It's Signing Day for Duke Football! Coach Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils officially will welcome the class of 2012 into the Duke family today. BDN has all the coverage, including Mark Watson live at Coach Cutcliffe's afternoon press conference.
National Letters of Intent Received
TE Erich Schneider
Weight: 220 pounds
High School: Episcopal
Hometown: Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #151 WR
TE Dan Beilinson
Weight: 240 pounds
High School: Panther Creek
Hometown: Cary, North Carolina
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #22 TE
OL Casey Blaser
Weight: 255 pounds
High School: South Mecklenburg
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #105 OT
K Ross Martin
Weight: 190 pounds
High School: Walsh Jesuit
Hometown: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #2 K
DL A.J. Wolf
Weight: 245 pounds
High School: Hackley
Hometown: Tarrytown, New York
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #167 DE
DL Allen Jackson
Weight: 235 pounds
High School: McDonough
Hometown: Owings Mills, Maryland
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #86 DE
DL Carlos Wray
Weight: 280 pounds
High School: Shelby
Hometown: Shelby, North Carolina
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #94 DE
WR Anthony Nash
Weight: 180 pounds
High School: Bayard Rustin
Hometown: West Chester, Pennsylvania
ESPN ranking: 2 stars, #187 WR
ATH DeVon Edwards
Weight: 170 pounds
High School: Alcovy
Hometown: Covington, Georgia
ESPN ranking: Not Available
OL Tanner Stone
Weight: 280 pounds
High School: Highland Park
Hometown: Dallas, Texas
ESPN ranking: 2 stars, #163 OG
SAF Michael Westray
Weight: 195 pounds
High School: Westlake
Hometown: Waldorf, Maryland
ESPN ranking: 2 stars, #168 SAF
WR Max McCaffrey
Weight: 190 pounds
High School: Valor Christian
Hometown: Highlands Ranch, Colorado
ESPN ranking: 2 stars, #232 WR
DL Michael Mann
Weight: 220 pounds
High School: Valor Christian
Hometown: Highlands Ranch, Colorado
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #122 DE
SAF Dwayne Norman
Weight: 195 pounds
High School: University Christian
Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #50 SAF
RB Jela Duncan Height: 5'9"
Weight: 190 pounds
High School: Mallard Creek
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #40 RB
SAF Corbin McCarthy
Weight: 200 pounds
High School: Norco
Hometown: Norco, California
ESPN ranking: 2 stars, #143 SAF
LB Deion Williams
Weight: 225 pounds
High School: Lutheran
Hometown: Orange, California
ESPN ranking: 2 stars, #7 FB
LB Keilin Rayner Height: 6'3"
Weight: 215 pounds
High School: North Brunswick
Hometown: Leland, North Carolina
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #74 OLB
Even on a holiday weekend, it’s still time for BDN’s Football Friday, a weekly look inside the world of Duke Football. If you enjoy this weekly column, please consider becoming a BDN Premium Member and joining our growing community of Duke Football fans. As we say goodbye to the month of June, it’s time to look back at an eventful month in Duke Football, and look ahead to the 2011 season, which kicks off in just 63 days!!! Of course, it's always football season at Football Friday.
It’s finally here!
Next week kicks off the release of college football’s preseason award lists. What, you thought I was talking about Harry Potter? Oh, please. Starting on Tuesday, the College Football Awards Association will release their preseason award watch lists. While Duke still has a long way to go in regards to earning the respect of the national college football community, there are a few Duke players who should be nominated. On Wednesday, the Biletnikoff (top WR) and Mackey Award (top TE) watch lists will be announced, and Duke’s Conner Vernon, Donovan Varner, and Cooper Helfet are certainly deserving of consideration. As a 2010 semi-finalist, Duke’s Will Snyderwine should be named to the Lou Groza Award watch list on Thursday. Of course, the awards will ultimately be earned on the field, but it’s important for Duke players to receive the preseason recognition they deserve.
Changing of the guard
Head Coach David Cutcliffe announced a few changes to his football staff today. “We are very excited with our recent hires and adjustments to the staff,” Cutcliffe stated. “I have either coached or fostered long term relationships with each of these young people and their families. It is great to surround yourself with people you deeply care for and know are winners on and off the field. We approach the 2011 season with great enthusiasm." Among the changes, the staff welcomes back former Blue Devil All-American defensive lineman Vince Oghobaase as a staff assistant. John Russell, a former NFL and Wake Forest linebacker, joins the staff as a graduate assistant, and current recruiting assistant Ben Loebner has been promoted to a graduate assistant. Former Duke All-ACC cornerback Leon Wright has been named a Defensive Operations assistant and Jomar Wright switches his title from graduate assistant to recruiting assistant. Marcus Johnson, a former NFL and All-SEC offensive lineman, joins the Duke strength and conditioning staff. Welcome to all the new coaches, and good luck this fall!
Boy, that escalated quickly…
Duke entered the month of June with four verbal commitments in the class of 2012: TE Erich Schneider, DE Allen Jackson, SAF Dwayne Norman, and LB Deion Williams. We now leave the month of June with twelve verbal commitments, capped off by a big week, in which the Blue Devils added their QB of the future in Thomas Sirk and one of the top TEs in the state in Dan Beilinson. BDN members were the first to hear about these commitments, and we’ll continue to bring you the best Duke Football recruiting coverage around.
Get ‘em while they’re hot…
With only a handful of scholarships remaining in the class of 2012, Duke is hoping to land a few impact players over the next several weeks. As we’ve mentioned earlier, the Blue Devils will need to add a RB in this class, and Tarboro’s Todd Gurley, along with Charlotte’s Jela Duncan, remain the coaching staff’s top two priorities. Gurley recently won a national championship in track and will represent the US in France later this summer. The Duke staff continues to work hard on the recruiting trail, hoping to cap off the class of 2012 with a program-changer or two like WR Drae Bowles or DT Korren Kirven. A quick look at the 2011 Duke roster shows that Duke will graduate 18 players this season. Duke is certainly hopeful that the group of redshirt-juniors will stay with the program for their final year of eligibility in 2012, meaning that scholarships are getting tight in the class of 2012. For those remaining prospects considering Duke offers, the smart move would be to act quickly.
“I’m going to go out on a limb and say they’ll go bowling…”
With the NFL lockout dragging on, Duke has been fortunate to have former QB Thad Lewis around campus for most of the summer. BDN caught up with the Blue Devil record-holder earlier this summer, and GoDuke featured an interview earlier this week. Thad has big expectations for Sean Renfree and the Blue Devils in 2011, and after leading Duke to 5 wins in his senior year, he knows what it takes to win in the ACC.
Reasons for optimism
Overall, there is tremendous optimism around the Duke Football program, and many fans (with a few outspoken exceptions) have high hopes for the 2011 season. Starting next week, BDN will take an in-depth look at each of Duke’s 2011 opponents, beginning with the Richmond Spiders. We’re fortunate to have been able to team up with some great writers from other schools to give us an inside look at Duke’s competition. In general, though, we know Duke faces a tough schedule this fall, and after a 3-win season in 2010, why all the optimism? Before we start analyzing Duke's opponents, let’s take a brief look at some 2010 statistics, and a 2011 position group assessment.
In 2010, Duke lost 4 games by 6 points or less.
Duke had 43 trips to the redzone in 2010, but found the end zone only 22 times, barely 50% of the time. Luckily, pre-season All-ACC kicker Will Snyderwine was able to add 16 field goals to help keep the Blue Devils in games.
The 3rd quarter was unkind to the 2010 Blue Devils. Duke either had a lead, or were within 1 score at halftime in 8 of their 12 games, but only won 3 games.
Finishing games was also difficult for the 2010 Duke team, as they had a lead or were within 1 score entering the 4th quarter in 6 of their 12 games, but again, only won 3 games.
Turnover margin may have been the key statistic to Duke’s 2010 season, but there is reason for optimism. Over the first 7 games, Duke had a turnover margin of -12 (21 to 9), but a turnover margin of +1 in their final 5 games (7 to 8).
The much-maligned Duke defense had difficult pressuring the quarterback all season, but again, there was subtle improvement. With just 4 sacks through their first 6 games, Duke finished with 8 sacks in their final 6 games. Five of Duke’s final six opponents were bowl teams.
QB: Duke returns their top two quarterbacks in 2011 in starting redshirt-junior Sean Renfree and sophomore backup Brandon Connette. With a year of starting experience under his belt, the expectations are sky-high for Renfree, who Coach Cutcliffe described as having a “great” spring. Anthony Boone will add depth to the position after redshirting in 2010.
RB: Duke returns all five of their running backs from 2010, led by junior Desmond Scott, who has paced the Blue Devils in rushing as both a freshman and a sophomore. Duke improved their rushing yards by 46.5 yards per game from 2009 to 2010, and scored 13 more touchdowns on the ground. With all of their top rushers and blockers returning, there is no reason not to expect similar improvement in 2011.
WR: Duke loses Austin Kelly, who had been a solid receiver for the program in his four years in Durham, but brings back All-ACC receivers Donovan Varner and Conner Vernon. Sophomore Brandon Braxton, after catching 14 passes in 2010, is expected to see an increased role as he fills in for Kelly. Tyree Watkins and Corey Gattis are two more underclassmen expected to fill out the depth chart at receiver in 2011.
TE: By the end of the 2011 season, junior college transfer Cooper Helfet established himself as one of Renfree’s favorite targets, and one of the top tight ends in the ACC. After a slow start and a nagging ankle injury, Helfet finished with at least 4 catches in his final 5 games, including a 122-yard game against Virginia. Redshirt-senior Danny Parker rejoins the tight end corps after the graduation of Brett Huffman and Brandon King. Redshirt-freshman Braxton Deaver is expected to compete for a starting spot this fall, and true freshman David Reeves is one of the top prospects in Duke’s class of 2011.
OL: Duke will return four of five starters in 2011, the lone loss being center Bryan Morgan. With Brian Moore sliding over to center from right guard, Duke’s entire offensive line should weigh in at 275 pounds or greater; redshirt-freshman Takoby Cofield and Laken Tomlinson both eclipse 300 pounds and are expected to compete for snaps.
DL: This position is the big question mark on the 2011 Duke team, but there are plenty of reasons to expect improvement over 2010. Despite losing starters Patrick Egboh and Wes Oglesby, Duke will add seven (7!) redshirt-freshmen to the depth chart along the defensive line in 2011. The Blue Devils return redshirt-senior Charlie Hatcher, along with redshirt-junior Kenny Anunike, redshirt-sophomore Justin Foxx, and redshirt-sophomore Sydney Sarmiento. This spring, however, it was the redshirt-freshmen who earned the highest accolades from the Duke coaching staff, led by DE Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo and DT Jamal Bruce. With the coaching of Rick Petri, athleticism of the young redshirt-freshmen, and overall increased depth, this is a unit that should improve week-to-week in 2011 and give the Blue Devils a chance to win ball games.
LB: While most fans are concerned about the Blue Devils’ defensive line, the linebackers are another area that needs to improve from 2010, but has significant losses. Leading tackler Abraham Kromah has graduated along with Damian Thornton and Adam Banks. Standout freshman Kelby Brown returns after knee surgery, but is expected to be a full participant in fall camp. Duke has to hope that junior Austin Gamble and redshirt-sophomore Kevin Rojas, who have shown flashes of potential in the past, are ready for a breakout season in 2011. Coach Jim Collins has developed some great linebackers at Duke, and he will need to work his magic this year, as outside of those top three, the depth chart will be filled with first-year players in redshirt-freshman C.J. France, freshman Kyler Brown, freshman Britton Grier, freshman David Helton, and freshman Jon Woodruff.
CB: The loss of senior Chris Rwabukamba will be sorely missed within the Duke secondary, but the coaching staff believes the Blue Devils have several athletes ready to step up at cornerback, led by redshirt-sophomore Ross Cockrell. Despite an inconsistent freshman year as a starter, Cockrell finished 6th on the team with 60 tackles, and led the Blue Devils with 3 interceptions and was 2nd with 7 pass break-ups. Cockrell should take a step forward, as will senior Johnny Williams, in his second full year at cornerback. Zach Greene, Tony Foster, and Lex Butler will fill out the depth chart, but they may be pushed by freshmen Jared Boyd and Tim Burton.
SAF: The strongest positon group on Duke’s defense is safety, and the new 4-2-5 defense is designed to exploit that strength. Senior Matt Daniels should be poised for an All-ACC caliber year alongside fellow senior Lee Butler. The Duke staff has high expectations for redshirt-sophomore August Campbell and redshirt-freshman Issac Blakeney.
ST: Duke’s special teams has developed into a strength in recent years, and with Will Snyderwine handling the placekicking, it should remain a strength in 2011. Freshman Will Monday is expected to come in and compete with senior Alex King for the starting punter job, and it should be a good competition to watch in August.
Man, I thought it was going to be a short column this week. That never works out. If you’ve missed any of our recruiting coverage over the past month, be sure to catch up, as it is sure to be a sprint to the finish here in July. The entire class of 2011 will be on campus starting this weekend, and on behalf of all of us in the Blue Devil Nation, welcome to Duke! We have big expectations for this class, and we know they’ll have great success in Durham.
Some upcoming highlights to note – we will kickoff our 2011 previews next week with Richmond and Stanford, so be sure to check back for those. We’ll also run an in-depth interview with one of Duke’s top running back prospects this weekend, so check back in between fireworks shows. Be sure to join our Facebook group and follow us on Twitter. Have a great holiday weekend! Until next week, WE ARE DUKE.
Fear not, loyal fans, Football Friday returns! If you’ve been under a rock for the past week, please be sure to check out all of our great interviews and reports from the NBPA Top 100 Camp. BDN was on the scene as always and has the best content with Duke’s prospects in 2012 and beyond. After a week hiatus here at Football Friday, we have a lot to discuss this week, so…lesssgo.
Congratulations to Kyrie, Nolan, and Kyle
All of us at Blue Devil Nation wish the best to Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith, and Kyle Singler, as they begin their NBA journey. To hear their names called last night was certainly a dream come true for each of them and their families. We’ll be pulling for them and we know they will continue to make Duke fans proud in all that they do.
NFL stars invade Duke Football Facilities
With the NFL lockout continuing to drag on, former Duke QB Thad Lewis has become a fixture around campus this summer, but the Duke players were in for a surprise this week as they hit the weight room and the practice field. New York Giants Super Bowl XLII MVP QB Eli Manning has been working out at Duke this week with his receivers, including former UNC star Hakeem Nicks. The NFL players’ presence created a buzz on campus and among the Duke players, generating some excitement around Duke Football during the dog days of summer. It’s a great testament to the investment Duke has made in their football facilities that NFL players are working out on campus. As the program continues to build, Duke’s presence in the NFL should continue to improve.
Nine in Class of 2012
Duke is up to nine verbal commitments in the class of 2012 with the addition of kicker Ross Martin and offensive linemen Casey Blaser and Tanner Stone in the past week. All three were on campus recently for Duke’s football camps and outworked the competition to earn scholarship offers. At 6’5” and 6’6”, Casey and Tanner have solid frames to grow into with some work in the weight room, and appear poised to help anchor the Blue Devil line in 2012 and beyond. Martin is ranked as one of the top placekickers in the country by kicking guru Chris Sailer, and will join 2011 punter Will Monday to solidify Duke’s special teams for years to come.
Duke hosted hundreds of young football players over the past two weeks, all of whom were looking to make a name for themselves in the eyes of the Duke coaching staff. Overall, the competition was outstanding and the Duke staff was thrilled with the turnout from not only the class of 2012, but future classes as well. Several of the camp standouts are already members of the Duke class of 2012, validating the staff’s previous scouting and evaluation. Jacksonville stars Dwayne Norman and Erich Schneider were impressive at safety and tight end; both remain solid verbal commitments to the Blue Devils. Along the offensive line, the two newest Blue Devils, Blaser and Stone, were among the best blockers on the field. The two big linemen have great athletic ability, work ethic, and football mentality.
Three 2012 quarterbacks stood out among the dozens of signal-callers who attended the various Duke camps and the David Cutcliffe QB College. The Blue Devils first offered Miami’s Bilal Marshall back in January, and they remain impressed with his dual-threat ability, hoping he will choose to become an impact player for the Blue Devil program. Highly-coveted lefty Tyler Cameron also showed great dual-threat ability, while 6’5” sleeper Thomas Sirk simply blew the staff away with his arm, ultimately earning himself a scholarship offer from Coach Cutcliffe. At the other skill positions, two receivers from the class of 2013 also earned themselves early scholarship offers. Jacksonville’s Ahmad Fulwood, at 6’4,” seemed to haul in everything thrown his way, while Ohio’s Shelton Gibson showcased his tremendous speed. Charlotte’s Jela Duncan posted a blazing fast 40 time, and he remains at the top of Duke’s RB wish list, along with Tarboro star Todd Gurley and bruising SC back Dondre Brown.
Rubber, meet road
With Duke’s camps now complete and fall training camp still over a month away, the focus over the next several weeks will almost exclusively be on filling out the class of 2012. With the advent of the internet, everyone is now able to become a self-proclaimed expert when it comes to recruiting. But unlike basketball, where one recruit can truly make or break a class, it’s essential to see the big picture in football recruiting. Let’s try to take a look at the forest, instead of the trees.
The best place to start is probably with a rough sketch of the Duke 2012 roster, barring any early defections or injuries, to give us a sense of the Blue Devils’ scholarship situation, depth, and needs:
QB (4): Sean Renfree (R-Sr.), Sean Schroeder (R-Jr.), Brandon Connette (Jr.), Anthony Boone (R-So.)
RB (4): Patrick Kurunuwe (R-Sr.), Desmond Scott (Sr.), Josh Snead (Jr.), Juwan Thompson (Jr.)
WR (8): Conner Vernon (Sr.), Corey Gattis (R-Jr.), Tyree Watkins (R-Jr.), Brandon Braxton (Jr.), Jamison Crowder (?So.), Blair Holliday (R-Fr.), Nick Hill (R-Fr.), Max McCaffrey (Fr.)
TE (5): Jack Farrell (R-Jr.), Ryan Hall (R-Jr.), Braxton Deaver (R-So.), David Reeves (?So.), Erich Schneider (Fr.)
OT (5): Perry Simmons (R-Jr.), Takoby Cofield (R-So.), Marcus Aprahamian (R-Fr.), Casey Blaser (Fr.), Tanner Stone (Fr.)
OG (6): Dave Harding (R-Jr.), Joey Finison (R-Jr.), John Coleman (R-Jr.), Laken Tomlinson (R-So.), Lucas Patrick (R-Fr.), Cody Robinson (R-Fr.)
C (3): Brian Moore (R-Sr.), Conor Irwin (R-Sr.), Matt Skura (R-Fr.)
DE (10): Kenny Anunike (R-Sr.), Justin Foxx (R-Jr.), Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo (R-So.), Dezmond Johnson (R-So.), Nick Sink (R-So.), Jamal Wallace (R-So.), Sam Marshall (R-Fr.), Mario Sanders (R-Fr.), Allen Jackson (Fr.), Carlos Wray (Fr.)
DT (7): Curtis Hazelton (R-Sr.), Sydney Sarmiento (R-Jr.), Will Bryant (R-So.), Steven Ingram (R-So.), Jamal Bruce (R-So.), Lucas Fisher (R-Fr.), Carson Ginn (R-Fr.)
LB (9): Austin Gamble (Sr.), Kevin Rojas (R-Jr.), Kelby Brown (Jr.), C.J. France (R-So.), Kyler Brown (?So.), David Helton (?So.), Britton Grier (R-Fr.), Jon Woodruff (R-Fr.), Deion Williams (Fr.)
CB (8): Tony Foster (R-Sr.), Zach Greene (Sr.), Ross Cockrell (R-Jr.), Lex Butler (R-Jr.), Garrett Patterson (R-Jr.), Quan Stevenson (R-So.), Jared Boyd (?So.), Tim Burton (R-Fr.)
SAF (8): Jordon Byas (R-Sr.), Walt Canty (Sr.), Taylor Sowell (R-Jr.), August Campbell (R-Jr.), Anthony Young-Wiseman (R-Jr.), Issac Blakeney (R-So.), Chris Tavarez (R-Fr.), Dwayne Norman (Fr.)
K (2): Paul Asack (R-Sr.), Ross Martin (Fr.)
P (1): Will Monday (So.)
With only a handful of scholarships remaining (if my math is right, please don’t check me), Duke has a glaring need at RB, where they will only have four scholarship players and no underclassmen. The expectation is that Duke will look to add at least one, but probably two running back prospects with their remaining scholarships. We also think that the staff would love to add a top QB to follow behind Boone, with Bilal Marshall and Thomas Sirk at the top of the list. At receiver, Duke could look to add someone alongside McCaffrey, and Drae Bowles is the number one priority; those around the program call the highly-coveted Bowles a potential program-changing recruit for the Blue Devils.
Duke probably needs to add another tight end in 2012 to join Erich Schneider, and the top two targets are currently Dan Beilinson and Ryan Morris. Elsewhere along the offensive line, Duke has a great amount of depth, which will allow Blaser and Stone to develop during their first years in Durham. There could be room for at least one more lineman in this class, and Duke remains hopeful that Alex Kozan or Andrew Jelks (who will not be announcing his decision soon, contrary to reports) will make their pledge to the Blue Devils.
Defensively, Duke has to be thrilled with the first three members of the class of 2012; both Wray and Jackson should develop into top ACC pass-rushing ends, and Norman is the prototypical hard-hitting safety the coaching staff loves. The biggest remaining need defensively is probably at defensive tackle, where Duke would love to add a potential program-changer in Korren Kirven (although another option could be to move Wray to DT and add an elite DE). A top prospect like Keilin Rayner or Jeremiah Allison to join under-the-radar commit Deion Williams would solidify the linebacking corps, and there’s room for at least one more defensive back at corner or safety.
With the graduation of pre-season All-ACC and All-American selection Will Snyderwine, there will be big shoes to fill at placekicker, and Duke hopes that Ross Martin, one of the top five kickers in the country, will be up to the task. Alongside Will Monday, Martin should carry the Duke kicking game for the next several years.
With so many moving pieces, it’s hard to keep a finger on the pulse of football recruiting, and even harder to objectively evaluate individual commitments. Duke has done a nice job so far of adding solid athletes at positions of need (DE, SAF), while also bringing in a few prospects with high potential at positions of depth (OL, WR). Scholarships remain available for potential program-changers like Drae Bowles or Korren Kirven, and the best way to secure those commitments will be to win games this fall.
Well, that was quite the whirlwind of name-dropping. If we still haven’t satisfied your craving for Duke football, be sure to check out our recent previews featured on College Football Zealots and BC Interruption. And of course follow us on Twitter for up to the minute updates on Duke Football recruiting and team news. We’re on Facebook, too, by the way. And if you clicked on all the links in this article and are wondering why you can’t read the interviews, then it’s time for you to join BDN Premium. If you want to discuss Duke Football, correct my earlier math, or simply just want to become the most well-informed Duke fan on the planet, then you should also join BDN Premium. And current members, be sure to check out our new-look Football Message Boards today.
I guess that’s it for this week. Seriously? You were going to let me get away with that? Yeah, something kind of big happened in Chapel Hill this week. But see, there isn’t much to say, really, the NCAA took care of that for me. And so did Stewart Mandel. And Brett McMurphy. Good luck with all that, Butch. And give us back the Victory Bell.
Until next week, WE ARE DUKE.
This is a sample of the weekly Duke Football updates you’ll have access to as a BDN Premium member. Join today and get inside access to happenings around the athletic programs where you’ll have a front row seat on the recruiting front.
Is it Friday already? Time flies when you’re knee deep in recruiting season. As we did last week, we’ll share Football Friday with everyone this week. If you like reading what we have to say, please consider joining BDN Premium. We’ve quickly become the best resource for all things Duke athletics around, and we’d love to have you join our community.
College football preview season
We mentioned last week that college football previews are in full swing as magazines hit newsstands and websites begin publishing their own predictions. While Duke is flying under the radar for most prognosticators in 2011, several Blue Devil players have garnered pre-season accolades. Will Snyderwine and Conner Vernon were named as preseason 1st Team All-ACC, while Matt Daniels, Cooper Helfet, Kyle Hill, Sean Renfree, and Donovan Varner were tabbed on the 3rd Team by Athlon Sports. I would caution those who are sleeping on Renfree and Varner in 2011; both have taken huge steps forward this offseason and are poised to lead the Blue Devils to a bowl this fall.
Chris Tavarez featured
Duke’s freshman safety has already made a name for himself in the acting world, and will star in a new NBC movie, “Field of Vision.” The Blue Devils are looking forward to Tavarez’s arrival on campus later this month.
It’s been rapid fire at BDN this week, kicking off with the Blue Devils’ 6th verbal commitment in the class of 2012. Carlos Wray joins Allen Jackson as future Duke defensive linemen under new Coach Rick Petri. Wray and Jackson are both athletic prospects who will be fun to watch in Wallace Wade Stadium in the years to come.
With camp season in full swing, BDN checked in with several new Blue Devil prospects to learn more about where they are in their recruiting process, and learned that Duke has made a significant impression on many of them. Some of the new interviews we featured this week included:
If you’ve followed Duke football recruiting in recent years, you know we are just getting started here in early June. Buckle up and enjoy the ride!
Most Duke fans are conditioned to expect recruiting success due to Coach K’s historic run in Durham. In football recruiting, you win some and you lose some. At BDN, we believe it’s more important to focus on the recruiting victories and keep things in perspective. Here’s a quick recap of some of Duke’s biggest recruiting coups in the last two classes alone.
Class of 2010
LB Kelby Brown
Duke fans didn’t know how good of a player they were getting when Brown committed to the Blue Devils in July 2009. The coaching staff was able to secure Kelby’s commitment over nine other scholarship offers from programs like Arkansas, Boston College, Louisville, Northwestern, UCLA, and Wisconsin. After knee surgery cut his freshman year short in 2010, Duke fans are expecting Brown to lead the Blue Devil defense in 2011 and beyond.
QB Brandon Connette
With Sean Renfree entrenched as the heir to Thad Lewis, it was easy to overlook the commitment from Connette, which the Blue Devils received early in the recruiting season, in May 2009. The Duke staff was able to beat out in-state power Stanford for Connette, who came in and led the Blue Devils with 8 rushing touchdowns as a freshman, a new school record.
RB Juwan Thompson
The Duke coaching staff went down to Georgia in the spring of 2009 and stole a pretty good running back prospect from the Peach State. Thompson committed to Duke in June 2009 over offers from Minnesota, Ole Miss, Stanford, UVA, and Wake Forest. After finishing in the ACC’s top 10 in kickoff returns as a freshman, the Blue Devils expect Thompson to see an increased workload in 2011.
RB Josh Snead
After landing 4-star prospect Desmond Scott in 2009, the Duke staff continued their impressive in-state recruiting, adding the speedy Snead to the class of 2010 in December 2009. Snead chose the Blue Devils over Georgia Tech, Louisville, NC State, and Vanderbilt. Along with Scott and Thompson, Snead is expected to be a key playmaker in the 2011 Blue Devil backfield.
Class of 2011
OL Cody Robinson
The Duke coaching staff landed four impressive prospects from the state of Tennessee in the class of 2011, led by the 300-pound Robinson. Cody chose the Blue Devils over 8 other scholarship offers and is expected to anchor the Duke offensive line for years to come.
OL Marcus Aprahamian
Coach Luke and the Blue Devils went into the Midwest and secured a commitment from the top offensive line prospect in the state of Wisconsin in May 2010. Aprahamian, who called Duke his “dream school,” is expected to join fellow 300-pounder Robinson and anchor the Blue Devil offensive line.
LB David Helton
Another good-looking Tennessee prospect, Helton chose Duke over 7 other scholarship offers, including ACC rival Georgia Tech. Helton is a player many think could contribute as a true freshman in 2011.
CB Jared Boyd, CB Tim Burton, S Chris Tavarez
Duke fans are going to love watching this trio of defensive backs develop in Wallace Wade Stadium. The three bring a distinct swagger to Durham, and they all know how to make plays. Boyd, who hails from Georgia powerhouse Stephenson High School, chose Duke over 14 other scholarship offers, including programs like Georgia Tech, Ole Miss, Stanford, and Vanderbilt. Burton brings the reputation of a big-time speedster and trash-talker from the talent-rich state of Florida, where he chose Duke over 7 other offers, including Big Ten power Wisconsin. Tavarez may be best known for his career as an actor so far, but he plans to make a name for himself on the gridiron at Duke, which he chose over 6 other offers, which included Maryland and Vanderbilt.
DE/LB Kyler Brown, ATH Jamison Crowder
Do you remember where you were on February 9, 2011? What about March 13, 2011? Of course, you were watching the Blue Devils beat the Tar Heels on the hardwood. What a great feeling for a Duke fan! So why don’t you remember July 20, 2010? Or February 1, 2011? Duke beat the Tar Heels on those days as well, landing commitments from Jamison Crowder and Kyler Brown. With Crowder’s athleticism and Brown’s family lineage, Blue Devil fans should know to expect both to find a way to make an impact this fall.
You could certainly add more to this list – TE David Reeves, who signed with Duke after a late push by SEC power Auburn; WR Blair Holliday, who chose Duke over hometown UCLA; big DL Sam Marshall, who chose Duke over ACC rivals NC State and Virginia; Will Monday, the top ranked punter in the class; and several others. For a program whose last bowl game was over 15 years ago, the Blue Devil coaching staff is doing an impressive job on the recruiting trail. If recruiting success is any indicator, Duke fans should expect to see results on the field sooner rather than later.
Keep up with all things Duke athletics here at BDN. As always, thanks for reading. Until next week, WE ARE DUKE.
In case you haven’t noticed, things tend to come in waves here at BDN Premium. With AAU coverage in full swing, we’re also entering the heat of the college football recruiting season. The Blue Devils have added another verbal commitment this week, and they’re just getting started. [private]
Class of 2012 up to 4
California LB Deion Williams joined TE Erich Schneider, DE Allen Jackson, and SAF Dwayne Norman as the first four verbal commitments in the class of 2012 this week. As a junior, Williams earned 2nd Team All-Trinity League honors, playing on both sides of the ball. Though Duke was his only offer to date, the coaching staff targeted Williams early on in the recruiting season and there’s reason to believe that they expect him to develop into a solid college player.
Back to the board
During the recent spring evaluation period, the Duke coaching staff was out in full force, scouting the country for players who will make an impact for their program. At the start of the evaluation period, Duke had extended around 50-60 offers. That number has now swelled to nearly 100, so let’s take another look at the recruiting board by position.
Let’s start with one of the positions of greatest need in 2012, after not bringing in a running back in 2011. Duke is up to 12 offers at running back, a good indication that they hope to take more than one in this class. Eleven of those prospects are still undecided, with J.C. Coleman, a Virginia Tech commit, being the lone exception. Dontonio Jordan is expected to announce his decision today, with most expecting his pick to be Kansas or Stanford. We’ve already heard from several of the remaining prospects, so we have some idea of where Duke stands with them: Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall, l’Tavius Mathers and Nick Tompkins. Interviews with some of the new names will be posted this week.
The offensive linemen are widely considered to be the strength of the class of 2011, and Duke hopes that success continues in the class of 2012. So far, Coach Luke and the staff have come up empty, losing six offensive line prospects to other schools; most recently, Patrick DeStefano to Clemson and Max Tuerk to USC. There are eleven uncommitted offensive line prospects remaining on Duke’s board, and we will focus on this position in interviews next week.
It’s no secret that Duke needs to improve on defense, and recruiting well along the defensive front would go a long way towards that cause. With an athletic defensive end prospect in Allen Jackson already on board, Duke is looking at 8 additional defensive end prospects and 12 defensive tackle prospects. Of those offered, only two have committed elsewhere: Brent Wilkerson to Penn State and Matt Godin to Michigan. Again, a lot of these prospects aren’t new to us: Torey Agee, Korren Kirven, David Reader, Jordan Watkins, and Carlos Wray.
The Blue Devils added Deion Williams to the class of 2012 this week, and will look to add at least one additional linebacker in this class. Keilin Rayner remains at the top of the list, but Jeremiah Allison is a new west coast prospect that has entered the mix. We’ll hear from him this week as well.
After losing out on Ronald Darby to Notre Dame, Duke remains focused on a group of five cornerbacks, led by Larry Hope and Albert Reid.
Duke views Erich Schneider, the first commitment of the class of 2012, as a tight end prospect, but will need to add at least one more to build depth at the position with the graduation of Cooper Helfet and Danny Parker. While they lost out on Evan Baylis to Oregon, Duke remains aggressive with a group of elite tight ends, headlined by Dan Beilinson, Justin Meredith, Kent Taylor, and Colin Thompson.
The Duke offense remains attractive to elite wide receivers, and with All-ACC receivers Donovan Varner and Conner Vernon now upperclassmen, the Blue Devils will need to reload at the position in the class of 2012. Micheal Summers is an athlete we recently heard from who could fit nicely as a slot receiver, and Duke continues to pursue Jared Crump, Justin Johnson, and Max McCaffrey.
So now you’re asking, did he really mean quarterbacks? I thought Bilal Marshall was the only one with an offer. Well, here’s your reward for reading this far. Duke has extended an offer to Georgia QB Chris Moody, another dual-threat prospect in the class of 2012. Moody has offers from other ACC programs such as Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech, along with an offer from Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks. Here’s a highlight clip for those who want to see more.
For most of you, this is a holiday weekend, and we wish you a safe and happy Memorial Day. For those of us here at BDN Premium, it will be a busy weekend, and we hope you’ll come back for the best AAU and Duke football recruiting coverage around. WE ARE DUKE.
It’s Friday afternoon, which can only mean one thing – Football Friday! This week, we take a look at Duke’s 2011 ACC opponents spring practices along with some recruiting updates. [private]
It's a long one this week, so I won't distract you with any witty opening filler. Let's get right to it.
Matt Daniels named to Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List
That’s a mouthful of an accomplishment. Interestingly, there were 11 candidates from the ACC, more than any other conference. Daniels is a player that I’ve enjoyed watching develop over his four years in Durham, and I always feel like he has another level we still haven’t seen. Hopefully, this will be the year that he reaches that level and helps to turn around the Duke defensive unit. As one of the most versatile players on defense, his playmaking ability will be key to the Blue Devils’ success in 2011.
Scouting the ACC spring practices
With lots of transitions occurring on the sidelines and under center around the ACC this year, it may be a good opportunity for the Blue Devils to pull off a few upsets. Several teams will wrap up their 2011 spring practice this weekend with their spring games, so be sure to tune in to the ESPN family of networks to scout out some of Duke’s 2011 opponents (ESPN – you can email me for the address to mail my endorsement check). So sit back and enjoy a cold one while we take a whirlwind tour around the ACC. Oh wait, you’re still at work, so grab a cup of coffee instead? Anyway, here are some of the headlines from Duke’s 2011 ACC opponents this spring:
Boston College: the Eagles will be Duke’s first ACC opponent this fall, which may be a good thing for the Blue Devils. BC will return nearly all of their offensive starters, who will be operating under a new coordinator in Kevin Rogers. The emphasis so far this spring appears to be on the passing game, which has been inconsistent so far this spring. In the first scrimmage of the spring, Chase Rettig was on the same page with his receivers, and the BC offense finished with 5 touchdowns. In their second scrimmage, however, the defense had their way with the new offense, finishing with 4 interceptions and 4 sacks. BC will be a tough opponent, as we saw last year in Wallace Wade Stadium, mostly due to Montel Harris on the ground, and Luke Kuechly on defense. If Rettig and his receivers can develop consistency, BC will be a dangerous team for the entire ACC.
Florida State: most expect the Seminoles to be at the top of the ACC in 2011, and you can see for yourself on Saturday at 4PM on ESPN3. This team will go as far as QB E.J. Manuel can take them, and the indications this spring are pretty good. Manuel is the athletic signal-caller that has given the Blue Devils trouble in recent years. Perhaps the biggest question for the Seminoles will be their offensive line, where they will have to replace 2 starters and had 4 players out for spring practice. Overall, the Seminoles lost only 3 starters each on offense and defense, and the expectations are high in Tallahassee.
Wake Forest: the Deacs’ will hold their spring game on Saturday at 1 PM. After a disappointing 2010, Wake Forest loses 8 starters. Tanner Price is the unquestioned starter on offense and will be backed up by Ted Stachitas. Both players gave the Blue Devils trouble last year in a 54-48 loss in Winston-Salem. Much like the Blue Devils, the Deacs struggled mightily on defense last year, and Coach Jim Grobe has been pleased with the defensive intensity this spring. The running game will be led by Josh Harris and Brandon Pendergrass, but questions remain in the kicking game for Wake Forest. The expectation is for this team to be improved from a season ago, but in order for that to happen, they will have to show more consistency this fall than they have this spring.
Virginia Tech: the Hokies lose perhaps the most of any Duke opponent in 2011, but in Blacksburg, they reload, not rebuild. The defending ACC champs lose QB Tyrod Taylor along with RB Ryan Williams and RB Darren Evans to the NFL, leaving the Hokies’ offense in the hands of redshirt-sophomore Logan Thomas and junior tailback David Wilson. There have been rave reviews this spring for Wilson (even though he's missed several practices due to track), who is working under first year running back coach Shane Beamer (yes, Frank’s son), after long-time assistant Billy Hite retired. The VT defense also has questions as they replace 5 starters from 2010, but the Blue Devils will have to keep the ball away from returning CB Jayron Hosley, who led the country with 9 interceptions and 17 defended passes in 2010.
Miami: lots of changes in Coral Gables this spring under new head coach Al Golden. The Hurricanes will hold their spring game on Saturday at 3 PM, and questions still remain heading into the fall. The coaching staff has been openly disappointed in the intensity and conditioning of many of the Miami players this spring, and Golden has left the depth chart up for grabs this spring. That includes quarterback, where Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris are battling for the starting job, though Spencer Whippel was the starter heading into the spring. We’ll get to see lots more from the Hurricanes, as they’ve struck a deal with ESPNU to air a series of All-Access shows this spring.
Virginia: the Wahoos wrapped up spring practice last week with nearly as many questions as answers. It’s a complete toss-up at quarterback, where the updated depth chart lists Michael Rocco and Ross Matheney in the “first group” and Michael Strauss and David Watford in the “second group.” In short, no one has established themselves as the leader of this offense this spring, and that has to be a concern for a team that loses 19 lettermen, including 5 starters. After a shootout in Wallace Wade Stadium last year, the Blue Devils will be glad to hear that QB Marc Verica and RB Keith Payne are among the starters lost. The Cavaliers’ defense should be improved from a year ago as they enter their second year in the 4-3 scheme, and will be anchored in the secondary by CB Chase Minnifield, who finished 2010 with 6 interceptions. Offensively, it’s tough to evaluate a team with 4 inexperienced potential starters at QB.
Georgia Tech: the Yellow Jackets are yet another ACC team who will be breaking in a new QB in 2011, as Tevin Washington takes over for Josh Nesbitt. The Blue Devils saw plenty of Washington in 2010 in their 30-20 loss in Atlanta. This spring, head coach Paul Johnson has been disappointed in the play of his offensive line, which returns three starters from a year ago. In addition to Nesbitt, the Jackets’ triple-option offense will have to replace Anthony Allen at B-back, but return Roddy Jones and Orwin Smith at A-back. Defensively, GT will have to replace 6 starters, but they do return all 3 starters up front in Al Groh’s 3-4 scheme. The front three will have to be the strength of this defense, and it has impressed the coaching staff this spring.
North Carolina: if you thought Bieber fever was annoying, wait until you meet the Tar Heels with Renner fever. Bryn Renner inherits the starting job at quarterback, and impressed the Tar Heel faithful with a 9/13, 123 yard performance in their spring game. The highlight was a 43-yard pass to Erik Highsmith, something UNC saw far less often during the T.J. Yates era. After a tumultuous 2010 and an ongoing NCAA investigation, the Tar Heels will have several new faces on both sides of the ball in 2011. Five starters depart on both offense and defense, which means that the few returning starters, such as senior DE Quinton Coples and senior TB Ryan Houston will have to shoulder (no pun intended) much of the load on defense and offense, respectively. Despite suffering a broken scapula in the spring game, head coach Butch Davis expects Houston to be an every-down back for the Tar Heels this fall.
Spring evaluation period starts today
Ok, I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted after that tour of the ACC. That took some serious work, and I didn’t even talk about NC State, Clemson, or Maryland. Anyway, recruiting gets back into full gear today, as the spring evaluation period opens up. So what does that actually mean? The Duke staff has 168 evaluation days to use between now and May 31. An evaluation day is a day spent in evaluation of a prospect's athletic and/or academic ability. The staff is limited to 1 athletic evaluation and 1 academic evaluation per prospect during this time. So whom will the staff be visiting? Let’s take a look at the offers out there by position.
Quarterbacks: we’ll start with the glamour position, and one that Duke has built into a strength for 2011 with Sean Renfree, Brandon Connette, and Anthony Boone. Miami’s Bilal Marshall remains the only quarterback prospect with a Duke offer, and we’ll check back in with him soon to get an update on his recruitment. There are 19 other QBs on the board, highlighted by names like Bart Houston, Casey Cochran, and Matt Johnson.
Running backs: Duke remains committed to taking at least one or two running backs in the class of 2012, and they’ve extended 7 offers with 17 other prospects under evaluation. Keith Marshall is at the top of every school’s list, but he’s joined by Todd Gurley, Dami Ayoola, Dondre Brown, Dontonio Jordan, Jay Jay McCullough, and Nick Tompkins as prospects with verbal offers.
Wide receivers: with Donovan Varner and Conner Vernon now upperclassmen, the Blue Devils will look to reload at receiver in the class of 2012. Seven receivers have verbal offers, which include Nelson Agholor, Jared Crump, Desmond Frye, P.J. Harris, Justin Johnson, Max McCaffrey, and Darius Powe. Twelve other receivers are on the Blue Devils’ list of 2012 prospects.
Tight ends: the Blue Devils’ got on the board early with a commitment from Erich Schneider, but remain in pursuit of top TEs Dan Beilinson, Kent Taylor, and Evan Baylis.
Linemen: as would be expected, linemen make up the majority of verbal scholarship offers to date. On the offensive line, Duke is looking to add a few top prospects and has extended 11 offers to players like Patrick DeStefano, Mark Harrell, D.J. Humphries, Andrew Jelks, Eric Olson, and Max Tuerk. The emphasis, however, is the defensive line, where Duke has extended 17 verbal offers to players like Allen Jackson (committed), Korren Kirven, D.J. Reader, Jordan Watkins, and Carlos Wray. In addition to the prospects with offers, Duke has over 40 other linemen on their recruiting board.
Linebackers: Duke is going hard after two linebackers in particular early in Keilin Rayner and Deion Williams. There are several others under evaluation, but the Blue Devils remain in good shape with those two players.
Secondary: the defensive secondary is another position of emphasis in the class of 2012, and the Blue Devils have extended offers to 13 prospects at cornerback and safety. In addition to players like Michael Summers, Albert Reid, Ron Geohaghan, and Dwayne Norman, the staff is evaluating another 15 prospects.
We’ll be back
Lots of recruiting coverage coming this week as the staff hits the recruiting trail and we tag along for the ride. No idea what we’ll talk about next week, so you’ll just have to come back to find out. As always, feel free to join in the discussion on our message board if you need a football fix before next Friday. WE ARE DUKE.