Photos courtesy of Lance King of Lance Images
Click on one of the thumbnails to see a slideshow.
Photos courtesy of Lance King of Lance Images
Click on one of the thumbnails to see a slideshow.
Good Labor Day Monday folks! Despite the holidaze there is still a Monday Musings column in store for those who read on. I recap the opening day win over Elon, touch on recruiting, encourage you to support Coach K and Team USA and whine a little bit about the Wade Wacko’s who leave the game early. And of course, there is our continued salute to the cheerleaders and the best mascot in the world with the pic of the week.
It’s good to be 1-0
The Blue Devils have a lot of areas to improve upon after their 41-27 opening day victory over Elon but for now they are 1-0 and that affords the football team an opportunity to get off to a good start in 2010. Several young players showed they have good upside and abilities in Saturday’s win including a pair of freshman running backs in Josh Snead and Juwon Thompson ability. Be it a timely sack from redshirt freshman Justin Foxx or Desmond Scott showing that he wanted to be the man in the backfield, Duke’s youth showed promise and gained valuableexperience. Trust me, Elon is no slouch or a walk in the park like Samford, Florida A & M or other opening day beating boys for fellow ACC members. Still, Duke must stop letting up big plays which Coach Cutcliffe alluded to on his call in show on Sunday if they have a chance against Wake Forest in Winston Salem this weekend.
Speaking of Wake Forest
This is a huge game for Duke in many ways for the Blue Devils at some point must break through against an opponent that has had their number the last ten outings. Despite that disparity, the Blue Devils still dominate the series against their rival. Cutlciffe could chalk up another signature win should the cards fall right on Saturday where Duke is an early 5.5 point underdog. Hopefully, the Duke Nation will travel in force to support the team in this noon affair which will be televised by Raycom Sports. Early indicators point to a good old fashion shoot out but as we all know there is a lot of improvement from week one to week two and that will determine who wins this contest. You can bet that both teams held back much of their arsenal in the openers which is another indicator that this will be one heck of an early season ACC matchup. We’ll be talking a lot about this game as the week progresses.
Thaddeus Lewis and the Rams
I love me some Thaddeus Lewis! Getting to know Lewis over the years was rewarding and it is no surprise to me that he made the cut for the St. Louis Rams. Unassuming and laid back off the field, Lewis is all about drive when on it and I can tell you first hand that he is a hard worker trying to fulfill his dreams. I’ll miss Mrs. Lewis being right there on front row to cheer her son on and I will certainly follow his exploits in the NFL as will many of you. It couldn’t have happened to a better kid.
Nice crowd there, Duke fans!
For those who attended this past Saturday’s game, I am sure they’ll tell you it was nice to see Wally World [Wallace Wade Stadium] full which made for a great college football environment. Lots of Duke Blue filled the place and those there for the first time will hopefully return. In short, let’s do it again! Now, if we can get the students to stay past half time, we’ll have really made progress. Oh snap! That’s just not a fair statement for the ones who did remain were really good. I dream of a day the students will lift the team for the whole game. It’s happened, it can happen, but will it happen?
USA -USA -USA!
That old Mike Krzyzewski just keeps on winning and he hasn’t let up since last seasons Countdown to Craziness. Team USA enters the elimination round and after an expected walk through in game one, it will get dicey from then on. Support our guys starting this week and let’s cheer them on while Kryzyzewski works his magic. The master will return with assistant coach Chris Collins in late September where they will hit the road running to prepare for what should be a fabulous 2010-11 season.
Countdown to Craziness 2
It’s coming to theater near you! October 15h marks the start of the college basketball season in many ways and the Blue Devils are stirring up more than just a little excitement. Several prospects are lined up for the event which you can read about on BDN Premium, your inside source for all things Duke. Last years event was incredible and it set the tone for a national championship run and who’ll ever forget short-short’s and ice. We’ll defer to Nolan Smith for the answers if I lost you there.
Recruiting is quiet but that will change soon
With Coach K in the middle east and kids just starting back to school, all is rather quiet on the hoops recruiting front, but that’ll change shortly as in home visits will be set up and again, check out BDN Premium for all the latest. We posted a new interview with Shabazz Muhammad today and have more as the week progresses.
Be safe, be happy and relax
You deserve a break today and not because you visited McDonald’s. Did anyone get that lame attempt at humor or did I generation you out? Regardless, take time to relax, recharge, spend time with family and friends. Think of what is important in life! That’s obviously Duke Athletics. Seriously, hope all had a great Labor Day weekend and thanks for checking out the Blue Devil Nation.
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Duke in 2009
The Blue Devils finished 4th in the ACC Coastal Division in 2009 with a record of 5-7, including wins against Army, North Carolina Central, Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina State. Led by senior QB Thaddeus Lewis, the offense carried the Blue Devils with a prolific passing attack. Duke’s top three receivers formed one of the most formidable receiving corps in the nation in 2009, as All-ACC first team performer Donovan Varner, Freshman All-American Conner Vernon, and junior Austin Kelly all caught over 50 passes. Duke struggled to run the ball, finishing last in the ACC and the nation in rushing with only 63.5 yards per game. The defense was led by seniors DT Vince Oghobaase (All-ACC honorable mention), DE Ayanga Okpokoworuk, LB Vinnie Rey (2nd team All-ACC), and CB Leon Wright (All-ACC honorable mention). Despite falling short of a bowl berth, the five wins marked the most for the program since 1994.
Elon in 2009
Elon is coming off the program’s first ever FCS playoff invitation in 2009, in what was head coach Pete Lembo’s fourth year with the program. The Phoenix finished 2009 ranked in the FCS top 10, losing in the first round of the FCS playoffs to Richmond, 16-13. The Phoenix dominated opposing offenses, finishing fourth in the country in total defense, allowing just 248.33 yards per game. Elon also finished in the top 10 in scoring defense, pass defense, and sacks. The offense was equally impressive, led by senior WR Terrell Hudgins, who was runner-up for the Walter Payton Award in his outstanding senior campaign, in which he recorded 123 receptions and 1633 yards, becoming the all-time FCS leader in receiving yards. Scott Riddle led the offense in his third years as starting quarterback, eclipsing the 10,000 yard mark for his career. The Elon ground game was paced by sophomore Jamal Shuman, who led the team with 677 rushing yards, and junior Brandon Newsome, who rushed for 7 touchdowns in 2009.
First week matchups are always difficult to predict, as teams adjust to new personnel, coaching, and opponents. Every team has question marks heading into week one, and Duke and Elon are no exception. The Blue Devils must replace a record-setting quarterback and five starters on defense. They must develop a consistent rushing attack and utilize their speed on defense to pressure opposing offenses. QB Sean Renfree appears poised to take over under center and should have the benefit of a veteran offensive line and receiving corps. Five players will play at running back for Duke in 2010, led by sophomore Desmond Scott, who showed flashes of his potential as a freshman in 2009. On defense, Duke will attempt to utilize depth at linebacker and different schemes to disrupt opposing offenses. A deeper and more experienced secondary should have better playmakers than a year ago. After a disappointing loss to Richmond in last season’s opener, Duke should be better prepared in 2010.
The Phoenix have questions of their own heading into their season, though expectations are still high. Elon was selected 2nd in the Southern Conference and 7th in the FCS in preseason polls. Preseason Southern Conference Player of the Year Scott Riddle has already cemented his name in the record books in just 3 years at Elon, but loses his top receiver from 2009 in Terrell Hudgins. Seniors Lance Camp and Sean Jeffcoat will have to fill the void, but may struggle to get open against Duke’s speedy secondary. The Phoenix have the biggest concerns on defense, where they must replace starters on the defensive line and the secondary. The linebackers will be called upon to lead the defense, starting with junior Joshua Jones and senior Brandon Wiggins. Elon was one of the top defensive teams in the country last season and are well-coached, but with significant losses, their 2009 dominance may be hard to repeat.
Pete Lembo has built the Phoenix into a top program within the FCS, but Duke is now a competitive FBS program and has aspirations of competing for future ACC and BCS championships. Elon was overmatched against their lone FBS opponent in 2009 in Wake Forest, losing 35-7 in Winston-Salem. The Blue Devils have better athletes than Elon at nearly every position, and have finally built up quality depth at key positions. With Duke’s youth, consistency has been a concern throughout practice and will continue to be important throughout the season. Riddle, a savvy veteran quarterback, will take advantage of the Blue Devils’ defensive aggressiveness and inconsistencies, but Sean Renfree and the Duke receivers should have no problems with the inexperienced Phoenix secondary. The Blue Devils will attempt to control the game on the ground, sharing carries among multiple running backs, while opening the game up through the air.
Each week in 2010, BDN will provide our consensus pick from football contributors Mark Watson, Bob Green, and Patrick Cacchio. The consensus BDN pick here is:
Duke – 31
Elon – 14
In preparation for kickoff Saturday night against Elon, BDN provides a guide to the 2010 Blue Devils. Hop on the Duke Football bandwagon now and join Blue Devil Nation as we cover the Duke Football beat all season long. We’re ready for some football!
Blue Devil Walk: Coach Cutcliffe has adapted this pregame ritual to Duke. Two and a half hours prior to kickoff, the entire team gathers in front of Duke Chapel for a moment of reflection and prayer. The team is led by the marching band on their procession across West Campus and into Wallace Wade Stadium. Fans line the sidewalk to offer encouragement and support. Arrive early to find your spot.
Blue Devil Alley: On football gamedays, the area commonly known as Krzyzewskiville during basketball season is transformed into Blue Devil Alley. Blue Devil Alley is an area of games, music, and concessions for all ages and opens two and a half hours prior to kickoff.
Gameday updates: Visit Duke’s A to Z guide for information on parking, traffic, and other stadium policies. New for 2010 will be text message and Twitter updates. And of course BDN’s twitter site has long been a popular destination on gameday for updates. We’ll have same day/evening post game interviews as well on Blue Devil Nation.
Coach David Cutcliffe is in his third season as head coach of the Blue Devils, having turned down the opportunity to coach at the University of Tennessee this past offseason. Coach Cutcliffe is best known for having coached several great quarterbacks at Tennessee and Mississippi, including both Peyton and Eli Manning. Coach Cutcliffe’s teams feature a no huddle offense and prolific passing attack. In his two seasons at Duke, Coach Cutcliffe has a record of 9-15, having won 4 games in 2008 and 5 games in 2009. Kurt Roper serves as Duke’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Marion Hobby takes over as defensive coordinator in 2010, after the offseason departure of Mike MacIntyre to become the head coach at San Jose State.
2010 Blue Devils
Duke returns 18 starters from last year’s team that finished 4th in the Coastal Division of the ACC. The Blue Devils will play 7 home games in 2010 against Elon, Alabama, Army, Miami, Virginia, Boston College, and North Carolina. Duke’s 5 road contests will take place at Wake Forest, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Navy, and Georgia Tech. This represents the third most difficult schedule in the ACC, based on 2009 records ; Duke’s opponents were a combined 94-60 overall. Season tickets have sold out, but individual game tickets and ACC 3-packs are still available at GoDuke.com
Returning Players to Watch
#19 Sean Renfree QB, redshirt-sophomore: Renfree takes over at starting quarterback in his third season with the Duke program. In 2009, Renfree played in 5 games, throwing for 4 touchdowns with 2 interceptions and completing 68% of his passes. Renfree suffered a torn ACL against Georgia Tech and missed the remainder of the 2009 season and 2010 spring practice. He was a full participant in fall training camp and has impressed his coaches and teammates with his grasp of the offense. A highly-ranked recruit out of high school, Duke expects big things from Sean’s arm in 2010 and beyond.
#26 Donovan Varner WR, junior: Varner’s 2009 campaign earned him first team All-ACC honors, as he posted team-high 65 catches, 1,047 yards, and 8 touchdowns. Despite the graduation of QB Thaddeus Lewis, analysts expect Varner to maintain his high level of performance, selecting him to the preseason All-ACC first team and preseason All-American honorable mention. Varner joins a dangerous receiving corps for the Blue Devils with senior Austin Kelly (#83) and sophomore Conner Vernon (#2).
#33 Desmond Scott RB, sophomore: After leading the Blue Devils in rushing as a true freshman in 2009, Scott won the starting running back job during fall training camp. His 2009 campaign included a breakout 100 yard game against North Carolina Central, followed by mixed success. Coach Cutcliffe has praised Scott’s ability as a “complete back,” being able to excel in running the ball, catching the ball out of the backfield, and pass-blocking.
#62 Bryan Morgan C, senior: Morgan was elected a permanent team captain in 2010 by his teammates, and for good reason. The senior center leads the team with 24 consecutive starts and over 2,000 career snaps. Though undersized for an offensive lineman, Morgan is one of the strongest linemen on the team and consistently battles on every snap. His musical gifts and community service are also well-documented. He is a true leader for the team on the field, in the classroom, and in the community.
#8 Abraham Kromah LB, redshirt-senior: Kromah was also elected a permanent team captain in 2010 by his teammates and is the vocal leader of the defense. After battling injuries in 2009, Kromah is one of the strongest players on Duke’s defense and should become one of the team’s leading tacklers.
#56 Damian Thornton LB, senior: Thornton is Duke’s strongest player on defense and will line up in several different formations at linebacker. Having played over 1,100 snaps in his career, Thornton is one of Duke’s defensive leaders and hardest hitters. Thornton will use his strength and speed to bring pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
#40 Matt Daniels S, junior: Daniels is one of Duke’s most talented defenders and is also the active leader in career tackles with 105. An Academic All-ACC selection, Daniels started all 12 games for Duke in 2009 and showed flashes of his playmaking ability. Duke will call upon Daniels to be a consistent playmaker in the secondary in 2010.
#16 Chris Rwabukamba (RUB-uh-COME-buh) CB, redshirt-senior: Rwabukamba is Duke’s senior leader in the secondary and is the third permanent team captain elected by his teammates. A fourth-round selection in the 2010 Canadian Football League draft, the Ontario native is Duke’s active leader in pass break-ups, including a game-saving interception at the 1-yard line at Vanderbilt in 2008.
#3 Johnny Williams CB/WR/PR, junior: Just call him Johnny-on-the-spot. Williams transitioned from WR to CB during spring and fall practice, but will be on the field in all phases of the game. As one of the best athletes and playmakers on the team, Williams will line up at cornerback, wide receiver, and punt return for the 2010 Blue Devils.
New Players to Watch
#81 Cooper Helfet TE, junior: the junior college transfer is an explosive receiver and will line up in several different positions in Duke’s potent passing attack. At 6’4” and the fastest of Duke’s tight ends, Helfet will help the Blue Devils stretch opposing defenses downfield.
#9 Josh Snead RB, freshman: From nearby Smithfield, NC, Snead enrolled at Duke in January and hit the ground running, leading the Blue Devils in rushing in the 2010 spring game. Snead will use his dynamic speed to break open runs on offense and special teams.
#23 Juwan Thompson RB, freshman: Another speedy freshmen who has earned playing time with his play during training camp.
#5 Brandon Braxton WR, freshman: Even with Duke’s depth at wide receiver, Braxton has earned playing time already as a true freshman. His big-play ability brings a new weapon for QB Sean Renfree.
#18 Brandon Connette QB, freshman: Another January enrollee, Connette beat out returner Sean Schroeder (#12) for the backup quarterback job. He will receive snaps as a true freshman and will utilize his ability to run the ball to help Duke move the chains.
DURHAM – Duke sophomore wideout Conner Vernon is anxious to play against somebody else after weeks of practice and he’ll get that chance this Saturday versus Elon a team which led the Southern Conference in almost every defensive statistic last season. BDN caught up with Vernon for his comments -