33-5. When asked about the sack, Bere stated, “It was exciting.” He continued, “I had 10 tackles total.”

Chris Taylor had two receptions for 65 yards as University defeated Somerset 57-0. Taylor communicated to Blue Devil Nation. “I only played two quarters.” It isn’t surprising the talented receiver’s playing time was limited considering the final score.

Verbally committed quarterback Nico Pierre and Coral Reef defeated Killian 21-20 in overtime on Friday night. Pierre scored in overtime on a one yard run.

Highly touted wide receiver prospect Trevon Lee and Cardinal Gibbons blanked Boyd Anderson 30-0.

Verbally committed tight end Davis Koppenhaver and William S. Hart were 56-7 winners over Ridgeview.

Myles Turner
AdidasNations
Garden Grove, CA  8/4/13

Going In-Home with Premier 2014 Big Man Myles Turner — Blue Devils Recruiting Update

Myles Turner AdidasNations Garden Grove, CA  8/4/13
Myles Turner
AdidasNations
Garden Grove, CA 8/4/13

So this is the time of year when two things are going on primarily in college basketball recruiting. Sure, there are some commitments here and there. But for the most part, the elite players are taking visits, either on campus or in-home, and they’re keeping their cards close to the vest as decision time, for many, approaches.

One of the aspects of recruiting into which many fans may not have much of a window is the in-home visit. BDN spoke with highly recruited 2014 Texas big man Myles Turner this past weekend on the heels of his visit with the Duke staff last week to get an update on him, his recruitment, where Duke stands with him, and just what those in-home visits are like.

[private]The 6’11” Turner is a terrific kid, first of all. He is open, articulate, and thoughtful with his answers. You don’t get a lot of canned responses with him. After speaking with BDN at the Adidas Nations event in LA, he closed out his summer with performances in two high profile games in New York City, the Big Strick Classic and then the Elite 24. After those, he shut things down and has been working with a trainer to get stronger, to get even more agile, and to work on basketball moves as well. Myles indicated that while he actually enjoys the hectic travel schedule that the top high school players endure, it was good to get back home to Euless, Texas and start sleeping in his own bed more regularly as well. Easy to forget these are 17 year-old kids sometimes.

At home, Myles has a month of his senior year of high school already under his belt. He’s working out with his team already, and they have their first scrimmage next week. Coach K watched him work out at practice recently, which Myles described as “awesome.” Coach K had the whole campus buzzing. In Myles’ words, the coach is “a rock star.” In any event, with an infusion of talent onto the squad this year, and the hard work he’s already seeing, Myles sees great things for Trinity High this year. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a 6’11” All-American jumping jack who plays both ends in the lineup either.

In the meantime, he’s got a hoops prodigy for a sister. 10 year-old Mia is already 5’3” and she is a baller. Gotta watch the young ones.

Now, getting down to brass tacks. Duke, Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, and Oklahoma State have all been in-home with the Turners. While Myles was understandably noncommittal about whether one visit went better than another, he did provide a window into how the in-home with the Blue Devils went.

The Duke staff was represented by Coach K of course, as well as Coaches Nate James and Jeff Capel. Myles was accompanied by his mom, dad, sister, and trainer. It was not a full dinner affair, but rather cookies and other snacks, and refreshments. Myles noted several times to me that while the Turners were comfortable of course in their own home and looked forward to showing the Duke staff where Myles comes from and the language was casual and friendly, nevertheless this was a business meeting, and had the atmosphere of a business meeting. Indeed, Myles said that all the in-homes were businesslike, not just Duke’s.

What Myles and his family were looking for coming into the meeting was a clear plan on Duke’s part for Myles and his future at Duke. Sure, there was already a comfort level established by the talking and texting which has been going on for months, but this was a chance for the Turners to look the Duke staff in the eye and ask them: What will the school be able to provide for Myles? What opportunities will be presented for him on the court, on campus, and beyond? Myles and his family made his future goals clear, and the staff clearly understands those goals. That is not to say the family was brusque or heavy-handed, or demanding, not at all. It’s just that from the Turners’ perspective, they have a very important decision to make here, and they want to know that if they choose Duke, that Duke will provide all the opportunities they’re looking for. Makes sense to me. Included in Duke’s responses to these questions was an impressive video presentation made by the staff, encompassing Duke’s facilities, campus, and tradition.

Of course on-court issues were discussed. What type of role and impact on the team does the staff see Myles having? How does the staff see him fitting in with other players they expect to have on the squad if Myles matriculates? How has the staff used players with skill sets similar to Myles’s in the past?

The visit ran 1 ½ to two hours.

One issue that many fans always wonder about is how the recruitment of one player affects the recruitment of another, and if that issue is discussed openly with the recruits. Here, the issue is Chicago big man Jahlil Okafor, also Class of 2014, who Duke has also been hotly recruiting for a long time and is thought to be in strong position to land. Does Myles think he could play with Jahlil? Would he want to? What does the staff think about the issue?

Turner was very clear that he thinks the two young big men’s games would complement each others quite nicely, thank you. Myles sees Jahlil as more of a traditional, back-to-the-basket post player (as do almost all scouts and other observers) while he sees himself as more of a face-up threat. He sees the two of them working very well in high-low sets. (fans: get a tissue. You’re drooling.) But Myles’ most important point on this whole issue was that he sees himself first and foremost as a basketball player, not a guy who is limited to one position or one role. He sees himself affecting games in multiple ways, and he said that the Duke staff agrees with his assessment. And why shouldn’t they? Turner is in fact a versatile, athletic young player, who can post, he can face up, he can shoot it midrange, he defends, he blocks shots, he’s high energy. That kind of guy can play with anyone. Myles told me that the staff doesn’t discuss the Myles-Jahlil issue directly – maybe because it isn’t really an issue?? – but he did say that they do discuss point guards that could get both of them the ball. Hmm. Wonder whose name might have come up in those discussions???

There were media reports over the summer about Coach K speaking frankly with Myles about his possibly being a one-and-done. Somehow, that became news. In any event, Myles confirmed that the discussion with Coach K did in fact take place, in one of the first conversations they ever had. Myles readily acknowledges, however, that it’s going to take a lot of hard work on his part to be ready for that kind of jump. If he puts in the work though, he believes he can have that kind of impact. But there are so many variables. Turner stated that it would depend on a variety of factors, including the type of freshman year he has, the school he’s at, how the team does, and how he’s enjoying the whole experience. He’s not ready to declare himself a one-and-done. He said he could also see himself staying in college two or three years, so who knows?

Unfortunately for Myles and Kansas, but perhaps fortunately for everybody else, he had to cancel his scheduled visit to Lawrence on October 4 for Late Night at the Phog, which I have to say is supposed to be a great event to see. Turner will be with USA Basketball that weekend in Colorado Springs. He’ll reschedule.

Contrary to other media reports, the Turners have not scheduled any other official visits, and will not do so until after Colorado. Myles has eight schools on his list: in alphabetical order they are Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, and Texas. He only gets five official visits, but – and here’s a nice little nugget Blue Devil fans – Myles told me that Duke is “one of the ones at the top of that list” in terms of getting an official visit.

Regardless, Myles still plans on waiting until the spring to get serious about a decision.

Bottom line on this, folks, is that the media members, fans, and other purveyors of gossip, guesses, and other unsourced information may end up being right as Turner may end up at Kansas as many speculate right now. Or maybe he won’t. He’s a long, long way from a decision, so anyone who says they know where he’s heading right now is just making stuff up. Myles is a smart kid from a good family, and he sounded awfully sincere to me that he is serious about Duke. Coach K and the staff are obviously serious about him, and wouldn’t be wasting their time if they thought it was anything close to a lost cause. Stay tuned. He’d be a terrific addition to this program.[/private]

Turner in-home

Turnovers doom Devils – Connette, Crowder post game vids

SONY DSCThe Duke Blue Devils dropped a close decision to Pitt and in the process fell to 0-2 in the ACC.

With the score 51-28 Pitt, the Duke Blue Devils teams’ past would have folded the tent, tucked it in an went home with a butt whipping. But that didn’t happen in one of the more bizarre games in recent memory.

Duke outscored the Panthers 27-7 the rest of the way showing no signs of quit but the one thing they could not overcome was the fact they committed four turnovers in the way of Brandon Connette interceptions, the last one going for a touchdown which happens to have been the only Pitt score in the games last 34 points.

If you were told earlier in the day Duke would score 55 points, one would have thought they cruised to an easy win, but Pitt scored early and often and in the process they take home a 58-55 win.

You get the impression that had Duke got the ball back, they would have scored again in a game that featured 1130 yards gained by both teams. Unless the Duke defense can right the ship and in a hurry, it could be a long season for a team that had its sight set on a bowl, but to do so, they have to create turnovers.

There was a lot of frustration in the air at Wallace Wade after Pitt seemed to do anything they wanted offensively, but the Blue Devils effort leaves hope for the rest of the season and some positives can be taken from this game.

Firstly, it is clear that Duke has one of the best playmakers in the ACC in Jamison Crowder who scored three touchdowns, one by the rush, one by the pass and one on a punt return to go with his 279 all-purpose yards on the afternoon.

And Connette? While he threw four interceptions, he never let it get him down and he showed signs of learned leadership. In his third start, he threw for a career high 323 yards and had a whopping total of 424 yards of total offense.

I think it’s safe to say that Connette learned a lot in this game and had Duke folded the proverbial tent and ran out of their own stadium, many fans would have instantly proclaimed it basketball season.

This Duke team is not without its problems in the secondary and getting off blocks on defense and that must be corrected and fast with a high scoring Troy team on the horizon but if the Blue Devils can tweak a few things, there will be more wins this season.

In the pre season I wrote an article that hinted there would be bumps in the road for a program still rebuilding and the loss to Pitt is one of those. It was a game many had Duke slated to win in their armchairs before the season started, but who could have predicted two quarterbacks in Anthony Boone and Thomas Sirk would both go out to injury? And both were slated to start in dual roles with Connette being the Blue Devils version of their human Swiss Army Knife.

Duke teams past or before David Cutcliffe took over just dreamed of being in a game like this and the Blue Devils while far from perfect on the day continued to compete.

Chances are this team will right the ship in time but only if they create turnovers and commit less of their own. On this day, it was the turnovers that were the clear difference and had Duke created one more or had one less, they could have been on the winning end.

Jamison-Crowder-8-31-13

Pittsburgh outlasts Duke 58-55 in shootout

Duke All-ACC WR Jamison Crowder finished with a receiving, rushing, and return TD Saturday - BDN Photo
Duke All-ACC WR Jamison Crowder finished with a receiving, rushing, and return TD Saturday – BDN Photo

DURHAM – The Blue Devils dropped their second game in a row to fall to 2-2 on the season after a 58 to 55 loss to Pittsburgh in the 2nd highest scoring game in ACC history. The Panthers scored early and often against an inexperienced Duke secondary, while a furious Blue Devil 4th quarter rally fell just a play or two short. In the end, four turnovers were too much for Duke to overcome.

Pittsburgh redshirt-senior QB Tom Savage finished the day with 424 passing yards and 6 touchdowns. The Blue Devil defensive backs had no answer for the dynamic duo of Devin Street and Tyler Boyd. The Panthers’ top two receivers finished the day with a combined 313 yards receiving and 5 touchdowns.

After a strong start to the season against NC Central and Memphis, the Blue Devil defense has been exposed in the past two weeks against ACC foes Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh. On Saturday, Jim Knowles’ unit allowed a total of 598 yards of offense, an average of 7.4 yards per play. The Blue Devils struggled to pressure Savage and the Panthers all afternoon, finishing with two sacks but no turnovers on the day. A bright spot for the Blue Devils again was special teams, where they blocked a FG for the second straight game, as Sydney Sarmiento got through on a first quarter Chris Blewitt attempt.

From the Duke perspective, there were a number of positives to take from Saturday’s contest, despite the disappointing outcome. All-ACC WR Jamison Crowder had yet another strong performance, becoming the first Blue Devil since 1999 to score a receiving, rushing, and return touchdown. His 82-yard punt return TD in the 2nd quarter was his 2nd of the young season. In his second start in place of the injured Anthony Boone, QB Brandon Connette showed significant improvement, finishing 21 of 32 passing for 323 yards with 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. After a shaky start that included interceptions on two of his first three throws, Connette was able to develop a rhythm with his WRs and lead the Duke offense to 6 touchdowns on the day. He was also successful on the ground, leading the Blue Devils in rushing with 101 yards on 15 carries with 2 more touchdowns. WRs Brandon Braxton and Max McCaffrey each had their best efforts of the season, totaling 8 combined catches and a touchdown each.

The loss drops the Blue Devils to an 0-2 start in ACC play, and leaves Duke searching for answers on defense as they try to snap a 2-game losing streak. Duke hosts Troy next Saturday at 3:00 PM ET.

Duke Basketball Recruiting Update

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BDN Photo – Reid Travis sits with Semi Ojeleye and Marshall Plumlee at a Duke football game during his visit.

The Duke Blue Devils Men’s Basketball staff has been steady on the recruiting trail of late but they’ve now returned home, at least for the moment. Such is the busy nature of trying to nail down this coming years class, not to mention gaining an early edge on underclassmen.

There is still [private] no word on Kevon Looney and where he leans, but it’s safe to say Duke is right there. The parents seemed sold on the opportunity in Durham but we all know it is eventually up to the kid himself. Looney will make his decision public on October 31st. If you are looking for a leak of where he is leaning, let it be know that his family has for now anyhow, shut down the media.

There has been a lot of paranoia involving Jahlil Okafor and his camp has more or less shut it down for media as well. No date has been officially set as of yet and I do not expect that to change for the next several days. Coach Kyzyzewski and Jeff Capel made a trip to see Okafor recently and by all accounts it was a fruitful visit. Duke is very much in the think of the race here and anybody who tells you differently just doesn’t know what they’re talking about. No word of late on the package deal and one way to shut down talk of that is to distance yourself from media.

Meanwhile, Tyus Jones is winding down the process and like others, his camp has grown quiet as well. Much of this is due to the family just wanting to sit back and take it all in and I have a feeling you will not hear a whole lot from his way anytime soon as well other than a diary he, along with Okafor, are committed to doing.

Duke has also visited Justise Winslow over the break and all indications are that they are right there. Winslow has yet to make a public date for a decision and the Duke staff continues to work on him for a visit in October.  BTW, Arizona is trying to tell him he can co exist with other prospects.

There are a lot of visits being tentatively set but not much is leaking in that it is very liquid in nature but Duke is obviously trying to get guys ready to visit during Countdown to Craziness. I will give you dates if they are released and we should know more as CTC comes around.

The word on Reid Travis is that he enjoyed his visit but his camp is really making sure of their pending decision per sources. Stanford is very much in this race and I’m sure Coach Dawkins is telling him he is their Tyus Jones. This is going to come down to what the kid wants in the way of basketball and education. If he wants to be the man, he will pick Stanford where that type of situation is available. I know what some are thinking, people could point to Dawkins having to win but the Stanford push always education first. Still, Duke offers a good opportunity for education as well and I like the Blue Devils chances here and they’ve told him how he would be used and such.

Duke is also still in the running for Myles Turner who is red-hot right now. His family seems to be trying to ground him a bit per rumors and Duke did pay him a recent visit and they seemingly feel they are a player for his services. If all goes according to plan, we’ll hear from Turner soon.

The Blue Devils stopped in on Charles Matthews and Luke Kennard as well. Every team in the nation seems to be on Kennard but that is not stopping Coach K and company who feel they’ve made good early in roads. Coach K loves his game at the Nike Peach Jam and it appears he will remain at the very top of the Blue Devils wish list. Matthews has not been real serious yet nut that will change. Malik Newman is also getting attention and a visit and K seems to really like his exploits since playing for Team USA and I think they’ll be in the thick of this race.

Another underclassmen Duke visited recently was Diamond Stone. Coach James, Coach K and Capel made the journey to see him around the same time as Turner. It was very much a getting to know you session and by all accounts there is major interest from both sides, meaning all went well.

There is excitement in the air with the season about to start and you can feel it from anyone related to Duke be it the staff or the players. I saw several of the players during the football game last week and all were in good spirits, especially Quinn Cook. We’ll be adding to our update on the players which is in the archives soon and we’ll be concentrating on hoops a lot more in the coming week.

If any member is reading this and is not on the message board, send me an e-mail at watzonebdp@gmail.com and once I check the list, I will okay you for said board. A lot of the quick hit information goes to the board before our updates. [/private]