Tight 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...
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.
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