Category Archives: Duke Football

Quick Hitter #1 – Tielor Robinson talks move to TE

[private]Tielor Robinson (#2) has been through a lot of changes and this season brings about another one.  He has moved to TE and will be counted on in many ways in the new offensive system.  Tielor is a six year senior and wants to leave his mark by helping the 2008 Duke Football team to some wins. The Blue Devil Nation was able to speak with Robinson after practice.

How are you coping with the position change from running back to tight end?

At first the on the line stuff was pretty hard because there is more steps.  The more you do it, the more you understand why and the process behind it and that's pretty important -- to understand the concepts of the play.

How does this enable you to take advantage of your versatility?

I think I'm pretty strong, so it helps to take advantage of that being a former full back.  That's what made the transition easier, because I was so strong.  I'm short ... I like to say I'm six foot, but I'm closer to the other side of five eleven.  But it's easy to get under people, which is necessary going against big defensive ends.  Everything else is the same.  When you catch the ball you need to know how to run routes.

Even blocking, you know what it feels like having played as a back.  I know what they want to see.  They want me to knock a guy on his back to make it easy for a back to come behind me.  When I catch the ball, I turn right back into a running back.

Obviously, there has been some backfield injuries.  Has there been any talk of moving you back?

Not to me.  I've thought about it a little bit, but I think that this team needs me more at tight end where we also have injuries.

Which position do you prefer?

It really doesn't matter to me.  If they decided to move me at center, I'd do it because they know what's best for the team.  I'm just there to do what is best for the team.

There have been some time in the past where I wanted to be involved a little more.  Being a tight end you're involved in every play.  It's good, you like to be in the game.  When the games over you want to feel like you had a big part whether we win or lose.

The Blue Devil Nation will continue to be your destination for Duke Football Practice Reports leading into the season.  We have decided to offer our analysis to all Duke fans instead of limiting it to our premium subscription section.  Our goal is to cast a bright light on the program.  We encourage all fans to turn out for the season opener on August 31st vs James Madison.  And don't forget Meet the Blue Devils Day which includes a scrimmage this Saturday in Wallace Wade at 10:30!  Further details can be found at GoDuke.com, the official site of the Duke Blue Devils.[/private]

Practice Report #4 – Duke holds scrimmage

Today's Duke scrimmage started with a penalty, but as the session went on, some positives emerged. 

Quarterback situation -  It has become obvious that Zack Asack will push Thadeus Lewis which is a good thing in that competition generally makes for a better starter.  Lewis was 9 of 13 for 92 yards.  He showed accuracy and stayed in the pocket.  Asack wasn't nearly as accurate going 6-14 for 67 yards.  However, one of those passes was for a T.D.  He also had 4 carries for 55 yards thanks to one big play.  If he can get a little better with his footwork and confidence in the pocket, he will be a nice dual threat.

Running Backs- Duke lacked depth at this position coming into the season.  It has gotten worse.  Boyette was penciled in as the starter but is out indefinitely.  To make matters worse, Clifford Harris is nursing an unknown knee problem and sat out the scrimmage.  Cameron Jones had a nice 35 yard burst on one play.  Jay Holligsworth a true freshman got some reps as well gaining a team 54 yards high on 10 carries.  Tony Jackson added 5 totes for 22 yards and Patrick Kurunwune, another freshman rolled off some blocks well with a couple of runs.  The team was better hitting the holes on the outside than the interior.

Tight Ends- In another depth challenged position, Tielor Robinson could be a go to guy.  He had 2 catches for 11 yards.  Brett Huffman also contributed with a couple of nice catches.  Brandon King is still sidelined and there is no timeline established for his return.

Receivers- A relatively quiet day for Riley who played sparingly.  Raphael Chestnut had 2 catches for 18 yards.  Jeremy Ringfield had an 18 yard scoring reception.  There were a couple of single catches as well.

Offensive Line- The team mixed and matched some linemen today in an effort to get players acclimated to playing together.  Upper class men played well.  They held up more often than not, but sometimes missed assignments which led to the QB.  Of course, this could also be blamed on the backs who may have missed their assignments.

Defense- Eddie Morgan (S) recovered a fumble and fellow safety Adrian Aye-Darko had an interception.  I focused mainly on the offense today.

Kicking Game-  Before the scrimmage, I saw some pretty good punts which showed increased hang time from last season.  During the scrimmage, Surgan continued his struggles from last season, missing one long field goal and a short one.  In fact, Cutcliffe as promised went for two on one XP situation and it was converted where Tony Jackson ran it into the end zone.

Freshman watch - Jay Hollingsworth averaged over 5 YPC today.  Also, Johnny Williams has really impressed me so far.  You can bet that freshmen will play big roles in the running game.

Cut Quotes -  Overview of the scrimmage - "I think we got what we wanted out of this scrimmage.  We had some two minute drills which were pretty dynamic.  We got some goal line work, we got a lot of third down work.  The offense took the ball right down the field making big plays but they turned it over in a forced error by the defense.  One big glaring thing right now is we've got to find somebody to run the football."

On current running backs - "Tony Jackson hasn't had a lot of practice at running back, because I moved him in spring practice from defense.  Jay Hollingsworth, Patirck Kurunwune and Cameron Jones are behind that, but nobody at this point has asserted itself.  So, I am kind of scouring the team looking at every situation to try to find help in that position."

On injuries - "I just don't dwell on injuries in football.  It's an unhealthy thing to do and I learned that early in my career.  We won't ever do that as a team."

On Vince Oghobasse - "Vince is a very talented player that was injured after he came.  When we came, to be quite honest with you, he wasn't in good enough shape to play like I think the guy can play.  He's now coming around.  Conditioning is a little challenging for him with his health status, bet he's coming around to becoming a pretty disruptive football player.  I'm real anxious to see what kind of year he has."

On the quarterbacks- "Thad has his best day today.  He's really done a good job getting a grasp of the offense.  His conditioning level is way beyond what it was.  Zack has shown he can make big plays.  What Zack has to do is show me more consistency in managing the offense and putting guys in the right place and more consistent running the football.  He's very capable of doing that."

Meet the Blue Devils Day features scrimmage

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DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke football team wants to invite you to show your support at the annual “Meet The Team Day” on Saturday, August 16, beginning after Duke's 10 a.m. scrimmage at Wallace Wade Stadium.

The scrimmage is open to the public and meet the team day will begin after the practice on the track surrounding the field.  Fans will have an opportunity to get autographs and pictures taken with their favorite Blue Devil players and coaches. Posters will be given away to those attending and all fans will be able to enter drawing to win prizes.

The event and prizes are sponsored by Alltel Wireless, Blue Devil Weekly, Crocs, Delta Air Lines, Durham Coca-Cola Bottling Company, Gatorade, Herald-Sun, Lineberry and Company, Northgate Mall, Duke Stores and Time Warner Cable.

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What they’re saying about Coach Cutcliffe

[private]The final tour stop on the Cutcliffe Express stopped at Tyler's Tap House where Coach  Cutcliffe addressed aproximately 250 Iron Dukes.  He  later threw out the first pitch during the Durham Bulls game.  We'll have an in depth article up tomorrow where you will hear all the positive things said. So be sure to check back.   During the event, I was able to talk to some Duke players and fans.  Here is what they had to say about David Cutcliffe -

Hal McElhaney (Former Duke Football Great)- I've been to practice sessions all spring and observed his coaching style.  There is so much familiarity in the ways he does things to Coach (Bill) Murray that it's scary.  I think Coach Cutcliffe is what I term a throwback.  He grew up under the Bear Bryant regime and there is a lot of style in him.  I know we are going to improve.  I will guarantee you we will improve.  He's such a methodical well planned thinker.  He's demanding, he's tough, he's kind of ornery, but he also puts his arms around a player.  I have a tough time tempering my excitement. 

Bob Harris (Voice of the Blue Devils) - I have been on the tour with Coach Cutcliffe and he's got people interested and excited about Duke Football again.  Listening to him talk, you can see just how committed he is and how much he believes they're going to win.  He's the ninth head coach that I've worked with and only two others have been a head coach prior to coming to Duke.  David brings a pedigree that none of the others can touch.  The job he did at Mississippi, going to four straight bowl games which is phenomenal.  I'm not predicting anything like that for Duke but he will have them much better quicker some might think.  I'm excited about the way he does things, the way he conducts himself and the changes within the team in the short time he has been here.

Roger Neighborgall (Former Duke Quarterback 72-75)- Coach Cutcliffe is going to focus the kids priorities.  That's very important at Duke.  In the past they have put their focus in a lot of different directions.  These kids are going to know they have a proven winner.  I liked that he mentioned faith and family as two of the key points.  What Coach Cutcliffe was saying is that he is going to respect which ever faith you may bring to the table or encourage you to have some kind.

Don Fowler (Former Duke Baseball Player)- What has most impressed me is that Coach Cutcliffe has figured out that there are kids in North Carolina that can play.  As a North Carolina native that played at Duke I know the importance of having in state kids.  I like that he said he was going to be out there visiting every town and getting to know the coaches.

Don McClintock (Fan from Durham)-  He's doing exactly what I think needs to happen.  There has to be a change of culture and that's exactly what he is trying to instill.  We're excited ... all of my family has tickets and we are looking forward to go watch Duke play.  Obviously, the Duke fans want to win, but they really just want to see a good brand of Duke Football.  If they win they're going to be really excited.  If they don't win and play a good brand of football, that'll be okay in that they understand it's going to take a little while to get it turned around.

Stan Ellis (A fan from Durham)- I think its great having Coach Cutliffe at the helm.  It's motivating and that's something that Duke has lacked for a long time.  I've been going to Duke Football games all my life and it's good to see someone come in that can motivate and get them back to where they use to be.  I invite all Duke fans to "Charlies," a Duke friendly place.

Check back in for the best Duke Football coverage on the web. Oh! And since Charlie's was mentioned I have to plug my bud Gene Devines place, Devines.[/private]

Duke Football Practice Report #3 – Fundamentals

[private]The Duke Football Staff has taken a step back and gone into a teaching mode.  "I changed our schedule to do a lot more teaching, a lot more fundamentals.  We are where we will test offense versus defense in more situations in the next two days," said Cutcliffe.

The team lined up the with DL's and LB's versus the offense early in the practice.  They were surrounded by five coaches which include Matt Luke, Kurt Roper, Zac Roper, Ron Middleton and of course Coach Cutcliffe.  It was obvious these guys had worked together and it was easy on the eyes to view the coaches at work.

Luke would bark orders just outside the trenches and Middleton stayed behind the offense, exhorting several players with Kurt Roper nearby.  Coach Cutcliffe was overseeing the whole scene with intensity, making the team run several players over.  Zac Roper, like Cutcliffe would push a linebacker in a certain direction from behind to either test the offense or to improve their skills aof perception.  In short, all the coaches were on the same page and they were trying to get the team that way.

A lot of emphasis was put on the throwing motion, stance and footwork of the quarterbacks.  The defensive linemen went one on two and one on three in drills.  Four or five players looked really good during these drills including offensive linemen, Goldberg and Roland.

The tight end position has has a lot of attention in that Brandon King has been out.  Cutcliife stated, "when we get this thing going rolling we will have two and three tight ends in the game at one  time.  We want guys who can stretch the field and are physical.  That's a special position to go and recruit.  I think the guys we have now are capable, but I don't think they are use to the versatility and what they are asked to do.

Notes- Duke will turn around and practice in the morning, for Cutcliffe has a speaking engagement at Tyler's Tap House in Durham.  Duke will wear full pads tomorrow and hold a closed scrimmage on Saturday.  Coach Cutcliffe said the team was in as good of shape as he thought they were.  He wouldn't go into individual players name but said the young guys are providing some speed and quickness.  He mentioned that his team needed to play lower which especially holds true for certain positions.  I noticed the same thing and it's as if Coach read my mind.  Coach said, "the first thing out of my mouth tomorrow is to play lower."  Coach also said his team could not afford to waste any reps.  He also mentioned that he liked seeing the stadium in the backdrop as Duke practiced.  Coach also said they have great respect for James Madison and their coaching staff, mentioning they were winners saying "we have a big challenge in front of us."  Vinnie Rey took a big hit and was taking into the Yoh Building.  It is said it was not serious.[/private]

Duke Football Practice Report #2 – First Unit Offensive Line Pleases Cutcliffe

[private]Coach Cutcliffe sang the praise of the number one offensive line unit on Wednesday evening.  “It was good to put the pads on where we could get some work on the line of scrimmages with the offensive line against the defensive line.  It really starts telling the tale of who is ready to play,” said Coach Cutcliffe.  He continued, “I was encouraged by the offensive lin in our inside running drills today.  It was the best I’ve seen them play since spring.”

“Get up, get up, get up!,” echoed in the background from various parts of the field as dusk closed in on Duke Football’s third practice of the season.  In short, when a player hit the turf, they we immediately encouraged to get up so that they could still make the play.  “One of our rules is to treat the ground like a hot stove.  Nobody has ever won a football game laying on the ground.  I think it’s critical that our guys understand.  That’s how we play football, we’re back on our feet.  That’s the biggest emphasis we have right now, that everybody get back on their feet, stay on their feet and keep moving.  There is an old saying I like from the years I heard from old Jim Neyland, “No feet, defeat,” and I think that’s very true in football.  If you don’t have good feet you’re gonna get beat.”

With regards to the passing game, Cutcliffe stated, “We have miles to go, but we are making a lot of progress in throwing and catching the ball route running and understanding spacing versus zone and separation versus man.”  Coach then said that they had slowed the process down and got back into the teaching mode saying,  “We don’t want the cart to get ahead of the horse trying to do too much.”  This was in reference to similar mistakes this unit had been making in Spring ball which once again caught his watchful eye.  He also mentioned that the receivers were starting to learn how to separate and that the quarterbacks were starting to play a little faster saying, “It’s a fast mans game and we’ve got to get to that point.”

While a lot of the focus has been on the offense, it’s defense that often wins you the ball game.  “I see our defense managing our zone blitz game and disguises.  You can tell they’ve done a lot of group and individual work on it,” said Cutcliffe.

Notes- Much like Coach K, Cutcliffe is active when talking about changes he feel will help the college game.  He feels there should be some sort of exhibition game in order to work out the kinks, stating the NFL got four games to work with.  He also talked of some rule changes which I will elaborate on later.  A couple of freshman caught my eye and it is being discussed on the BDN Premium Message Board.  Tielor Robinson is running with the tight ends.  There is no word on the status of Brandon King.  Coach Cutcliffe will be speaking at Tyler’s Tap House in Durham tomorrow with tickets still available.[/private]