Tag Archives: Duke Blue Devils

Duke WR Conner Vernon scores his 1st of 2 TDs against Tulane last year -BDN Photo

Two-time All-ACC WR Conner Vernon checks in with BDN

Duke WR Conner Vernon scores his 1st of 2 TDs against Tulane last year -BDN Photo

Duke senior WR Conner Vernon is poised to rewrite the Duke and ACC record books during his final campaign in Durham this fall. Vernon will enter his senior year just 34 catches and 842 yards shy of the ACC career record-holders. After flirting with the NFL Draft earlier this offseason, Vernon is committed to finishing what he started at Duke before moving on to the next level.

BDN caught up with the Blue Devils’ star receiver after spring practice earlier this week.

 

BDN: You’ve been limited by injury this spring. First of all, how is your health right now?

It’s better. I’m back out there, I was out there today for practice, and I’m looking forward to getting back out there.

BDN: Should fans expect to see you in the Spring Game on March 31?

Yes, that’s what I’m hoping.

BDN: After three All-ACC caliber seasons at Duke, you considered entering the NFL Draft this year. Can you talk a little bit about that process and ultimately, why did you decide to return to Duke for your senior year?

Really, it just came down to just trying to finish what I came here to do at Duke, and that’s to get them back to the program they once were. I really just wanted to jump start the new direction that Coach Cutcliffe has turned this program around in. Also, finishing up graduating and getting my degree was a really big thing for me and my family, so that also played a role into it.

BDN: As a rising senior, you now become one of the veterans and leaders on this team. What is your assessment of the team in spring practice so far, especially as you compare it to past seasons?

This team, we’re a really young team, but we have a lot of talent, which is something we’ve had in the past, but I think the difference now is that we have a lot more depth at each position, and that’s going to help us a lot. We have a lot of young guys who have grown up a lot this spring, who have shown that they can play at this level, which is a big improvement from prior years. We have a very good recruiting class coming in that will have some guys who can play right away, and we’re hoping that will push some of the older guys to keep working to keep getting better. Really, that’s what this spring is all about. The competition level has been a lot higher than it has been in the past.

BDN: You mentioned the youth on this team and the higher level of competition in practices. Who are some of your younger teammates that have impressed you this spring?

From what I’ve seen so far, some of the young guys who have really stepped up is Blair Holliday at the receiver position, he’s taken on a starting role and has been playing a lot with the 1 offense, he’s really stepped up. On the defensive side, Kyler Brown, Kelby’s younger brother, he’s been all over the field, flying around, so that’s been really good to see. I’m definitely missing a few, there’s been a bunch. Dezmond Johnson has really stepped up on defense. There’s been a bunch of guys I’m missing right now, but when we pull up the tape you’ll see flashes from some guys that are really impressive and things that they haven’t shown in the past.

BDN: Over the past couple of seasons, Duke has struggled to score in the red zone. Why do you think this is? What are you working on this spring to improve the red zone offense?

I think it’s really just an execution standpoint, for some reason down there we just lack execution. It’s something we have to fix because we have to score points down there, field goals aren’t going to cut it, we need touchdowns. Also, down there execution is very important because you don’t have a lot of room to work with. It’s difficult down there to throw the ball so we have to have our running game, which has stepped up a lot this spring. That’s something we’re looking forward to this fall, being able to run the ball down there as opposed to relying on the past.

BDN: You’re closing in on an historic career at Duke, and looking to lead this team back to a bowl game in your senior year. What are some of the things that come to mind as you reflect back on your decision to come to Duke and your career here?

If I could do it all over again, I would do everything the same. This has been home for the last four years and it’s been a great four years. I’ve been put in a position with this offense and Coach Cutcliffe’s game plan to be able to be successful and have these kind of records, it’s an honor. From the moment I stepped on campus to where we are now, the difference is monumental. From our new facilities, we have the new Pascal Indoor Facility. When I first got here, the Brooks Facility wasn’t up yet, so I got to see that develop. Then we’ve added to our weight room, and really just the buzz around town is that Duke Football isn’t an afterthought now. It’s what’s happening now around Durham, and that’s something that was nonexistent before Coach Cutcliffe got here. Getting to see that grow has really been fun to watch.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Conner, and best of luck this fall.

Thank you so much, Patrick!

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

Valor Christian DE Michael Mann recaps his official visit for BDN Premium

With the recent decision by Terrell Jackson to re-open his recruitment, the Blue Devils find themselves looking to bulk up their defensive line in the class of 2012. With that in mind, Duke hosted Valor Christian DE Michael Mann on an official visit over the weekend. Originally committed to Arizona State, Mann opted to re-open his own recruitment after the coaching staff change in Tempe. A teammate and close friend of Duke WR commit Max McCaffrey, the Blue Devils have had Mann on their radar for awhile. The 6’4” 220 pound DE prospect is coming off his third straight Colorado HS Championship and spoke with BDN shortly after his visit to Durham. [private]

BDN: How did your official visit to Duke go?

I’m at the airport right now; I just got done with my visit. It was a fun weekend. It was a lot of fun. They did a great job of hosting it. Definitely the high points were the basketball game, getting to walk around and see the campus for the first time, and just hanging out with the coaches, they are some great guys, they’re funny, and we got along really well.

BDN: You had originally committed to Arizona State. Can you talk a little about how Duke entered your recruitment and when you first heard from them?

Definitely. I committed to Arizona State in the summer and I was all set and ready to go, but due to the coaching changes and all that stuff, it really opened up things for me. I re-opened my recruitment. It turns out that my best friend, I think you know him, Max McCaffrey, he goes to my school and he lives right next door. He committed to Duke as well. He’s a great kid and it would be really fun to come with him. But that’s how I got introduced to Coach Lubick. He was out here and was able to see me play and he liked me and that’s kind of how Duke got a hold of me.

BDN: What other schools are you considering at this point?

I took an official visit to Colorado State last weekend. It’s definitely CSU, Duke, and UCLA. I can still go to Arizona State but I don’t really want to because of the new coaching staff, they want me to gray shirt and all this weird stuff.

BDN: It’s obviously always a tough situation when there’s a coaching change. What will be the most important factors as you sit down and make your final decision?

Yeah. After being at Duke, my priority is definitely to get an education first. I’m going to college to get an education. AS much as I’d like to play in the league, I’m going to put forth my best effort, but I want to be realistic and know that I’m probably going to rely on my degree one day. That’s very important to me. I want to go into business, so I want a good business school and a good education. Next for me would be the football aspect. And last would be socially and the location. Those are the factors that will definitely come into play when I make this big decision.

BDN: Do you have an idea when you would like to make that final decision?

I’d like to make it definitely soon. Duke is going to call me, they’re going to keep in touch with me. I’m anxious to hear something from them in the next few days, it could be as early as tonight, it could be by Tuesday, to know officially what I’ve got going on with Duke.

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

I appreciate that, sir, thank you so much.
[/private]

 

Westlake ATH Michael Westray committed to Duke in July

BDN Commitment Profile: Michael Westray

The 2011 Duke Football season is behind us. It’s time to look forward to the future, and that begins with the class of 2012. Duke has already secured 15 verbal commitments in this class, and BDN will profile each of the newest Blue Devils as we head toward Signing Day 2012.

MICHAEL WESTRAY

Westlake ATH Michael Westray committed to Duke in July

Height: 6’1″
Weight: 190 pounds
Position: Safety
Hometown: Waldorf, Maryland
High School: Westlake High School – Class 3A

Senior season recap: We finished 8-3 and made it to second round of playoffs. I thought that we had enough talent to win the championship, but I’m proud that we fought hard. I was voted to 2 All Star games. My coaches stressed State Championship and team first so I never really tracked stats. I played CB, Safety, RB, WR, and Punter. 

Scholarship offers: Duke, N.C. State, and Liberty

Commitment to Duke: I chose Duke for the opportunity to get a great education, play in the ACC against the great competition, the family atmosphere, and a defense that I’m excited to be a part of.

Considering other schools: No

Academic interests: Computer Science

Pro or College Role Models: I’ve heard comparisons to Laron Landry and Antonio Cromartie.

College goals: Obtain my degree, help the team win championships, avoid serious injuries, and leave as a better player and person.

Planned enrollment: No set date yet. I’ll coordinate with admissions and the coaches.

Message to Duke fans: I can’t wait to get on campus. I look forward to spending my next 4 years at Duke and being a part of the community.  Go Duke!

BDN Scouting Report: Westray will join fellow Westlake alum Jon Woodruff in Durham next year, and both will be looking to make an impact on the defensive side of the ball. A high-end athlete, Westray played all three phases for Westlake, but will likely find a home at safety in Durham. He has an excellent nose for the ball and showed good instincts against the run. He will need to improve his footwork and coverage skills, but possesses good lateral agility and quickness. As a fundamentally-sound tackler and disciplined defender, Westray has the potential to develop into an excellent safety in Jim Knowles’ defense.

Highlights:

 

Duke rides a 4-game losing streak into Saturday's matchup with UVA in Charlottesville

Duke looks to make it 4 in a row against Virginia

Duke rides a 4-game losing streak into Saturday's matchup with UVA in Charlottesville

Duke (3-6, 1-4 ACC) will look to make it four in a row against the Virginia Cavaliers (6-3, 3-2 ACC) on Saturday. Heading into the 3PM kickoff in Charlottesville, the Blue Devils are riding a 4-game losing streak while the surprising Wahoos have won 4 out of 5. Virginia ranks 3rd in the ACC in both total offense and total defense, and will present a significant challenge for Duke on both sides of the ball. After a disappointing performance on the road in Miami a week ago, the Blue Devils will need to put together a much better effort in Charlottesville if they hope to secure a tough ACC road win.

GAME INFO

Duke at Virginia

3:00 PM ET, Saturday, November 12

Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network; Sirius XM Radio (Channels 92 & 190)
TV: RSN – Rich Waltz (Play-by-play), Keith Jones (Analyst) and Jenn Hildreth (Sideline)
Internet: GoDuke.com; theACC.com

KEYS FOR DUKE

Duke's Desmond Scott dove for the game-winning TD last year against UVA -Lance Images

1. Winning attitude: Duke is in the midst of a 4-game losing streak, and it shows. The Blue Devils have lost tough games to Wake Forest and Virginia Tech and are in danger of taking a turn to Negative Town. Defensive leaders Matt Daniels and Charlie Hatcher will have to keep their unit focused and confident after they were picked apart by a speedy Miami offense last Saturday. Sean Renfree must take control of the offense, and Kyle Hill must do a better job keeping the offensive line in sync. In short, Duke must play hungry for a win for a full 60 minutes on Saturday.

2. Win the line of scrimmage: Football is won and lost in the trenches, and UVA’s offensive line has helped to power them to their 6-3 start after a dismal 2010 season. The Cavaliers rank 3rd in the ACC with 190 rushing yards per game and are 2nd in the ACC with just 8 sacks allowed all season. If the Blue Devils are to win this game, their young defensive linemen will have to play up to their potential. First and foremost, Duke cannot allow UVA to open holes for RB Perry Jones, who enters the game averaging 5.3 yards per carry. If the Blue Devils can put first-year QB Michael Rocco under pressure, he will make bad throws, as evidenced by his 9 INTs on the season. Virginia as a team ranks last in the ACC with 13 interceptions thrown, a number which the Blue Devil secondary will have to add to on Saturday.

3. 60 Minutes: Coach-speak, cliché, call it whatever you want. Virginia is a good football team and it will take a complete effort for the Blue Devils to pull off an upset on the road. Perhaps most important will be the offensive effort, as Duke’s offense has been wildly inconsistent of late. Sean Renfree will have to be wary of Chase Minnifield lurking in the Virginia secondary, but should be able to find mismatches in the Blue Devils’ favor down the field. Senior Cam Johnson will present a challenge for the Duke offensive line, but the duo of Desmond Scott and Juwan Thompson should still find room to run. Duke has 3 straight wins against Virginia, and they will have to play with confidence and consistency to keep their streak intact.

WHAT TO WATCH

1. Blue Devil Streaks: Duke has a few players closing in on several school records.

  • Senior WR Donovan Varner needs just two more catches to tie Clarkston Hines’ all-time receptions record at Duke. Varner ranks second with 187 grabs. Junior teammate WR Conner Vernon is right behind Varner with 184 catches.
  • Redshirt senior K Will Snyderwine compiled two points last week and ranks fourth on Duke’s all-time scoring chart with 209 points … Randy Gardner is third on the list with 221 points.
  • Donovan Varner has at least one catch in 34 straight games to match the third-longest streak in Duke history … The school record of 35 is held by Scottie Montgomery.

2. Red zone offense: It’s no secret Duke has struggled to score points at times this season. Duke ranks next to last in the ACC in red zone efficiency, scoring on just 72% of their opportunities. If the Blue Devils come away empty-handed in the red zone on Saturday, it will be an ominous sign.

3. Duke seniors: In particular, Matt Daniels and Donovan Varner, two great representatives of the Duke program, who always seem to come up with a play when their number is called. Duke fans have just three games left to watch these two All-ACC seniors and their classmates take the field. This senior class has never lost to Virginia, and would like to keep it that way on Saturday.

PREDICTION

Matt Daniels has never lost to UVA. Sean Renfree has never lost to UVA. Coach Cutcliffe is 3-0 against UVA since arriving in Durham. Coming off one of their most disappointing performances of the Cutcliffe era, Duke needs a win in the worst way. Expect the Blue Devils to put together a much improved effort against a bowl-bound Virginia team. At 6-3, the Wahoos have been one of the biggest surprises in the ACC this season, and they’ll certainly be gunning for the Blue Devils after 3 straight losses in the rivalry. There are few instances where history and karma seem to be on the Blue Devils’ side, but this may be one of them. Duke seems to have the Cavaliers’ number, and they come into this game with nothing to lose, in desperate need of a win. Duke 24, UVA 20