We hope that all Duke fans continue their prayers and well wishes for injured Duke WR Blair Holliday. The Duke Sports Information Office just released this statement from the family: “Our family would like to extend its sincere gratitude to everyone who has provided thoughts and prayers on Blair’s behalf over the last week. We have been overcome with the extended love and support.
“We cannot express our heartfelt appreciation enough for Duke University and the Duke Football family during this time of uncertainty. Coach David Cutcliffe, coach Matt Lubick, coach Kurt Roper, Stan Wilcox, Hap Zarzour and so many others have been with us every step of the way, often times going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure our comfort and well-being. We are so proud to be a part of this team that also includes Blair’s teammates and their parents, who have been so generous with their care and support.
“We would like to thank our extended family who have loved, mentored, and supported Blair both through the years and especially now when he needs them the most: The Buckley School, Oaks Christian School and AIM High Basketball. We also wish to thank Blair’s personal physician — Dr. Janesri DeSilva — who has provided valuable guidance and tremendous comfort to our family.
“The doctors, nurses and support staff here at UNC Hospitals have been nothing short of wonderful. We are so thankful for their commitment, dedication and professionalism.
“We firmly believe in the power of prayer, and are confident that everyone’s efforts have made a positive impact on Blair. As we continue focusing our energy towards Blair and our family, we also would like to thank everyone for respecting our privacy as it pertains to his condition.”
Duke wide receiver Blair Holliday, a projected starter for this season’s football team, has been seriously injured in an accident. Duke officials released the following statement: “On Wednesday, Blair Holliday was involved in a boating accident on Lake Tillery, and was transported via air to the UNC Trauma Center in Chapel Hill. He suffered head injuries and is currently in critical condition.”
Duke Head Football Coach David Cutcliffe also commented on Holliday’s status: “First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with Blair, his parents, Leslie and Rick, and the entire Holliday family. The Holliday family is one of tremendous character and strength, and is truly an inspiration for all of us. Secondly, we could not be more appreciative of the care and support Blair has received here at UNC Hospitals. The doctors, nurses and support staff have been truly outstanding . . . We ask that you continue to keep Blair and his family in your thoughts, and also respect their privacy in this time of concern.”
The entire Blue Devil Nation’s thoughts and prayers are with the Holliday family during this trying time, and we ask that you respect their privacy until they are ready to comment on their son’s status.
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.
Are you ready for some football, Blue Devil Nation? Saturday afternoon will be your last chance until September 1st to see some Duke Football, so get your fill. The Blue Devils will take to the field on Saturday at 1PM in Wallace Wade Stadium for their annual spring game. BDN’s Football Friday is here for your preview.
First of all, highs in the upper 70s, with a slight chance of isolated thunderstorms. Should be a perfect spring day for some football if the rains miss the Methodist Flats. That also means a perfect day for some tailgating. Get there early, as the team will conduct the Blue Devil Walk at 11:00 AM. Team BDN will be there in full force, so be sure to say hi. Here’s the information on the parking situation. Bring your wallets, even though admission is free (stadium gates open at 11:15), as there will be plenty of opportunities to get your Blue Devil gear, as well as stuff your face with Chick-fil-a, Domino’s, and Blue Devil Concessions. Oh, and the most important reason to bring your wallet is to purchase your 2012 season tickets. Ticket office reps will be on hand and help you pick your exact seats. Try before you buy. The game kicks off at 1PM and Coach Cutcliffe will address the crowd during halftime of the scrimmage. Spring practice awards will also be announced at halftime.
Scouting the Blue Devil Offense
The Duke offense will feature a number of familiar faces, but it’s likely to be the unfamiliar ones who will make an impression on Saturday. We all know what Conner Vernon is capable of at wide receiver, but as he’s been limited due to injury this spring, expect to see a lot of Blair Holliday and Jamison Crowder, both of whom have had very strong spring performances. Nick Hill is another young face who appears ready to contribute, and Corey Gattis and Tyree Watkins add a veteran presence to the receiving corps. With Jack Farrell and Braxton Deaver sidelined with injuries, the Blue Devils had concerns at wide receiver heading into spring practice. Coming out of spring practice, tight end is no longer a concern, and you’ll likely see why as Issac Blakeney and David Reeves are sure to impress.
Up front, the Duke offensive line returns all but graduating senior Kyle Hill, and that continuity should benefit the Blue Devil offense. This group has improved each year under Coach Cutcliffe, and they’re looking to take a big step forward this fall under new OL Coach John Latina. Expect to see a few holes opened for the likes of the now healthy Josh Snead and last year’s leading rusher Juwan Thompson, who have seen the majority of carries with senior Desmond Scott nursing injury. If that trio isn’t impressive enough for you, the Blue Devils will add two more big-time running backs in just a few months, as Jela Duncan and Shaquille Powell will push for early playing time.
Am I forgetting something? Ah, yes, quarterback. While Peyton Manning had been a fixture in the Duke practice facilities this offseason, he will not be taking snaps under center for the Blue Devils on Saturday. Sean Renfree remains entrenched as the starter, and he’s had yet another good spring running the Duke offense. While much of spring practice is situational, Renfree has shown the ability to get the ball downfield, averaging 15.7 yards per completion in the last scrimmage. But Renfree’s old news, right? Coach Cutcliffe and the Duke staff have been looking at ways to get guys like Brandon Connette and Anthony Boone more involved in the offense, and they’ve done well with running the ball and catching the ball in some unique schemes. But don’t get too excited. Knowing the Duke coaching staff, the Blue Devils are unlikely to show off anything particularly new or exciting on Saturday, so we’ll all just have to wait until the fall. Expect to see Connette, Boone, and freshman Thomas Sirk take several snaps under center in relief of Renfree; all have taken big steps forward in their command of the offense this spring.
Scouting the Blue Devil Defense
Somehow, it seems that Duke has had a perpetually young defense the past few years, and that remain the case this spring, though they are overall more experienced. The losses of Matt Daniels and Charlie Hatcher will be the biggest voids to fill, and there are a number of candidates looking to contribute. Up front, Duke will be without their top pass-rushers Saturday in Kenny Anunike and Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo, but will feature much of the same group of athletic ends we saw a year ago, led by Justin Foxx, Dezmond Johnson, and Jamal Wallace. Sydney Sarmiento, Jamal Bruce, and Nick Sink are likely to see the majority of time on the inside up front. The defensive line continues to improve under Coach Petri and has the benefit of going up against a big and experienced offensive line in practice.
At linebacker, the Blue Devils will be without Kelby Brown for the foreseeable future, but expect sophomore David Helton to continue to impress. The redshirt is off for Kelby’s younger, but bigger, brother Kyler, and it appears that a nose for the football is in their genes. Austin Gamble is the lone upperclassman, though sophomores C.J. France and Jon Woodruff have some experience. And before you get down on the Blue Devil linebackers, keep in mind that stud recruits Keilin Rayner and Deion Williams will be on campus in just a few months.
Coach Knowles’ 4-2-5 scheme relies heavily on the secondary, and the emergence of Ross Cockrell as a shutdown corner is key. He’ll be joined by senior Lee Butler at cornerback, though youngsters Jared Boyd and Tim Burton will see time. The leader of the secondary this year is most likely to be leading returning tackler Walt Canty, though hard-hitting Jordon Byas has also turned some heads with August Campbell sidelined this spring. Newcomers to look for at safety include the hard-working Chris Tavarez, Britton Grier, transfer Jeremy Cash, and former WR Brandon Braxton. All should see snaps on Saturday and overall, this group has some of the best playmakers on the defensive side.
Scouting the Blue Devil Special Teams
Will Monday. That’s about all you need to know. With Will Snyderwine and Alex King now graduated, Monday has handled all of the punting and kicking duties this spring, and handled them well. By the fall, incoming freshman Ross Martin may challenge him for the placekicking duties, but expect to see Monday handle the punting for the next four years in Durham. On the return side, Jamison Crowder remains the Blue Devils’ top threat, but he’ll be joined by incoming freshman DeVon Edwards this fall, who took more than a few kicks to the house during his high school career. In all likelihood, getting to see Monday punt and kick should be a refreshing sight for Blue Devil fans and the only real highlight on special teams Saturday.
Recruiting still sizzling
Who are all those people with lanyards and nametags? That would be the dozens of high school prospects and their families who will be on campus this weekend to take in the Blue Devil program. Several members of the Duke class of 2012 will be on hand Saturday, and they’ll be joined by a huge group of future prospects. With 3 commitments already on board in 2013, the coaching staff is flying high on the trail and will have in some of their top targets in this class, including a handful considered among the nation’s elite. Coach Cutcliffe and his staff work on recruiting every single day, and this weekend will be no exception. And just like the staff, we follow the recruiting trail here at BDN, so be sure to check out some of our recent interviews with the likes of TE Nathan Marcus, and OL Sterling Korona, and of course lots more to come. Don’t be surprised if the Blue Devils hear more good news by the end of this weekend.
In case you haven’t figured it out already, Blue Devil Nation is the place to be for Duke Football fans. We cover the team year-round, and would love to have you join our growing BDN Premium community. We can’t wait to see you all in Wallace Wade Stadium this Saturday. WE ARE DUKE.
The goal this offseason has been on finding the “best 22″ players to put on the field for the Blue Devils. Inevitably, this forces the Duke coaching staff to make some creative and difficult decisions to realize this goal. One of the most prominent changes this spring has involved Brandon Braxton, a once promising wide receiver who has selflessly made the switch to safety. Braxton’s strong play on special teams the past two seasons exemplified some of his potential as a defender and tackler, but the learning curve for Coach Knowles’ defense is steep. BDN caught up with Brandon after spring practice last week to get an update on his transition.
BDN: How did the decision to switch positions come about?
I had originally heard through the grapevine that they were switching me to defense. I gave Coach Cut a call and went and met with him, and it wasn’t for sure or anything at that point, and he said that they had been thinking about it. I told him I would be willing to switch if they thought that would improve our team, and I ended up switching and so far I like it a lot.
BDN: How do you feel your skill set fits on the defensive side of the ball?
I like the defensive side of the ball because it allows me to react instead of having a set play, so I definitely like that about defense. I also just like flying around and reading, so that’s probably my favorite part about defense.
BDN: You’ve played quite a bit on special teams over the past two seasons, so you’ve had some experience with tackling, but what have you found to be the hardest adjustment to playing defense so far this spring?
There really hasn’t been any really hard thing to pick up, but just learning the defense and knowing checks and seeing different things. Just being comfortable at safety is definitely a huge change from what I have been doing and what I’m used to. I feel like I’m a freshman all over again, learning a whole new system and getting back in the swing of things of college football. I haven’t played defense since junior year of high school, but so far I’m picking it up really fast and feel like every day I’m progressing.
BDN: Now that you’re on the other side of the ball, who’s the toughest receiver to matchup with in practice?
All of them are really good, honestly. Blair Holliday has been playing great. Jamison [Crowder] has been playing really good. Conner [Vernon], everyone already knows that Conner is a stud. Nick Hill is a new and upcoming redshirt-freshman and he’s been playing really good. All of them, really, there isn’t one that I can pinpoint that’s super difficult, they all have different attributes and different things that they bring to the wide receiver.
BDN: You may feel like a freshman all over again, but you’re actually entering your third year with the program. What’s your assessment of the team this spring, compared to when you first arrived at Duke?
This spring, well I’ve only been through two springs, but there was such a period when losing was acceptable, and I think that that whole air and people that were here when that was happening is gone. My teammates now don’t accept losing as an option. That’s the biggest thing that I’ve seen. We’ve all been working really hard and the coaches have been pushing us, and we’re all up to the challenge.
BDN: The secondary is obviously a key to Coach Knowles’ defense. Can you talk a little about some of the players that have impressed you and helped you make your transition?
All of them – Walt [Canty], Jordon [Byas], Anthony Young-Wiseman, they’re all veterans and they’ve all been here awhile. Ross Cockrell, we’re usually on the same side, and he’s been helping me a lot and he’s progressed immensely at the corner position. He’s turned into one heck of a cornerback. They’ve all done their part in helping me pick it up faster and teaching me tricks of the trade and making sure I do well.
BDN: Thanks a lot, Brandon, and best of luck this spring.
DURHAM, N.C. – Quarterback Sean Renfree completed 15-of-19 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns while wideout Blair Holliday caught eight passes for 84 yards to highlight Duke’s 60-play scrimmage Saturday morning at Wallace Wade Stadium.
“We really got what we wanted out of it,” said Duke head coach David Cutcliffe. “We wanted to extend play. We’ve done a lot of fundamental work. This is practice nine. Probably more fundamental work and less team work than we’ve had in any time since we’ve been here. But we’ve worked on some of the ‘how’ before we were doing the ‘what’. I think it’s paid off. It’s paid off with players like Blair Holliday, who you can just see has jumped leaps and bounds from where he was. It’s paid off in a lot of our offensive and defensive linemen – first team and second team.”
Renfree’s two scoring throws covered eight and 15 yards, respectively, to Jamison Crowder and Holliday. Crowder finished the day with six grabs for 67 yards. Running back Josh Snead spearheaded the ground attack with 61 yards on eight attempts, including a one-yard touchdown plunge, while quarterback Brandon Connette rushed five times for 29 yards with a nine-yard touchdown.
“The coaches have shown great trust in all our receivers,” Holliday said. “We changed our offense around a bit where every receiver needs to know the positions; every receiver needs to come up and make big plays. It really just shows how much trust they have in us to put us out there and make plays.”
The final scoring play of the morning came on a 40-yard strike from Connette to tight end Issac Blakeney.
“Issac Blakeney and David Reeves are two very young tight ends that I can see now all of the work they’ve put in,” Cutcliffe noted. “If I had to probably pick one thing that the naked eye caught was Sean Renfree. He was a senior quarterback today. He was really sharp, and not just in the scrimmaging parts. From the first part of practice on — I watched him through seven-on-seven — everything was at a very high level. A lot of encouragement today.”
Safety Walt Canty registered the lone turnover of the day with an interception. Kicker Will Monday booted a 26-yard field goal along with a pair of PATs.
Duke will host the annual Spring Game presented by PNC Bank on Saturday, March 31 in Wallace Wade Stadium. Kick-off is set for 1 p.m. and admission is free of charge.