Tag Archives: Duke Football 2011 Preview

Duke safety Matt Daniels is poised for an All-ACC senior season

BDN Football Friday previews the 2011 Duke defense

This is it, baby. The last Football Friday before training camp opens. Get excited, Blue Devil Nation! Football season is here. This week, BDN’s Bob Green looks at the 2011 Blue Devils’ bowl hopes, and we also previewed the October matchup with ACC favorite Florida State. As promised, we’ve got an in-depth look at the 2011 Blue Devil defense this week, so without further ado…

BDN Duke Football 2011 Team Preview: Defense

It’s no secret that the Duke defense struggled mightily in 2010. Simply put, the Blue Devils were unable to stop opposing offenses, placing nearly impossible pressure on the offense and first-year starting QB Sean Renfree to outscore opponents. The experiment with a 3-4 defense was short-lived and essentially doomed the Blue Devil defense. Without a clear defensive scheme or identity, Duke’s defenders often appeared out of position or overmatched. On the whole, the effort was there, but the execution was inconsistent. Jim Knowles takes over as Defensive Coordinator in 2011, and Rick Petri joins the staff as Defensive Line coach.

Defensive Line

Losses: Patrick Egboh, Wesley Oglesby, Eriks Reks

Key returners: Charlie Hatcher (R-Sr.), Kenny Anunike (R-Jr.), Curtis Hazelton (R-Jr.), Justin Foxx (R-So.), Syndey Sarmiento (R-So.)

Newcomers: Jamal Bruce (R-Fr.),Will Bryant (F-Fr.), Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo (R-Fr.), Steven Ingram (R-Fr.), Dezmond Johnson (R-Fr.), Nick Sink (R-Fr.), Jamal Wallace (R-Fr.), Lucas Fisher (Fr.), Carson Ginn (Fr.), Sam Marshall (Fr.), Mario Sanders (Fr.)

2010 Review: Simply put, the Duke defensive line was unable to stop the run and failed to pressure opposing quarterbacks. After showing improvements between 2006 and 2008, the defensive line began a two-year slide in 2009. The line came up with just 19 sacks in 2009, allowing 153 yards per game rushing (4.0 average yards per carry). The numbers declined again in 2010, finishing with just 12 sacks and giving up 208 rushing yards per game (4.8 average yards per game). Those numbers finished last in the ACC and 113th in the country. Overall, the group battled through injuries and midseason schematic changes, but failed to find consistent success.

2011 Outlook: With seven redshirt-freshmen, along with four true freshmen, entering the depth chart this fall, this will be the deepest line Coach Cutcliffe has had at Duke, at least in numbers. With a preponderance of youth and inexperience, the hope is that Coach Petri, who is known as a great teacher, can accelerate the growth of this group. Overall, the unit should have improved size and speed relative to recent years, but significantly less experience. While projected starters Hatcher, Foxx, Sarmiento, and Anunike are expected to play the majority of snaps, they will be frequently rotated with several of the first-year players. Much like the Duke running game, the Blue Devil defensive linemen have to find ways to improve over their 2009 and 2010 numbers. Reports indicate that the talent is there to improve and compete, and now the players will have to go out and execute if Duke hopes to become bowl-eligible in 2011.

 

Duke hopes that Kelby (left) and Kyler (right) Brown will anchor the 2011 linebackers

Linebackers

Losses: Adam Banks, Abraham Kromah, Damian Thornton

Key returners: Austin Gamble (Jr.), Kevin Rojas (R-So.), Kelby Brown (So.)

Newcomers: C.J. France (R-Fr.), Kyler Brown (Fr.), Britton Grier (Fr.), David Helton (Fr.), Jon Woodruff (Fr.)

2010 Review: The Blue Devils’ defense has seen their leading tackler come from the linebacking corps in seven straight seasons, and that tradition continued in 2010 with Abraham Kromah. Kromah was an unsung hero on the Duke defense, finishing with a team-best 123 tackles, which was good enough for 2nd in the ACC behind BC All-American Luke Kuechly. Even with five of the top six linebackers returning in 2010, freshman Kelby Brown proved to be too good to keep off the field. After burning his redshirt against Alabama, Brown was the biggest surprise of the year on defense, earning freshman All-American honors and leading the country in fumble recoveries per game. Injuries slowed the linebackers as a whole, and Brown saw his breakout season come to an early end with a knee injury against Georgia Tech. Departing seniors Kromah, Damian Thornton, and Adam Banks leave big openings on the depth chart heading into 2011.

2011 Outlook: Though the success of the Duke defense will begin (or end) with the defensive line, the linebackers also present question marks heading into the 2011 season. Kelby Brown is the only returning player with significant starting experience, and he is recovering from season-ending ACL surgery. The newcomers are likely to push Gamble and Rojas for playing time, and that competition should be interesting to watch starting on Monday. If Kyler Brown can replicate some of his brother’s freshman success, or if France, Grier, Helton, or Woodruff can contribute ahead of schedule, then this group again could be a pleasant surprise for the 2011 Blue Devils.

Duke safety Matt Daniels is poised for an All-ACC senior season

Safeties

Losses: none

Key returners: Lee Butler (Sr.), Matt Daniels (Sr.), Jordon Byas (R-Jr.), Walt Canty (Jr.), August Campbell (R-So.), Anthony Young-Wiseman (R-So.)

Newcomers: Chris Tavarez (Fr.)

2010 Review: It’s hard to say that any position group had a good year among the 2010 Duke defense, but the safeties probably contributed the most to the small success that was had. Daniels, Canty, and Butler all finished in the top 7 in tackles for the 2010 defense. The safeties produced some of the defenses’ biggest plays in 2010, and that play-making ability ultimately led the staff to end the season with primarily a 4-2-5 scheme. In a tight fourth quarter at Navy, Matt Daniels forced a key fumble to secure the Duke victory. In a game where the offense struggled against Boston College, August Campbell’s school record 95-yard fumble return for a touchdown ignited the Duke team.

2011 Outlook: The deepest position on the Duke defense by far, the success of the 4-2-5 scheme will rely on safeties to become key playmakers. Duke will return all of their safety playmakers from 2010, though they will be without redshirt-freshman Issac Blakeney for academic reasons. Even without Blakeney, this will be the deepest and most experienced group among the Duke defenders. Senior Matt Daniels is poised for an All-ACC campaign, along with fellow senior Lee Butler. Byas, Canty, and Campbell are all capable of significant improvements over their 2010 efforts. If the Duke cornerbacks can provide good coverage, the safeties should find themselves in position to slow oppfisher rushers and make plays all over the field.

Cornerbacks

Losses: Chris Rwabukamba

Key Returners: Johnny Williams (Sr.), Tony Foster (R-Jr.), Zach Greene (R-Jr.), Ross Cockrell (R-So.), Garrett Patterson (R-So.)

Newcomers: Jared Boyd (Fr.), Tim Burton (Fr.)

2010 Review: Cornerback seemed to be a feast or famine position for the 2010 Blue Devils. Missed coverages, poorly-read throws, and converted third-and-longs plagued the Duke corners all year. That being said, senior Chris Rwabukamba was the top coverage guy, forcing opponents to look elsewhere. Cockrell and Williams, two of the team’s top athletes, but both playing their first year of college defense, struggled mightily. Overall, Duke finished last in the ACC in pass defense. Cockerel was just the second freshman to lead the Blue Devils in interceptions, giving fans a glimpse of his potential coverage ability.

2011 Outlook: This is another group that needs to show significant improvement in 2011 for the Blue Devils to win. The inconsistencies and missed coverages seen in 2010 cannot happen if Duke is going to be able to improve on their ACC-worst pass defense. If the corners are unable to shut down opposing receivers, the Duke safeties will be unable to be aggressive against the run. Cockrell, Williams, Greene and Foster are likely to start the year at the top of the depth chart, but any struggles will give an opportunity for highly-touted freshman Jared Boyd. Collectively, Duke has some of their best athletes at cornerback, and those athletes will have to play with more confidence and poise than 2010.

Next week

Practice kicks off on Monday! The Blue Devils will practice every day next week, putting on pads for the first time on Friday morning. BDN will be your best source for coverage inside Duke’s training camp, as the Blue Devils prepare for the 2011 season. WE ARE DUKE.

Duke travels to South Florida to take on Florida International on October 1 at 6PM

Duke Football travels to take on Florida International in week 5

Duke travels to South Florida to take on Florida International on October 1 at 6PM

On October 1st, Head Coach David Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils will take their first (of two) trips to Miami to take on the Florida International Golden Panthers. The Blue Devils and Golden Panthers will play a home-and-home series, with FIU traveling to Durham in 2012. When Duke first scheduled the home-and-home with FIU, the youngest program in the FBS, many fans questioned the agreement, but one look at the high school football talent in South Florida should silence the critics. The October 1st matchup will kickoff at 6 PM ET on ESPN3 and will serve as FIU’s Homecoming Game.

Of course, for the Blue Devils’ trip to Miami to pay off in the long run, Duke must come away with a victory, a task easier said than done. The Golden Panthers enter 2011 as the defending Sun Belt co-Champions and winners of the 2010 Little Caesars Bowl. Led by reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year TY Hilton, the Golden Panthers feature a dynamic offense that returns 8 starters. Defensively, the Golden Panthers lose senior leader Anthony Gaitor, but return leading tackler DB Jonathan Cyprian to anchor the secondary. Florida International is the consensus pick to defend their Sun Belt title, and the Blue Devils will certainly have their hands full under the lights in FIU Stadium.

As the youngest program in the FBS, it’s no surprise that Duke fans may be unfamiliar with the 2010 Sun Belt Co-Champions. To fill us in on the Golden Panthers, BDN welcomes Andres Garcia, administrator for www.FIUGoldenPanthers.com.

BDN: After taking over an 0-12 team in 2007, Head Coach Mario Cristobal led Florida International to their first bowl game in 2010, a 34-32 win over Toledo in the Little Caesars Bowl. What are some of the reasons for his success in building the youngest program in the FBS into one of the top teams in the Sun Belt?

Coach Cristobal inherited a mess when he got to FIU, as you mention the team was coming off an 0-12 season which included that now infamous brawl with the University of Miami.  In addition to that, the team had just been hit with NCAA violations which reduced the number of scholarships for future years.  The main reason behind Coach Cristobal’s success is his ability to recruit and sell a dream to local kids.  One of the first to come on board was Anthony Gaitor (a 7th round NFL draft pick in last year’s draft) and TY Hilton who chose FIU over an offer from West Virginia.  FIU’s recruiting rankings have improved steadily over Coach Cristobal’s 4 years at the helm.  In addition, the team for the first time is able to field a full complement of scholarship players which has led to an improvement in the depth that FIU fields.  Often times in the early years, FIU would be able to hang on with teams for the first 2 quarters and then fade at the end due to lack of depth, this is no longer the case as was seen last year when FIU was able to compete against the likes of Rutgers, Maryland, Texas A&M and Pitt for an entire game.

FIU's TY Hilton is one of the top players in college football. Photo Credit: FIUSports.com

BDN: Sun Belt Player of the Year TY Hilton may be the best college football player most fans have never heard of. Can you give us a quick scouting report on Hilton and describe his impact on the FIU program?

TY Hilton is quick, has great hands and is very elusive.  He is Mr. Everything at FIU on offense and of course he’s our most dangerous kick returner.  As I mentioned before, TY opened the door for other quality South Florida recruits to at least consider coming to FIU.  In addition, he is the face of the program and has been a fantastic ambassador in the community.  His impact will be felt for a long time at FIU and we were very relieved that he chose to stay in school for his senior season.

BDN: Offensively, FIU returns 8 starters in 2011, including a deep group of players at quarterback and running back, along with the aforementioned Hilton at receiver. After outgaining Rutgers and Maryland and nearly upsetting Texas A&M in 2010, how good is this unit expected to be this season and what questions still need to be answered?

FIU loses 2 very important pieces to last year’s offense in Brad Serini (starting Center) and Greg Ellingson (6’4” starting receiver) from last year’s team, however, the coaches expect their replacements to be able to pick up some of that slack.  One of FIU’s question marks is the continued improvement of the OL.  The Golden Panthers have 4 quality running backs which they rotate and which as a unit were very effective last year, while TY is a great weapon, it was the team’s ability to run the ball which allowed Wesley Carroll to take advantage of TY.  Speaking of Carroll his improvement is also a key cog in the development of the offense.  He needs to cut down on his interceptions and improve his accuracy.  FIU has plenty of weapons on offense, the questions are whether the OL can create the holes and give the QB the time to find and exploit those weapons.

BDN: The Golden Panthers will have a young, but experienced defense this fall. With only one projected senior starter, who is expected to step up and assume a leadership role? What are the key position battles heading into training camp?

Last year’s defensive star was Anthony Gaitor who graduated and will hopefully move on to the NFL.  This year, everyone is looking towards Jonathan Cyprien (DB) to take over the leadership role and explode on to the scene for the defense.  Cyprien is joined as a Pre-Season all conference player by Tourek Williams (DL) and Winston Fraser (LB) so the Coaches feel they have established leaders for all 3 units in the defense.  The big defensive battles will be along the DL and the CB positions.  FIU returns several contributors from last year’s team as well as a couple of new freshmen which could see some playing time.  The LB corps is stacked with quick backers that can get to the ball in a second.  This defense is built on South Florida speed.

Duke and FIU will kickoff at 6PM ET in FIU Stadium

BDN: With FIU in just its eighth year of FBS football, it’s no surprise that this will be the first meeting between the Blue Devils and Golden Panthers. What will be the keys to the game for FIU to pull out a Homecoming victory on October 1st?

The key for FIU will be to control time of posession with its ground game and eliminate turnovers.  This will limit the exposure of the talented but young FIU defense against the potent Blue Devil offense.  On defense, FIU needs to contain the Duke passing game which is easier said than done.  FIU needs to create pressure up front in order to force some turnovers and make sure to capitalize on those opportunities.

FIU fans are looking forward to this game possibly being our first win versus a team from an AQ conference.  After coming so close last year, we are hoping the momentum continues and we cross that threshold.

BDN: Thanks for your insight, Andres!

Previous week: September 24, Tulane at Duke

Next week: October 8, Off Week

Next game: October 15, Florida State at Duke

The Tulane Green Wave take on the Duke Blue Devils September 24th in Durham

BDN Previews Duke Football’s Week 4 matchup with Tulane

The Tulane Green Wave take on the Duke Blue Devils September 24th in Durham

After a tough September stretch of hosting Stanford and then traveling to Boston College, the Blue Devils return home on September 24 to close out the first month of the season with a homecoming game against Tulane. Duke fans would be thrilled for the Blue Devils to enter this matchup with a 2-1 record, but most expect a 1-2 start to the 2011 season, meaning that Duke will need to get back on track against the Green Wave.

Duke and Tulane had similar campaigns in 2010, with both teams showing tremendous offensive potential, but unable to consistently slow opposing offenses. The Green Wave finished the season with a 4-8 record, which included a 17-14 road victory at Rutgers. Led by freshman sensation Orleans Darkwa, the Tulane offense posted its highest point total in 6 years, and with 7 starters returning, QB Ryan Griffin and the offense appear poised for a big 2011 season. Defensively, the Green Wave gave up an average of over 37 points per game, but return 7 starters in 2011, including two star transfers. Former Duke LB Trent Mackey and former Iowa DE Dezman Moses have both developed into All-Conference USA candidates and headline the 2011 Tulane defense. Overall, it appears that the Green Wave are prepared to improve upon last season’s 6th place finish and compete for the program’s first winning season since 2002.

Speaking of 2002, we are fortunate enough to have help from Stephen Segari, a member of the Green Wave program from 1999-2002 and a current moderator at goTULA.NEt. Stephen has a unique perspective on Tulane Football and we know you’ll enjoy reading his thoughts on Duke’s September 24th opponent.

BDN: Tulane and Duke are far from familiar foes, having last met on the gridiron in 1973. Both teams, however, have had similar struggles in recent years, with the Green Wave’s last winning season in 2002 and the Blue Devils’ last bowl trip all the way back in 1995. What are some of the challenges that have led to Tulane’s recent struggles? With four straight losing seasons, is Head Coach Bob Toledo on the hot seat in 2011?

Through the years, the biggest challenge to success of Tulane football has been Tulane. With self-imposed admission standards above the NCAA minimum, the Green Wave are at an immediate disadvantage and must work hard to bring in the same high school talent other schools can easily accept. While a lot of the blame does fall on Toledo and the coaching staff for the dismal record the past 4 seasons, many fans recognize that the coaches are working with one hand tied behind their backs.

Toledo is definitely on the hot seat in his 5th season. Anything short of a bowl appearance (the Greenies need 7 wins this year because of the 13 game schedule ending with Hawaii), Toledo will be shown the door. Others feel that regardless of a bowl game and the season outcome, Toledo will move on and/or retire.

BDN: As a member of the last Tulane team to post a winning season, can you summarize your experience as a Green Wave football player? What are the strengths of the Tulane program and where do you think the program is headed in 2011 and beyond?

Coming off of the perfect 12-0 season of 1998, the Green Wave were poised to have their 3rd winning season in a row in 1999. Instead of hiring offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez to replace the departing Tommy Bowden, the Tulane president and athletic director went in a different direction and hired Chris Scelfo. His first year was my freshman year. Playing for the Green Wave was tough, challenging, and in the end, definitely rewarding. In my senior year of 2002, we were invited to play in the Hawaii bowl on Christmas night and finished with a record of 8-5. Of course, the 2002 season was the last winning season for Tulane Football. There are still way too many questions, and not enough answers, for the program in 2011 and beyond. For the program, it’s time for the athletic director Rick Dickson, and university president Scott Cowen to step up, drop the flawed Tulane Model (higher admission standards for athletes vs. NCAA minimums), actively communicate with the Tulane athletics community, and direct adequate resources (both financial and facilities) to Tulane football.

BDN: The Green Wave finished 2010 with a 4-8 record, which included an impressive road win at Rutgers and the team’s highest offensive output in six seasons. Can you give us a brief scouting report on emerging star RB Orleans Darkwa? With the loss of offensive coordinator Dan Dodd, what changes do you expect to see on offense in 2011?

Running backs Orleans Darkwa and Andre Anderson are head and shoulders above the rest of the offense. Compared to the offensive line and wide receiver play during Spring ball, much of the burden will be on the shoulders of Darkwa this fall. Look for Orleans to pick up right where he left off last year, where his rookie rushing total surpassed the former record set by current Pittsburgh Steeler Mewelde Moore. The loss of Dodd shouldn’t have that noticeable of an effect on the offense, since Toledo and Dodd were so close at the hip.

Former Blue Devil LB Trent Mackey anchors the Tulane defense. Photo credit: tulanegreenwave.com

BDN: Similar to the Blue Devils, Tulane struggled to slow their opponents’ offenses in 2010. Former Blue Devil Trent Mackey has quickly developed into an All-Conference-quality linebacker at Tulane and leads the Green Wave defense along with Iowa transfer DE Dezman Moses. What adjustments have been made this offseason to improve on 2010′s results? What should be the strengths and weaknesses for the Tulane defense in 2011?

Special teams in 2010 were a real deal breaker for the Green Wave, specifically the kickoff team. With the average starting position of opponents’ at or near the 40, the Tulane defense often had their backs to the wall even before stepping on the field. Through spring ball, no noticeable, major changes were made to the defense from last year. Mackey and Moses were the 2 defensive standouts of the spring game. The linebacking core looked solid, but the DB still had some work to do… many blown coverages in the 2010 season. The strengths should definitely be Mackey and Moses (defensive line and linebackers) with our possible weaknesses being our secondary.

BDN: With two relatively unknown opponents, it’s difficult to predict the outcome of the September 24th showdown in Durham. What do you expect to see from Duke and what does Tulane need to do to pull off a key non-conference road win?

Every matchup in the 2011 season will be a challenge for Tulane. No games are given wins. I look for a tough fought 60 minutes of football. For Tulane to have a chance to be in the game at the end, we will need to eliminate the mistakes that plagued us last season: No more kickoff returns for opponents past the 40, no more blown DB coverages, and improved blocking by the o-line.

We look forward to playing the Blue Devils, but know that every game is a must win, and every game will be a challenge.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Stephen!

 

Previous week: September 17, Duke at Boston College

Next week: October 1, Duke at Florida International