Category Archives: Duke Football


Sunday Afternoon Edition of Random Ramblings

DSC_0150Duke improved to 2-0 on the young season by winning their home opener 55-0 against cross town opponent North Carolina Central University in the Bull City Gridiron Classic. The Blue Devils will be back in action next Saturday (September 19) at 12:30 pm EDT against the #23 Northwestern Wildcats.

This Sunday Afternoon Edition of Random Ramblings will start off with a quick look at some high school action before summarizing comments from Coach Cutcliffe's Sunday telephone conference with the media.

Friday Night Lights

Mark Gilbert returned a kick-off 87 yards for a touchdown and batted down the opponent's final pass attempt of the evening as Terry Sanford defeated Cape Fear 34-28 in a wild affair in Fayetteville. Gilbert has been recruited by Duke to play cornerback.

Scott Bracey tossed a touchdown pass and rushed for two more as Benedictine blanked Bishop Sullivan 48-0. Bracey is projected to play wide receiver at Duke.

Elijah Deveaux rushed for a three yard touchdown as Charlotte Christian defeated John T. Hoggard 27-10.

Dylan Singleton and Archer High School fell to Grayson 26-24 in Georgia High School Football action.

Looking Ahead to Northwestern

In his Sunday aftenoon telephone conference with the media, Coach Cutcliffe repeatedly referred to Northwestern as an extremely well coached and balanced football team. Duke has opened as a one point favorite over #23 Northwestern. Additional comments from Coach Cutcliffe include:

- Lots of weapons on offense.
- Quarterback plays at a high level.
- Strong defense which is physically tough. Limiting Stanford to six points is a significant accomplishment.
- Duke will immediately get to work preparing for the Wildcats.

General Comments on Duke

- Coach desires to see the team continue on the path of being a great 3rd down team.
- Explosive plays were key in the NCCU game. Duke had over 10, while NCCU had one.
- Defensive tackle Brandon Boyce played terrific. He will continue to play an increased number of snaps.
- Defensive end Marquies Price is really talented. Price started against NCCU.
- Coach really likes the competition between T.J. Rahming and Chris Taylor. Both receivers will continue to get better. Taylor earned the start against NCCU during practice.

That's all for this Sunday Afternoon Edition of Random Ramblings.


Duke shuts out NCCU in Brooks Field opener

DURHAM - The Duke Blue Devils opened their 2015 home season at the new Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium with a dominant 55-0 victory over neighboring North Carolina Central University in front of a capacity crowd.

After a slow start, Thomas Sirk led the Duke offense to over 650 total yards, as the Blue Devils' new quarterback moved to 2-0 as a starter.

The star of the night was again the Duke defense. Led by redshirt- senior captain Jeremy Cash, the Blue Devils held the Eagles to just 1 of 14 on 3rd down and a meager 2 yards per carry.

Head Coach David Cutcliffe discussed the new stadium and the victory with the media shortly after the game.

DeVon Edwards breaks a return

Game Preview: Duke vs. NCCU

DeVon Edwards breaks a return
DeVon Edwards breaks a return
Game Preview: Duke vs. NCCU
6:00 PM ET
Saturday, September 12
Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium
Durham, NC
Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network

Duke in 2015: 1-0
NCCU in 2015: 1-0

Duke's 2015 home opener features the 4th Edition of the Bull City Gridiron Classic as the Blue Devils host cross town school North Carolina Central University Eagles. Duke has dominated the first three meetings in this series winning by an average score of 49 - 10. The last meeting was in 2013 with Duke winning 45-0.

The Eagles are coming off a 72-0 shellacking of Div II opponent St. Augustine, while Duke traveled to New Orleans and defeated Tulane 37-7 to open the season.

Barring an unmitigated disaster, Duke will easily handle NCCU in this game. NCCU has some speed and is an improved program under second year coach Jerry Mack, winning the MEAC Championship in 2014, so it will be interesting to see how long the Eagles can hang tough in the game.

The weather report is calling for scattered thunderstorms with a 60 percent chance of rain so the Blue Devils might opt to grind it out on offense via the run game more than normal to counter the bad weather.

Final Score: Duke 41, NCCU 10

Random Ramblings heading into Week 2 of the 2015 Season:

Special Teams: Duke's special teams were special in the Thursday night season opener highlighted by DeVon Edwards 95 yard kick-off return for a touchdown. While he did not return one for a touchdown, Ryan Smith was impressive returning punts. Fans should be looking to see additional special teams fireworks in the home opener.

Defense: Led by senior All America safety Jeremy Cash, the Blue Devils defense was dominate against Tulane. The defensive line pressured quarterback Tanner Lee and stopped the Green Wave running attack. Tulane rushed 23 times but gained only 25 yards. Another strong defensive performance is expected this coming Saturday.

Thomas Sirk: A lot of commentary over the summer focused on Sirk having only thrown 14 passes in his career at Duke. With a 27 - 40, 289 yards, 2 touchdowns and zero interceptions performance, Sirk quelled speculation he was heading into the season with insufficient experience. With a start under his belt, both Sirk's confidence and statistic should rise in Week 2.

True Freshmen: Five true freshmen played in the victory over Tulane. This number is not expected to increase. All five who played in the season opener are expected to see action again on Saturday. Those five are: T.J. Rahming (WR), Jeremy McDuffie (CB), Marquies Price (DE), Brandon Boyce (DT), Ben Humphreys (LB).

Redshirt Freshmen: Eleven redshirt freshmen saw their initial college football action last week with several standing out. Linebacker Tinashe Bere was very active in the middle of the defense recording five solo tackles and wide receiver Chris Taylor hauled in a 27 yard reception from quarterback Parker Boehme. Along the offensive line, Christian Harris, Jake Sanders, Trip McNeill and Zach Harmon all saw action.

DeVon Edwards with the sack

Rapid Recap: Duke 37, Tulane 7

Coach Cutcliffe took his Blue Devils on the road to open the 2015 season and left New Orleans with a dominant victory over the Tulane Green Wave.

The Thomas Sirk era

The Thomas Sirk era opens with a convincing win, but initially got off to a shaky start in the first half with a number of false start penalties and a Johnell Barnes fumble. After those early hiccups, however, Sirk skillfully led the Duke offense to 531 total yards. His favorite targets were Barnes (11 catches for 109 yards and a touchdown) and freshman T.J. Rahming (6 catches for 70 yards). Veterans Max McCaffrey and Braxton Deaver also proved to be reliable targets for the new Blue Devil quarterback. In his first career start, Sirk finished 27 of 40 for 289 yards passing with 2 touchdowns; he added a hard-fought 68 yards on the ground.

Dominant Duke Defense

Led by their veteran secondary, the Blue Devil defense kept Tanner Lee and the Green Wave in check for much of the night. Jim Knowles' unit pitched a shut out with the exception of an early 4th quarter 99-yard touchdown drive. Breon Borders led the way with 6 tackles and a sack, while Zavier Carmichael pulled in an interception and finished with 5 tackles. DeVon Edwards and Carlos Wray also added sacks on Lee. Wray anchored a stout Duke defensive front, which held the Green Wave to just 25 total rushing yards on the night.

Special Teams are Special

The Duke special teams units put together near-perfect efforts in the season opener. Senior Ross Martin kept the Blue Devils ahead on the scoreboard with field goals of 32, 25, and 46 yards. Fellow senior Will Monday was also dominant, with all 3 of his punts downed within the 20 yard line. All-American return man DeVon Edwards put the game away in the 4th quarter with a 95-yard kickoff return touchdown. Ryan Smith was sure-handed in taking over the punt return duties for the departed Jamison Crowder, breaking one return for 25 yards.

The Stable

Behind an at times disjointed offensive line, senior Shaquille Powell and sophomore Shaun Wilson shared much of the workload for the Duke running game. After nursing a hamstring throughout training camp, Wilson appeared back in midseason form, finishing with 77 yards on 15 carries. The first Blue Devil touchdown of the 2015 season was scored by Powell, who finished with 24 yards on 7 carries. Zach Boden powered into the end zone from the 1 yard line on the final Duke drive of the game. Overall, the Duke rushing game finished with 207 yards on 48 carries. The Blue Devils were penalized a total of 8 times in the game.

Duke returns to Durham to take on NC Central in the newly renovated Wallace Wade Stadium on Saturday, September 12 at 6:00PM.



Shaquille Powell breaks a tackle

Game Preview: Duke at Tulane

Shaquille Powell breaks a tackle
Shaquille Powell breaks a tackle
Duke at Tulane
9:30 PM ET
Thursday, September 3
New Orleans, LA
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network

Duke in 2015: 0-0
Tulane in 2014: 0-0


OUT – Jela Duncan
OUT FOR SEASON – Bryon Fields

TULANE INJURIES - not available at this time

Duke and Tulane last faced each other on September 20, 2014 in a game Duke won 47-13 at Wallace Wade Stadium. The overall series is tied 2-2. CBS Sports ranks Duke number 52 and Tulane number 106 of 128 FBS teams.


Executing on special teams, establishing the running game early and playing solid defense will be the paths to success for Duke on Thursday evening
The Blue Devils are positioned to excel on special teams in 2015 behind experienced and talented specialists Will Monday (P), Ross Martin (K), Thomas Hennessy (LS) and DeVon Edwards (KR). Identifying who will handle punt return duties is the only question requiring an answer on special teams. Winning the third phase of the game will give Duke an advantage on offense and defense through superior field position.

Establishing the running game early is a must for the Blue Devils. Duke has a big, experienced offensive line with talented runners lining up behind them. Pounding away at the Tulane defense early will pay dividends late. A base strategy for this game will be to utilize superior depth to create an advantage. Once the running game is clicking, the play action pass becomes a lethal weapon.

On defense, Duke will look to keep plays in front of them, while looking for opportunities to harass the Tulane offense with pressure. There is not a magical formula or secret strategy to discuss here, it is the basic defensive philosophy Duke has adhered to in recent years - don't give up big plays but be opportunistic.


Turnovers and untimely penalties are always a concern in the first game of the season. Duke has minimized both the past few seasons and that trend needs to continue in 2015. In last seasons win over Tulane, Duke was Plus 3 on turnovers with penalty yards being a wash.

Tulane is a much improved team due to the experience gained by their young players last season. The Green Wave played 23 freshmen in 2014. The Blue Devils must avoid turnovers, while simultaneously creating them in order to avoid an upset in New Orleans.

Failing to contain QB Tanner Lee is another way Duke can lose this game. Lee is a talented athlete who possesses the skill sets to burn the Blue Devils if left unchecked. Duke must mix up the defensive looks to confuse Lee, while creating pressure. Pressure will be the difference between Lee making mistakes or making plays!

Failing to prevent Tulane from successfully running the ball is another way Duke can lose this game. Tulane has a trio of talented running backs in Sherman Badie, Lazedrick Thompson and Dontrell Hilliard who combined to rush for 1673 yards in 2014. If the Green Wave achieve success running the ball on 1st and 2nd down, it will prevent obvious 3rd down passing situations shifting stress off interception prone QB Tanner Lee onto the Blue Devils defense.

True freshman running back Devin "Jet" Glenn is another player who could pose a problem for the Blue Devils. Glenn is extremely fast, "dag gone fast" according to Tulane Head Coach Curtis Johnson, has earned rave reviews in practice and projects to be an immediate factor on kick-off and punt returns and possible in the passing game.


Superior depth will be a significant advantage in the heat and humidity of New Orleans in early September. Duke will look to play a lot of players early in order to have the starters fresh in the 4th quarter. Duke's better overall talent level will be evident throughout the game and make the difference after halftime.

Special Teams! The Blue Devils will have a decisive advantage in the kicking game with talented and experienced Punter Will Monday and Kicker Ross Martin, and Coach David Cutcliffe will use that advantage to win the field position battle. Duke will convert favorable field position into touchdowns.

Finally, the Blue Devils will win because of more experienced coaching. Head Coach David Cutcliffe and his talented staff will have their team primed and ready to go on Thursday evening. Solid preparation will be a factor.


Duke's superior talent and depth will take a toll on the Green Wave over the course of the game. Tulane is improving their talent level, but they are still a year or two away from being able to upset a Power 5 team. This game will be tightly contested for three quarters before Duke opens it up in the 4th quarter to win by two touchdowns.

Duke 31, Tulane 17

Game Preview: Duke at Tulane


Football Friday: Tight End Preview, Assorted Notes

DSC_0289Tight End is projected to be another position of strength for the Duke Blue Devils in 2015. The return of All ACC Braxton Deaver, who missed all of 2014 season due to surgery to repair a torn right anterior cruciate ligament, is highly anticipated. Deaver was Duke's second leading receiver in 2013 with 46 catches for 600 yards and four touchdowns. Add in returning starter David Reeves and Duke has the most experienced Tight End tandem in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Braxton Deaver: (RSr, 6'5", 245) As mentioned above, Deaver was extremely productive in 2013 and his return to action is highly anticipated. Deaver will be a big, reliable target and should provide new starting quarterback Thomas Sirk with a comfort zone. Deaver is a proven performer in all aspects of the tight end position being a talented blocker in support of the run game and comfortable lining up tight or split outside.

David Reeves: (RSr, 6'5" 255) Has started 26 games at tight end in 2014 and 2012, during the absence of an injured Deaver, Reeves has 34 career receptions for 263 yards and seven touchdowns. Blocking is a strong skill set for Reeves so he is invaluable to the running game and two tight end sets. Reeves and Sirk hooked up on jump passes for touchdowns multiple times in 2014.

Erich Schneider: (RJr, 6'7" 240) Practice reports indicate Schneider looks like a different player. He has been impressive over the summer and is playing like a player who has seen the light click on. Schneider has played 661 career snaps with seven receptions for 32 yards and one touchdown.

Dan Beilinson: (RJr, 6'5" 255) Has zero receptions so far in his career that has been impacted by injury and limited mostly to special teams action. Beilinson missed all of 2014 season with a ruptured pectoral muscle, which required surgery to repair. He is reported to be healthy heading into this season.

Davis Koppenhaver: (So, 6'4" 220) The rising sophomore has not participated in either of two scrimmages thus far in practice and is considered a candidate to redshirt in 2015.

Moving on to some Assorted Notes or Random Ramblings Part II...

Another Injury:

Starting cornerback Bryon Fields will miss the 2015 season after tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament in practice on Tuesday. This is terrible news for the junior who started 14 games during his freshman and sophomore seasons. The silver lining is he did not redshirt so he has two years of eligibility remaining for 2016 and 2017 seasons.

In his absence, look for sophomore Alonzo Saxton to step in and start at cornerback. Saxton played in eight games last season as a true freshman recording 12 tackles in 124 snaps. Sophomore Zach Muniz also played in 12 games as a true freshman in 2014.

Versatile safety/cornerback Evrett Edwards is another candidate to step into the starting line-up in place of Fields. Additionally, redshirt freshman Johnathan Lloyd and true freshman Jeremy McDuffie are turning heads in practice.

Second Scrimmage Notes:

Coach Cutcliffe spoke about the requirement for consistent performance at wide receiver in his post scrimmage comments. Specifically, he talked about Johnell Barnes saying, "He's going to have to understand if you are going to play here, at that position, you are going to be consistent." Barnes had several catchable balls bounce off his fingertips.

Coach Cutcliffe also discussed Nico Pierre's performance at running back stating, "I thought Nico ran the football well, he is a physically tough competitor who is still learning. I get him a little lower and he is not going to be fun to tackle."

Coach Cutcliffe also talked about 10 scholarship athletes who were held out of the scrimmage and expressed hope most would be back available prior to the trip to New Orleans. He specifically mentioned running back Shaun Wilson as a player he desires to see back on the field.

More Position Changes:

As preseason practice continues to move toward preparation for the season opener in New Orleans, team make-up is evolving with several more players undergoing position changes. Freshman Keyston Fuller has moved from cornerback to wide receiver. Coach Cutcliffe stated Fuller has "great top end speed" in comments at the conclusion of the team's second scrimmage last Saturday. Rising Redshirt Sophomore Quay Mann has moved from safety to running back.

Zone Read Offense:

There are a couple of items to keep an eye on in the early season games. First, will Duke run a true zone read offense? In past seasons, the offense looked like the zone read but in reality the quarterback's decision to hand-off to the running back or keep the ball himself was called in advance the majority of the time. With Thomas Sirk's skill sets, the opportunity to run a pure zone read is available. Second, will Duke add a pitch play to the mix? The option for the quarterback to pitch the ball outside, to a second running back or a receiver in motion, after keeping the ball on the zone read, adds an explosive element to the running game.

The second point is probably more wishful thinking than a realistic expectation. While both the true zone read and the outside option should be a part of Duke's offense in 2015, there has been no indication from the staff or in the plethora of articles and interviews written and read, over the spring and summer, that the two plays would be combined into a triple option play.

Friday Night Lights:

Brittain Brown rushed for 267 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries as Cherokee High School defeated Chattahoochee 51-23 in Georgia high school football action. Blue Devil Nation coverage of prep gridiron action will pick-up steam in the coming weeks.

Weather Report:

Looking at the 10 day forecast for New Orleans, September 3rd is expecting partly cloudy skies with a high of 92 and a low of 77. Chance of precipitation is 20 percent. Tropical Storm Erika has formed in the Atlantic with current track models showing little chance of the storm heading into the Gulf of Mexico.

That's All Folks!

Football Friday: Tight End Preview, Assorted Notes