Category Archives: Duke Football

cut mannings

Duke Football Super Bowl Connection

cut manningsAs you all know by now, the Denver Broncos put on a defensive show to defeat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.  The Blue Devils have two former players from the David Cutcliffe era on the team that will receive rings.  Former running back Juwon Thompson and defensive lineman Kenny Annunike are happy campers this morning as are the Duke coaches who know them,  Cutcliffe also attended the Super Bowl via the Manning family and he got to see Peyton Manning go out the winner that he has been.  There are a lot of happy campers around the program and it is a testament to the relationships that surround Duke Gang.  Check out some of the tweets below.


"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up"

— Juwan Thompson (@JuwanJuju23) January 26, 2016







Staff Additions & Changes for Duke Football

12065610_10206816508645346_5696463976488677169_nDURHAM, N.C. – Duke head coach David Cutcliffe announced on Friday the transition of Jim Collins from the coaching staff to Director of Football Relations & Special Assistant to the Head Coach, as well as the hiring of Ben Albert as the program’s Associate Defensive Coordinator and defensive line coach.


Collins transitions into an administrative role following 14 total seasons in three stints on the Duke coaching staff.  He was a graduate assistant with head coach Steve Sloan in 1983 and later served five seasons under both Sloan (1985-86) and Steve Spurrier (1987-89).  Collins rejoined the Duke staff with Cutcliffe prior to the 2008 season.


“Jim Collins is as fine a representative of Duke Football as we have here,” Cutcliffe said.  “As an integral member of our staff, he’s helped us accomplish feats never reached before in the history of the program, most notably the current streak of four consecutive bowl game appearances.  Jim has an excellent understanding of our value system and we’re fortunate to have a national championship-level coach in this leadership position to help us reach our maximum potential.  As an administrator, his wealth of knowledge and experiences will be instrumental in our program’s overall growth as we continue to compete for championships on the field while maintaining the highest academic and community levels of integrity.”


Between 2008-14, Collins tutored five All-ACC linebackers in Michael Tauiliili (2008), Vincent Rey (2009),Abraham Kromah (2010), Kelby Brown (2013) and David Helton (2014).  Over the past three seasons, Duke established a program record for victories in a three-year span with 27 while the stretch included the 2013 ACC Coastal Division championship and three bowl game berths.


Collins’ college football coaching career also includes stints at Lees-McRae (1980), Appalachian State (1981-82), Jacksonville State (1984), Florida (1990-01) and Marshall (2004-06).  His 12-year tenure at Florida featured 122 victories, six SEC championships, 11 bowl games and the 1996 national title.  Collins, a 1974 Elon College graduate who also coached with the NFL’s Washington Redskins from 2002-03, has participated in 17 bowl games including the 1989 All American, 1992 Sugar, 1992 Gator, 1994 Sugar, 1995 Sugar, 1996 Fiesta, 1997 Sugar, 1998 Citrus, 1999 Orange, 2000 Citrus, 2001 Sugar, 2002 Orange, 2004 Fort Worth, 2012 Belk, 2013 Chick-fil-A, 2014 Hyundai Sun and 2015 New Era Pinstripe.


Albert joins the Blue Devil staff after spending the last three seasons (2013-14-15) coaching the defensive line at Boston College.  In 2015, the Eagles led the country in total defense (254.3), third down conversion defense (.241) and tackles for loss per game (9.6) while also ranking among the nation’s top five in rushing defense (2nd; 82.8), scoring defense (4th; 15.3) and passing efficiency defense (5th; 104.66).  During his tenure, Albert helped Boston College to a pair of bowl game appearances in 2013 (Advocare v100 Independence) and 2014 (New Era Pinstripe).


“We’re thrilled to have Ben, Lisa and their children become members of the Duke Football family,” Cutcliffe said.  “Ben brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in the areas of defensive football and recruiting to our staff.  Obviously, we know his work with the Boston College defense all too well from a season ago when we couldn’t have been more impressed with their preparation and execution.  You don’t lead the country in total defense by accident – you have to have a combination of outstanding players and exceptional coaches.  I have a great deal of respect for his coaching background, especially when you consider that he’s worked in programs that have won championships and reached bowl games at different levels of college football.  I’m confident he will make a seamless transition into our program and have an incredible impact on our young men and the Duke community.”


Along the defensive front, Duke returns one starter in rising redshirt senior tackle A.J. Wolf, who earned the program’s Mike McGee Award as the team’s most outstanding defensive lineman in 2015 after posting 54 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss and three QB pressures.  Seven other lettermen return including ends Allen Jackson(4 tackles & 1 INT in 2015), Dominic McDonald (2 tackles) and Marquies Price (11 tackles, 3.5 TFL & 1.5 sacks) and tackles Brandon Boyce (24 tackles, 4.0 TFL & 1.0 sack), Edgar Cerenord (7 tackles), Quaven Ferguson (17 tackles & 2.5 TFL), and Mike Ramsay (29 tackles, 4.5 TFL & 1.0 sack).


Prior to his three campaigns in Chestnut Hill, Albert served two seasons (2011-12) as the linebackers coach at Temple University.  In 2011, he helped the Owls rank third nationally in scoring defense (13.9) as Temple posted a 9-4 overall record and defeated Wyoming, 37-15, in the New Mexico Bowl, for the program’s first bowl victory in 32 years.  While at Temple, Albert mentored Tahir Whitehead, who earned All-MAC honors prior to being a fifth round choice of the Detroit Lions in the 2012 NFL Draft.


Albert spent the 2010 season on the staff of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, serving as an assistant defensive line coach.


A native of Paterson, N.J., Albert got his start in coaching at his alma mater, Massachusetts, where he coached the defensive line for two seasons (1995-96) before helping Richmond to a pair of conference championships during a four-year (1997-98-99-00) stint coaching the Spider defensive line and linebackers.


After one season (2001) mentoring the defensive front at Rutgers, Albert returned to Massachusetts for two seasons (2002-03) to coach the inside linebackers while coordinating the special teams units.  During this stretch, he helped the Minutemen to the 2003 Atlantic 10 Conference championship and aided in the recruitment of fellow Paterson native wide receiver Victor Cruz to Massachusetts.  Cruz, a two-time all-conference pick at Massachusetts, helped the New York Giants to a 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI and was a Pro Bowl selection in 2012.


Albert then served a second stint at Richmond (2004) as defensive line coach and special teams coordinator before a four-year (2006-07-08-09) tenure as the associate head coach and linebackers coach at Delaware.


An all-conference defensive lineman at Massachusetts, Albert graduated in 1995 with a degree in political science and sociology.  He later earned a master’s degree in education from Massachusetts in 1997.  Albert and his wife, Lisa, have two children, Maya and Elijah.


Duke returns 13 starters and 45 lettermen from last year’s squad that went 8-5 and defeated Indiana, 44-41 in overtime, in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.  The Blue Devils open the 2016 season at home against N.C. Central onSaturday, September 3.


In depth 2016 – Duke Football Schedule

DSC_0098-002The Atlantic Coast Conference released the 2016 football scheduled and we take an early  look at the Duke Blue Devils slate. Duke draws a very competitive schedule during the season in which they will unveil even more changes to Wallace Wade Stadium.


3 –  N.C. CENTRAL (8-3) - Duke once again opens with the Eagles in Wallace Wade Stadium with the usual Employment Appreciation Day.  No game time has been set but expect a night-time kickoff to the season.  This will be the easiest game on the slate this season.

10 – WAKE FOREST (3-9) - In a stark departure from seasons past, Duke will take on Wake Forest very early on their slate.  The Deacons have become a rival of sorts and this will be a key early ACC match up that is pretty much a must win game for the Blue Devils.  A much improved Demon Deacon program will present a challenge on HOF Day on Brooks Field.

17 – at Northwestern (10-3) Duke hits the road in week 3 against what should be a formidable Northwestern team that finished among the nation's top 25 teams last year.  The Wildcats are not expected to take a major step back and will be the favorite in this contest.  Last season they defeated the Stanford Cardinals in an early home game and later Duke in Durham.

24 – at Notre Dame (10-3) The Blue Devils will have little time to lick any early season wounds before heading to South Bend to take on the Fighting Irish in a game that will be televised by NBC.  Notre Dame will be a pre season Top 10 or better pick and they will present quite the challenge for Duke.  The Irish replaces an FCS team on the schedule in a major upgrade of the overall slate.  It should be a lot of fun for the fan base and team to use this game as an early measuring stick on where the program stands before a difficult ACC slate ahead.


1 – VIRGINIA (4-8) Duke will take on a Cavaliers team sporting a new head coach in Bronco Mendenhall,  What that means is the Duke staff doesn't know what to expect at this time and will have three games of film to base strategy on.  What we will likely see is am improved Virginia team that recruited well under its former coach but the talent didn't always translate on the field.  Make no mistake that counting this game as a sure win would be unwise and the uncertainty of their strategy makes this game as interesting as ever.  Duke wants revenge for sure due to last seasons loss where they didn't show up until late in the game.

8 – ARMY (2-10) Duke will celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Rose Bowl Game on this day.  Army is improving but this is one of the more winnable games on this years slate.

14 – at Louisville (8-5) The Cards stumbled out of the gate last season before playing good football down the stretch and knocking off Texas A & M in style in their bowl game.  The bad news for Duke here is that three players who could have gone to the NFL Draft have decided to return on the defensive side of the ball.  While Louisville will be picked behind Clemson and Florida State, they will be considered the 3rd best team in the league and ranked in the pre season polls.  You will hear about Duke backing out of a game with the Cards years ago before kickoff when the program was building before kickoff.  Remember where you heard that.  This game will also be held on a Friday evening and televised by the ESPN network.

22 – OPEN DATE - The open date could not come at a better time.  After a stretch of games which include road games at Northwestern, Notre Dame, Louisville  and rival Virginia at home, Duke will need time to mend some injuries and rest.  The break will also allow them to plan for the game ahead against an option team.

29 – at Georgia Tech (3-9) The Yellow Jackets problems a year ago started when Duke took them down in Wallace Wade Stadium and they will seek revenge.  Paul Johnson dissed the Duke program years back during a coaching search but good came out of it in that Duke landed the greatest fit they could possibly have in David Cutcliffe.  Johnson's teams had their way with Duke early in but that has been flipped.  When people count the Yellow Jackets out, they win big.  When the media picks them to win the Coastal, they falter, Folks will pick the Jackets in the middle of the pack next season which by the aforementioned oddity means they'll be pretty good.



5 – VIRGINIA TECH (7-6) The Beamer era is over and in some ways that is bad.  The reason is that Cutcliffe knew what kind of system the Hokies ran, adjusted to it and had success against what had been an ACC powerhouse.  Enter Justin Fuente, who comes from Memphis and who looks to revitalize the Hokies.    On Military Appreciation Day in Wallace Wade Stadium Duke Football will begin the toughest November slate in recent memory.

10 – NORTH CAROLINA (11-3) Everybody wants to forget the Tar Heels hanging 66 points on Duke a season ago.  The bad news is that they return a lot of players from that team with a staff in tact.  Duke has struggled with their rival in the last two outings and this game will be played on a Thursday night and televised on the ESPN Networks.  UNC will be a pre season top 25 team and their program made a major leap last season with a terrific offense.  Duke will have just five days rest after playing a physical Hokies team before kickoff.

19 – at Pittsburgh (8-5) The good news is that Duke will have nine days rest before this game.  The bad news is that Duke closes out the season with two road games against formidable conference foes.  Pitt returns enough players to be one of the better teams in the division and their coaching staff is in tact which is new to the program due to recent departures.  The ACC back loaded the schedule with Coastal Division games where each should be important.

26 – at Miami (8-5) Duke lost this game a season ago, sort of.  Much will be made before kick off of last seasons officiating debacle in Wally World. Gone is Al Golden.  Enter former Georgia coach Mark Richt who takes over a talented roster and a solid recruiting class. No less than three new coaches are in the Coastal Division this season which will present a new challenge in preparation but Duke will have plenty of film to watch before their last game of the season. The Hurricanes will be picked in the upper part of the division in pre season polls.


The schedule is in a word, tougher.  Duke plays just six home games this season while looking to continue that bowl participation streak.  Duke fans will see a more complete Wallace Wade Stadium which should infuse the team and fan base.  A season ago, even the Duke team had to get used to the changes but now they can start to build a home team advantage.  Duke returns  more than half their starters but they lose their special teams kickers which is something to watch with concern of development from newcomers.  The offense will benefit from another year of experience for Thomas Sirk, but this will be a season when a solid backup needs to emerge.  Duke has a solid recruiting class coming in and signing day is right around the corner when we'll hear more on that.  The best word which describes the upcoming football season is "interesting."  Duke may have to scratch out enough wins to be bowl eligible against a tough slate or they could turn another corner and win some game they are not expected to.  Regardless of the outcome, there is more interest in the off season for Duke Football than ever before.  With that said, see you in the new Wallace Wade Stadium on September the 3rd, which can't come soon enough.


Duke Bowl Champs to be Honored

DSC_0098-002DURHAM, N.C. – The 2015 Blue Devil football team – champion of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl – will be honored at halftime of Duke’s home men’s basketball game against Notre Dame tomorrow afternoon.  Tipoff at Cameron Indoor Stadium is set for 2 p.m., and the game will be televised live on ESPN2.


Representatives from the New Era Pinstripe Bowl – including executive director Mark Holtzman – will join head coach David Cutcliffe for the recognition on Coach K Court.


Behind the performances of co-MVPs Thomas Sirk and Shaun Wilson, Duke defeated Indiana, 44-41 in overtime, at Yankee Stadium on December 26 to cap an 8-5 season.  The victory also put a lid on the most successful three-year stretch in Blue Devil gridiron history, a run that included 27 total victories, three bowl game appearances and the 2013 ACC Coastal Division championship.


Sirk, a quarterback from Glen St. Mary, Fla., accounted for 318 total yards and three touchdowns against the Hoosiers.  He completed 17-of-37 passes for 163 yards and one touchdown while rushing 20 times for a Duke bowl game record 155 yards and two scores.  His five-yard touchdown run, accompanied by Ross Martin’s extra point, tied the game at 41-41 with3:41 remaining in the fourth quarter and forced overtime.


Wilson, a running back from Charlotte, N.C., totaled 282 all-purpose yards highlighted by an 85-yard touchdown run and a 98-yard kickoff return for a score.  The 85-yard jaunt from scrimmage matched the longest rush from scrimmage in school history, equaling an effort by Charlie Smith against Virginia Tech in 1951.


Martin, a native of Solon, Ohio, finished the game with 14 total points by connecting on all three of his field goal attempts while converting five PAT tries.  His field goals covered 52, 34 and 36 yards while his final boot provided as the game-winning points in overtime.  For his efforts, Martin was named to the 2015 Associated Press All-Bowl Team.


In addition, Martin, Sirk and Wilson were joined by teammates Lucas Patrick, an offensive guard from Brentwood, Tenn., and Matt Skura, a center from Columbus, Ohio, on ESPN’s All-ACC Bowl Team.

Duke football mugsphoto by Jon Gardiner/Duke Photography

Roper is a Duke Family Hire

Duke football mugsphoto by Jon Gardiner/Duke Photography
Duke football mugsphoto by Jon Gardiner/Duke Photography

Duke most recently lost offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery to East Carolina who will become their head coach.  That set into process a search for the next person to run the offense.  There was much speculation during that time on who might interview and take over the reigns.  During that time you didn't hear Zac Ropers name that much until the end of the process where he was named the new Baxter Associate head coach and coordinator today.

While there was plenty of interest in the position, Duke coach David Cutcliffe opted to stay in-house with a man he was familiar with.  The Blue Devils have had success keeping their hires from within the family that  Cutcliffe and others around the program refer to as Duke Gang.  While some may point to a lack of experience calling plays for Roper, one has to remember that Montgomery was fresh in the task as well.

If one is to take a deeper look with Roper, they will find that he comes from a strong football back ground.  His brother, Kurt, was an offensive coordinator at Duke and currently will run the offense at South Carolina.  Roper has also coached pretty much every position at Duke and has had a relationship with Cutcliffe since 1999.  That means that a decision was made after knowing Roper for 17 years from Cutcliffe.

"I could not be more excited.  What he's (Roper) done with our special teams, tight ends and running backs and his role with the offensive line and route running, I am really excited in Zac taking the reigns," said Cutliffe, who also stated he would coach the quarterbacks.

Continuity played a big role in the hire.  "When you make a coordinator hire and associate head coach hire, you can't just look at that position.  You look at how this affects the offensive staff and whats the best fit for the entire staff.  We are very systematic and value driven and the values will never be compromised here," said Cutcliffe.

Roper actually learned defense first as a youngster growing up.  "My background in football started a long time ago.  My dad was a defensive coach and I picked up a lot of foundation type things."  But Roper also gained some experience from working with his brother, Kurt. "One of the things he used to say is you've got to start with the right eleven people on the field and we have to end with the football. We are going to continue to do things here offensively where we don't beat ourselves."

Cutliffe mentioned that Roper had worked with players on both sides of the ball when working with special teams.  He stated that Roper had coordinated meetings, schematics and took on duties that would prepare him for running the offense.

With concern to next season, Roper has already started to share his vision for Thomas Sirk next season.  "There are definitely things we are going to look at this off-season schematically and personnel wise." Roper mentioned he will seek replacements for the starters lost and that he looks forward to players fighting for the positions.  As for Sirk's injury late in the bowl win over Indiana, Cutcliffe said he thinks he will be fine and that he will be looked at soon and  they could then give a better answer.

What Duke gets with Roper is a man of high character.  I have been around the program since Cutcliffe arrived in Durham and the Ropers have always stood out as jgood people.  Roper has earned this opportunity and Duke will remain a tight knot group of like-minded individuals with his hiring.

In the end it was the best move for Cutcliffe in his view to hire from within and to do so from the Duke Family.  Cutcliffe expanded a bit on Duke Family when asked to elaborate on it, "We have a lot invested in each other at Duke.  If you look at our staff and staff history, I don't think there is anybody else quite like we are.  When you have great people within your organization you want to see those people grow and we have been able to do that."

Cutcliffe continued by explaining more about "DukeGang," and what it means after speaking to the emotion involved within and around the program. "We are close as families.  Our players are invested with their coaches and I want to our players to always know that the coaches are invested in them.  They come first.  The program is our players.  When you develop this type of atmosphere, family hiring is a great thing."




Staff Changes for Duke Football

16-672x372DURHAM, N.C. – Headlined by the promotion of Zac Roper to Baxter Family Associate Head Coach and offensive coordinator, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe announced on Friday changes to the Blue Devil football staff.


As Duke’s primary offensive play-caller and quarterbacks coach, Roper replaces Scottie Montgomery, who accepted the head coaching position at East Carolina University last month.

Roper, who joined Cutcliffe at Duke prior to the 2008 season, has served as the program’s special teams coordinator for the past three seasons while coaching the tight ends.  From 2008-12, he mentored Duke’s running backs while assisting coordinator Ron Middleton with the special teams units.


“We felt like we had the guy in Zac Roper,” Cutcliffe said.  “We’ve all seen what he’s done with our special teams, but we have a guy that has across the board coached defense, he’s coached a multitude of positions offensively, he’s run our special teams.  People don’t understand that a special teams coach is the closest thing you’re going to have to a head coach; he’s done an incredible job with that.  Functionally, I don’t think we could find a better football coach.  I also know that his value system is in place.  Zac Roper is a great husband; he’s a great dad.  I’m really excited about where we are in this process, and now we’ll have to do another hire because we’re adjusting things on the inside.”


At Duke, Roper has mentored five All-America selections in kickers Ross Martin and Will Snyderwine, punter WillMonday and return specialists Jamison Crowder and DeVon Edwards.  In addition, Roper has coached six Blue Devil running backs (Re’quan Boyette, Jela Duncan, Shaquille Powell, Desmond Scott, Josh Snead & Juwan Thompson) who eclipsed the 1,000-yard barrier on the ground in their respective careers as well as tight ends Braxton Deaver, who was an All-ACC choice in 2013 after catching 46 passes for 600 yards and four touchdowns, and David Reeves, who is the only player in Duke history with touchdown receptions in multiple bowl games.


Prior to his stint in Durham, Roper worked on coaching staffs at Oklahoma, Ole Miss and Cornell and holds both undergraduate (2001; political science) and graduate (2003; higher education/student personnel) degrees from Ole Miss.  Roper’s older brother, Kurt, served as Duke’s offensive coordinator from 2008-13 and currently is the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of South Carolina.


“It’s an exciting time for my family,” Zac Roper said.  “I come from a football family.  Obviously, my dad and my mom were certainly excited for what the future entails.  I had a chance to talk with both of my brothers.  It’s an exciting time in the Roper family, and I certainly look forward to this opportunity being the Baxter Family Associate Head Coach, along with the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach.  I look forward to scoring some points for the Duke Blue Devils.


“Personally, it gives me an opportunity to delve into the offense with the guys,” he continued.  “I think that’s the most important thing about coaching; the relationship that you have with the players.  That’s what I want to see going forward, is continuing to build those relationships with all of the guys.  That’s what’s most exciting; seeing the development of a young Duke football player’s progression.  That’s what we’re excited about.  We want to win games, but the best thing about coaching is the relationship you build with the players.”


The Duke offense will return six starters from last year’s unit that averaged 439.4 yards and 31.5 points per contest as the Blue Devils went 8-5 and defeated Indiana, 44-41 in overtime, in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.  Duke currently ranks third in the ACC in both total first downs (310) and total offensive yards per game while ranking among the nation’s leaders in fewest tackles for loss allowed per game (6th), total first downs (24th), fewest sacks allowed per game (27th), third down conversion percentage (33rd), total offensive yards per game (36th), rushing yards per game (37th), passing yards per game (45th) and scoring offense (48th).


The 439.4 total yards per game average posted this past year marks the fourth highest single-season mark in Duke history while the Blue Devils have put together a stretch of four consecutive seasons averaging 30-plus points per contest for the first time in school history.  Duke’s combined offensive scoring balance over the past four seasons has yielded 189 total touchdowns – 95 on the ground and 94 through the air.


Quarterback Thomas Sirk, a rising redshirt senior who started 12 games in 2015, returns to the fold after completing 251-of-427 (.588) passes for 2,625 yards with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions.  The Glen St. Mary, Fla., native also led the Blue Devils in rushing with 803 yards and eight touchdowns.  Sirk, who earned co-MVP honors of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl along with running back Shaun Wilson after totaling 318 yards and three touchdowns in the victory over Indiana, set the school single-season record for rushing yardage by a quarterback while his 3,428 total offensive yards marked the second highest single-season total in school history, trailing only Anthony Dilweg’s total of 3,713 yards in 1988.


Three other scholarship quarterbacks return in 2016 including redshirt junior Parker Boehme, redshirt freshman Quentin Harris and redshirt freshman Daniel Jones.  Boehme saw action in 10 games last fall and completed 43-of-78 (.551) passes for 579 yards with two touchdowns and one interception while rushing for 181 yards and five scores.  Boehme made one start under center in place of the injured Sirk, and completed 23-of-42 passes for 248 yards with one interception while rushing 11 times for 80 yards and one touchdown in a 31-13 loss to Pittsburgh on November 14.


Joining Sirk as returning starters in 2016 are redshirt senior tackle Casey Blaser (started all 13 games in 2015; HM All-ACC selection), redshirt junior Gabe Brandner (started all 13 games), redshirt senior wide receiver Anthony Nash (32 receptions, 475 yards, 1 TD), sophomore wide receiver T.J. Rahming (43 receptions, 571 yards, 2 TDs) and redshirt senior guard Tanner Stone (started all 13 games).  Additionally, running backs Jela Duncan (67 attempts, 460 yards, 4 TDs) and Wilson (84 attempts, 424 yards, 3 TDs) return.


In addition, Cutcliffe announced that James Harrell, a member of the Duke staff since 2013 as Player Personnel Coordinator, elevates to Assistant Director of Player Personnel to replace Ethan Johnson, who joined Montgomery’s staff at East Carolina.  Former Blue Devil letterman Lex Butler, who has worked in the Duke Football sports performance realm since graduating in 2013, moves into the slot vacated by Harrell.