Tag Archives: Al Golden

Duke travels to Miami to take on the Hurricanes on November 5

Duke will make their second trip to Miami on November 5 to take on the Hurricanes

Duke travels to Miami to take on the Hurricanes on November 5

The Blue Devils will finish up the 2011 season playing three of their final four games on the road, starting with their second trip to South Florida on November 5 to take on the Miami Hurricanes. Despite continued turnover struggles, Duke nearly knocked off “The U” last year in Durham, ultimately falling 28-13. While all eyes are on the Miami program’s off the field issues, we’ll keep this preview focused on the Blue Devils’ 2011 opponent on the field. Of course, that can be hard to predict at this point, with 12 Miami players under investigation by the NCAA for eligibility concerns.

To help us straighten all this out, BDN is pleased to welcome in Chris Stock from InsideTheU.com to give us an inside look at the 2011 Hurricanes.

BDN: We could talk for hours about the various allegations against the Miami program, but we’re here to preview the 2011 Hurricanes. With that in mind, how do you expect the investigation to affect the 2011 Miami season? Which current players might be ineligible or suspended, and how does their potential absence alter the expectations for this fall?

Regardless of who plays there is talent on the team.  If everyone is eligible, this team has the capabilities of competing for the ACC crown.  Now, we have been saying that for a number of years and it hasn’t happened, but first-year coach Al Golden appears to be onto something and the players appear to be buying in.  There’s no question the investigations can affect the team and the defense could take a hit, but there’s still reason for optimism in Coral Gables.  Lamar Miller has the ability to ease a lot of stressful minds and he’s nowhere near the investigation.  If quarterback Jacory Harris is deemed unable to play, Stephen Morris will be ready to go and with a solid offensive line, that will help tremendously in terms of putting together a successful season.

QB Jacory Harris' turnover issues may be the least of his problems this season

BDN: Talent never seems to be in short supply at The U, but that talent didn’t always translate into wins during the Randy Shannon era. What are some of the most important changes that have been made under new Head Coach Al Golden, both on and off the field?

Communication and organization are two key factors Golden has stressed.  These are two areas coach Shannon struggled with during his four years as the head coach.  Players now have a clear understanding where they stand on the depth chart and the program as a whole is more organized.  When it comes to on-field production, I think you will see a more inspired unit playing an intense brand of football from the opening whistle regardless of the opponent.  This was clearly not the case in recent years, which led to a number of losses.

BDN: Miami has been haunted by turnovers in recent years, and it has started at the quarterback position with Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris. What have been the reports from training camp on the play of the quarterbacks? With one of the conference’s top rushers in Lamar Miller, what do you expect from the Hurricanes’ offense in 2011?

Miami was last in the country last year throwing 27 interceptions.  That’s far too many especially considering the quarterbacks they have in Harris and Morris are very capable of being solid, dependable players.  Throughout training camp, the quarterbacks have thrown a very limited amount of interceptions.  In two scrimmages, the quarterbacks threw over 100 passes with just one interception.  That can be a double-edged sword as the defense failed to disrupt the passing game, but for a unit that was dead last a year ago, it has to be considered a positive sign.  UM led the ACC in total offense last year, but was just fifth in scoring offense.  Cutting back on penalties, which UM ranked among the nation’s worst, will be a key this season as well and I expect that to happen.  Miller will have a breakout season and back-up Mike James will provided steady play in a rushing attack that should pace the offense behind a big offensive line.

BDN: The Miami defense showed improvement in nearly all categories in 2010 from the previous year, and returns 7 starters in 2011, led by LB Sean Spence. What are the key question marks for this group in training camp, and what will be the strengths of new DC Mark D’Onofrio’s defense?

The UM defense is a question mark especially considering eight of the 12 players being investigated by the NCAA are on the defensive side of the ball.  In particular the cornerbacks have a lot to prove after three left for the NFL last season.  The linebackers, led by Spence, should be solid although they are not the biggest group around.  The defensive line could be plagued by a lack of depth.  The strength of a Miami defense is their speed, which they will have to use to their advantage.

BDN: Despite a significant talent gap, the Blue Devils have managed to compete with the Hurricanes in recent meetings. Why do you think Duke has had success against Miami? Do you think the Blue Devils are capable of pulling off the upset on Miami’s Homecoming this fall?

Point blank, UM did not respect Duke and came out flat against them, which nearly cost them multiple occasions.  Also, former Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis had some success against UM.  If Duke were to pull off an upset, quarterback Sean Renfree will have to show plenty of poise, stay on his feet, and attack UM through the air.  The two teams don’t play until November and a lot of things can happen between now and then.  For anyone to predict an upset by Duke, the Blue Devils will have to show they are capable of doing so before the UM game.

BDN: Thanks for your insight, Chris. Good luck this season!

 

Previous week: October 29, Virginia Tech at Duke

Next week: November 12, Duke at Virginia

Football Friday summoned the psychic world to assist with 2011 ACC Football predictions

BDN’s Football Friday Prognosticates

So, how are you beating the heat? Well, here’s a suggestion. Find yourself a cold beverage and sit down for some Football Friday here at BDN. If you aren’t a BDN Premium Member yet, you’re really missing out. Go ahead and join now to get the best coverage of Duke, year-round. All the cool kids are doing it.

The Duke secondary suffered a blow this week with the loss of Issac Blakeney for 2011

Issac Blakeney out for 2011

Head Coach David Cutcliffe announced on Thursday that safety Issac Blakeney has been suspended from the university for failure to meet continuing academic eligibility requirements and will miss the 2011 season. “Issac is a valuable member of the Duke Football family and I look forward to him returning to full eligibility in January of 2012,” said Cutcliffe.

Obviously, this is a huge blow to the Blue Devils’ depth at safety. Those who saw Blakeney in the spring game got a glimpse of his potential in the Duke secondary. In order for the new 4-2-5 scheme to be successful, players like August Campbell, Jordon Byas, and maybe even true freshman Chris Tavarez will have to step up alongside seniors Matt Daniels and Lee Butler. BDN wishes Issac the best of luck as he gets himself back on track; we’re pulling for him.

Football Friday summoned the psychic world to assist with 2011 ACC Football predictions

2011 ACC Predictions

In anticipation of the ACC’s Football Kickoff, Football Friday would like to share some of our completely unqualified predictions for the 2011 ACC football season. We figured that by next Friday, you will have heard enough media predictions, but this week, you’ll read every word. Here is the most important prediction we’ll make: none of these predictions will matter by December. In fact, most will be thrown out the window by September 3. In a year where only THREE teams will return their unquestioned starting quarterback from 2010, our second prediction is that the ACC will be pure chaos in 2011. Please keep these first two predictions in mind as we prognosticate.

The road to Charlotte will have to go through the defending ACC Champs in Blacksburg

ACC Coastal Division

The last four ACC Champions have come from the Coastal Division, and for that reason, we start here.

  1. Virginia Tech: the road to Charlotte still has to go through defending ACC Champion Virginia Tech, who lose ACC POY Tyrod Taylor, along with tailbacks Ryan Williams and Darren Evans. Overall, the Hokies return just 11 starters, 6 on offense and 5 on defense (including just one defensive lineman). All accounts suggest that redshirt-sophomore QB Logan Thomas and junior TB David Wilson are poised for breakout seasons for the Hokies. Head Coach Frank Beamer seems to have the annual luxury of reloading his roster, rather than rebuilding it, and the Hokies should put together another top-25 season and hold the top spot in the ACC Coastal Division.
  2. Miami: I’m probably buying the Hurricanes a little early in their first year under Al Golden, but by all accounts, the new Head Coach knows how to recruit and knows how to win. Miami has always had talent, and with better discipline and execution, I think this will be a much improved team over recent editions. Road contests at Maryland, Virginia Tech, UNC, and Florida State will pose a significant challenge, but the Hurricanes have some of the best athletes in the conference.
  3. Georgia Tech: I always underestimate Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jackets, so they’ll probably finish higher ( I didn’t want to break from tradition). There are several unproven new faces on offense and Al Groh’s defense needs to take a big step forward, but mostly, I think GT has one of the more favorable schedules, with their only ACC road contests at NC State, Virginia, Miami, and Duke.
  4. North Carolina: I’m selling the 2011 Tar Heels, and I realize I have them lower than most pundits. There are too many unsettled off-field issues, a first-year starting quarterback, the loss of a bunch of NFL draft picks, and a schedule that includes road games at Georgia Tech, Clemson, NC State, and Virginia Tech. Reading between the lines, it seems that even embattled Head Coach Butch Davis has been attempting to lower expectations, calling this a “transition year” for the program.
  5. Duke: As you can see by my underwhelming review of the Coastal Division teams in front of them, if things go right in Durham, there’s no reason Duke couldn’t end up with their highest finish in several years. Realistically, the young defensive line will have to mature ahead of schedule and the offense will have to prove it can run the ball consistently for Duke to become a serious threat in the division.
  6. Virginia: Many will probably place UVA ahead of Duke, but I’m not sold on the 2011 Wahoos, especially given their quarterback controversy. I interpreted the reports out of Charlottesville to indicate that none of their inexperienced QBs performed well enough to earn the starting job, which is an ominous sign for a team that also loses its leading rusher. Sure, Chase Minnifield and the defense should be solid, but road tests at UNC, Miami, Maryland, and FSU will be a stiff challenge.

    The Seminoles appear ready to challenge for an ACC Championship in 2011

ACC Atlantic Division

Though the Coastal Division has produced the last four ACC Champions, the Atlantic Division Champion should challenge for an Orange Bowl berth in 2011. I’m not sure there will be significant improvement elsewhere in the division, however.

  1. Florida State: Florida State claimed the Atlantic Division title in 2010 in Jimbo Fisher’s first season as Head Coach, and the Seminoles show no sign of slowing down. FSU will return a veteran group in all three phases in 2011 with 18 starters returning overall. Of all the ACC’s new full-time starting QBs, junior EJ Manuel has the most experience, having filled in for the injury-plagued Christian Ponder in each of the last two seasons. The expectation is that the 2011 Seminoles will be the class of the ACC, and should they win on September 17th against Oklahoma, they could vault towards the top of the national computer rankings.
  2. Clemson: With the recruiting classes Head Coach Dabo Swinney is bringing in, they have to be better than 6-7, right? That’s pretty much my basis for placing them here. They do draw FSU at home, but are stuck with facing the two Techs from the Coastal Division, both on the road. I’ve heard good reports about new QB Tajh Boyd and new OC Chad Morris’ offense, but maybe the Clemson folks have just been drinking too much orange Gatorade.
  3. Boston College: I really like the 2011 Eagles team and think they have the potential to make a lot of noise in the ACC, but have one of the toughest schedules. Their defense can be dominant at times and their offense should be improved if Chase Rettig can develop consistency and chemistry with his receivers. Montel Harris and Andre Williams should be one of the top tailback duos in the conference, if not the country. Division games at Clemson and a nationally-televised Thursday night home game against FSU will likely determine whether the Eagles will be serious contenders for the Atlantic division title.
  4. NC State: new QB Mike Glennon better be good, and he better be good from his first snap. With the transfer of Russell Wilson, all eyes will be on Glennon and fans will be quick to turn on Head Coach Tom O’Brien and the Wolfpack if things don’t go swimmingly. The Wolfpack probably have one of the lightest schedules in the ACC and will also probably finish higher than I have them picked as a result, but I don’t know if Glennon can live up to expectations, and I don’t know if he knows who he’s going to throw the ball to.
  5. Maryland: The surprise team of 2010 earned Ralph Friedgen ACC Coach of the Year honors and a pink slip. New Head Coach Randy Edsall will have a veteran team to work with, but even with ACC Freshman of the Year Danny O’Brien back under center, the offense will not be nearly as explosive with the loss of WR Torrey Smith and RB Da’Rell Scott. The Terps will face a tough ACC road schedule and the offense will experience growing pains without its top two weapons from 2010.
  6. Wake Forest: Of all the picks, this one may be the easiest. I don’t see a ton of reason for optimism in Winston-Salem, though the Deacs will return 17 starters from last year’s squad that finished with a 1-7 ACC record (yes, the 1 win was against Duke). We say it every year, but this is a must-win game on the schedule for Duke (and every other ACC team).

ACC Champion: Florida State

ACC Player of the Year: EJ Manuel, Florida State

ACC Coach of the Year:  Al Golden, Miami

Ok, now that all of that conventional stuff is out of the way, let’s look at some fun categories.

Coaches on the Hot Seat

I think there are four, at varying levels.

Butch Davis: how he still has a job is a mystery to most objective observers.

Dabo Swinney: we know he can recruit, but how long does he have to prove he can coach?

Jim Grobe: almost unthinkable just a few years ago, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of optimism in Winston-Salem these days and another finish in the cellar would have to put him on shaky ground.

Tom O’Brien: he must enjoy working without job security in Raleigh. After winning support with an impressive 2010 season, the questionable handling of the Russell Wilson situation has placed the Wolfpack Head Coach back under scrutiny.

ACC Game of the Year

October 8, Miami at Virginia Tech

ACC Bust of the Year

I think this is a neck and neck race with the UNC and NC State quarterbacks. I’m not suggesting they’re not ultimately going to be good players, but there’s a ton of pressure on them in their first season as starters. Bryn Renner at least has a good group of receivers returning, so I’ll say that Glennon will struggle to live up to the unrealistic expectations placed on him by Russell Wilson’s departure.

ACC Surprise of the Year

Maybe I’m a year or two ahead of myself here, but I really think Al Golden is going to put the Miami Hurricanes back on the map. He’ll have to figure out his quarterback situation, but he’s got an All-ACC caliber running back in Lamar Miller and a ton of high-level athletes across the depth chart. I think the rest of the conference has forgotten just how good “The U” can be.

Can the Blue Devils upset the Tar Heels and re-claim the Victory Bell this year?

ACC Upset of the Year

For the sake of the conference, let’s all hope that we don’t see another FCS team upset an ACC opponent as we have in recent years. But within the conference, let’s say that the Blue Devils travel to Chapel Hill on November 26 with a 5-6 record. The Tar Heels have been mired in controversy all season and the public outcry against Head Coach Butch Davis continues to mount. Behind huge performances from seniors Donovan Varner and Cooper Helfet, the Blue Devils emerge with the Victory Bell and secure bowl eligibility for the first time since the 1994 season.

Hey, I figured I’d end on that note to leave you feeling good about the upcoming season. With regards to all these predictions, as they say, that’s why they play the games. BDN will have full coverage from next week’s ACC Football Kickoff in Pinehurst and of course,  we’ll follow the Blue Devils all season long. WE ARE DUKE.

Best of luck to Abraham Kromah and the rest of Duke's NFL hopefuls this week. -Lance King Images

Football Friday evokes spring break memories

March Madness is in full swing as Duke takes the court tonight in the ACC quarterfinals against Maryland. Is it just us, or do you also find that the weeks in March go a lot faster than the rest of the year? It probably has something to do with conference tournaments streaming on television and online nearly 24 hours a day. While productivity in offices and schools across the country plummets, we’re as busy as ever at BDN. There’s no better time to join BDN premium than March, as Mark Watson follows the Blue Devils every step of the way in their quest for ACC and NCAA championships. Now that we’ve got you hyped for basketball, here’s this week’s Football Friday. [private]

Welcome back, loyal readers. And I do mean loyal. If you’re reading a Football Friday column in the middle of the ACC tournament, well, it doesn’t get much more loyal than that. Mille grazie. Yes, Cacchio is an Italian name.

The Blue Devils are on spring break!

Duke is on spring break

Ah, spring break. Fond memories, right? Where did the time go? Anyway, the Duke football team is off this week for spring break, and many of the players are taking advantage in warm, sunny locations, from South Beach to the Caribbean all the way to the California coast. Personally, I think they’ve earned it, from the early morning February practices to the late-night November film sessions. Student-athletes miss out on many aspects of the typical college experience due to their extracurricular commitments, but this week, the Duke football team gets to join in the revelry. Safe travels to all and we all look forward to getting back to work on Wednesday morning.

ACC spring football kicking off

Miami and Clemson hit the field for spring practice this week. Both programs

Al Golden is shaking things up at "The U" this spring

have question marks at the quarterback position, where Clemson will be breaking in first-year starter Tajh Boyd, while Miami appears to have a true QB controversy on their hands. New Head Coach Al Golden ruffled some feathers with his spring depth chart, placing many of last year’s starters near the bottom in an effort to challenge his team this spring. Most surprising may have been at the QB position, where he placed rising senior Spencer Whipple ahead of last year’s starters Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris. Next week, spring practice will kick off at Boston College, NC State, Wake Forest, Virginia, and North Carolina.

Speaking of the Tar Heels…

While many in Chapel Hill may still be in denial, we’re all aware that there have been some issues with the Tar Heel football program. Unfortunately NCAA violations are more common than we would like to think in college sports today (see Auburn, Baylor, Ohio State, Tennessee, USC, etc.), but I think there may be an even bigger issue here, and that is the double standard that appears to exist for coaches and players. Ohio State players are suspended for five games, while Jim Tressel is suspended for two. UNC players are held out of several games, some for the entire season, while the coaching staff denies accountability.

DL Delvon Simmons has asked UNC for a release from his NLI

This double standard doesn’t only arise when NCAA violations are uncovered. Coaches are allowed to up and leave programs without penalty, while players must go through a tedious transfer process and are usually required to sit out an entire year. A perfect example is the revolving door that has been the UNC Defensive Line Coach for the past few months. John Blake, implicated in the Gary Wichard scandal, resigned in September. Charlie Coiner was appointed to replace Blake, but was then replaced by Brian Baker in January. Baker worked to make sure UNC was able to sign top defensive line prospects Devonte Brown, Delvon Simmons, Shawn Underwood,  and Sylvester Williams (who enrolled in January)  in their class of 2011. Just after National Signing Day, Baker left the Tar Heels for a position with the Dallas Cowboys. UNC has since brought in Joe Robinson from LSU, giving them a total of four DL coaches since the start of the 2010 season. Now, top recruit Delvon Simmons has asked for his release from his letter of intent, and there appears to be some controversy. While the coaches were able to leave without penalty, Simmons must wait to hear whether UNC will grant him a full release, a conditional release, or hold him to his letter of intent. The situation is puzzling, even for the wild world of football recruiting. For starters, Simmons never took an official visit to Chapel Hill and did not have an in-home visit with the Tar Heel coaches. Stay tuned. The bottom line is that these coaches should be held to the same commitments and standards as their players.

Duke prepares to host Pro Day

Duke will graduate another group of outstanding seniors this year, as the

Lance King Images

program continues to build on the field while maintaining the program’s tradition of academic excellence. NFL scouts will be on hand in Wallace Wade Stadium on March 22 to take in workouts of Blue Devil seniors. Duke graduates 19 letterman this year, including starters Patrick Egboh, Brandon Harper, Brett Huffman, Austin Kelly, Brandon King, Abraham Kromah, Wes Oglesby, Chris Rwabukamba, and Damian Thornton. Best of luck to all the Duke seniors as they pursue careers in football and other fields!

Recruiting slowly starting to pick up

Lutheran (CA) LB Deion Williams will visit for Duke's spring game

Over the past week or so, recruiting has started to heat up around the country, as players and coaches assess each other’s interest. Duke hosted two junior days and entertained well over 100 recruits from the class of 2012; a few other prospects have visited Durham to take in spring practice. A handful of Duke prospects have already pledged their verbal commitments to rival ACC schools, including LB Sha’Keel Rashad to UNC, OL Mike Madaras to Maryland, QB Gray Crow to Miami, and OL Joel Suggs to Wake Forest. Hooker and Madaras both held verbal offers from Duke. The Blue Devil staff will keep an eye on these prospects, as decommitments are all too common in college football recruiting, but will focus their efforts on hundreds of other prospects, trying to find the best players for the Duke program.

The next big recruiting milestone for the Blue Devils will come on March 26, as the program hosts a number of prospects for their spring game, which is set for a 3 PM kickoff. We’ll have a full list of attendees as we get closer, but BDN has already learned that California LB Deion Williams will fly in for the weekend. Williams holds a Duke offer and is very high on the Blue Devils early in his recruitment. It’s important to note that all of these spring visits are unofficial visits, meaning that prospects must pay for their own expenses. It’s a sign of serious interest that players like Bart Houston and Deion Williams are making the trip across the country to learn more about the Duke program. I expect Duke’s recruiting to really take off in June, as Duke will host a series of camps for high school players, including Coach Cutcliffe’s QB College, which will allow the Duke coaches to evaluate prospects firsthand.

Let’s Go Duke

Thanks again for reading. Please feel free to join in on our football message board; we welcome Duke football fans of all opinions, shapes, and sizes. Until next week, you may now return to March Madness. Show your Duke pride and support the Blue Devils as they begin their championship quest tonight in Greensboro. We are Duke!

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