Category Archives: Duke Football

Duke Football Notebook

SONY DSCA few random thoughts on Duke Football …

ACL injuries are common

As you well know, Duke recently lost two key players to ACL injuries in Kelby Brown and Braxton Deaver for the coming season. That prompted me to do a study on how many other players at the major college division level had suffered similar injuries. I found that there were 19 total players out just this pre season due to ACL injuries and an additional 8 players listed by their athletic departments as knee injuries. The aforementioned 8 players out could have an ACL injury as well in that some athletic departments list injuries different due to their own personal policies concerning injury disclosures.

Running Back position is on solid footing

During a recent interview with Duke Head Coach David Cutcliffe, I spoke to the Duke Offensive Coordinators comment that the running back position excited him the most on the offensive side of the ball.  Cutcliffe said he would like to have more depth at the position but that the team certainly had experience there in Shaquille Powell and Josh Snead.  He also mentioned that Joseph Ajeigbe had stepped up and would earn some snaps.  Duke Offensive Coordinator, Scottie Montgomery also commented on Ajeigbe as being a hard inside the tackle runner who could bounce off people for extra yards.  But perhaps the best news was that according to Cutcliffe, North Carolina bred Shaun Wilson would play as a true freshman, making him the fourth running back on the depth chart.  It is worth noting that Duke has pretty much just walk players on the depth chart behind these four players, so you can understand Cutcliffe alluding to depth as a possible issue if injuries occur during the season.  You may also start to hear more references to “The Stable,” which is a name the coaches have coined for the unit.  I think it’s safe to say that he Duke offense will have success this season if they can run the ball effectively which is something they wanted to do even better at this coming season.

Duke will play two games on turf

The Blue Devils will on play on artificial turf two times this coming season.  They will do so when they travel to Troy on September the 6th an Syracuse on November the 8th.  Artificial turf is generally considered to be a faster surface and Duke is built for speed.  At the same time there are studies indicating that there are more injuries on turf than natural grass.

Duke opponents have suffered pre season losses as well

A season ago, Duke avoided the injury bug for much of the season.  For what it’s worth both Kelby Brown and Braxton Deaver have had unfortunate histories with injuries but each has bounced back.  I’ve taken a look at the Duke opponents for the coming season and came up with a total of players they have out due to injuries, suspensions or various other issues and here is the list.  Let me preface the list by saying it is up to date but does not include Elon or Troy.  The teams and numbers of players out are listed in the exact order of the schedule –

Kansas – 5

Tulane – 0

Miami – 3

Georgia Tech – 7

Virginia – 1

Pitt – 2

Syracuse – 4

Virginia Tech – 6

North Carolina – 5

Wake Forest – 1

11 days until kickoff

We are just 11 days away from kickoff for the 2014-15 college football season.  Duke still has some tickets and packages available through  Duke opens with the Elon Phoenix on August the 30th at 6:00 and the game will be broadcast on ESPN 3 which for the most part is on line only,






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.