Preview: Duke vs. Virginia Tech

DSC_0098Preview: Duke vs. Virginia Tech
12:00 PM ET
Saturday, November 15
Durham, NC
Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network, Sirius Ch 92 and XM Ch 194

Duke in 2014: 8-1
Virginia Tech in 2014: 4-5


OUT – Alonzo Saxton II (CB)
OUT FOR SEASON – Kelby Brown (LB), Braxton Deaver (TE), Taariq Shabazz (DE)


DOUBTFUL – Brandon Facyson (CB), Trey Edmunds (RB), Chase Williams (LB)
OUT FOR SEASON – Luther Maddy (DT), Shai McKenzie (RB), Jonathan McLaughlin (OT)

Duke and Virginia Tech last faced each other on October 26, 2013 in a game Duke won 13-10 at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg. In their last game out, Duke beat Syracuse 27-10, while Virginia Tech lost to Boston College 33-31 on November 1. Virginia Tech is coming off a bye week.


On offense, look for Duke to pass to set-up the run. Achieving balance remains vital to success, but this week Duke must first achieve success in the passing game, then run the ball. Why? Virginia Tech has talented cornerbacks who can lock up wide receivers one-on-one. Kendall Fuller’s 47 yard Pick Six against North Carolina and Donovan Riley’s 63 yard Pick Six against Ohio State are examples. This strategy allows them to stack the box with eight men to stop the run and pressure the quarterback. Duke must force Virginia Tech to reduce the number of defenders in the box. With Jamison Crowder and Issac Blakeney lining up wide for the Blue Devils, it is imperative Duke wins the one-on-one wide receiver/cornerback match-ups. Blakeney and Crowder had great games against Syracuse and this weekend would be a great time to see encore performances.

On defense, Duke must force the Hokies to be one dimensional on offense by stopping the run. Virginia Tech has struggled to run the ball so the Blue Devils must ensure those struggles continue on Saturday afternoon in Wallace Wade Stadium. Once Virginia Tech is forced to rely on the pass, they are playing to Duke’s defensive strength a ball hawking secondary.

The Blue Devil special teams have been special this season so against the Hokies the special teams must perform to win the field position battle and force Virginia Tech to face a long field all afternoon. It sounds simple and at times this season Duke has made it look simple, but a lot of hard work and effort go into executing those exciting returns and great coverage. Historically, the Hokies have excelled on special teams earning the moniker Beamer Ball. This Saturday afternoon Duke special teams need to flip the script and outperform Virginia Tech.


If Duke fails to protect quarterback Anthony Boone, they will lose. Virginia Tech defensive ends have combined for 10.5 sacks this season with the defense combining for 31 sacks total, which is third best in the conference. As stated above, this is a game where the Blue Devils need to successfully pass the ball in order to set-up the run so Anthony Boone must have time to go through his progressions, locate open receivers and accurately deliver the ball. Duke’s offensive line has been superb so far this season and it will need to be superb again against the Hokies who will certainly blitz, blitz and then blitz some more.

If Duke fails to value the ball, they will lose. Duke is ranked first in the ACC in Turnover Margin at +9, while Virginia Tech is number 13 at -4. Duke cannot afford empty possessions so they must not turnover the ball to the Hokies. Moreover, turning the ball over forces the Blue Devils defense back on the field. In what by all acounts should be a closely contested game, the team that is freshest in the pivotal 4th quarter will have an advantage. Turnovers lead to fatigue.


Duke and Virginia Tech are programs on opposite trajectories. Duke is on the rise while the once vaunted Virginia Tech Hokies are falling as evidenced by their position in the ACC Coastal Division basement. Duke will beat Virginia Tech because the Blue Devils will be the better coached team, the more disciplined team and the more talented team.


This game will be won by the team which can dictate their will upon the opponent. Can Duke force Virginia Tech out of their man-on-man pass coverage on the outside? Will Virginia Tech successfully stack eight men in the box for all four quarters? The answer to those two questions will dictate the game outcome.

Duke 23, Virginia Tech 19


Communication Is The Key to Duke Success

tyusWhat do you think is the key for success for the 2014-15 Duke Basketball team?  Most who are chiming in before tip-off are pointing towards the freshmen maturing.  I buy into that to a small degree for there will be moments when they eventually hit a wall.  But these young men are already quite mature and I feel the challenge lies in another key area.

The reason I say that is because college basketball is younger than ever.  Add to that, the freshman coming in are older than ever.  The type of freshman that come into Duke are far from green and this seasons class bares witness to that more so than most.

Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow all played on the Nike EYBL circuit and that means they’ve played a heck of a lot of basketball.  These three also played for USA Basketball where they travelled afar leading their team to a Gold Medal.   Make no mistake, travelling quickly broadens ones self  and most 18 year olds have never put in so many miles.  And then there is Grayson Allen.  While he didn’t play in the Nike circuit until late, nobody doubts his lack of shyness after winning the McDonald’s All American Dunk Contest while rocking a Duke jersey.  In the pre season Allen has shown the ability to come off the bench adjust quickly and score in bunches.

The bottom line is that while these young men have yet to play a regular season college basketball game, they are already seasoned.  That’s quite evident in the fact that three of the aforementioned will be in the starting lineup from day one for Duke.  This group is the most mature class I have seen in some time.  And for what it’s worth I am talking since Mike Krzyzewski’s breakthrough class which included current Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, Mark Alarie and David Henderson to the modern-day.

The aforementioned eighties class was young in basketball years because the AAU circuit and USA Basketball was a shadow of what it is today.  Heck, coaches have been unable to truly play the “young,” card since the now trendy “snark” journalism was born with the likes of Jim Rome and that was a long time ago now.

That said,  don’t expect to see Coach Mike Krzyzewski play the “young,” card this season.  And if he does?  Well, that would spell trouble and means things aren’t going well on the court.   Now, before you say he has already played the young card, let me clarify by saying he’s said on a few occasions that his team played “young,” but he hasn’t in recent memory called his team young.

What the Duke Coach knows is one of the main keys to the season is developing communication which leads to chemistry.

That said, communication is “the key,” to the coming season more-so than anything else.  What is communication within the Duke Basketball system?  Well, its many things, but it starts with talk.  Behind every championship team at Duke has been vocal leadership and players who talk it up while they’re on the court.

A lot of times, talking on the court doesn’t come naturally to players, even the best ones and it has to be coached into them.  Many a player has had a great skill set, yet failed to reach their potential due to simple communication issues. Most recently, current Duke Coach Jim Scheyer and Nolan Smith led Duke to a national championship four years ago.  Neither of those guys were big talkers coming into Duke by nature but they developed that skill set.

While watching many games on the Nike AAU Circuit involving Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow, I saw extremely talented players.  But none of them were especially vocal.

Tyus Jones was the ultimate point guard who operated in a most smooth  and efficient manner, but led more by example with his play.  Justise Winslow was just a cool customer, finding ways to do it all, but he too, was basically a quiet player on the court.  Even Jahlil Okafor was much more of a “Just do it,” guy than he was vocal .  Lastly, Grayson Allen let his dunks and athleticism speak, but he was more apt to give off a smile than he was to chat it up.

Coming into the season, seeing whether this talented quartet advanced in the area of communication was one of the things I wanted to keep an eye on.  The mere fact that Duke named the outgoing Amile Jefferson and the quick to always have something to say Quinn Cook as captains further cemented in my mind that this too may have been an area of concern for the staff.

In witnessing the first practice of the season one thing stood out to me the most.  As I was making verbal notes on my recorder I began to wonder if I could decipher them later, for there was plenty of background noise in Cameron.  As it turned out the recordings were inaudible due to practice chatter in the backdrop and that was a sign that my concern had been addressed.

During the practices and pre season games I witnessed, it became clear to me that at this time, the message that you had to talk on the court had taken root.  It’s obvious that this had been an emphasis from the staff while Kryzweski was bringing home another Gold this past summer with USA Basketball duties.

Talking on the court of things like calling out picks and switches and the rest doesn’t come easy for some but it is one of the cornerstones of success at this level.  Every Duke team that has done special things and brought home championships talked it up along the way,

So far, so good in the pre season.  The freshman are talking more than I’ve  seen them do before and the veteran players are helping them to understand the Duke way.  Talking the game up leads to chemistry and communication leads to good things.  If the team continues to take this part of the game seriously it will bode well for the 2014-15 season.  Communication is the one thing which could be the key to playing in Indianapolis come April as one of the last four teams standing.


Anthony Boone 8-30-14

Duke QB Anthony Boone talks Hokies

Anthony-Boone-10-6-12The one thing Anthony Boone does consistently is win.  The Duke quarterback faces another stiff challenge this weekend from a notoriously tough Hokie defense.  Make no mistake that the Duke versus Virginia Tech match up is the key game left on the schedule.  With a win, Duke can split their remaining two regular season games and earn no less than a tie for the Coastal Division crown.  If Duke can get past the Hokies and Florida State takes out Miami this weekend, a split moving forward would clinch the division title.


Chase Jeter & Luke Kennard Set For Duke

20140308_225342The early November signing period will yield no surprises for Duke Basketball.  That is, unless their ast target decides to go ahead and announce his decision. Blue Devil Nation has learned that not only will Chase Jeter and Luke Kennard will send their letters of intent in, but they’ll also room together.

Meanwhile, another key target in Brandon Ingram and his camp continue to play their decision close to the vest.  Originally, Ingram had planned to announce decision in the Fall and that can still happen.

The Blue Devil staff has to like their early haul.  In Chase Jeter, they get a versatile front court player with plenty of upside.  In Luke Kennard, they get a hard nose competitor that can play multiple roles as well.

Jeter stands 6-11 and played his high school ball in Las Vegas.  He committed to Duke shortly after winning the MVP of an Adidas Nations event this pat August.   At that rime he mentioned being able to play for Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski and contribute right away as being key factors.

The Jeter family took their time with the recruiting process, but Duke had gained a lead on his last visit to the school.  Still, they wanted to make sure it was the right decision and it all played out well for Duke in the end.  Jeter suitors were Arizona, Kansas, UCLA and UNLV.

When Duke first started to recruit Luke Kennard just before the 2013 Nike Peach Jam, many felt he was Kentucky’s to lose.  The reason being proximity to the school and early family allegiances.  But Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski made some quick in roads and developed a strong relationship from that point on and it led to his commitment to the Blue Devils.

During his visit to Duke, Kennard felt at home and more importantly comfortable.  He was told he could play three positions within their system on the visit and this enticed him to cast his lot with the Blue Devils.

Like Jeter, Kennard is a versatile player.  He’s also very competitive in anything he does.  He gave up playing quarterback for his high school football team for the big picture of playing basketball for Krzyzewski and Duke.  Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan, North Carolina and Ohio State had all offered Kennard who will sign his Letter of Intent on Wednesday at his high school.

At last report, Duke was slated to get a visit this weekend from Brandon Ingram, a talented in state prospect from Kinston, North Carolina.  Most feel Ingram is down to the three triangle are schools which include Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State.

Ingram and his camp have been quiet of late but in no way be surprised if his decision comes at any time.  Ingram has originally pointed to a Fall decision and their camp has always been solid on their word with concern to past comments.

Both Jeter and Kennard as well as the prospect Ingram are all ranked in the top 26 players in the nation according to ESPN.

For more recruiting chatter and opinion, join Blue Devil Nation Premium, out extended subscription service.


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Monday Musings – Duke Mania: Three Games in 26 Hours

Clemson v DukeTake your vitamins now Duke fans for there is a busy, yet fun weekend coming up.   It all starts this Friday at 6 p.m. when Coach Mike Krzyewski and the Blue Devils basketball team takes on Presbyterian in Cameron Indoor Stadium.  The very next day, Duke (8-1) will host Virginia Tech in football at high noon in Wallace Wade Stadium.  And later that evening, Duke will play its second basketball game of the young season against Fairfield at 8 p.m. in Cameron, again.

Yep!  That’s three games tipping or kicking off on campus within 26 hours.  I suppose that makes for a maniacal experience for many and it’s sure to keep a lot of scribes banging at their keyboards from duck until dawn.  That said, let’s take a look at the two basketball games sandwiching a huge football game in between in the latest Monday Musings.

_SAC2534The Season Opens For Duke Basketball

There is no shortage of excitement for this years tip off to the men’s basketball season at Duke and for good reason, or reasons.  Firstly Coach Mike Krzyzewski will win his unprecedented 1000th collegiate basketball victory unless half the team is goes down to injury.  Yes, that was sarcasm for this years team is truly loaded.  It all starts with an incredibly talented and mature freshman class which features the much hyped Jahlil Okafor.  Blend the group which includes Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Grayson Allen in with some key vets like Amile Jefferson, Quinn Cook, Matt Jones, Rasheed Sulaimon, Semi Ojeleye, Marshall Plumlee and you have a pretty darn good team.  Anyhow, they will take on the Blue Hose who hope the second part of their last name doesn’t get a letter added by games end.  Presbyterian is led by Jordan Downing who is a Big South Pre Season All Conference Team player,  Downing is a guy they need on the court and he is a prolific scorer.

SONY DSCEnter The Hokies At Noon On Saturday

Wallace Wade should be rocking when a traditional ACC power Virginia Tech comes to town.  What makes the Hokies dangerous is that they are coming off a bye week and they’ll be hungry to avenge last seasons home loss to Duke.  The word out of Blacksburg is that they expect to sweep their final three games and carry a 7-5 resurgent record into bowl game.  But Duke is on a roll and they are fighting to get back to Charlotte for the ACC Championship Game.  The Blue Devils have become not only a good team under David Cutcliffe, but a good program.  The Blue Devils are firmly ranked in the polls, but they want to prove the few doubters remaining wrong and solidify their standing as a program that has arrived.  This will be a physical battle between to very hungry teams and Wade will need their Wacko’s to be there and into the game from start to finish and wearing their Duke Blue.

Catch Your Breath Quickly, For Hoops Plays Fairfield The Same Evening

By the end of the evening, the Duke Men’s Coaching Staff will have a much better idea of what their team is capable of doing this season.  With two games in two days, Duke is likely to play a lot of players and combinations and that’ll be fine by Coach K.   Early in the season, Krzyzewski is known to experiment with his line ups.  We’ll see right off the bat how his team responds to two games in two days which is what you will get at year’s end in tournament settings.  The opponent for Duke will be the Fairfield Staggs who are coming off and exhibition win over Bridgeport.  The player to watch for the Staggs will be Marcus Gilbert who scored 26 points in the win.  Look for Duke to try to push him off the three-point stripe where he is effective.  It’s bit of a rebuilding year for the Staggs who are picked at the bottom of their conference.


We checked with some local motels and there are a lot of rooms booked for the weekend but plenty left if you’re willing to drive some reasonable miles.  There are some tickets left at GoDuke for the football game.  If you cannot attend this weekend, tune into Blue Devil Nation who will be at all three games.  For those who cannot make the trip to Durham for the games, both basketball games and the football contest will all be carried by ESPNU.

Duke Had a Visitor And Will Get Another

Caleb Swanigan, a 6-8 post player from the Class of 2015 visited Duke during its exhibition basketball game win this past weekend.  Swanigan has offers from pretty much everybody.  Duke will get a visit from their main target in the lithe Brandon Ingram this Saturday as well.  He is considering neighbors UNC and NCSU as well and recently visited UCLA.   More talk on him for members of the Blue Devil Nation Premium section.

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