Category Archives: Duke Football


Braxton Deaver Out For the Season

SONY DSCThere has now been an official release from Duke University confirming that All ACC starting Tight End, Braxton Deaver is out for the season with a torn ACL.

Deaver, like Brown a week ago was in good spirits and looking forward to a season where the Blue Devils were the defending Coastal Division Champions.

“This certainly seems redundant after Kelby’s injury last week, but again our thoughts and prayers lie with Braxton and his family with this news,” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said.

The redundancy Cutcliffe is speaking to is of course the same injury to another key senior in Kelby Brown.  The losses this early season have certainly hampered Duke in that they will have to continue to make adjustments and hope other players step up.

There seems to be some uncertainty at this time pertaining to whether he can petition the NCAA for another season where I have heard altering versions of the rule, so that remains unclear at this time.

Deaver had been named to the preseason Watch List for the John Mackey Award, which honors the top tight end in college football. In 26 career games at Duke, he has caught 54 passes for 707 yards and four touchdowns according to Duke Sports Information. Deaver was also picked second team All ACC.

“While we’ll miss his presence on the field, the priorities with Braxton right now shift to his health and spirit. We do know that Braxton will continue to be a valued member of our program going forward,” said Cutcliffe in a prepared release.


Jim Knowles

Duke DC Knowles Talks Duke Defense

knowles 2This past Monday on an overcast day the 2014 Duke Football team took to the field for their first scrimmage of the season.  Just two plays in, All ACC Linebacker Kelby Brown sat on the field in what was to become an emotional moment far too early in the young season.  It took a bit for everybody to realize that Brown seemingly knew what had happened and the seriousness of the injury as the trainer approached.  Not long after that Duke Quarterback Anthony Boone walked over and at that time the drizzle from a hot and humid day unkindly added to the scenario.  That fear was later realized when Brown, the Duke Quarterback or Mike Linebacker on the defense had torn his ACL and would miss the season.  Before the play happened there was a lot of momentum and positive vibes coming before the scrimmage took place and for good reason in that these Blue Devils who return many of their key players were the defending Coastal Division Champions.  In the days to follow, there was plenty of depression among the fan base and likely the team.  In the post scrimmage, it was clear that the injury was more or less known about which made for some predictably short answers from Duke Head Coach David Cutcliffe.  Yesterday, the Duke SID Art Chase had to cancel slated conversations with Offensive and Defensive Coordinators Scottie Montgomery and Jim Knowles but today, the two addressed the media where Kelby Browns untimely injury was discussed.  Knowles admitted quickly that the entire Duke Defense was knocked back and that the injury was indeed very emotional for them and the Brown family.  But there was also plenty of reason for Duke fans to feel good moving forward as well for during his interview Knowles addressed several issues from adjustments on his side of the ball to how winning and seeing plans in action work has helped maintain confidence in the team.

Jim Knowles on Kelby Browns injury -

It’s a very emotional time for all of us, I was just over this morning visiting Kelby in the hospital and he’s alive and well. But I think in terms of our defense there certainly were shock waves and you need to acknowledge that which I did. We have a guy in David Helton who has as much experience as Kelby and he’s made a lot of tackles and a lot of plays. We immediately moved Helton to the “Mike LB.” position, which is the quarterback of the defense and we’re going to be okay and he’s going to step up and understands what is needed. We have C.J. France who has a lot of snaps and Chris Holmes and we like our freshman too, Xavier Carmichael who is a candidate for the “Will LB.” position. We’ll us creative packaging with Jeremy Cash and Dwayne Norman, so we’ll make up for that finding different ways of production at the “Will LB,” position.

I questioned him on who would step up and the fact that Jeremy Cash had really been vocal in the practice -

Jeremy Cash for sure is a guy our entire defense looks to and he was very involved even before Kelby Brown’s injury. He’s vocal and his play last year helped elevate our defense to a new level. So Jeremy will take over a bigger piece of it and then David Helton is a guy who will have to take on more on defense. David has performed very well and kind of being in the shadows because Kelby who had been great. So this is a chance for him to assume a greater role. Jeremy and he’s has come a long ways in his life and he’s learned to be a part of Duke Gang. He’s now helping others and he’s always been energetic and a high volume kind of guy.

On developing depth along the defensive front -

It’s great. You’ve got Dez Johnson and Jonathan Jones and Kyler Brown who is just a natural at defensive end. And did you see Britton Grier’s pass rush the other day? I mean he is a real threat. We are comfortable with any one of those five guys to play. Carlos Wray and Jamal Bruce, Jamal Wallace and (Mike) Ramsey, there are guys who can play. Ramsey hasn’t played yet because he redshirted but we have confidence there. We’ll play a lot of guys and you know how fast the game goes where the big guys get winded faster than those skinny guys, but if we keep rolling them in we think it will be a big plus for our defense. (Knowles added that it is too early to see which freshman will redshirt.)

Knowles reaction to the  scrimmage held Monday  -

I would grade us a B or B minus that day. We started out playing very well. It was outdoors, humid and hot but I don’t think we responded as well as we’ll need to respond moving forward. Our offense when it gets going is one of the fastest in the country, so we need to respond better to that but overall the effort tis better than

I questioned Knowles in adjustments mad in the bye week after the Troy game last season and it leading to several consecutive wins and if making adjustments became easier once players had seen success and if that would help with Brown’s absence -

Absolutely. We have great kids and great fans and everybody wants to have faith. But faith without works is dead right? People started to say hey, this works and they start to become true believers and then you can operate for that. It’s a very Catch 22, because as you said, you need that success for people to truly believe. You know, they want to believe but it takes time and then when you see things start to work I think the light bulb gets completely turned on so now we have to pick up where we left off and keep developing that confidence.

Knowles addressed two questions concerning the young Duke secondary where second year freshman could play key roles (I ran his answers together) -

You have to be careful expecting them to be Ross Cockrell right now. They’re still only second year players and have played on some of the biggest stages in the country right now, but you have to be careful not to throw too much on them and over complicate things. I look for them learning knowledge of the system, so they have to know the basics and adjustments. There is so much unpredictability in today’s game so you can go from an empty formation to motion back in to a read option, there are so many intangibles. So you are looking at their athletic ability and to put them in situations in practice to create tremendous competition. You look to see how they will compete on the next play after getting beat. The next play is the one that counts. And in taking a look at our true freshman at that position, I think they’re in the same mold. I mean they’re really showing up in practice.

In closing, it sounds as if the team is moving forward and that the adjustments have been made and would continue.  Duke will try to make up for their All Conference linebackers loss by committee rather than individually moving forward and they fully expect and are fortunate to have another very experienced linebacker in David Helton to ease the loss of Brown.

Up next at Blue Devil Nation – Thoughts from Duke OC Scottie Montgomery

Kelby Brown 11-23-13

Kelby Brown Out For The 2014 Season

Kelby Brown 11-23-13DURHAM, N.C. — Duke redshirt senior linebacker Kelby Brown will miss the 2014 season after suffering a torn left anterior cruciate ligament during Monday evening’s scrimmage.

“Obviously our hearts go out to Kelby and his family,” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said. “As I said last night, here is a young man who is an All-ACC and All-America-type player on the field, and even a better person off the field. He has been and will continue to be an integral part of our program. He’s as fine a representative of our program as we have, and nothing will change that. He’s seen this type of adversity before, and I’m confident he’ll overcome this challenge.”

Surgery is scheduled for Wednesday and will be performed by Dr. Claude T. Moorman III, Duke’s head team physician and the director of Duke Sports Medicine.

Brown, a 6-2, 230-pound native of Matthews, N.C., had been named to the 2014 preseason watch lists for the Butkus Award, Nagurski Trophy, Bednarik Award and Rotary Lombardi Award.

A first team All-ACC selection in 2013, Brown ranked second in the league with 8.77 tackles per game to help the Blue Devils post a school-record 10 wins and claim the ACC Coastal Division crown for the first time in program history. He added 11.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 quarterback sack, two interceptions, two caused fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two pass breakups and eight QB pressure.

Brown has overcome two surgeries on his right knee since arriving at Duke with procedures in December of 2010 and February of 2012. He missed the entire 2012 campaign while recovering from the latter surgery.

In 32 career games (29 starts), Brown has amassed 242 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 4.0 quarterback sacks, 15 QB pressures, two interceptions, six fumble recoveries, three caused fumbles and five PBUs. In addition, he has compiled double figures in the tackle column nine times including a career-best 17 stops against both Georgia Tech and Miami during the 2013 season.

Brown graduated from Duke in June, 2014 with a degree in evolutionary anthropology while posting a cumulative grade point average of 3.729. He was named to the Academic All-ACC team in both 2011 and 2013.


Three Concerns for Duke Football

Anthony-Boone-10-6-12Practice starts today for a Duke team looking to show the college football world they are for real, the 2013 season was not a fluke it was an indicator of a program that has turned itself around and is on the move up. Coach Cutcliffe will conduct a press conference at 12:30 pm and the team will conduct their first practice starting at 6:15 pm at the Brooks Practice Facility.

Optimism abounds these days in Durham. There is good reason for the optimism. Coach Cutcliffe is the National Coach of the Year, the team won a school record 10 games last season with 16 starters returning from that team, the Blue Devils have been to bowl games in back-to-back seasons, and recruiting is flourishing. To reiterate, there is good reason for the optimism. However, only viewing the future through rose colored glasses can be limiting, so with this article the question is asked: what’s keeping you awake at night?

There are three concerns affecting my sleep pattern:

Number One – Quarterback Play!

Anthony Boone throws too many interceptions. Moreover, he has a tendency to throw multiple interceptions in a game. Last season Boone threw a total of 13 interceptions, he threw interceptions in six of the 11 games in which he played. In four of those six games, he threw multiple interceptions: four against Virginia Tech, three against N.C. State, two against Florida State and two against Texas A&M.

Behind Boone, the quarterbacks listed on the roster have combined to take zero snaps at the collegiate level. Thomas Sirk, Parker Boehme and Nico Pierre are all talented prospects who the staff is very high on but they have no experience. If Boone struggles or is injured, the quarterback situation becomes tenuous at best.

Coach Cutcliffe has stated he intends to stick with the two quarterback system which has been so successful the past couple of seasons with the departed Brandon Connette taking over at quarterback in short yardage situations. This means at least one of the young quarterbacks will be seeing action from the start of the season in short yardage situations. The experience the select quarterback gains during early season games could be critical before the season is over.

Number Two – Defensive Line!

Duke yielded 26.6 points per game in 2013 a 9.4 points per game improvement over the 36 ppg allowed in 2012. Can the defense maintain or better the improvements achieved? Play along the defensive line will go along way in answering the question. Three of four DL starters from 2013 have graduated, which leads to the question: are the new guys more talented?

Defensive tackle Jamal Bruce was last season’s fourth starter so he is back to anchor the interior along with junior Carlos Wray who has played lots of snaps. The major concern is at defensive end and the ability to generate a consistent pass rush. Will projected starters Dezmond Johnson and Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo prove to be every down players who can both defend the run and pressure the quarterback? Can the staff devise a rotation at defensive end that takes advantage of all the players available to achieve success? The answers to those two questions are very important to the level of success the defense will be able to achieve in 2014.

Number Three – Injuries!

Injuries are an intangible so worrying about them is irrational. But no one ever accused sports fans of being rational so I opt to worry. A big part of the team’s success in 2013 can be attributed to a lack of injuries. The team was relatively injury free in 2013 so key players were consistently on the field at key times. In contrast, the 2012 team was decimated by injuries. Will 2014 fall somewhere in between? Hopefully the number of injuries incurred is a lot closer to the 2013 numbers than the 2012 numbers.

Obviously, the objective is for no single player to be unavailable due to injury at any point during the season; however, this is football so injuries are a reality.

The objective of this article is not to attempt to counter the optimism surrounding the program. That optimism is both real and deserved. The objective is to infuse a bit of self reflection. The program is in great shape due to a lot of hard work on the part of the players and the staff. A lot of hard work remains to be accomplished in 2014.

As far as the fans go, it is imperative they fill up Wallace Wade Stadium and cheer the team to victory starting on August 30 with the Elon game and continuing through to the Wake Forest game on November 29.