Tag Archives: Duke Football 2011

Football Friday summoned the psychic world to assist with 2011 ACC Football predictions

BDN’s Football Friday Prognosticates

So, how are you beating the heat? Well, here’s a suggestion. Find yourself a cold beverage and sit down for some Football Friday here at BDN. If you aren’t a BDN Premium Member yet, you’re really missing out. Go ahead and join now to get the best coverage of Duke, year-round. All the cool kids are doing it.

The Duke secondary suffered a blow this week with the loss of Issac Blakeney for 2011

Issac Blakeney out for 2011

Head Coach David Cutcliffe announced on Thursday that safety Issac Blakeney has been suspended from the university for failure to meet continuing academic eligibility requirements and will miss the 2011 season. “Issac is a valuable member of the Duke Football family and I look forward to him returning to full eligibility in January of 2012,” said Cutcliffe.

Obviously, this is a huge blow to the Blue Devils’ depth at safety. Those who saw Blakeney in the spring game got a glimpse of his potential in the Duke secondary. In order for the new 4-2-5 scheme to be successful, players like August Campbell, Jordon Byas, and maybe even true freshman Chris Tavarez will have to step up alongside seniors Matt Daniels and Lee Butler. BDN wishes Issac the best of luck as he gets himself back on track; we’re pulling for him.

Football Friday summoned the psychic world to assist with 2011 ACC Football predictions

2011 ACC Predictions

In anticipation of the ACC’s Football Kickoff, Football Friday would like to share some of our completely unqualified predictions for the 2011 ACC football season. We figured that by next Friday, you will have heard enough media predictions, but this week, you’ll read every word. Here is the most important prediction we’ll make: none of these predictions will matter by December. In fact, most will be thrown out the window by September 3. In a year where only THREE teams will return their unquestioned starting quarterback from 2010, our second prediction is that the ACC will be pure chaos in 2011. Please keep these first two predictions in mind as we prognosticate.

The road to Charlotte will have to go through the defending ACC Champs in Blacksburg

ACC Coastal Division

The last four ACC Champions have come from the Coastal Division, and for that reason, we start here.

  1. Virginia Tech: the road to Charlotte still has to go through defending ACC Champion Virginia Tech, who lose ACC POY Tyrod Taylor, along with tailbacks Ryan Williams and Darren Evans. Overall, the Hokies return just 11 starters, 6 on offense and 5 on defense (including just one defensive lineman). All accounts suggest that redshirt-sophomore QB Logan Thomas and junior TB David Wilson are poised for breakout seasons for the Hokies. Head Coach Frank Beamer seems to have the annual luxury of reloading his roster, rather than rebuilding it, and the Hokies should put together another top-25 season and hold the top spot in the ACC Coastal Division.
  2. Miami: I’m probably buying the Hurricanes a little early in their first year under Al Golden, but by all accounts, the new Head Coach knows how to recruit and knows how to win. Miami has always had talent, and with better discipline and execution, I think this will be a much improved team over recent editions. Road contests at Maryland, Virginia Tech, UNC, and Florida State will pose a significant challenge, but the Hurricanes have some of the best athletes in the conference.
  3. Georgia Tech: I always underestimate Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jackets, so they’ll probably finish higher ( I didn’t want to break from tradition). There are several unproven new faces on offense and Al Groh’s defense needs to take a big step forward, but mostly, I think GT has one of the more favorable schedules, with their only ACC road contests at NC State, Virginia, Miami, and Duke.
  4. North Carolina: I’m selling the 2011 Tar Heels, and I realize I have them lower than most pundits. There are too many unsettled off-field issues, a first-year starting quarterback, the loss of a bunch of NFL draft picks, and a schedule that includes road games at Georgia Tech, Clemson, NC State, and Virginia Tech. Reading between the lines, it seems that even embattled Head Coach Butch Davis has been attempting to lower expectations, calling this a “transition year” for the program.
  5. Duke: As you can see by my underwhelming review of the Coastal Division teams in front of them, if things go right in Durham, there’s no reason Duke couldn’t end up with their highest finish in several years. Realistically, the young defensive line will have to mature ahead of schedule and the offense will have to prove it can run the ball consistently for Duke to become a serious threat in the division.
  6. Virginia: Many will probably place UVA ahead of Duke, but I’m not sold on the 2011 Wahoos, especially given their quarterback controversy. I interpreted the reports out of Charlottesville to indicate that none of their inexperienced QBs performed well enough to earn the starting job, which is an ominous sign for a team that also loses its leading rusher. Sure, Chase Minnifield and the defense should be solid, but road tests at UNC, Miami, Maryland, and FSU will be a stiff challenge.

    The Seminoles appear ready to challenge for an ACC Championship in 2011

ACC Atlantic Division

Though the Coastal Division has produced the last four ACC Champions, the Atlantic Division Champion should challenge for an Orange Bowl berth in 2011. I’m not sure there will be significant improvement elsewhere in the division, however.

  1. Florida State: Florida State claimed the Atlantic Division title in 2010 in Jimbo Fisher’s first season as Head Coach, and the Seminoles show no sign of slowing down. FSU will return a veteran group in all three phases in 2011 with 18 starters returning overall. Of all the ACC’s new full-time starting QBs, junior EJ Manuel has the most experience, having filled in for the injury-plagued Christian Ponder in each of the last two seasons. The expectation is that the 2011 Seminoles will be the class of the ACC, and should they win on September 17th against Oklahoma, they could vault towards the top of the national computer rankings.
  2. Clemson: With the recruiting classes Head Coach Dabo Swinney is bringing in, they have to be better than 6-7, right? That’s pretty much my basis for placing them here. They do draw FSU at home, but are stuck with facing the two Techs from the Coastal Division, both on the road. I’ve heard good reports about new QB Tajh Boyd and new OC Chad Morris’ offense, but maybe the Clemson folks have just been drinking too much orange Gatorade.
  3. Boston College: I really like the 2011 Eagles team and think they have the potential to make a lot of noise in the ACC, but have one of the toughest schedules. Their defense can be dominant at times and their offense should be improved if Chase Rettig can develop consistency and chemistry with his receivers. Montel Harris and Andre Williams should be one of the top tailback duos in the conference, if not the country. Division games at Clemson and a nationally-televised Thursday night home game against FSU will likely determine whether the Eagles will be serious contenders for the Atlantic division title.
  4. NC State: new QB Mike Glennon better be good, and he better be good from his first snap. With the transfer of Russell Wilson, all eyes will be on Glennon and fans will be quick to turn on Head Coach Tom O’Brien and the Wolfpack if things don’t go swimmingly. The Wolfpack probably have one of the lightest schedules in the ACC and will also probably finish higher than I have them picked as a result, but I don’t know if Glennon can live up to expectations, and I don’t know if he knows who he’s going to throw the ball to.
  5. Maryland: The surprise team of 2010 earned Ralph Friedgen ACC Coach of the Year honors and a pink slip. New Head Coach Randy Edsall will have a veteran team to work with, but even with ACC Freshman of the Year Danny O’Brien back under center, the offense will not be nearly as explosive with the loss of WR Torrey Smith and RB Da’Rell Scott. The Terps will face a tough ACC road schedule and the offense will experience growing pains without its top two weapons from 2010.
  6. Wake Forest: Of all the picks, this one may be the easiest. I don’t see a ton of reason for optimism in Winston-Salem, though the Deacs will return 17 starters from last year’s squad that finished with a 1-7 ACC record (yes, the 1 win was against Duke). We say it every year, but this is a must-win game on the schedule for Duke (and every other ACC team).

ACC Champion: Florida State

ACC Player of the Year: EJ Manuel, Florida State

ACC Coach of the Year:  Al Golden, Miami

Ok, now that all of that conventional stuff is out of the way, let’s look at some fun categories.

Coaches on the Hot Seat

I think there are four, at varying levels.

Butch Davis: how he still has a job is a mystery to most objective observers.

Dabo Swinney: we know he can recruit, but how long does he have to prove he can coach?

Jim Grobe: almost unthinkable just a few years ago, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of optimism in Winston-Salem these days and another finish in the cellar would have to put him on shaky ground.

Tom O’Brien: he must enjoy working without job security in Raleigh. After winning support with an impressive 2010 season, the questionable handling of the Russell Wilson situation has placed the Wolfpack Head Coach back under scrutiny.

ACC Game of the Year

October 8, Miami at Virginia Tech

ACC Bust of the Year

I think this is a neck and neck race with the UNC and NC State quarterbacks. I’m not suggesting they’re not ultimately going to be good players, but there’s a ton of pressure on them in their first season as starters. Bryn Renner at least has a good group of receivers returning, so I’ll say that Glennon will struggle to live up to the unrealistic expectations placed on him by Russell Wilson’s departure.

ACC Surprise of the Year

Maybe I’m a year or two ahead of myself here, but I really think Al Golden is going to put the Miami Hurricanes back on the map. He’ll have to figure out his quarterback situation, but he’s got an All-ACC caliber running back in Lamar Miller and a ton of high-level athletes across the depth chart. I think the rest of the conference has forgotten just how good “The U” can be.

Can the Blue Devils upset the Tar Heels and re-claim the Victory Bell this year?

ACC Upset of the Year

For the sake of the conference, let’s all hope that we don’t see another FCS team upset an ACC opponent as we have in recent years. But within the conference, let’s say that the Blue Devils travel to Chapel Hill on November 26 with a 5-6 record. The Tar Heels have been mired in controversy all season and the public outcry against Head Coach Butch Davis continues to mount. Behind huge performances from seniors Donovan Varner and Cooper Helfet, the Blue Devils emerge with the Victory Bell and secure bowl eligibility for the first time since the 1994 season.

Hey, I figured I’d end on that note to leave you feeling good about the upcoming season. With regards to all these predictions, as they say, that’s why they play the games. BDN will have full coverage from next week’s ACC Football Kickoff in Pinehurst and of course,  we’ll follow the Blue Devils all season long. WE ARE DUKE.

Here's to you, Cameron Crazies!

Football Friday enters fashionably late

Here's to you, Cameron Crazies!

Football Friday comes to you fashionably late this week, and in abbreviated form so that you can get in line for Harry Potter early. Has anyone camped out for three months for seats to Harry Potter? I didn’t think so. That takes real dedication. Here’s to you, Cameron Crazies – and here’s hoping to see all of you in Wallace Wade Stadium this fall.

Duke WR Clarkston Hines will be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame Saturday

Clarkston Hines HOF 2011

Congratulations to Duke alumnus Clarkston Hines, who will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Indiana. The ceremonies will kick off at 9:30 AM and conclude with a dinner and ceremony at 7:30 PM. The “Frequent Flyer” holds Duke records in receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, and 100-yard receiving games. He also holds ACC records in touchdown receptions and 100-yard receiving games. The 1989 ACC Player of the Year, Hines led the Blue Devils to a share of the ACC Championship and was named a first team All-American.

To put some of Hines’ accomplishments in perspective, consider how his career compares to current Duke stars Donovan Varner and Conner Vernon.

Clarkston Hines (1986-1989): 189 receptions, 3319 yards, 38 touchdowns, 17 100-yard receiving games

Donovan Varner (2008-2010): 146 receptions, 1947 yards, 10 touchdowns, 7 100-yard receiving games

Conner Vernon (2009-2010): 128 receptions, 1719 yards, 7 touchdowns, 7 100-yard receiving games

While Varner and Vernon may have a chance to approach Hines’ reception total, they would have to put up some impressive seasons to approach his yardage, touchdown, or 100-yard game records. It’s clear that Hines is more than deserving of his enshrinement. Congratulations!

Duke QB Sean Renfree was named to the Davey O'Brien Award Watch List Friday

More preseason accolades

It wasn’t that long ago when Duke was being shut out of most national preseason Award Watch Lists. Well, the times, they are a’changin. This year, it might be hard for you to keep track, so let us recap for you:

SAF Matt Daniels: Athlon Sports 3rd Team All-ACC

TE Cooper Helfet: Mackey Award Watch List, CFPA TE Watch List, Athlon Sports 3rd Team All-ACC, Lindy’s Sports 2nd Team All-ACC

OT Kyle Hill: Athlon Sports 3rd Team All-ACC

C Brian Moore: Rimington Trophy Watch List

QB Sean Renfree: Davey O’Brien Award Watch List, CFPA QB Watch List, Athlon Sports 3rd Team All-ACC, Lindy’s Sports ACC “Strongest Arm”

K Will Snyderwine: Groza Award Watch List, CFPA K Watch List, Athlon Sports 1st Team All-ACC, Lindy’s Sports 1st Team All-ACC, Sporting News 2nd Team All-American, Sporting News 1st Team All-ACC

WR Donovan Varner: Biletnikoff Award Watch List, Athlon Sports 3rd Team All-ACC

WR Conner Vernon: Biletnikoff Award Watch List, CFPA WR Watch List, Athlon Sports 1st Team All-ACC, Lindy’s Sports 1st Team All-ACC, Sporting News 1st Team All-ACC, Sporting News ACC “Best Hands”

Got it now? There’s going to be a quiz at the end. Congratulations to the Blue Devils for their well-deserved recognition, but we know that it’s the post-season awards that they’re working to earn.

The Dondo Files

Speaking of Donovan Varner, don’t miss episode three of The Dondo Files. “Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records.” – William Arthur Ward

Duke hosts Heisman favorite Andrew Luck and Stanford in week 2

2011 Opponent Previews

In case you missed them, be sure to check out our previews of Richmond and Stanford. They’re great reads and we are fortunate to have had the help of David Weissman and Hank Waddles to give us an inside look at Duke’s first two opponents. As you might expect, we’ll have a preview of Boston College, as well as Florida International, up this week, so be sure to check them out and spread the word that BDN has the best Duke Football coverage year-round.

2011 Bowl Games

Make no mistake, the goal for the Duke program is to play in Charlotte in December and the Orange Bowl in January. However, a lot will have to go right for that to happen, with maybe even some help from Harry Potter and friends. Coming off a 3-win 2010 in which the Duke defense struggled mightily and the offense was inconsistent, it might be more realistic to look at some other potential bowl destinations for the Blue Devils. If Duke is able to put together 6 wins or better in 2011, where might they end up playing in December or January?

The three best fits for Duke, at least geographically and a potential high-profile opponent, would be the Belk Bowl, the Music City Bowl, or the Military Bowl. The 2011 Belk Bowl will be held down I-85 in Charlotte on December 27th, and feature the #5 ACC team against a Big East opponent. The 2011 Music City Bowl will be held down I-40 in Nashville on December 7th, pitting the #6 ACC bowl team against an SEC opponent (with a sweet $3.675MM payout). If the Blue Devils were to be selected for the Military Bowl, they would likely face a familiar opponent in Navy on December 28th in Washington, DC.

The ACC also has a conditional agreement with the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, which will be played on New Year’s Eve in San Francisco, but let’s hope we won’t have to travel that far. Another option would be the Independence Bowl on December 26th against a MWC team in Shreveport, Louisiana. Of course, Duke fans would welcome the opportunity to travel to any of these games to support the Blue Devils, so you may want to start saving up those frequent flyer miles and hotel points for December!

Mallard Creek's Jela Duncan could be an impact player in Durham

Class of 2012 holds steady

Wow, we made it through an entire week without a Duke football commitment. It’s been awhile since we could say that. Duke has 13 solid verbal commitments in the class of 2012 and will hold their final few scholarships for potential impact players at RB, DL, LB, and WR. We’ve discussed the targets at length in previous weeks and on our Premium Message Board, but just to recap:

RB: Todd Gurley confirmed to BDN this week that he has dropped Duke from the schools he is considering. I gave my reaction to this news earlier this week on the message boards, but to summarize, Gurley is a tremendous talent, but may not have been the best fit at Duke University. Mallard Creek’s Jela Duncan, who posted a sub-4.3 40 time in Durham earlier this summer and boasts a 3.5 GPA, would certainly look good in Duke blue.

LB: We heard from Marcus Allen earlier this week, another great athlete out of the state of Florida. His recruitment will be competitive, but he’s exactly the type of student-athlete that could thrive in Durham. Keilin Rayner is a player who has been high on the Blue Devils throughout the process and with his interest in Sports Medicine, would be another great fit at Duke.

DL: The targets at this position have changed significantly in the past week, as the Virginia schools have locked up several verbal commitments. Woody Baron and Nigel Williams committed to Virginia Tech, giving the Hokies five defensive linemen in the class of 2012. Virginia added Courtnye Wynn, their third defensive line commitment in this class (they brought in seven DLs in the class of 2010). With a logjam on the defensive lines at UVA and VPI, could that help the Blue Devils with their recruitment of DT Korren Kirven? It certainly can’t hurt, but Duke will have to battle things out with over a dozen other top programs for the elite Lynchburg lineman. Outside of Kirven, Duke is still recruiting Torey Agee out of Alabama and in-state standout David Reader. Agee is on a visit to Vanderbilt this weekend, and Reader has recently decided to pursue both football and baseball at the collegiate level. At 6’3” and 300+ pounds with a 95 MPH fastball, Reader could certainly help the Blue Devils on the gridiron and the diamond.

WR: The Blue Devils are hoping to add a new element to their receiving corps with one more commitment in the class of 2012, and that could come in the form of elite Tennessee prospect Drae Bowles, or the lengthy Anthony Nash out of Pennsylvania.

ACC following in the SEC’s footsteps?

Except without the national championships. With the NCAA having investigated North Carolina and Georgia Tech for violations in their football programs, the ACC appears to be trending down a slippery slope. Fortunately, the majority of ACC programs continue to do things the right way, and Duke remains one of them. The Duke coaching staff, along with a top-notch compliance department, are sure to keep the program on track. With regards to Georgia Tech, though the NCAA noted a lack of cooperation with their investigation, the penalties ultimately should not have a great affect on the program. A fine, vacating wins, and probation hardly hurt the program where it counts going forward. In my opinion, the only NCAA penalties that have any noticeable effect involve the loss of scholarships or post-season participation. With many more violations having occurred in Chapel Hill, we’ll have to see if the NCAA chooses to enforce more significant penalties.

Tweet, tweet

They say this internet is going to be a big deal. You can keep up with all things Duke Football through us here at BDN, of course, or you can follow Duke Football on Twitter. We’re also on Facebook, as is Duke Football. Of course, the best way to stay informed about all things Duke athletics is to join BDN Premium. And if you need an invite to this new Google+ thing, shoot me an email.

We’re gaining steam now

We’ve been saying that football season is fast approaching for awhile now, and some of that might just be wishful thinking. Come next week, however, and it can no longer be denied. The ACC will host its Football Kickoff in Pinehurst on July 24-25, and the Blue Devils will be represented by Head Coach David Cutcliffe, along with QB Sean Renfree and SAF Matt Daniels. Just two weeks after the ACC Football Kickoff, the Blue Devils will take the field for fall training camp. As always, you can rely on BDN to have the best coverage of all things Duke Football. After all, WE ARE DUKE.

Coach Cutcliffe has senior Donovan Varner and the Blue Devils expecting to win in 2011-GoDuke, Duke Photography

T.G.I. Football Friday

Happy Friday, Blue Devil Nation! A nice, shortened week should make you feel good but if not, Football Friday is here to satisfy your weekly football craving. As you know, there’s never an offseason here at BDN, and Mark Watson and Andrew Slater have been burning the midnight oil all week with great basketball coverage. Be sure to check it out, and invite your friends to join our growing community of Duke fans. If you tell two people, and they tell two people, well, then that’s some kind of crazy math that I don’t remember how to do. Before my brain stops working, we better get going…

Blue Devils feeling the love

Coach Cutcliffe has senior Donovan Varner and the Blue Devils expecting to win in 2011-GoDuke, Duke Photography

Four Duke players were named to preseason Award Watch Lists this week, while a few others may have been overlooked. Coming off a three win season, it’s only natural that Duke might have a few players fly under the radar on the national level, but that should all change this fall, as the Blue Devils pursue bowl eligibility. In any case, it’s a nice honor for the Duke players who were recognized this week, and we congratulate them, but look forward to an even better 2011.

Cooper Helfet – John Mackey Award Watch List

Will Snyderwine – Lou Groza Award Watch List

Donovan Varner – Biletnikoff Award Watch List

Conner Vernon – Biletnikoff Award Watch List

The Dondo Files

Part of our job here at BDN is to help give fans an inside look at the Duke players and coaches. Sometimes, however, the players and coaches do the job for us. This week, Duke’s star senior WR Donovan Varner created the first entry in his self-produced video blog, The Dondo Files. Varner is poised for a big senior year, and we hope his video blog will be a good inside look into his season, and the Blue Devils’ first bowl game in over a decade.

Sir Nolan Smith models a Middle Child shirt

Middle Child

Another interesting venture by two Blue Devils is Middle Child, a clothing line created by Johnny Williams and marketed by Matt Daniels. For those who missed Johnny’s cartoon series for GoDuke last year, take a look at his clothing designs, which show off the Duke cornerback’s impressive artistic ability. And if ndotsmitty is wearing it, you know it’s hot!

Doing work in the classroom

While we’re applauding the Blue Devils’ off the field efforts, it’s important to point out that last year’s team had a cumulative GPA of 3.1, which included 13 ACC All-Academic selections, more than twice any other school. As we’ve said before, it’s great to see that as Duke builds the program on the field, they continue to uphold the university’s strong academic reputation. The Duke players are setting themselves up for a great future and truly embody the concept of the student-athlete.

Come on, come on…

Kickoff on September 3 is just 57 days away, with training camp opening in just a few short weeks, so be sure to get your season tickets now. With spring practice having wrapped up in March, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen the Blue Devils on the field in Wallace Wade Stadium. For the Duke Football faithful, we share your pain, and hope that these last few weeks fly by. We’ve kicked off our opponent preview series this week to help speed things up for you. Be sure to check out the Richmond preview, and check back on Sunday for our Stanford preview. In the meantime, if anyone happens to see me camped outside of Wallace Wade like Eric Cartman waiting for the Nintendo Wii, can you bring me a sandwich?

Duke and Richmond will kickoff the 2011 under the lights in Wallace Wade Stadium on September 3

Please make sure you have all your belongings…

…as you exit Football Friday. While we love to share with the whole class, we also like to reward our Premium Members. We have the latest recruiting information for Duke’s class of 2012, and well, you’ll just have to join to find out…[private]

A slow recruiting week!

We’re all for the fast-paced summer recruiting season, but it is nice to be able to catch your breath every once in awhile. While it’s impossible to predict things in recruiting, it seems like things may slow down a little bit as we head into training camp. Duke has 13 commitments in the class of 2012, with an absolute maximum of 18 scholarships available. The coaching staff would like to add 4 more players to this class, and will hold a spot for a potential program-changer, should he decide to be a Blue Devil late in the recruiting season. Here are the staff’s remaining targets.:

Running backs

Jela Duncan 5’10” 190 pounds, Charlotte, NC

Todd Gurley 6’1” 195 pounds, Tarboro, NC

Linebackers

Marcus Allen 6’2” 210 pounds, Hilliard, FL

Keilin Rayner 6’3” 220 pounds, Leland, NC

Wide Receivers

Drae Bowles 6’1” 198 pounds, Jackson, TN

Anthony Nash 6’5” 185 pounds, West Chester, PA

Defensive linemen

Torey Agee 6’3” 250 pounds, Opelika, AL

Woody Baron 6’3” 252 pounds, Brentwood, TN

Korren Kirven 6’4” 272 pounds, Lynchburg, VA

David Reader 6’2” 340 pounds, Greensboro, NC

Nigel Williams 6’3” 260 pounds, Richmond, VA

Courtnye Wynn 6’6” 240 pounds, Norfolk, VA

A couple notes on this group: Todd Gurley has been in France, running track for Team USA, which has led him to miss “The Opening” in Oregon this week. Korren Kirven is the only member of this group that is in Oregon, and while Duke has made a good impression, the reality is that he may be a long-shot for the Blue Devils. Woody Baron, as we reported awhile ago, appears to be down to Virginia Tech and Vanderbilt, but if Duke could get a visit, you never know.

Do you like surprises? Well, I actually am not a big fan, so I’ll just give you the update. Once the dust settles on the LBJ and Adidas coverage, we’ll have new interviews with Marcus Allen, Keilin Rayner, Anthony Nash, and David Reader. We’ll be getting in touch with the other remaining targets, too, but we have to pace ourselves!

Thanks for being a member and a loyal Football Friday patron. We hope you enjoy our coverage and always would love to hear more from you on the message boards.

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WE ARE DUKE.

 

Let's get this season started!

It’s always football season at BDN’s Football Friday

Happy Independence Day, Blue Devil Nation!

Even on a holiday weekend, it’s still time for BDN’s Football Friday, a weekly look inside the world of Duke Football. If you enjoy this weekly column, please consider becoming a BDN Premium Member and joining our growing community of Duke Football fans. As we say goodbye to the month of June, it’s time to look back at an eventful month in Duke Football, and look ahead to the 2011 season, which kicks off in just 63 days!!! Of course, it’s always football season at Football Friday.

It’s finally here!

Next week kicks off the release of college football’s preseason award lists. What, you thought I was talking about Harry Potter? Oh, please. Starting on Tuesday, the College Football Awards Association will release their preseason award watch lists. While Duke still has a long way to go in regards to earning the respect of the national college football community, there are a few Duke players who should be nominated. On Wednesday, the Biletnikoff (top WR) and Mackey Award (top TE) watch lists will be announced, and Duke’s Conner Vernon, Donovan Varner, and Cooper Helfet are certainly deserving of consideration. As a 2010 semi-finalist, Duke’s Will Snyderwine should be named to the Lou Groza Award watch list on Thursday. Of course, the awards will ultimately be earned on the field, but it’s important for Duke players to receive the preseason recognition they deserve.

Changing of the guard

Head Coach David Cutcliffe announced a few changes to his football staff today. “We are very excited with our recent hires and adjustments to the staff,” Cutcliffe stated.  “I have either coached or fostered long term relationships with each of these young people and their families.  It is great to surround yourself with people you deeply care for and know are winners on and off the field.  We approach the 2011 season with great enthusiasm.” Among the changes, the staff welcomes back former Blue Devil All-American defensive lineman Vince Oghobaase as a staff assistant. John Russell, a former NFL and Wake Forest linebacker, joins the staff as a graduate assistant, and current recruiting assistant Ben Loebner has been promoted to a graduate assistant. Former Duke All-ACC cornerback Leon Wright has been named a Defensive Operations assistant and Jomar Wright switches his title from graduate assistant to recruiting assistant. Marcus Johnson, a former NFL and All-SEC offensive lineman, joins the Duke strength and conditioning staff. Welcome to all the new coaches, and good luck this fall!

Welcome to Duke, Thomas!

Boy, that escalated quickly…

Duke entered the month of June with four verbal commitments in the class of 2012: TE Erich Schneider, DE Allen Jackson, SAF Dwayne Norman, and LB Deion Williams. We now leave the month of June with twelve verbal commitments, capped off by a big week, in which the Blue Devils added their QB of the future in Thomas Sirk and one of the top TEs in the state in Dan Beilinson. BDN members were the first to hear about these commitments, and we’ll continue to bring you the best Duke Football recruiting coverage around.

Duke was the first to offer Tarboro RB Todd Gurley, and he remains their top target

 

 

Get ‘em while they’re hot…

With only a handful of scholarships remaining in the class of 2012, Duke is hoping to land a few impact players over the next several weeks. As we’ve mentioned earlier, the Blue Devils will need to add a RB in this class, and Tarboro’s Todd Gurley, along with Charlotte’s Jela Duncan, remain the coaching staff’s top two priorities. Gurley recently won a national championship in track and will represent the US in France later this summer. The Duke staff continues to work hard on the recruiting trail, hoping to cap off the class of 2012 with a program-changer or two like WR Drae Bowles or DT Korren Kirven. A quick look at the 2011 Duke roster shows that Duke will graduate 18 players this season. Duke is certainly hopeful that the group of redshirt-juniors will stay with the program for their final year of eligibility in 2012, meaning that scholarships are getting tight in the class of 2012. For those remaining prospects considering Duke offers, the smart move would be to act quickly.

Rams' QB Thad Lewis has high expectations for the 2011 Blue Devils

“I’m going to go out on a limb and say they’ll go bowling…”

With the NFL lockout dragging on, Duke has been fortunate to have former QB Thad Lewis around campus for most of the summer. BDN caught up with the Blue Devil record-holder earlier this summer, and GoDuke featured an interview earlier this week. Thad has big expectations for Sean Renfree and the Blue Devils in 2011, and after leading Duke to 5 wins in his senior year, he knows what it takes to win in the ACC.

Reasons for optimism

Overall, there is tremendous optimism around the Duke Football program, and many fans (with a few outspoken exceptions) have high hopes for the 2011 season. Starting next week, BDN will take an in-depth look at each of Duke’s 2011 opponents, beginning with the Richmond Spiders. We’re fortunate to have been able to team up with some great writers from other schools to give us an inside look at Duke’s competition. In general, though, we know Duke faces a tough schedule this fall, and after a 3-win season in 2010, why all the optimism? Before we start analyzing Duke’s opponents, let’s take a brief look at some 2010 statistics, and a 2011 position group assessment.

  • In 2010, Duke lost 4 games by 6 points or less.
  • Duke had 43 trips to the redzone in 2010, but found the end zone only 22 times, barely 50% of the time. Luckily, pre-season All-ACC kicker Will Snyderwine was able to add 16 field goals to help keep the Blue Devils in games.
  • The 3rd quarter was unkind to the 2010 Blue Devils. Duke either had a lead, or were within 1 score at halftime in 8 of their 12 games, but only won 3 games.
  • Finishing games was also difficult for the 2010 Duke team, as they had a lead or were within 1 score entering the 4th quarter in 6 of their 12 games, but again, only won 3 games.
  • Turnover margin may have been the key statistic to Duke’s 2010 season, but there is reason for optimism. Over the first 7 games, Duke had a turnover margin of -12 (21 to 9), but a turnover margin of +1 in their final 5 games (7 to 8).
  • The much-maligned Duke defense had difficult pressuring the quarterback all season, but again, there was subtle improvement. With just 4 sacks through their first 6 games, Duke finished with 8 sacks in their final 6 games. Five of Duke’s final six opponents were bowl teams.

It's no secret that Duke's 2011 hopes rest on the shoulders of QB Sean Renfree

 

 

QB: Duke returns their top two quarterbacks in 2011 in starting redshirt-junior Sean Renfree and sophomore backup Brandon Connette. With a year of starting experience under his belt, the expectations are sky-high for Renfree, who Coach Cutcliffe described as having a “great” spring. Anthony Boone will add depth to the position after redshirting in 2010.

RB: Duke returns all five of their running backs from 2010, led by junior Desmond Scott, who has paced the Blue Devils in rushing as both a freshman and a sophomore. Duke improved their rushing yards by 46.5 yards per game from 2009 to 2010, and scored 13 more touchdowns on the ground. With all of their top rushers and blockers returning, there is no reason not to expect similar improvement in 2011.

WR: Duke loses Austin Kelly, who had been a solid receiver for the program in his four years in Durham, but brings back All-ACC receivers Donovan Varner and Conner Vernon. Sophomore Brandon Braxton, after catching 14 passes in 2010, is expected to see an increased role as he fills in for Kelly. Tyree Watkins and Corey Gattis are two more underclassmen expected to fill out the depth chart at receiver in 2011.

TE: By the end of the 2011 season, junior college transfer Cooper Helfet established himself as one of Renfree’s favorite targets, and one of the top tight ends in the ACC. After a slow start and a nagging ankle injury, Helfet finished with at least 4 catches in his final 5 games, including a 122-yard game against Virginia. Redshirt-senior Danny Parker rejoins the tight end corps after the graduation of Brett Huffman and Brandon King. Redshirt-freshman Braxton Deaver is expected to compete for a starting spot this fall, and true freshman David Reeves is one of the top prospects in Duke’s class of 2011.

OL: Duke will return four of five starters in 2011, the lone loss being center Bryan Morgan. With Brian Moore sliding over to center from right guard, Duke’s entire offensive line should weigh in at 275 pounds or greater; redshirt-freshman Takoby Cofield and Laken Tomlinson both eclipse 300 pounds and are expected to compete for snaps.

DL: This position is the big question mark on the 2011 Duke team, but there are plenty of reasons to expect improvement over 2010. Despite losing starters Patrick Egboh and Wes Oglesby, Duke will add seven (7!) redshirt-freshmen to the depth chart along the defensive line in 2011. The Blue Devils return redshirt-senior Charlie Hatcher, along with redshirt-junior Kenny Anunike, redshirt-sophomore Justin Foxx, and redshirt-sophomore Sydney Sarmiento. This spring, however, it was the redshirt-freshmen who earned the highest accolades from the Duke coaching staff, led by DE Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo and DT Jamal Bruce. With the coaching of Rick Petri, athleticism of the young redshirt-freshmen, and overall increased depth, this is a unit that should improve week-to-week in 2011 and give the Blue Devils a chance to win ball games.

LB: While most fans are concerned about the Blue Devils’ defensive line, the linebackers are another area that needs to improve from 2010, but has significant losses. Leading tackler Abraham Kromah has graduated along with Damian Thornton and Adam Banks. Standout freshman Kelby Brown returns after knee surgery, but is expected to be a full participant in fall camp. Duke has to hope that junior Austin Gamble and redshirt-sophomore Kevin Rojas, who have shown flashes of potential in the past, are ready for a breakout season in 2011. Coach Jim Collins has developed some great linebackers at Duke, and he will need to work his magic this year, as outside of those top three, the depth chart will be filled with first-year players in redshirt-freshman C.J. France, freshman Kyler Brown, freshman Britton Grier, freshman David Helton, and freshman Jon Woodruff.

CB: The loss of senior Chris Rwabukamba will be sorely missed within the Duke secondary, but the coaching staff believes the Blue Devils have several athletes ready to step up at cornerback, led by redshirt-sophomore Ross Cockrell. Despite an inconsistent freshman year as a starter, Cockrell finished 6th on the team with 60 tackles, and led the Blue Devils with 3 interceptions and was 2nd with 7 pass break-ups. Cockrell should take a step forward, as will senior Johnny Williams, in his second full year at cornerback. Zach Greene, Tony Foster, and Lex Butler will fill out the depth chart, but they may be pushed by freshmen Jared Boyd and Tim Burton.

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

SAF: The strongest positon group on Duke’s defense is safety, and the new 4-2-5 defense is designed to exploit that strength. Senior Matt Daniels should be poised for an All-ACC caliber year alongside fellow senior Lee Butler. The Duke staff has high expectations for redshirt-sophomore August Campbell and redshirt-freshman Issac Blakeney.

ST: Duke’s special teams has developed into a strength in recent years, and with Will Snyderwine handling the placekicking, it should remain a strength in 2011. Freshman Will Monday is expected to come in and compete with senior Alex King for the starting punter job, and it should be a good competition to watch in August.

Next week

Man, I thought it was going to be a short column this week. That never works out. If you’ve missed any of our recruiting coverage over the past month, be sure to catch up, as it is sure to be a sprint to the finish here in July. The entire class of 2011 will be on campus starting this weekend, and on behalf of all of us in the Blue Devil Nation, welcome to Duke! We have big expectations for this class, and we know they’ll have great success in Durham.

Some upcoming highlights to note – we will kickoff our 2011 previews next week with Richmond and Stanford, so be sure to check back for those. We’ll also run an in-depth interview with one of Duke’s top running back prospects this weekend, so check back in between fireworks shows. Be sure to join our Facebook group and follow us on Twitter. Have a great holiday weekend! Until next week, WE ARE DUKE.

 

Questions? Comments? Let us know!

 

Will St. John Bosco WR Justin Johnson be the next Duke commitment?

Free Football Friday!

Free Football Friday! We’re having so much fun building our football coverage here at BDN, we thought we’d share with the whole class this week. In case you have been living under a rock, BDN is quickly becoming the place for the best Duke Football coverage around. We follow recruiting all offseason with prospect interviews, commitment stories (yeah, we broke the last three commitments, but who’s counting?), and we’re the only site that’s with the team all season long. Football Friday is our weekly look inside the world of Duke Football, so let’s get after it.

 

WR Max McCaffrey is Duke's 5th verbal commit in the class of 2012

One for the thumb

The Duke class of 2012 is up to five, after the commitment of WR Max McCaffrey earlier this week. Needless to say, the Duke staff is thrilled to add McCaffrey to the Blue Devil family. Max is the son of former NFL Pro Bowl receiver Ed McCaffrey, the nephew of former Duke men’s basketball player Billy McCaffrey, and the grandson of former Duke great Dave Sime. Max’s younger brother, Christian, is also a star at Valor Christian, defending back-to-back Colorado State Champions.

 

Preseason prognosticating

It’s the time of year when everyone gets to be an expert in college football. The 2011 preview publications are hitting newsstands and dozens of websites are publicizing their own predictions. Coming off a 3-win season, most of the prognosticators are not predicting a bowl for the Blue Devils in 2011, with many picking Duke to finish last in the ACC Coastal Division. Duke has a tough schedule in front of them this year, but a young and hungry team that is more than capable of winning ball games. We’ll have our full predictions in the coming weeks as the season approaches.

 

Kelby Brown preparing to lead Duke defense

Most of the aforementioned prognosticators have pointed to the ACC-worst Duke defense as the biggest concern for the 2011 Blue Devils, and it’s no secret. Duke has question marks on the defensive side of the ball, especially up front, where only a handful of upperclassmen return. The Duke linebackers should be led by a healthy Kelby Brown in 2011, who will be joined by his younger brother Kyler Brown. ESPN’s Heather Dinich caught up with Kelby this week, who sounds ready to bring some swagger back to the Duke defense.

 

Football camp kicks off next week

Duke will host dozens of high school prospects next week for the first of two one-day summer football camps. One-day camps have historically been a great chance for prospects to impress coaches and earn additional offers, and you can bet that BDN will bring you the best coverage possible from Duke’s camps this year.

 

Recruiting #SCOOP

Will St. John Bosco WR Justin Johnson be the next Duke commitment?

 

You know we always save the best for last here at Football Friday, even when it’s free. Duke hosted California WR Justin Johnson on an unofficial visit today, and he had the following to say to the Blue Devil Nation:

The visit was great. I loved the campus, I love the way they have their academics set up to assit the football players. I just think it’s an all-around great school. I got a chance to check out all the facilities from the weight room to the locker room to the field and got a chance to see the new indoor practice field in the making. I met Coach Cutcliffe and I think he’s an awesome coach and I love his passion for the game. At the end I got a chance to check out the Duke annual sale and bought a lot of gear. Commitment is on my mind and may be done soon.

Needless to say, check back with BDN over the weekend for the latest from Justin on his visit and his decision. Have a great week – WE ARE DUKE!

 

Duke placed 15 teams in the top 10 percent of the APR - GoDuke.com photo

Football Friday: TWIDF

Does Major League Baseball still produce TWIB? I used to watch This Week In Baseball every weekend when I was a kid. Well, if MLB has TWIB, then BDN has TWIDF. BDN Premium’s Football Friday is your weekly look inside the world of Duke Football. It’s been a busy week in Durham, as the Blue Devils were recognized for their work in the classroom and also added a verbal commitment to the class of 2012.

Duke placed 15 teams in the top 10 percent of the APR - GoDuke.com photo

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Duke named among top 10 percent in APR

The NCAA honored the Duke football program, along with 14 other Duke teams, for placing among the top 10 percent in the multi-year Academic Progress Report. The APR is an attempt to provide a real-time evaluation of each student-athlete’s academic progress (as opposed to graduation rates, which are retrospective). While this kind of recognition has become expected among Duke teams, it’s still a great acommlishment. The Blue Devils were first in the ACC and second overall with 15 teams recognized; Notre Dame had 17 teams honored. As the Duke football program strives for excellence on the field, they also continue to excel in the classroom.

The NCAA has more questions for Butch Davis and the Tar Heels after Quinton Coples' appearance at a post-draft party

NCAA visits UNC, again

UNC defensive end Quinton Coples was spotted at a post-draft party in Washington, DC along with former teammates Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn in pictures posted on Facebook. This is either a complete non-story or a really big deal. Here’s why. If Coples paid his own way for the trip and related expenses, his attendance at the party is allowed by NCAA regulations (though ill-advised given UNC’s recent issues). If, however, Coples did not pay for any part of his trip to DC, Coples will likely be ruled ineligible for at least part of his senior season. Experts have Coples ranked among the top 5 NFL draft picks in 2012, so this could be another high-profile UNC player with eligibility issues. Given the similar infractions last year, the NCAA could have solid ground for strong sanctions against UNC. Stay tuned.

Duke receives third verbal commitment for 2012

The Blue Devils added a hard-hitting safety in Dwayne Norman

 

As you know by now, Dwayne Norman committed to Duke on Wednesday night. The Blue Devils were the first to offer the 6’0” 185 pound strong safety prospect from University Christian in Jacksonville, Florida. Norman joins fellow Jacksonville native TE Erich Schneider and DE Allen Jackson as the first three members of Duke’s class of 2012. Thus far, all three prospects appear to be solid verbal commitments to the Blue Devils.

As for Norman, he’s a hard-hitting safety prospect who totaled over 70 tackles and an interception as a junior, while also lining up at wide receiver. His highlights can be viewed here. Norman finishes tackles very well and does an excellent job getting into the opposing backfield. He will need to improve his coverage skills to play at the college level, but has the speed (4.5 sec 40-yard dash) and athleticism (33 inch vertical) to make the transition.

OG Cody Robinson is among the Blue Devils who arrived on campus this week

New Blue Devils on campus

Several members of the class of 2011 moved on to campus and began their first college courses this week. The first summer semester began on Wednesday, and the Blue Devils will have 8 players enrolled for this term. Several of these players worked hard to finish up their final semester in high school early so that they could arrive on campus as early as possible. The remaining members of the class of 2011 will join them for the second summer term at the beginning of July. Fall training camp will open during the first week of August, at which time all members of the team are required to report to campus.

The players enrolled on campus are:

OG Cody Robinson 6’3” 290 pounds

OG Lucas Patrick 6’3” 305 pounds

CB Tim Burton 5’9” 170 pounds

CB Jared Boyd 5’9” 170 pounds

P Will Monday 6’4” 185 pounds

TE David Reeves 6’6” 245 pounds

WR Nick Hill 6’2” 200 pounds

LB Jon Woodruff 6’3” 205 pounds (January enrollee)

Duke to host Nike camp this weekend

NFTC will host an invite-only camp at Duke this weekend

 

Spring football is in full swing for most high school prospects, and that includes both spring football practices as well as combines and camps. On Sunday, Nike will hold an invitation-only football camp on Duke’s campus for top prospects in the class of 2012 and 2013. Needless to say, this is great exposure for the Duke program, and a testament to the recent improvements in Duke’s football facilities. With the indoor practice facility under construction, Duke’s commitment to football should be clear to prospects. Duke will host their own football camps the 2nd and 3rd week in June, but this camp is another great opportunity to get top prospects on Duke’s campus for unofficial visits.

Here’s the list of Nike Football Training Camps this spring:

March 27         Miami

April 3              USC

April 10            TCU

April 15            Georgia

April 17            Florida State

April 30           Penn State

May 1               Rutgers

May 7              Houston

May 15            Stanford

May 21            Ohio State

May 22            Duke

June 5              Oregon

June 19            Washington

Desmond Scott leads an improved Blue Devil running game

Al Featherston does it again

If you’ve read this far, clearly Hooked on Phonics worked for you. Maybe you’re willing to read a little more. If so, we highly recommend the next installment of preview articles by Al Featherston at GoDuke. This week, Al speaks with Kurt Roper and analyzes what should be an improved running game for the 2011 Blue Devils.

 

That’s what’s happening in the world of Duke Football this week. Until next week, WE ARE DUKE. [/private]