Is it September 3rd yet? Well, not quite, Duke Football faithful, but we know the feeling. With 60 days until kickoff, it's no longer too early to take an in-depth look at Duke's 2011 opponents. Over the next several weeks, BDN will team up with other college football insiders to preview the 2011 Duke schedule. Season tickets are on sale now at GoDuke.com, or through the Duke Ticket Office at (919) 681-BLUE.
For the Blue Devils, there is no game more important than the first one, which is a September 3rd matchup with the Richmond Spiders under the lights in Wallace Wade Stadium. Duke has opened with home games against the Spiders twice in recent years, and Richmond has emerged victorious in both contests. The last meeting occurred in 2009; the Spiders were the aggressors from the start, spoiling the opening to Duke QB Thad Lewis' record-setting senior year with a 24-16 victory. Though the Blue Devils outgained the Spiders overall, Richmond was able to control the line of scrimmage, stifling the Duke running game and scoring two touchdowns on the ground. Mike London has since left the program for Charlottesville, and in 2010, the Spiders finished 6-5 under first year Head Coach Latrell Scott. Though many of the coaches and players have changed, the Spiders are still expected to be among the top programs in the FCS in 2011, and their strengths continue to be along the line of scrimmage. In 2010, Duke struggled to consistently run the ball effectively and was among the worst FBS defenses against the run, making the 2011 opener with Richmond an intriguing early season test for the Blue Devils.
To get an inside look at the 2011 Spiders, BDN was fortunate enough to have the help of David Weissman, Online Sports Editor for The Collegian at the University of Richmond.
BDN: What have been the biggest changes within the Richmond program since Latrell Scott replaced former Head Coach Mike London?
The changes are few and far between as Richmond understandably didn't want a huge change with Coach London having as much success here as he had. Coach Scott actually coached under London for a few years and I think he realizes that he didn't need to mix too many things up in the program to have success. I'd say the biggest change I've noticed is in offensive philosophy. Coach Scott's offense proved much more run-oriented than in years prior and he seems to keep trying to establish the run throughout the game no matter how much success it is having. It's tough to tell if the offense will continue that trend this year or if the high amount of run plays called last year was an anomaly due to the quarterback injuries Richmond had last season.
BDN: The Spiders started four different quarterbacks in 2010 due to injuries. How has USC transfer Aaron Corp recovered from midseason ACL surgery, and what are the expectations for the Spiders' offense in 2011?
Based on all that I've heard coming from camp is that Corp is fully recovered and ready to go, but that doesn't necessarily mean he'll carry the entire load at the quarterback position. Junior John Laub, who also got injured last season, was getting snaps even when Corp was completely healthy last year and London seems to like to put him in the game to run quarterback draws on third and short situations. As for the rest of the offense, the running game should be the strength with the offensive line looking stronger than last year and a number of backs that have shown the ability to have breakout games, led by Garrett Wilkins and Kendall Gaskins. The wide receivers are also looking good, but suffered last year without a consistent starter throwing them the ball. Senior Tre Gray is the most consistent of the bunch, with sophomore speedster Ben Edwards looking like he might have a breakout season.
BDN: Richmond will have to replace several starters from last year's defense, including CAA Defensive Player of the Year Eric McBride. Which players are expected to step up this fall, and which positions still have question marks?
The defense as a whole will definitely determine how many games the Spiders win this year. They were really inconsistent last season, at times looking unmovable and others, like they didn't start trying until the opponent was in the redzone. Martin Parker, Eric McBride, and Justin Rogers (who was drafted by the Bills) are going to be tough to replace as they anchored all three lines of defense for Richmond for as long as I can remember, but there is definitely no lack of talent to fill in. The major buzz coming out of camp is around safety Cooper Taylor who just transferred to Richmond from Georgia Tech. Some other guys the Spiders expect to step up are cornerback Tremayne Graham, linebacker Darius McMillan, and defensive lineman Corey Jackson. The biggest question marks look to be the linebacking corps, as the Spiders will need a couple young guys to step up into starting roles without much experience.
BDN: Richmond has won both of their last two trips to Durham. Why do you think the Spiders have had success against the Blue Devils?
It's hard to say why Richmond has been successful against Duke specifically, but I do know that as a whole, Richmond has a history of stepping up their level of play against the bigger, more well-known schools in all sports. The coaches do a good job of not letting the name on the opponent's jersey affect the way their players prepare and play, and I think maybe sometimes schools like Duke underestimate the ability of Richmond's athletics. A lot of the players here at Richmond were on the radar of ACC or SEC-type schools, but end up here and I think these guys like to be given the chance to show opposing coaches of these schools what they missed out on.
BDN: If you were an opposing coach, how would you plan to attack the Richmond defense and slow the Spiders' offense?
My gameplan would be dependent on my two lines. I'd say the keys to defeating Richmond are running the ball and stopping the run. The experience that Richmond does have on defense is mostly on the back end and I think the young guys on the line and in the linebacking corps could lead to a few big plays on the ground if you keep at it. As for defensively, London loves to run the ball as I mentioned before and the quarterbacks for Richmond did throw a good number of interceptions last year when they got put in third and long situations.
BDN: Thanks again for your help and insight, David!
Duke and the ACC released their 2011 football schedules today. The Blue Devils will look to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. Their schedule features 7 home matchups, as well as non-conference games against Richmond, Stanford, Tulane, and Florida International. Check back with Blue Devil Nation later this week for a full breakdown of Duke's 2011 schedule.
The Duke Blue Devils football team closed out the season with a 24-19 loss to North Carolina while the men's basketball team headed to Singler-ville bringing home a win over Oregon this past week. This week the football staff starts concentrating on recruiting while the men's team prepares for Michigan State in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge and we discuss all of this and more in our latest Monday Musings offering.
Good homecoming for Kyle Singler
Duke took care of business in Portland after spending time with Team Singler, aka, his family. Singler dropped 30 points, his career high in the win over Oregon but the feeling here is that he will break that tally again. Unless you've been sleeping under a rock you know that Singlers family is very athletic and competitive and Kyle who grew up watching film on Celtic great Larry Bird could be at the top of the list.
Another test awaits the Blue Devils
Okay, it's no secret that this years edition of the Duke Men's Basketball team is loaded with talent and each game is a lesson for the long season to come. On Wednesday evening Michigan State the consensus pre season #2 rated team comes into Cameron in a game that will have the place rocking. The fact that the Spartan's dropped an early season game will only make them tougher and they're getting healthy after some nagging injuries. Duke will face a team deep enough to challenge their depth and present some pressure on the defensive end. The bottom line is that Michigan State is the best team Duke will have played to date andwill be one of the best teams they play all season long. Many feel the two will eventually run into each other for a second time come March Madness.
As I said, it's a long season ahead
The media will continue to build Duke up after every win eventually claiming them to be unbeatable should they continue their winning ways. I feel Duke is the nations best team in November but the season has four solid months to go and lots of things can happen along the way. We are also hearing chirping of the team going undefeated and all I can say to that is temper your expectations for it will not happen. Still, Duke should develop along the way and it is frightening to think of what they'll look like come seasons end should their chemistry be intact.
Meanwhile Coach K keeps knocking down wins
Count from one to eight hundred and one and tell me how ridiculous that is when you think each number that rolls off your tongue is a victory for Mike Krzyzewski. We'll drop you a hint that the UNC-Greensboro game could be one for the record books for if all goes as planned that will be the one where a huge milestone is set. Can you figure out what that milestone will be? And for what it's worth Coach K is so far ahead of other active coaches in weeks he's spent as the nations top ranked team that it's not even worth mentioning how far Roy Williams is behind him and the Heels coach is in 2nd.
Football season comes to an end
Duke finishes the season at 3-9 but they lost four ACC games by a touchdown or less. I don't think Cutcliffe and company will worry with that more than getting the team physically stronger. The goal is to realy hit the weight room hard at certain positions, reevaluate team personnel and acclimate newcomers into a solid group of returning players. Next season will be the first year Cutcliffe has all of his players on the roster for the first time.
After a season of learning, look for Duke quarterback Sean Renfree to come back with a vengeance. Renfree is the kind of kid that'll work his butt off in the off season and don't look now, but he will be one of the most experienced signal callers in the league as other schools break in new players at his position.
Let's take a peek at next seasons schedule
It's never to early to look towards next season, so here is the 2011 football schedule - Duke will play Richmond, Tulane, Stanford, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest at home and will visit Florida International, Boston College, Miami, Virginia and North Carolina on the road. Duke will liklely be favored to win five of those games in the pre season, so a six win season of bowl eligibility could come to fruition.
Talk about rebuilding
My girls, the Duke Cheerleaders, will lose seven senior members after this season! That has to be a record. Anyhow, congrats to them and thanks for cheering your last football game at Duke on Saturday.
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