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Deep Roster Allows Duke New Possibilities

 

4We continue our look at what you will see from the 2014-15 edition of the Duke Men’s Basketball team.  Yesterday, we spoke to the fact that Duke would be getting back to the basics and or the tried and true way that things that have made for an elite program.

It’s obvious that Duke circled the wagons if you will in the off-season, seeking accountability and physical toughness moving forward.  The team has focused in on the importance of doing the little things both on and off the court.

Let’s go back down memory lane for a moment.  Taking a look back at the incredibly talented and deep 2001 team which won the national title showed us that Coach Mike Krzyzewski was able to make use of a deep and talented team by playing an assortment of combinations.

Why am I alluding to that?  It’s because this years team is deep and the staff and their mentor will seek ways and combinations to play more players than past rotations where they settle on seven players for much of the season.

There is little separation between the talent level of some players while others clearly will earn significant burn.  Of those, will be the sure to be one and done Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon.  I expect Amile Jefferson to step into this group but only after his body catches up from his hip injury.  And these freshman?  They can play.

“I think this year we are incredibly deep,” said Duke Assistant Coach Nate James.  ” I think coach is already working out how we are going to play everybody.”

According to James, Mike Krzyzewski was already discussing how they could use players prior to his leaving for USA Basketball duties.

“We’ve  talked as a staff about possibly pressing more and keeping after guys,’ stated James.  “At this point we have ten guys that can really get it done.”

Duke will be able to get out in the passing lanes or press more for one main reason, or perhaps I should say two.  When you have a veteran and healthy Marshall Plumlee and the best center in high school a year ago in Jahlil Okafor, you can place them in the post to protect the break away.  And even Amile Jefferson with his length could play the same role.

“We have very active big guys,” said James.  We can play different schemes and guys who can play the back-end and allow us to get out and pressure more.”

There also seems to be solid confidence of the staff with concern to their post guys.  “They’re all extremely athletic and versatile so that opens things up,” said James.

But let’s face it, Coach Mike Krzyzeswki is not afraid to go small either and there will be times when Duke plays smaller line ups if the match ups dictate such a thing.

“Coach {Krzyzewski} can also go small at times.  We have physical guys like Semi Ojeleye, who played very sparingly last season, but he’s gotten better,” per James.

Ojeleye was a very versatile player on the AAU circuit when I covered him.  He guarded some of the other teams tallest players, many over seven-foot holding his own during the NBAPA Top 100 Camp two years ago.  Ojeleye has had to adjust to the speed of the game at the college level and the light has started to go off for him in the off-season.  He’s becoming more comfortable and understanding what he can do at the collegiate level.

“We have Justise Winslow, another player, a true freshman, that can play a lot of positions as well,’ James continued.  “That opens a lot of things up.”

Duke has just started to get into their practices for the coming season and those opportunities increase per NCAA rules as the season draws closer, but the early returns from a couple of practices are positive in nature.

“As we start practices, we will really start to see how everything sticks out.  Right now, after the few practices we have had, everyone is showing some promise and positive things, so we are all excited about it.”

There is always excitement when Duke Basketball is about to tip off their season, but there seems to be an itch to get things going and prove last seasons early exit from the NCAA Tournament was a blip on the radar.

By all accounts, Duke is having some hard practices and all of their players seemed to have improved in the offseason.  By having a deep and talented roster, there is the kind of competition in practices that only makes you better.

While Coach Mike Krzyzewski is certainly and fully immersed in taking care of business in Spain with Team USA, he likely gives ample time to thought and contact with his staff back home.  How Krzyzewski blends this team together will be fun to watch for Duke fans.

Next up, how the freshman are mature and ahead of the curve for BDN Premium members.

 

 

Duke's running back stable will have a big day at Troy - BDN Photo

Game preview: Duke at Troy

Duke at Troy
7:00 PM ET
Saturday, September 6
Troy, AL
TV: ESPN3
Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network, Sirius Ch 135

Duke in 2014: 1-0
Troy in 2014: 0-1

DUKE INJURIES

OUT – Dan Beilinson (TE), C.J. France (LB), Johnathan Lloyd (CB), Trip McNeill (OL), Jake Sanders (OL)
OUT FOR SEASON – Kelby Brown (LB), Braxton Deaver (TE), Taariq Shabazz (DE)

TROY INJURIES

Not available

The Troy Trojans made a trip to Durham a year ago, falling to the Blue Devils, 38-31. This year, Duke returns the favor with a visit to Troy, Alabama in week two. Behind four touchdowns from Anthony Boone, Duke cruised to an easy win in their opener against Elon, while the Trojans were trampled on the road by the UAB Blazers, 48-10.

HOW DUKE CAN WIN

On his weekly conference call, OC Scottie Montgomery said to be at their best, the Blue Devil offense is all about balance. A balanced attack from Anthony Boone and company should consistently find the end zone against a Troy defense that allowed 338 rushing yards to UAB and finished 115th against the pass in 2013.  Troy HC Larry Blakeney stated this week that the Blue Devils will represent the best offensive line the Trojans will face this season (and Troy will face Georgia in week 4). The key to a balanced offensive attack starts at the line of scrimmage, where Duke will need to impose their will against the struggling Trojan front seven. Expect to see Duke once again rely heavily on veteran RBs Josh Snead and Shaquille Powell as they look to impose a fast pace and consistently move the chains.

Defensively, DC Jim Knowles is likely to implement a more aggressive gameplan than against Elon, looking to turn up the heat on young redshirt-freshman QB Brandon Silvers. A big night from the Duke front six will force the young Trojan offense into turnovers, something they were unable to do against Elon in their opener.

The one glaring weakness in Duke’s effort against Elon was in the kicking game, where the Blue Devils were out-hit by the Phoenix. Coach Cutcliffe spent significant time analyzing the kicking game struggles and expect to see a better effort from Duke in week 2.

HOW DUKE CAN LOSE

On their way to a 10-2 regular season, the Blue Devils survived a scare at home against the Trojans a year ago. It would be foolish to overlook this year’s Troy team simply based on their week one result. Head Coach Larry Blakeney and his staff will have the Trojans ready for their home opener (Troy is 22-1 in home openers under Blakeney). On the road against a quality opponent, the Blue Devils cannot afford to make things easy for the Trojans. Ball security is paramount for a Duke offense that on paper should be able to move the ball with ease.

On the road, explosives can give a home team all the momentum it needs to pull off an unlikely upset. Add in a rowdy home crowd (yes, they will be serving adult beverages in Troy), and a few key plays could be all it takes for the tables to turn on Duke. The Blue Devils’ surrendered a few explosives in the return game against Elon, and a similar missed assignment on the road could lead to a game-changing score. Similarly, Duke’s young secondary must keep the Trojan receivers, led by Chandler Worthy in week one. If Troy jumps out to a lead, expect them to try and ride their own four-headed running back committee of Brandon Burks, Jordan Chunn, Khary Franklin and Tim Longmire to victory.

WHY DUKE WILL WIN

The Trojans are searching for a defensive identity and the Blue Devils’ offensive playmakers will leave them searching for answers. As they did for most of their season opener, Duke will control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Multiple Duke RBs will find their way into the end zone, while the Duke WR trio of Jamison Crowder, Issac Blakeney, and Max McCaffrey will continue their early season success. Carlos Wray and company will frequent the Trojan backfield and Troy will again struggle to convert on third down.

BOTTOM LINE

As they did a year ago in week two at Memphis, expect the Blue Devils to face their first true adversity of the season on Saturday at Troy. The Trojans will be motivated to bounce back after an embarrassing opening week loss, and will keep this close early. Behind a big day from #TheStable and a bend-but-not-break defense, Duke pulls away in the second half.

Duke 41, Troy 20

 

Miami v Duke

Duke Basketball Getting Back To Basics

Miami v DukeSo what can we expect from the 2014-15 Blue Devils? Blue Devil Nation gives you the skinny in our latest team update for BDN Premium members.

A season ago, the Duke Basketball team finished its season in a not so acceptable way by lofty program standards .  That has caused the Duke Men’s Coaching Staff to take a hard look at the way they do things in the off-season.

“We’ve looked back on a season, a moment or a period of time when we didn’t accomplish our goals and trying to figure out things that happened to keep us from our goals,” per Duke Assistant Coach Nate James.

There was concern that Duke didn’t have the typical standards necessary to advance in the NCAA Tournament and that led to the early exit.  That in turn has led to a different approach in the off-season.

“In a sense, we will be getting back to the basics and the way we handle things and implement the Duke standards,” said James.

He is not only talking about on the court issue but off the court as well and that starts with individual responsibility and attention to detail.

“It can start with small things, like taking care of your locker room,” said James.  He continued by saying “Just being on time and communicating with one another and all the little things that make up a successful program is what we took a look at and how we were handling things on the whole.”

The staff also looked at themselves and how they were implementing the Duke way of doing things past.

“Conditioning is one of the things we are doing a lot differently,” said James.  “Last year in the pre season we were coming off of situations where several players had injuries in the pre season.

That didn’t allow the staff to push certain players and in hindsight, the staff seems to be assessing how hard they can push kids and the level in which that can best be achieved.

Duke Basketball wants to be better physically this season.  And that means there has been a lot of work not just on conditioning but on getting stronger.

A season ago, Marshall Plumlee was playing catch up with his simply being in shape after a pre season injury.  He never got back to the glowing reviews that Coach Mike Krzyzewski glowed about before said injury.

Even Jabari Parker was just rounding back into shape and the players were not able to have their usual chemistry due to these nagging injuries.

“This season we are going at things very differently than we’ve done in the past,” stated James.  We are going at it harder and our team has to date been healthy save Amile Jefferson.”

Jefferson hurt his hip in the early summer and he had to sit and watch while other players worked out and played.  He is just now starting to do some things and or is at the start of getting his basketball legs back.

Duke has been able to work with Jefferson and do what he can via aqua exercises and such which takes stress off the fracture.  He is expected to be back at full strength but that is a work in progress but as a veteran player on the roster, he has provided feedback to the coaches.

“We didn’t really start off the season with where we wanted to be physically a year ago,” said James.  “This year we wanted to make sure everybody is healthy and we got back to doing things the way we like.”

Duke has had a long tradition of conditioning their players hard in the pre season.  Former Duke Assistant Steve Wojciechowski use to lead what many of the players dreaded in a pre season run.

“We’re going back to doing things with concern to conditioning in an old school way,” said James.  And what he means by that is Duke is seeking to show this years Blue Devils contingent  mental and physical toughness of teams past.

“Our team is bigger, stronger and faster.  We have been able to push them harder in the off-season due to the lack of injuries,” said James.

In short, there has been much less damage control with this seasons team save Jefferson’s set back and that has allowed for more rigorous challenges.

Some of the Duke players returned home in the off-season while most remained close to the Duke campus, but each one was given specific things to work on. Early returns seem to indicate that the changes we speak of will become fruitful or at least to appear that way at this time.

Nate James has really stepped his game up as an assistant coach while Mike Krsysewski and Jeff Capel are leading Team USA.  He’s showing off what he learned as a player playing on an incredibly talented team in 2001 to one that sustained unexpected losses where he had to join with fellow seniors Shane Battier and Chris Carrawell to continue the Duke way.  The lessons he learned in seeing both loaded roster and depleted ones gives him a unique insight he can share with the players.

The Blue Devils have also greatly benefitted from the addition of Jon Scheyer who has hit the road running.  His ability to communicate with young players and prospects being shortly removed from actually playing at Duke gives the program two assistants who complement each other perfectly until Krzyzewski and Capel return.

In closing, the Blue Devils seem to be on a mission to play the tried and true Duke way.  After all, in James and Scheyer, Duke has two players who know what it is like to hoist trophies at the end of the year.  And the two assistants are playing a large role in teaching their players how to get it done and work you must put in to reach the ultimate goal — the national title.

Next up for premium subscribers we discuss the team adjustments further and start to talk of each individual player.

 

Jim Knowles

Football Teleconference Notes

Jim KnowlesBlue Devil Nation tuned into Duke’s mid-week teleconference with Offensive Coordinator Scottie Montgomery and Defensive Coordinator Jim Knowles on Wednesday afternoon. Coach Montgomery emphasized that the staff was finding out more about the team, the players are growing as a result of summer workouts, preseason camp and finally getting out on the field against an opponent.

Here are the Football Teleconference Notes from the two coordinators comments on the Blue Devils performance against Elon as well as the upcoming trip to Troy.

Scottie Montgomery on a true freshman running back playing: It is not easy for a true freshman running back to play. Duke expects running backs to execute in three phases of the offense, as a runner, receiver and blocker.

Scottie Montgomery on Anthony Boone: He spends a lot of time in the building preparing. When he is not working out he is watching tape or studying the playbook. He also has schoolwork to complete so the amount of time he devotes to being prepared is impressive.

Scottie Montgomery on Troy: In response to being asked about establishing a balanced offensive attack against Troy, Coach Montgomery stated, we want to be balanced, we want to be a great running team that can throw the ball. Against Troy we will be who we are, which is a balanced offense.

Jim Knowles on Turnovers: Creating turnovers are a risk versus reward situation. It takes a veteran player to understand when the opportunity to take a risk is right. You don’t want to give up explosive plays, but as the season progresses and opponents become more talented the team has to take the risk.

Jim Knowles on Pass Defense Scheme against Elon: Duke gave up the short pass by design as they desired to keep everything in front of them to avoid explosive plays. As the more talented team, Duke expected to prevail via strong fundamentals.

Jim Knowles assessment of Linebackers: In general, the linebackers were in the right place. They need to get better on pulling the trigger on attacking the line of scrimmage. He graded the unit at a B.

Jim Knowles assessment of Defensive Line: The defensive line was great as they controlled the line of scrimmage against Elon. He believes the DL can be a team strength this year. They need to continue to work on the pass rush. Overall, he graded the unit at a B+ and stated he would not give them an A as he wants them to continue to work hard and he does not want to turn them into diabetics by giving them too much sugar.

Friday Night Lights: 2014 Edition No. 2

Duke-footballWelcome back Blue Devil faithful to another edition of Friday Night Lights where Blue Devil Nation keeps its readers informed on high school performances of future Blue Devils and Duke recruiting targets!

This week’s update is a quick hitter so let’s dive straight into the performance recaps:

California Tight end Tyler Petite caught two passes for 84 yards including a 47 yard touchdown as Campolindo outscored Heritage 56-31.

Staying with the California commits, Murietta Valley defeated Temescal Canyon 46-20 with wide receiver Aaron Young catching a touchdown pass. Complete statistics and a game recap were not located but here is a nice picture of Young’s scoring reception. Young is 6’5″ and the picture shows him using his height to beat a shorter defender.

Nyheim Hines rambled for 183 yards and four touchdowns as Garner defeated Cleveland 44-21 on Thursday night. Hines fourth touchdown was a 96 yard run. His earlier scores covered 12, 10 and two yards. Hines now has 350 yards rushing with five touchdowns on the season. These are numbers which will grow week by week.

Reggie Gallaspy rushed for 241 yards and four touchdowns as Southern Guilford rolled over Grimsley 43-7. Gallaspy’s first touchdown was a 53 yard run in the 1st Quarter. His other three scoring runs were for one, three and three yards. Gallaspy now has 487 yards and seven touchdowns on the season.

Ruben Garnett scored four touchdowns, two rushing and two receiving, as Aquinas topped Prince Avenue 33-18. Garnett rushed 32 times for 230 yards and caught two passes for 72 yards in the victory. Garnett now has 411 yards and six rushing touchdowns on the season.

Trai Sharp rushed for 186 yards and three touchdowns as Carrboro defeated East Chapel Hill 45-12. On Carrboro’s first play from scrimmage, Sharp ran 71 yards for a touchdown. His other two touchdown runs covered 25 and 21 yards.

Duke is looking to add a running back to their 2015 recruiting class and the performances of the players listed above shows there is talent still available. Be sure and check back next week for another edition of Friday Night Lights at Blue Devil Nation.