Tag Archives: Duke Blue Devils Football

Duke would love to see big GA OT Brett Steverson clearing holes in Durham

Georgia OL Brett Steverson impressed by Duke

Duke would love to see big GA OT Brett Steverson clearing holes in Durham

Brett Steverson is a 6’4″ 300 pound offensive tackle from Fitzgerald, Georgia. After a slow start, his recruitment is picking up this spring, and he now holds scholarship offers from Duke and Troy, with strong interest from several others. The Blue Devils have Steverson near the top of their recruiting board for offensive lineman, and hosted the top junior on a recent visit. Steverson came away impressed and updated BDN on his recruitment.

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

As far as being a player, I think that, we’re a run-oriented offense, we run the ball a lot, that’s not to say that I can’t pass block, I’m pretty good at that too. I’m a dominant run blocker, and I think I’m underrated. I think if I match up with anybody in the state, head to head, up front, it doesn’t matter if I’m a two-star or a three-star, it doesn’t matter what they rate me, if I’m going up against a 5-star, All-American, I think I can go head to head with them in run blocking and pass blocking. I love run blocking because I’m physical and I finish all my blocks. As far as pass blocking, I’ve got pretty quick feet for a big guy, but I’d be fine run blocking all game. I can also, in our offense, last year we didn’t pull our tackles as much, but this year we’re supposed to pull our tackles more, so I’ll get a chance to do that. In practice when they pulled them last year, I did a good job and the year before that I actually played guard, so I can pull and move and stuff.

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

I think the main thing I’m trying to do is just, I’m a strong kid in the weight room, most people call me the gym rat because every time somebody comes to the weight room, it seems like I’m up there. But, just getting stronger, faster, and quicker, and more explosive. Trying to work on football explosiveness through power cleans and stuff like that so I can be more explosive on the field, it all ties together. That’s the main things I’ve been working on, and also some pass blocking, doing some more one-on-ones so that when I get to combines it’s not such a big thing because we never get in the two-point stance, so just working on my pass blocks and stuff we don’t do that much.

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

I think education is going to play a big role. Another thing that will play a big role is how much of a family atmosphere there is, how the coaches and players get along, how their relationship is. Of course, a relationship between a coach and a player is going to be intense at times, but I also want to have that security where the coach is going to care about you and be like your dad when you’re at college and away from your family. That’s one thing that I really liked about Duke, Coach Cutcliffe is such a great guy, and those guys up there are top notch academically.

BDN: You mentioned Duke as one of the schools that has stood out to you. Where do you stand with offers and interest from schools now?

Duke and Troy are my two offers right now, but our high school coach has been talking a lot to Coach McCollum up at Georgia Tech and Coach Brattan at Maryland, they might offer at any time. People say that Georgia…people say things, that stuff, all the articles and reporters and stuff, until it’s legit, you don’t really know. I did really like Duke and I think Coach Cutcliffe and them are doing a great job up there. I haven’t been to Troy yet. I know that people say Duke’s football is not on the map, but Coach Cutcliffe has done a great job there trying to develop a program, building new facilities. Even though they only won 3 games last year, they lost 5 games by a combined 14 points, so that shows they’re right on the brink of being a bowl team and an ACC contender. That’s a credit to Coach Cut and the players and all the assistants.

BDN: You mentioned Troy as a school that you have some interest in; do you have any plans for any visits this spring or summer?

Miami wants me to come down, I’ll go down there in the summer probably. I’ve been to Georgia three times before I got offered by Duke. It was nice, but I didn’t like the atmosphere, I didn’t take in as much as I did at Duke, even though they’re a top school every year, it just didn’t seem like as friendly of an atmosphere. I plan to go to Troy, but I’m not going to lock down any visits until I get some more offers, which will probably come this spring. I’m not going to really plan anything, I’ll probably go to some places over the summer, but right now I don’t know where I’m going to go. I want to take my mom back up to Duke, because she didn’t get to see it. I have three players from our school, well two are already there and one is going there this fall, to play football at Troy, so it will be cool to catch up with those guys, but I haven’t planned to go there yet.

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

That’s a tough questions, because I think I’ll get some more offers this spring and hopefully get an offer from a SEC school, a big SEC school, because it seems when that happens everybody starts to jump on board and pay attention. It would be nice to get an offer from someplace like that so I can see what all my offers and options are going to be. I really would like to make a decision either in very early football season or before football season, because I don’t want my football season to overlap with questions not surrounding the team but surrounding me and my decision. I would rather get that out of the way so it’s less of a distraction for me any my team.

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

Thanks, I appreciate it.

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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.

Braddock HS OL Robert Conyers recently visited Duke

Blue Devils looking to add coveted Florida OL Robert Conyers

Braddock HS OL Robert Conyers recently visited Duke

The Duke Football class of 2012 is up to 14 verbal commitments now, and with only a handful of scholarships remaining, the Blue Devils’ coaching staff is looking to add a few impact players. One such prospect is a highly-coveted offensive lineman from the talent-rich state of Florida. Duke recently hosted 6’5” 275 pound junior Robert Conyers on an unofficial visit in Durham. Conyers is one of the top remaining uncommitted offensive linemen in the class of 2012, with 20 scholarship offers from programs throughout the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, and SEC. As a junior, Conyers helped lead Braddock HS to an 8-2 overall record and the state playoffs. His performance earned 1st Team All-County and 2nd Team All-State honors. Duke Offensive Line Coach Matt Luke is developing a talented group of linemen in Durham, and a potential star like Conyers would be a great late addition to Duke’s class of 2012. [private]

BDN: Can you tell us a little bit about your high school career and your strengths on the field?

Well, I only started playing offensive line at the end of my sophomore year. I went to a bunch of camps, and this past year I made the All-County Team and the 2nd Team All-State. Some of my strengths are just my footwork and my aggression.

BDN: You mentioned that you’ve been able to attend a few camps this year; what are some of the things you’re working on as you head into your senior season?

Just my strength and my pad level.

BDN: I know you have a pretty long offer list, so I won’t ask you to name all of the schools that are interested in you, but where do you currently stand with scholarship offers?

I have about 20 scholarship offers right now. And some of the bigger ones are Michigan State, Duke, USF, Wake Forest, Illinois, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, UCF, and a couple other ones.

BDN: That’s an impressive total. Where would you say you are in your recruiting process right now?

Right now I’m looking to narrow it down. I’m going to visit Michigan State and Illinois and then I’ll have like a top 5 probably after I make that trip.

BDN: Obviously, it will be tough to narrow things down to five schools, but what are the most important things that you are looking for as you evaluate a program?

Just the school’s atmosphere, the coaching staff, and the way I feel when I’m around them and around the other players that are playing there currently.

BDN: Which schools have you had a chance to visit so far and have any stood out to you?

I’ve visited Wake Forest, Duke, Vanderbilt, Georgia, LSU, Florida, Miami…I visited UCF, USF, and some of the schools that are standing out to me are USF, Wake Forest, Duke, just because of their coaching staffs and the total package of the school.

BDN: You mentioned that you’d like to have a top 5 after these next couple of visits. What are your plans for narrowing things down and making a decision from there?

Probably going to take like 2 or 3 official visits, but most likely the middle of my season is when I’m going to make my decision.

BDN: Are there any schools that you think you definitely want to take an official visit to at this point?

I’m still kind of narrowing all that down.

BDN: Is there anything else you want college football fans to know about you?

That I’m only 16.

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

Alright, thanks.

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Mallard Creek's Jela Duncan is Duke's top remaining target in the class of 2012

Mallard Creek RB Jela Duncan declares “Duke is my leader”

Mallard Creek's Jela Duncan is Duke's top remaining target in the class of 2012

In the midst of a scholarship crunch, the Duke coaching staff has secured 14 verbal commitments in the class of 2012, and may only have one or two remaining scholarships available. With four upperclassmen at running back in 2011, an elite running back remains Duke’s biggest need in the class of 2012. Specifically, the Duke staff is looking for a player who can come in and contribute early, and they believe they found exactly that type of athlete just down I-85 in Charlotte. After an impressive performance at Duke’s camp earlier this summer, Mallard Creek’s Jela Duncan remains at the top of the Blue Devils’ list. [private]

Duncan is a 5’10″ 190 pound prospect who posted a blazing 4.23 second 40-yard dash in Durham in June. In his first full season at running back, Duncan helped Mallard Creek to a 13-1 record, rushing for 1,375 yards on 101 carries with 17 touchdowns, despite missing three games. His junior year performance earned 1st Team I-Meck Conference and plenty of attention from college coaches and scouts, making him a consensus top-40 RB prospect nationally. To date, Duncan has picked up scholarship offers from Duke, ECU, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Wake Forest, and Western Michigan. The star tailback has been busy on the camp circuit this summer, and checked back in with BDN to update Duke fans on his recruitment.

BDN: Where do things stand with scholarship offers?

I still have the same offers from last time I talked to you, but South Carolina came into the picture. They said they should be offering me because I went down there to their showcase on Friday and performed really good. Coach Graham and Coach Spurrier really liked me.

BDN: So you were at South Carolina last weekend; have you been to any other camps recently, or do you have any planned?

Just South Carolina, that’s it right now. I’ve got an unofficial coming up on Friday to Carolina, North Carolina, so I can go up there and get evaluated.

BDN: Will that be your first visit to UNC?

Yeah, it’s going to be my first time visiting there, but I’ve driven through the campus and stuff.

BDN: Overall, what schools stand out to you at this point?

Duke is my leader for now.

BDN: Where would you say you stand with your recruitment – would you say you are hoping for more offers, or are you trying to narrow things down?

I’m going to try and stay up and earn some more offers during the season. I’ll probably narrow my offers down, I want to say probably towards the end of the season.

BDN: So is your plan to narrow things down towards the end of your season and then take your official visits?

Yes sir.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Jela, and best of luck in your senior year.

Yes sir, thank you.

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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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