Tag Archives: Bilal Marshall

NFL stars Eli Manning and Hakeem Nicks have been working out at Duke this week.

BDN’s Football Friday

NFL stars Eli Manning and Hakeem Nicks have been working out at Duke this week.

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.

Duke solidified their special teams for the future with Thursday's commitment from Ross Martin

 

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.

Camp All-Stars

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.

Duke was the first to offer Tarboro RB Todd Gurley, and he remains their top target

 

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.)

WR Drae Bowles could become a program-changer for the Blue Devils, on and off the field

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.

Give us back the Victory Bell, cheaters

 

Closing thoughts

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.

Bilal Marshall was the first 2012 QB with a Duke offer and remains a top target

Duke is a finalist for elusive dual-threat QB Bilal Marshall

Bilal Marshall was the first 2012 QB with a Duke offer and remains a top target

Yesterday, BDN featured an interview with new Duke QB target Thomas Sirk, more of a traditional pro-style quarterback prospect with a 6’5” frame. Historically, Head Coach David Cutcliffe has had great success with quarterbacks from this mold, with Peyton and Eli Manning serving as exhibits A and B. Given recent trends in the game of college football and the success Duke had in 2010 with freshman Brandon Connette, the Duke staff would love to add a dual-threat quarterback to the class of 2012. Recent players like Cam Newton at Auburn and Darron Thomas at Oregon have been elite program-changers, and the Blue Devils have targeted a dual-threat prospect from Florida in hopes of similar success. At 6’3” and 170 pounds, Bilal Marshall, has an agile frame and a natural athleticism that makes him the elusive playmaker Duke needs. Duke was among the first to offer Marshall early in 2011, and have remained aggressive in their pursuit of the Dade Christian star throughout the spring and summer. After a dozen scholarship offers, Marshall has landed on four top schools, and the Blue Devils have made the cut. BDN first spoke with Bilal back in February, and recently caught up with the talented athlete after his trip to Durham. [private]

 

BDN: I know your recruitment has really picked up since we last spoke; how many offers are you up to now?

Right now I’m at 12 offers from several schools such as Wake Forest, Duke, Kansas, Purdue, Boston College, Tulane, Northwestern, FIU, Rutgers, and a couple more I can’t think of right now.

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

This past weekend I was just at Wake Forest and Duke.

BDN: How did those visits go for you?

It went great, I got a great feel for the city and the coaches. It was a great thing.

BDN: What other visits do you have planned?

Towards the end of July, I’m going to be taking a trip to Purdue and Kansas to see what I can find out there.

BDN: Where would you say you are in your recruiting process?

I’m pretty much towards the end, I’ve narrowed it down to those four schools right now.

BDN: So you’ve narrowed it down to Wake Forest, Duke, Purdue, and Kansas? And are all four schools recruiting you as a quarterback?

Yes. And yes.

BDN: In addition to your visits in July, what else do you have planned for the summer?

Just footwork, that’s basically it, just getting stronger each day and working on my feet.

BDN: What are your plans for narrowing things down and making your decision?

Yes, I’m going to take my officials in the fall to get a football game aspect of it, to see how the atmosphere is during the game, what it’s like if I were to play football at those schools and then after that I’ll make my decision.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Bilal and best of luck to you.

Alright, I appreciate it.

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Football Friday wishes Blue Devil Nation a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend

BDN Premium Football Friday: Recruiting updates

Football Friday wishes Blue Devil Nation a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend

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.

Duke was the first to offer Tarboro RB Todd Gurley

Running backs

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.

Offensive linemen

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.

Defensive linemen

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.

Duke would love for Keilin Rayner to join Deion Williams at LB in the class of 2012

 

Linebackers

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.

Safeties

Dwayne Norman became the newest member of the Duke secondary last week, but he is joined by five other uncommitted prospects on the recruiting board, which includes Ron Geohaghan, C.J. Prosise, and Jonavaughn Williams.

Cornerbacks

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.

Tight ends

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.

Wide receivers

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.

Duke has offered GA dual-threat QB Chris Moody

Quarterbacks

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.

Busy week

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.

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Duke safety Matt Daniels is poised for an All-ACC senior season

BDN’s Football Friday!

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

Duke DB Matt Daniels strikes a pose for BDN Photo

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.

Bilal Marshall is the first 2012 QB with a Duke offer

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.

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DL Carlos Wray is the 6th verbal commitment in the class of 2012

Football Friday returns for round two

DL Carlos Wray says that Duke has stood out to him early.

Football Friday is back for its second week and BDN’s Patrick Cacchio offers up a brief introduction to Duke Football recruiting. Join Blue Devil Nation Premium today to get an inside look at Duke athletics and become a part of our growing community. [private]

We did it! We all survived another week and we’re back for our second installment of Football Friday. Somehow, enough of you read this column last week that they’re letting me write it again. It’s all thanks to you, our members, with your emails, your PMs, your tweets, and your Facebooking. And as a big thank you to you, we’ll give you what you want this week – recruiting updates.

Kudos and other random thoughts

I figure I’ll get the simple stuff out of the way first each week. Duke had 13 players named to the ACC All-Academic team, more than twice any other ACC school. In fact, add together any other two ACC schools and you’re still not even close. Virginia and North Carolina? 5 players combined. The 2 Techs? 9 players combined. The Duke players who were recognized are some of the team’s stars on the field – almost all of them are starters. Obviously, having the smartest players doesn’t translate into wins on the field, but academic excellence is an important part of Duke culture, and it’s great to see that as Duke football becomes more competitive, we’re not forgetting our roots (cough, tarheels, cough). Congratulations to all of the well-deserving student-athletes.

I feel obligated to get on my soapbox for a minute and talk about what happened at Toomer’s Corner in Auburn. It’s a great reminder for all of us that our individual actions (and tweets/Facebook posts) reflect on our fan base as a whole. A proud tradition at Auburn has been forever tarnished by one severely misguided Crimson Tide fan. The bottom line is that all of us as fans need to do a better job of cheering for our own team and respecting our opponents, as difficult as that can sometimes be.

Football recruiting 101

For those who have heard Coach Cutcliffe and his staff talk about recruiting, much of the rest of this article may be review, but bear with us, there are big names at the end.

I’m going to go out on a ledge here and assume that if you’re a BDN member, you follow Duke basketball recruiting pretty closely. And why wouldn’t you? All you have to do is find a ranking of the top 25 or so prospects in a given class, read one of Mark’s magnificent basketball updates (or should it be magnificent Mark’s basketball updates?), check out highlights on YouTube, and you’re pretty much a Duke basketball recruiting insider, right? That doesn’t work so well for football. ESPN lists over 15,000 prospects in the class of 2011, and already has about 10,000 prospects in the class of 2012. Unfortunately, Duke cannot just target the top 25 or so from the rankings, since they have to fill out a roster with 85 scholarships. So somehow, we have to sort through all of those football prospects to find our future Blue Devils. I should have asked for more cell phone minutes for Christmas.

Luckily, the list gets broken down several ways. First, each member of the Duke coaching staff serves as the recruiting coordinator for a geographic area. For example, as you might expect, Matt Lubick is the lead recruiter for most of the west coast. Then, within a region, there are only a certain number of FBS-caliber athletes, which can be determined by evaluating game film and transcripts (or paying for a scouting service).  At Duke, the next step is probably the most restrictive, and that’s whether or not the student will qualify academically for admission to Duke. The staff will then focus their recruiting efforts on this remaining group of core prospects. Obviously, hundreds of hours of work go into the evaluation process alone, but luckily for us, we don’t have to really start following all of this until Duke starts recruiting a prospect to see if there’s a mutual interest. I won’t be needing those cell phone minutes after all!

A word on in-state recruiting

Duke was the first to offer Tarboro RB Todd Gurley

Ok, a couple hundred words. A common misconception/criticism seems to be that Coach Cutcliffe and his staff are almost exclusively focusing their recruiting efforts on North Carolina prospects and failing to “leverage the Duke brand” at a national level. This is simply not true, and the numbers prove it. Duke’s current roster has about two dozen players from North Carolina, which is by far the least among the 4 North Carolina ACC schools. The Duke staff has placed an emphasis on in-state recruiting, but it’s by no means exclusive.

There are two primary benefits to Duke’s emphasis on North Carolina and surrounding areas. First, prospects within driving distance of Durham are the easiest to get on campus for unofficial visits, which allow prospects to build relationships with the coaching staff and grow comfortable with the Duke campus. The Duke staff places a lot of stock in the ability to get to know a player at a personal level, and the best way to do that is to have as much face-to-face contact as the NCAA allows. Second, it’s important to a lot of players and their parents that they go to school close to home. This may be more significant for athletes than the average college student, as it is usually important for the player’s family to be able to watch him play on Saturdays. Most college football rosters are made up of a significant number of in-state recruits, and this probably has a lot to do with it.

Breaking down the 2012 board

The Duke staff maintains a recruiting board of a few hundred prospects. Each prospect is evaluated individually by the entire coaching staff and a collective decision is made whether to offer that prospect a scholarship or to evaluate again at a later time in the recruiting cycle. For the class of 2012, there are already well over 100 prospects on Duke’s board, and roughly a third of them have received verbal scholarship offers to date. In addition to the board, there are several hundred other prospects that Duke will invite for unofficial visits to Junior Days, summer camps, and games during the fall as part of their ongoing evaluation process. Keep in mind that just by taking a quick look at Duke’s current roster, it’s easy to see that there won’t be many scholarships available in 2012 (think 15, give or take a few).

So how does the board breakdown? Since I mentioned the in-state emphasis, let’s start there. Duke is currently evaluating or has offered about 30 players from North Carolina, and roughly another 30 players from neighboring states. There are also over a dozen prospects from Florida and Ohio, and another dozen from California and Colorado as well.

Position-wise, Duke has clear needs at QB, RB, and DL in 2012. As such, there are 18 quarterbacks already on the board, 10 running backs (4 with offers), and 16 defensive linemen (8 with offers). The offensive line is a position that is best built by signing a few prospects in each class, and Coach Matt Luke has done a great job getting in early with top prospects. Duke has already offered 10 offensive linemen, all of whom are highly-coveted by programs around the country. Obviously, there are a handful of players that have been offered at other positions, but for now, we’ll just focus on the key areas of need.

Bilal Marshall is the first 2012 QB with a Duke offer

Top targets

QB: Right now, Bilal Marshall is the only quarterback with a Duke offer. Coach Cutcliffe, known as a QB guru for his work with the Mannings, tends to keep his quarterback recruiting close to the vest, but we know that most of the top high school quarterbacks in the country are on his list (Gunner Kiel, Zeke Pike, Bart Houston, Casey Cochran). Even though Marshall seems to be at the top for now, we know that Duke has also been involved with Ian Fisher from Maryland, and that Bart Houston will visit this weekend. Several other top quarterbacks are giving Duke a serious look and it seems safe to say at this point that Duke has a good chance of landing an elite quarterback in this class, though it’s too early to say which one.

RB: Keith Marshall is a perfect example of why it’s important for Duke to build its relationships and reputation in-state. Many consider the speedy prospect out of Raleigh’s Millbrook High School to be the top running back in the class of 2012, and Duke was among the first to offer him. It’s too early to tell where his recruitment will go, but he’ll have his pick of schools from around the country and Duke remains in the mix. Another top in-state RB is Todd Gurley, who took in Duke’s win over North Carolina in Cameron Indoor Stadium last week. At this stage in the process, Duke is in good shape with Gurley and will be a major player in his recruitment.

DL: Vince Oghobaase was probably the last elite defensive line prospect to commit to Duke, but early indications are that Duke will land one in 2012. Early on, Duke is in good shape with Carlos Wray, D.J. Reader, Matt Godin, and Allen Jackson. All four look to be solid 4- or 5-star caliber prospects and have all made visits to Durham and came away impressed.

LB: This is another area of need and Duke is in good shape early with two top prospects in Preston Durham and Keilin Rayner.

2011 preview next week

In case you didn’t know, Duke’s schedule was released this week, spring practice kicked off Wednesday, and Duke hosts its second Junior Day this weekend. Oops, probably should have written about those this week, but I had to give you guys what you wanted. I guess we’ll tackle those issues next week. Again, I have to give you a reason to keep coming back (as if my wit and charm aren’t enough). Best of luck making it through another week. Until then, WE ARE DUKE.

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Bilal Marshall was the first 2012 QB with a Duke offer and remains a top target

Duke offers QB Bilal Marshall, who has an ACC favorite early

ACC schools are lining up for QB Bilal Marshall

Bilal Marshall is one of the top quarterback prospects in the state of Florida and one of the top dual-threat prospects in the country. At 6’3” and 170 pounds, Marshall has a good frame and a natural athleticism that makes him an elusive playmaker. Several ACC programs are recruiting the standout signal-caller from Miami’s Dade Christian, and one school has stood out to him early. Highlights of his sophomore season can be viewed here.

BDN: Can you start off by describing the strengths and weaknesses of your game for someone who hasn’t had a chance to see you play?

Well, I play quarterback and I’m a dual-threat. When everything is locked up, nothing makes a defense more mad than when a quarterback goes and gets a first down himself. I can run the ball pretty well, I had over 900 yards rushing myself this year and I can throw the ball good. I think that I’m very accurate and I’ve got a good arm. That’s pretty much it there.

BDN: Being a quarterback, is there a particular player in the NFL or in college that you compare yourself to or have studied closely?

Well, right now it’s Darron Thomas, the quarterback for Oregon. I feel like we have a very similar type of play.

BDN: What are some of the things you’ve been working on this offseason?

Well the main thing the college coaches tell me is to keep working on my feet. They say my feet have gotten better from my sophomore year. I’ve gotten a lot better. They just want me to keep working on it so that it will help me make better throws. That’s the main thing I’m working on this whole offseason – footwork.

BDN: I know you had a great year last season and made the playoffs. What are your goals for your team and yourself individually for the fall?

For my senior year, number one is to win a state championship. I’ve got my last chance to do it. I want to probably have over 3,000 all-purpose yards, and try to mentor some of the young kids that’s coming in and try to help the legacy of my school keep going on.

BDN: What are the most important things you are looking for in a college?

Definitely academics. Whatever is going to fit me for my future because making it to the NFL is a one in a million chance, so that main thing is academics.

BDN: Is there a particular field or program that you’re interested in academically?

Right now it’s open. I don’t know yet. I’m still in the process of trying to figure out what I want to do in life.

BDN: What schools have you recently heard from? Who were the first schools to contact you?

Wake Forest has always been on top for me. They’ve been out ahead and coming to talk to me every once in awhile, coming to my school. I have a great bond with the recruiting coordinator, with Coach Ray McCartney. They offerd me early in my year. I have just recently got an offer from Duke and from Boston College. Right now, I feel like Wake Forest has really been after me and so has Rutgers.

BDN: Which schools have you had a chance to visit so far? What schools do you definitely plan on visiting later this year?

The only school I’ve been to is an unofficial visit to Wake Forest, I’ve been to one of their camps. I’m going to be going to a Junior Day at UM [Miami] this weekend and a Junior Day at Clemson April 9. And I’ll probably make the spring game for Wake Forest in late April.

BDN: Are there any schools that you haven’t heard a lot from or that you’re hoping to receive an offer from soon?

Definitely Clemson. I’ve grown up watching them play. I like to watch them play because of their explosive plays. I could definitely see myself in that program, but whatever happens, happens.

BDN: You also mentioned that Rutgers, Duke, and Boston College have offered you. How much do you know about those schools and do you plan on visiting or learning more?

Well it’s still early. I’m still trying to build a bond with those other schools. I’ve only talked to Duke maybe three times. Rutgers has been on me also, they’re probably right behind Wake Forest, with talking to me and being in contact with them all the time. Boston College I’ve only met the recruiter once, but they told me they’ll keep in contact with me.

BDN: Do you have any plans for what camps you will attend at this point?

Too early right now. I’m not sure if I will be attending any college camps, but it feels like probably the Manning Passing Academy, depending on financials. It’s an expensive trip.

BDN: It’s still very early in the process, but ideally, when would you like to make your college decision?

I’ll probably make my decision by Signing Day next year. I won’t be committing anywhere before then.

BDN: Is there anything else that you think is important for college football fans to know about you?

I’m just one person that’s willing to do anything for whatever program I’m with. I feel like I’m a great kid, I’m willing to help out anybody. And I just love to win, so whatever program I’m in, I’ll do my best to lead that team to 10 wins on the season or more.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Bilal and best of luck to you.

No problem. Alright, thank you sir.