Category Archives: Duke Football

Game Week – Cutcliffe talks to the media, part I

[private]Coach Cutcliffe addressed the media today with the emphasis on changing the culture of Duke Football and asking the fans to be in the stands early.

Opening statements - We are going to have a Blue Out.  So, we want everybody to wear blue to the game.  We want to see a sea of blue in the stadium.

Just evaluating our team, there are three phases that have happened already.  There's winter conditioning, there is spring practice and summer conditioning work.  All three phases, we've gotten better.  Is it good enough?  I'm not saying that.  But we're at a point of being so far away, that we have miles to go before we sleep, so to speak.  The fourth phase is the season.  It's very obvious we are better as a team.  I can give some specifics.

We are much better in the kicking game.  Again, consider where we were!  So, much better is not good enough to this point in my opinion.  But we are much better!  Our punting, our place kicking ... our kickoff has been excellent.  I like our ability to be a good return team!  Our coverage has been much better than what it's been.  I think we can make some things happen.  I think we can block some kicks.

As far as throwing and catching the ball -- I was very concerned after spring practice.  They (team) struggled with that.  Our throwing and catching was really poor.  It has now reached the point where it is much better.  Again, it's a little too inconsistent than what I like, but I'm pleased with the progress.

One of the areas I'm most pleased with is the pass coverage.  I think our secondary has done a tremendous job at this point.  I hope it is an indication of them improving, not our receivers not being able to separate.  There has been a tremendous job done by Coach Jones and Coach MacIntyre in that regard.

Our tackling has been better.  You can't play good defense ... the scheme doesn't matter if you can't tackle.  Our tackling is not where it should be at this time, but it is better than any point in spring practice.  If I had to lift something quickly right now, I would pray for great tackling.

The biggest concern I have, although there is improvement are both fronts.  Our front on defense is much better, but I have a major concern about depth there.  The offensive line is the same thing.  There has been drastic improvement, but it's still not where it needs to be and the depth is horrendous at this point.

Overall, the thing that has helped us get better is better practice habits.  I knew the first time I saw this team that was an issue.  We sometimes try to revert back to 0-12, 1-11 habits.  That's what we're here for is to make them understand you practice with the same intensity and the same execution which never waivers and we lose focus.  Our jobs as coaches is to immediately correct that.  If we continue to do that through the season, by the time we get to November, we can be a good football team.  We are not the most talented team in the conference, but we need to be a good football team and if you are a good football team you can carry into the fourth quarter and win the game.

On the importance of a good showing on Saturday night ... Thank goodness there's expectations.  I like that.  Obviously I know of the importance of going out and playing well and people coming back.  The biggest challenge is to generate the interest have some expectations.  If you don't go in expecting to do well, you generally will not.

On changing the culture and the mentality of players -  We have them everyday since last January and we've made progress in that regard.  The thing we had to do was get the people enthused, get them in the stands, sell the stadium out.  There has been too much finger pointing when it comes to Duke Football.  We all have to take responsibility..  Our Administration has been a part of this and very supportive and they've declared that they want to change the culture of football at Duke and we are taking that serious.  I'm not going to be afraid to challenge people.  If it's not good enough on their end then I need to let them know.  They can be mad if they want, but we are serious about changing the football program.

Part 2 is coming soon. Pictured is Coach David Cutcliffe and new Athletic Director, Kevin White. (copyright BDNP)[/private]

Game Week – Thaddeus Lewis Interview


copyright BDN Photography

Who is your biggest fan or the one who encourages you the most during your career?

My Momma! She's my biggest fan. So I have to give a shout out to my Mother. My big brother too. He's kind of like my idol. My brother is nine years older than me and everything he's done in sports, I'd like to follow.

What was it that you liked about Duke when making your collegiate choice?

Duke is somewhere you can be comfortable at. You want to be somewhere where somebody wants you. I wanted to contribute right away and there is a family atmosphere here amongst the coaches.

Some in the media are saying Zack Asack is pushing you in practice. How do you feel about that? Does it make you a better player or do you just try to be the best Thad can be?

I don't like to read the media, but I'm glad he is. That's the type of thing you want. God forbid anything happen, but you would want someone behind you that can lead this team if something was to happen to me. So, it's a good thing, it makes me a better player making me compete everyday. I wouldn't have it no other way.

What do you think of Coach Cutcliffe so far?

Coach Cutcliffe is a great man! A guy that's going to push you to your limit. He wants the best out of you everyday and will not let you settle for less. That's the type of man you want around.

How about Coach Roper the OC?

Coach Roper is a fun guy. He stays on you! He's a good teacher.

I noticed during the opening day with the media that your body looked a little different than last season ...

They brought in Coach Durfey as the strength and conditioning coach. He has a good weight program and works us hard. If you come into our locker room you are there to be in pursuit of excellence, so if you are not ready to work, well ... It took a lot of hard work, plus the challenge that Coach told us he wanted us to drop weight and get to a certain level of body fat.

Do you have a different gel going into this season than last year? What's your general feel?

More mature. Confident in what you can do. This is my third offense in three years, but being a leader you have to adjust. It feels kind of good in that you have a lot of players around you who have that game experience.

Tell me a little bit about being a leader for this season's team ...

I'm not a real vocal leader, but I try to show it through my actions. You do everything to the best of your abilities and let the guys see your working hard and they will follow.

I assume you have a good relationship with Eron Riley. Have you two developed ...

Definitely! Since me and Eron have been connecting with each other ... sometimes the two of us will come out here and throw some balls together trying to get our timing down. Just going to his house and playing games and hanging ... it's a relationship we are all in on here.

What are your goals for the coming season? Any personal goals?

No personal goals, just a team goal. Every time you hear us shout it will be "We are Duke." We're going to take it one game at a time and do whatever it takes to fill up that stadium out there. (interview on practice field)

Tough question here ... In the recent past Duke hasn't fared well at home. You have four consecutive to open the season starting with James Madison. What will you do to turn it around?

People want to see you win. If we go out there and get that first "W," we know they'll want to come back to see you. But they will want to see if we can repeat the success as well. If you give the fans what they want, you definitely are going to get that support. You've got to earn it.

What is Thad's message to Duke fans going into Saturday evening's opener with a tough JMU team?

We hope to see you there. We're going to go out there and give it our all and try to give them a show. Our guys will always come out and give it our best and no matter the results we'll come back hard in our pursuit of excellence. People say that winning isn't everything, but actually it is and we want to get a win.[/private]

Duke Football: Freshman of Influence

[private]I asked Coach Cutcliffe which freshman looked as if they were ready to contribute right away this season. The following is the list he gave BDN.

DB Matt Daniels #40 (6-1, 195)- "Matt Daniels looks like he will be able to contribute on defense," sad Coach Cutcliffe after a recent practice. Daniels will compete for time in the secondary. Set a single game rushing record of 348 yards while at Fayette County HS in Georgia. Tallied 268 tackles in his career and pulled in 7 interceptions.

DB Lee Butler #36 (5-10, 180)- Coach Cutcliffe also mentioned Butler as a player who could step in right away. Butler most recently had 4 tackles and cause a late fumble to seal a South Carolina victory over North Carolina in the annual Shrine Bowl which is an all star game. Had 1263 all purpose yards and 11 touchdowns last season for Westside High in Anderson, S.C.

ST, LB Trent Mackey #20 (5-10, 220)- "I expect to see Trent Mackey get some time on special teams and eventually make it at the linebacker," said Coach Cutcliffe. There has been a buzz around Mackey during early practices. Had 103 tackles, 13 for losses as a senior at Carnecro HS in Louisiana.

WR Johnny Williams #37 (5-10, 190)- "Johnny Williams has certainly set a strong pace at receiver. He's been one of our leading receivers in every scrimmage we've had," said Coach Cutcliffe. Williams is a very talented youngster capable of making big plays. He ran first team more often than not in many drills. Was a do all athlete at St. Stephens HS in Alabama. One of the true gems in the class of 2008.

RB Jay Hollingsworth #27 (5-10, 185)- With injuries to tailbacks, Hollingsworth will be depended upon to carry an early load. Looks like a pure running back in practices. Was rated the number three running back in the state by RIvals. Played his ball locally at Lee County H.S. in Sanford, North Carolina. "Hollingsworth is getting a lot of snaps at running back. We have major concerns in that area. I think that Jay continues to get himself ready to play," said Cutcliffe.

There are a handful of others who could make this list. It'll be interesting to watch the 08 guys develop as the season moves along.[/private]

Quick Hitter – Vincent Rey talks leadership and JMU

[private]I caught up with LB Vinnie Rey, having a bit of one on one time with him after an intense practice.

Looks like you guys are going at it hard and preparing for James Madison ...

"We're working hard. It's like two jobs. It's a job in the film room and it's a job out here. The film room is a job to understand and learn the schemes. Out here you just have to run to the ball and finish."

You are going up against a multi-faceted quarterback. How do you prepare for that?

He's a very good quarterback ... good on his feet and throwing the ball also. We have a big job to do, but we can't forget that there is ten other guys out there on his team who can play as well.

You stepped up big time last year. Have we seen the best of Vincent Rey yet?

No sir! I feel like I've gotten a lot better physically. I'm learning the game a lot better under the new coaching staff. I feel that I just have to keep doing my job on defense. The better I do my job, the better I help my team.

You've been named team captain! What does that feel like in that the other three are seniors?

It's one of the biggest honors I've had in my life. And it's definitely a responsibility on and off the field.

What do you bring to the table as a leader?

I bring hard work. Every time I come out here I want to be the hardest working guy on the field.

Do you have a message for Duke fans?

Come to the game and you will be entertained. It's going to be a good game and we want your support.[/private]

Duke Football Practice Report #7 Cutcliffe talks defense and more

[private]The Blue Devil Nation was once again on the scene for today's practice where Coach Cutcliffe took the time to give us a synopsis of the practice.

Coach Cutcliffe on today's practice- We had our second day in a row of physical practice in preparation for James Madison. I think we are on pace. We'll pick back up next week. Tomorrow we'll have a workout that's dedicated to the kicking game ... all phases and aspects. So we will cover every situation. I don't like putting a team out on a field when they haven't been put through every situation that can arise in a ball game. Coach Middleton and I met kind of late last night and developed a nice script. So we will add some strong meeting time and get that worked out. We'll do some heavy physical conditioning in the morning and we'll be ready to start game week on Sunday.

On the defense- I think there is a significant difference in our linebacker play because of our speed. Vinnie and Mike have totally different body types than they had a year ago. I think Coach Hobby has the defensive line playing really hard. I'm concerned about our depth there. Charlie Hatcher has put himself in a position to really help inside. Ayanga and Egboh are showing progress outside. I'm real pleased with the secondary. The consistency has been good, the tackling has been good. They're liking the tighter coverage ... the press coverage. There getting use to it now, it's fun to watch it work. I'm pleased, but the biggest concern I have with this football team is injuries. Knock on wood, we've been relatively injury free on defense and we need to stay that way.[/private]

Duke football equals family fun

[private]Football season kicks off next Saturday and the excitement around Duke is palpable. I have some very strong and pleasant memories of Duke football. As a young boy, my father took me to games at Wallace Wade Stadium (some of those games before the horseshoe was renamed) a couple of times a year. Those trips were always a great day so I thought I’d share a couple of memories.

Duke hosted South Carolina on September 30, 1967, and the game started fast. My father and I were in our end zone seats with the Duke kick returners lined up right in front of us as South Carolina kicked off to start the game. Duke failed to handle the kick and the ball bounced into the end zone where the Gamecocks covered it for a touchdown. There were only a few seconds gone off the clock and Duke was down by a touchdown. South Carolina went on to win 21-17. Duke may have lost on that particular afternoon, but as an eight year old rabid Duke fan, I still had a great time.

In the early days, we always sat in the end zone general admission seats that sold for $1 back in the sixties. On one Saturday afternoon, I don’t remember the year or who was the opposing team, every point scored in the game was scored at the closed end of the stadium right in front of us. Our seats were worth every one of those hundred pennies that day.

During the 1974 season, I went to the Purdue game with an older friend who lived across the street. The previous Saturday the Boilermakers had defeated Notre Dame in South Bend. My friend and I had seats on about the 35 - 40 yard line on the East side of the stadium. Duke defeated Purdue 16-14 and as time expired everyone in the stadium was chanting, “We want Notre Dame!” I’m not sure why we wanted the Fighting Irish, they went 10-2 in 1974, but it was exciting at the time.

My last trip to Wallace Wade Stadium was almost 32 years ago in 1976. Tony Dorsett and the Pitt Panthers traveled to Durham. Pittsburgh won 44-31 as part of their 12-0 season. But 1976 turned into 1977 and I was off to the United States Navy traveling extensively and living overseas.

So with the 2008 season about to start I encourage all readers in North Carolina to take advantage of the opportunity for some great family fun and take in some of the games at Wallace Wade. We need fathers and mothers and grandfathers and grandmothers to gather up those youngsters and take them to a Duke football game. I will not be making it back to North Carolina this year, but I have a three year old grandson and I will be taking him to a couple of games in the future.[/private]