Tag Archives: BDN Football

Duke and Arizona are the first to offer Norco RB Joseph Ajeigbe

Duke among the first to offer Norco RB Joseph Ajeigbe

Duke and Arizona are the first to offer Norco RB Joseph Ajeigbe

Duke Head Coach David Cutcliffe has built a reputation of producing NFL quarterbacks throughout his career. In truth, his offenses have produced nearly as many NFL running backs, including players like Jamal Lewis, Deuce McAllister and Arian Foster. This fall, the Blue Devils should feature one of their deepest backfields in recent years, headlined by senior Desmond Scott along with last year’s leading rusher Juwan Thompson and speedy redshirt-sophomore Josh Snead. They will be joined by two outstanding freshmen in Jela Duncan and Shaquille Powell. Duke’s running backs are utilized in all areas of their offense – rushing, receiving, and blocking.

Looking ahead to the class of 2013, the Blue Devils are looking to add to their running back stable, and were among the first to offer a scholarship to Joseph Ajeigbe. Ajeigbe is a 5’9″ 195 pound prospect from Norco High School in California, the same program that has produced incoming Duke safety Corbin McCarthy. In addition to McCarthy, the Norco program is known for producing hard-nosed running backs, including former Stanford star Toby Gerhart and current Stanford sophomore Kelsey Young. As a junior, Ajeigbe took over the starting running back job and flourished, finishing with 20 touchdowns and 1,673 yards rushing.

The powerful rising senior spoke with BDN about his recruitment and his interest in Duke. [private]

BDN: How would you describe your strengths as a player?

Some of my strengths are probably my speed through the hole, and my strength, and I run with a lot of power. Maybe some areas that I need to improve on would be my break-away speed, but other than that, I have pretty good vision and pretty good balance.

BDN: What are you working on this offseason as you prepare for your senior year?

I just want to be able to pull away from defenders in the secondary, just have that speed to be able to make big plays. I have good speed now, but I just want to get to that next level so I can be ready for college football, because everybody’s fast in college football so I just want to try and get to that next level. My senior year, just break a lot of records down here that are set by Toby Gerhart. I’ve been running on those overspeed treadmills, we have those incline treadmills and everything, so I’ve been running those and working with the running back coach running hills and stuff, just trying to get to that next level of speed to get ready for college.

BDN: As you approach your college decision, what are the most important things you are looking for in a school?

First and foremost for me is probably education, looking at what the school can offer me other than athletics. In case football doesn’t work out and I don’t end up in the NFL, I need something that I Can fall back on. Education is really important to me. Then I’ll be looking at the football program, how good the football program is, what I can contribute to the football program, if I can go in there and help them out, if I can fit in the offense, the coaching staff, if I feel comfortable with the coaching staff, that’s a lot of the things to take into consideration when considering a school.

BDN: Where do you stand with offers and interest from schools now?

I got offered by Arizona, that was my first offer, University of Arizona, and then a couple days after that, Duke offered me. Now, yesterday, or two days ago, I was talking to Coach Jerry Brown from Northwestern, We had like an hour-long conversation on the phone, they sound pretty interested, I think they’re going to offer me pretty soon. Around here, I’ve been talking to UCLA a lot, earlier I was hearing a lot from USC, I’m hearing from Boise State, Tennessee has been sending me a lot of letters and everything, talking to my coach. And then Cal – I’ve heard a lot from Berkeley, I’m pretty interested in Berkeley.

BDN: Which schools have you had a chance to visit or do you have plans to take any visits later this spring or summer?

UCLA and USC, they’ve been in contact with me a lot, so I went out to USC’s Junior Day, I think it was in February. I went out there and got to meet all the coaches and everything, and I like USC. A couple weeks ago, I went over to UCLA’s Junior Day, got to check that out, got to meet running backs coach Steve Broussard, we went over the offense and everything, he said he was interested in me as a player and said the next couple weeks they’d be in contact about maybe an offer or something. Other than that, I haven’t really been out to check out any other schools. I plan, probably in the summer, get on the East Coast and check out the schools that have been recruiting me like Duke, maybe get over to Tennessee, and then check out Northwestern.

BDN: You’ve obviously got schools all over the country that are recruiting you. How much of a factor will location be when you make your decision?

You know, I kind of want to keep all my options open, but I guess I would say location does play a pretty big part in it, UCLA and USC do catch my interest a lot, but I’m kind of open to anything at this point, so I’d be willing to go almost anywhere, but the closest schools, UCLA and USC, kind of do have my preference.

BDN: I know you have a teammate that will be heading to North Carolina to play at Duke this fall. How familiar are you with the program and what are your thoughts on Duke?

Yeah, Corbin [McCarthy]’s committed to Duke, so a couple months after that Duke started showing me some interest. I started looking into Duke as a football program, because I already know, well everybody knows that Duke is a good educational school, so I started looking at their football program. They’re doing some good thing in their conference and they’re trying to build a new program. I think it’s really cool to be a part of a growing program. The coaches, I’ve talked to Coach Lubick and Coach Loebner, they both seem pretty cool, they seem really interested to me as a player, and academics seem really big to them. Duke seems like a good program and I’ll have to look into that.

BDN: Do you have a timeline in mind for when you plan to narrow things down or make your final decision?

I kind of want to keep my options as open as possible, see how many scholarships I can get and keep considering and looking into schools that offer me. I might want to make a decision by sometime close to the beginning or the middle of my senior season just so I can know where I will be going by the end of my season. But for now I just want to kind of keep my options open.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Joseph, and best of luck.

Thank you, you too.

[/private]

More beer, Blue Devil Nation!

Happy New Beer’s Eve from BDN Football Friday

Happy New Beer's Eve, Blue Devil Nation!

Two weeks of Football Friday in a row? For what do we deserve such fortune, you ask? I guess it just seemed like the right thing to do. Or maybe because it’s New Beer’s Eve, one of America’s terrific obscure holidays. In all seriousness, though, thanks for reading and please spread the word that Blue Devil Nation is home of the best Duke Football coverage around.

Spring Game Recap

One – okay, three – important points to remember about last Saturday’s scrimmage.

1. It’s a spring game. The team is a work in progress; September 1st is still nearly five months away.
2. It’s a spring game. Several starters did not play; players with injuries have plenty of time to heal.
3. It’s a spring game. Duke played against Duke; who knows how they’ll look against another opponent.

All that being said, there was plenty to be excited about and a number of things to be concerned about based on Saturday’s performances. If you haven’t checked them out already, be sure to watch our video interviews with Coach Cutcliffe, Sean Renfree, Ross Cockrell, and David Reeves to get their thoughts on Duke’s spring.

Ross Cockrell is developing into a shutdown corner for the Blue Devils -BDN Photo

The Good

Honestly, I don’t think it was a fluke that the starting defense outplayed the starting offense. Even without Kelby Brown, August Campbell, Kenny Anunike, and Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo, the white team defense took it to the blue team offense. And it was a balanced effort. The secondary, crucial to Duke’s 4-2-5 scheme, was particularly encouraging. Brandon Braxton looked comfortable at safety and led the way with 5 tackles, a number that was matched by his replacement, redshirt-freshman Chris Tavarez, who also forced and recovered a fumble late in the game. Jordon Byas and Walt Canty, two veterans at safety, also had strong efforts, each adding 3 tacklesincluding a tackle for a loss by Byas. Cornerbacks Ross Cockrell, Lee Butler, Anthony Young-Wiseman and Tony Foster held the blue team’s top receivers, Blair Holliday and Jamison Crowder, without a touchdown and to just 4 total catches on the day. Of course, it was Cockrell’s forced fumble on Josh Snead that was the play of the day and earned him defensive MVP honors. Kyler Brown and David Helton added strong performances from the linebacker position, and the Blue Devils will need them to continue to matuer ahead of schedule this fall. Duke was able to pressure the blue QBs from a number of positions, as DE Jamal Wallace registered a sack, while Braxton, Cockrell, and LB David Helton all were credited with a QB pressure. As with all things, it’s far from perfect, but the overall defensive effort appeared to be a big step in the right direction heading to the fall.

On the opposite side of the ball, there were plenty of flashes from individual players, but the blue team offense never seemed to be clicking on all cylinders – yet. Brandon Connette, the offensive MVP, certainly had a strong performance, highlighted by two powerful runs through the teeth of the defense to put the blue team on the scoreboard for the first time all afternoon, halfway through the 2nd quarter. Of note, he was also an efficient 4/7 through the air for 83 yards, including a 27-yard TD strike to Josh Snead. Speaking of Josh Snead, it was great to see him healthy and focused. His burst and speed was something that was lacking in Duke’s running game a year ago. All indications are that with the return of Snead alongside last year’s leading rusher Juwan Thompson and senior Desmond Scott, this should be Duke’s strongest running game under Coach Cutcliffe. We certainly saw flashes from some other players, such as David Reeves and Will Monday, all of which were encouraging. Perhaps most encouraging, however, was a glimpse at the increased tempo and diverse schemes utilized by the blue offense. It’s all still a work in progress, with much more to be added in terms of personnel and plays, but opposing defenses should have a lot to prepare for against this year’s Duke offense.

And finally, a look at the future. With the way the teams were divided, it was hard to take much of anything away from the matchup of the white offense against the blue defense, as both units were comprised primarily of walk-ons. Several walk-ons did have strong efforts, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see guys like Chris Hoover, Brandon Watkins and Eric Adams eventually play a few snaps in limited situations. Their blue-collar efforts are to be commended, and it was great for them to receive recognition. The scholarship players on those units, however, provide a nice glimpse into the future of the Blue Devil program. Obviously, freshman Thomas Sirk is the most notable, and he played well on Saturday. But before we crown him the starting QB, remember that most of his snaps came against an inexperienced defense and he still only played one year of quarterback in high school. All that being said, Sirk has the tools to compete for snaps in 2013, and given the depth issues at wide receiver, it’s too early to rule out lining him up out wide at some point this fall. Another strong performance was put in by redshirt-freshman WR Nick Hill, who has an excellent opportunity with the recent loss of senior WR Tyree Watkins. Defensively, Tim Burton, Britton Grier, and Sam Marshall all piled up tackles; they will push the starters on the depth chart for sure this fall, but realistically may be a year away from significantly contributing.

Sean Renfree had a forgettable spring game -BDN Photo

The Bad

Ok, let’s get it out of the way. Sean Renfree had a forgettable spring game. He finished 10/23 for 104 yards with 2 interceptions. His first interception was a poor throw that shouldn’t be made by a redshirt-senior QB; the second was slightly more forgivable, as the ball appeared to be tipped into the waiting arms of Kyler Brown. Most concerning, however, was the apparent lack of rhythm with the new offense, and the lack of chemistry with some of the younger wide receivers. Fortunately, Renfree is his own biggest critic, and one of the hardest workers on this team; fully expect for him to put in the work to be ready for a strong senior campaign. After a big spring, WR Blair Holliday didn’t have the breakout performance many expected, and he and Jamison Crowder will have to emerge as consistent threats if Duke is to have any success moving the ball this fall.

The other biggest concern of the day was the play along the line of scrimmage. Neither the offensive nor defensive line was able to control the game, and I think there’s still a lot of work to be done along both units. The offensive line needs to get Brian Moore back at center, and the hope is that this group will be able to stay healthy and consistent this fall. They will have to be a stabilizing force for a potentially dynamic and at times unconventional offense. The defensive line remains the big weakness of this team, overall. Brandon Connette exposed the weakness up the middle on two big runs in the 2nd quarter. Hopefully, the return of Kenny Anunike and Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo, along with another year under Coach Petri, will allow this group to take a big step forward this fall.

Duke hosted QB Chavas Rawlins on an unofficial visit Thursday

The Awesome

Come on, you didn’t really think I was going to end on a down note, did you? I thought it might be more fun to discuss recruiting than to argue over whether or not to renew your season tickets, debate the temperature of the leather chair in Coach Cutcliffe’s office, or complain about play-calling. Just my opinion. I’m sure you can find a place to discuss those things.

As for recruiting, Duke locked up two more verbal commitments over the weekend, solidifying the defensive backfield in the class of 2013. Safety prospect Jake Kite is receiving rave reviews for a highlight video that has basically gone viral throughout the Duke Football fanbase. At 6’1,” the junior from Roanoke packs a heavy punch, and Duke fans should be very excited to watch this young man bring down opponents in Wallace Wade Stadium. About a month ago, BDN spoke with a little-known sleeper prospect from Nash County in Dequavais Mann. At 5’9″ and playing multiple positions for a Northern Nash team that finished 2-8 last year, Mann’s recruitment got off to a slow start. That changed quickly when the junior athlete posted a 4.42 second 40-yard dash at a recent combine, and showcased his abilities as a lockdown defender. Mann started lining up visits, starting with a return trip to Durham for the Duke Spring Game. The Blue Devils extended a scholarship and it took just two days for Mann to offer his commitment to Coach Cutcliffe. And the staff is keeping the pedal to the metal, hosting top Pennsylvania QB Chavas Rawlins on an unofficial visit in Durham yesterday.

Don’t expect things to slow down anytime soon; we’re just getting started. The spring evaluation period kicks off on April 14th and lasts through the end of May, nicely coinciding with most high school spring football schedules. With their own spring practice behind them, the Duke staff will be out in full force, evaluating dozens of prospects and checking up on others. We’ll then reach the height of the recruting season in June, as Duke hosts their annual football camps, an opportunity for serious evaluation for both the prospects and coaches. So in other words, if you want to keep up with the latest in Duke Football, now would be an excellent time to try out a BDN Premium Membership. Ok, that’s my pitch for the day.

I know, these columns get wordier and wordier. Though in person I’m known for brevity, my writing clearly is not. Check back next week for another helping of Football Friday, provided I am able to purchase a new ribbon for my typewriter. In the meantime, enjoy the Masters for you golf fans, Happy Easter to the Christians, and regardless of your interests or beliefs, I hope you all enjoy National Beer Day on Saturday. WE ARE DUKE.

Oaks Christian star LB Cameron Judge is on Duke's radar in the class of 2013

Athletic Oaks Christian LB Cameron Judge is on Duke’s radar

Oaks Christian star LB Cameron Judge is on Duke's radar in the class of 2013

The Blue Devils are hoping to see one former Oaks Christian star light up the scoreboard in Wallace Wade Stadium this fall in receiver Blair Holliday. The Duke coaching staff is hoping that a current Oaks Christian star will light up Blue Devil opponents in the future. Cameron Judge is a 6’2″ 210 pound linebacker prospect from Westlake Village, California. As a junior, Judge totaled 112 tackles, 3 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles, earning 1st Team All-Ventura County honors. Though it’s early in his recruitment, the impressive athlete is hearing from a lot of schools, and the Blue Devils are giving him a long look. BDN caught up with Cameron last week for an update on his recruiting process. [private]

BDN: How would you describe your strengths as a player?

My athleticism, being a linebacker, it’s one of my strengths. Not many linebackers, I think, have my athleticism. I have a 39 inch vertical and I ran a 4.4 [second] hand-time 40 [yard-dash] yesterday. I feel like my athleticism is a big advantage for me.

BDN: What are you working on this offseason as you prepare for your senior year?

I’m trying to put on some more size, gaining some more weight, I want to be like 220-225 [pounds] by the season start.

BDN: You play for a strong program at Oaks Christian; what are some of your goals for your senior year?

We’re moving into the PAC-5 this year for playoffs, it’s a big statement year for the entire school, so we just want to do our thing and try and win CIF in this new playoff division.

BDN: As you approach your college decision, what are the most important things you are looking for in a school?

Academics is pretty important to me, so that’s definitely near the top of my list. And then also, like the environment, I want to be able to call the place home every day and feel happy there, amongst the players, coaches, and just the environment of the school in general.

BDN: Where do you stand with offers and interest from schools now?

I’ve been hearing from quite a bit of schools, I talk to Texas A&M quite a bit, Vanderbilt, Utah, UCLA, Oregon State, I hear quite a lot from those schools.

BDN: Which schools have you had a chance to visit?

UCLA is actually the only one so far.

BDN: Do you have any plans to visit any other schools this spring or summer?

I haven’t planned any yet, but I want to get out and see some schools over the summer.

BDN: Being on the West Coast, you’ve got a lot of PAC-12 and other West Coast schools interested in you. Is location going to be an important factor in your college decision?

Not really, no, I’d be open to going anywhere at this point.

BDN: Do you have a timeline in mind for when you plan to narrow things down or make your final decision?

Yeah, I want to have a commitment made before the start of my senior season, but if I don’t have a decision made by then, I don’t want to rush it.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Cameron, and best of luck.

Thanks.

[/private]

Duke TE David Reeves -BDN Photo

Redshirt-freshman tight end David Reeves discusses his first spring in Durham

DURHAM- After the graduation of Cooper Helfet and Danny Parker, and with Braxton Deaver and Jack Farrell sidelined, the Blue Devils turned to two young, athletic tight ends to carry the load this spring. A little over a year ago, David Reeves was an important late addition to the 2012 Duke recruiting class, and big things are expected from him in Durham. At 6’5″ and 250 pounds, Reeves turned a lot of heads this spring with his playmaking ability at the tight end position. BDN caught up with David after his spring game performance, where he hauled in 3 catches for 49 yards.

Northern Nash ATH Quay Mann is Duke's 5th commitment in 2013

Duke adds 5th commitment in 2013 from in-state ATH Dequavais Mann

Northern Nash ATH Quay Mann is Duke's 5th commitment in 2013

Head Coach David Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils have been on a roll over the past two weeks on the recruiting trail, securing 5 verbal commitments in the class of 2013. On Monday evening, they added another talented athlete to their defensive backfield in Northern Nash’s Dequavais “Quay” Mann. The 5’9″ 185 pound athlete picked up a scholarship offer from the Blue Devils on Saturday during his visit for the annual spring game. Mann has showcased his speed and skills on the combine circuit this spring, posting a 4.42 second 40-yard dash and earning several accolades from coaches and scouts. The speedy athlete is likely to join fellow class of 2013 commit Evrett Edwards at cornerback in Durham, but has also showcased his abilities on offense and in the return game at the high school level. BDN spoke with Quay earlier this spring, and also caught up with him just minutes after his commitment to the Blue Devils.

BDN: Congratulations on your decision, Quay. What was is that led you to your decision to commit to Duke tonight?

Yes sir, I committed to Duke about 25 minutes ago. I just love the atmosphere down there, I love Coach Cut and what he’s telling me. I just love the way it feels like a second home there, it feels good. It’s close to home, so my family will get to come see me on Saturdays. It just is a great fit, you know, great academics, get a degree from Duke…it was a bunch of different things that went into my decision.

BDN: What did the coaching staff have to say when they heard about your decision?

Coach Cut was very excited when I told him, he made the comment that he was anxious to get the best cornerback in the nation to campus, so he was just really excited about that and  talked about how much I can help them on defense and maybe a little bit on offense and in the return game also.

BDN: What should Duke fans expect to see from you on the field?

As soon as I get on campus, I’m going to work hard, try my best and help my new teammates to turn it around, you know, Coach Cut has done a great job down there building up the program and I feel great to be a part of that.

BDN: We’ll definitely keep in touch with you during your senior year. Congratulations on your commitment, Quay, and best of luck this fall.

Thanks a lot, Patrick.

Ross Cockrell is developing into a shutdown corner for the Blue Devils -BDN Photo

BDN interview with Defensive MVP Ross Cockrell after Duke Spring Game

DURHAM- Ross Cockrell had a strong day on Saturday for the white team defense, helping to hold the blue team offense to just 17 points. Cockrell helped to keep starting QB Sean Renfree uneasy all afternoon, finishing with 4 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 2 bass break-ups, and 1 quarterback pressure. His efforts earned him Defensive MVP for the game, and BDN caught up with him for his thoughts on his performance and the close of spring practice.