Tag Archives: Coach Knowles

Duke receiver Brandon Braxton has made the switch to safety this spring

Brandon Braxton updates BDN on his transition to safety

Duke receiver Brandon Braxton has made the switch to safety this spring

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.

Alright, Patrick, thank you so much.

Valor Christian DE Michael Mann committed to Duke over the weekend.

Valor Christian DE Michael Mann commits to Duke

Valor Christian DE Michael Mann committed to Duke over the weekend.

Duke secured a commitment from the 18th member of their class of 2012 over the weekend, as DE Michael Mann committed to the program. Mann will join Valor Christian teammate and close friend Max McCaffrey in Durham this fall. Rated a 3-star prospect by ESPN, the defensive end picked up an official scholarship offer from the Blue Devils on Thursday and made his decision over the weekend. He spoke with Duke’s Coach Knowles and Coach Lubick on Sunday to inform them of his decision. Mann is Duke’s 4th commitment on the defensive line in the class of 2012, joining Allen Jackson, Carlos Wray, and A.J. Wolf. Originally committed to Arizona State, Mann opted to re-open his recruitment after the coaching staff change in Tempe. It was a recent official visit to Durham that sold him on the Blue Devils, however. Mann selected the Blue Devils over offers from Air Force, Arizona State, Boise State, Colorado State, Connecticut, and Iowa.

BDN Scouting Report: While not a freak athlete, Mann is physical and tenacious at the line of scrimmage. He’s shown ability to be dominant both against the run and against the pass. A three-time Colorado HS state champion, his intangibles are off the charts. He has lots of room to grow as a pass rusher at the college level, but has the work ethic and the ability to become a solid ACC lineman. At 6’4″ and 220 pounds, Mann has room to grow into his frame, and will likely benefit from a year in the weight room before he’s ready to contribute on the field. The Blue Devils are getting a good football player and a great addition to their program with the commitment from Mann.

 

A.J. Wolf was back in Durham to see Duke take on Stanford

Duke adds athletic NY lineman A.J. Wolf to the class of 2012

A.J. Wolf is the 10th verbal commitment in Duke's class of 2012

With the arrival of Defensive Line Coach Rick Petri in Durham this offseason, the Duke defensive line has been rejuvenated. Coach Petri and the players have worked hard to transform the position into a strength for the 2011 Blue Devils. Having worked with college and NFL stars such as Warren Sapp and John Abraham during his career, Coach Petri is know as one of the best teachers of the game. In the class of 2012, Duke has already added verbal commitments from two athletic linemen in Allen Jackson and Carlos Wray. On Saturday, the Blue Devils received a commitment from another athletic prospect, as 6’4” 250 pound A.J. Wolf gave his pledge to the Duke coaching staff. Wolf earned 1st Team All-League on both offense and defense as a junior, and was also named 2nd Team All-State at the Hackley School in Tarrytown, NY. After impressing the Duke coaches at camp last weekend, Wolf earned an offer and jumped at the opportunity to become a Blue Devil, choosing Duke over Penn State, LSU, Stanford, Harvard, and Princeton. His highlights can be viewed here.

 

BDN caught up with the newest Blue Devil shortly after his commitment Saturday.

 

BDN: How did you arrive at your decision to commit to Duke?

Well last week, the 18th, I came to their football camp and then two days later they gave me an offer, so I decided to come back down and visit this weekend, because I know that you have to act fast or scholarships can get filled up. I visited yesterday and then today, and I liked everything I saw. I asked everyone, basically every student I saw, how they liked Duke and every single person said they love it. I heard the social scene is great, it’s D1 ACC football, and the education is fantastic. That’s why I decided to come here, the education is great and you’re also competing at a top D1 program, which is a combination that’s hard to find.

BDN: Can you talk about your relationship with the Duke coaching staff?

Well I’m a D-End, defensive end. I didn’t really know the staff well at all last week, but I came this weekend and Coach Cutcliffe, he’s a great guy, he’s a gentleman, he speaks the truth and he’ll always tell you what’s up. He’s really nice about and I got a good impression of him. Coach Knowles is also a good guy, he’s persistent though, he’s an aggressive recruiter, but it works. And then the D-Line Coach, Coach Petri is nice, he seemed really nice. All the coaches I got introduced to seemed like nice guys, I got a really warm feeling.

BDN: Can you give fans a scouting report on yourself as a football player?

Well I think the reason they really liked me is that I’m 250 pounds, but I have great agility for my size and great quickness for my size. I guess there’s a lot of potential in that. I’m not a brute force, I’m more of a finesse guy, I guess, but I have a big frame. They liked the fact that I don’t really use my big frame and I have quick feet, and together they saw potential in that.

BDN: Who are the other schools that you were in contact with and were considering before your commitment to Duke?

I was looking at Stanford, also, and Princeton. Princeton’s in the Ivy League, so it’s a much different experience. And Stanford, there’s a variety of reasons why I picked Duke over Stanford.

BDN: What are your plans for the rest of your summer as you head into your senior year?

The rest of the summer I’m just getting in great shape for my senior season in high school. And then senior year, I’m going to keep my grades up and keep working to eventually help the Devils win a championship.

BDN: Thanks a lot, A.J., and welcome to Duke.

Thanks a lot.