Tag Archives: Duke Football 2011

Football Friday: the calm before the storm

Happy Friday, Blue Devil fans! It’s been another tough week here at Blue Devil Nation, with the NCAA tournament wrapping up and early entrant season in full swing. Keep the faith, fellow Duke fans, there are bright days ahead. Is it football season yet? Not quite. But Football Friday is here to help you indulge your weekly football craving, and we’ve got big things coming up. [private]


April 15

We’ve got a big day coming up, Blue Devil Nation! Next Friday will be the last opportunity for most of us to celebrate the outstanding careers of two legendary Blue Devils. The men’s basketball banquet is always a special occasion, but this year, will take on special meaning for many, as we say goodbye to seniors Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith for the final time. It’s been a privilege to watch their careers and it should be another memorable night in Cameron, with a special visitor expected as well. And don't forget to check out BDN's Boo Williams coverage!

If that’s not enough for you, April 15 is a significant day for Duke football as well. For most of the spring, recruiting has been in a quiet period, meaning that the staff is unable to go out and visit prospects. That’s not to say recruiting hasn’t been in full swing, as the staff have hosted hundreds of prospects and their families on campus. From April 15 through May 31, you can bet the staff will be hitting the recruiting trail hard as they put together the class of 2012.


Speaking of recruiting

Duke hosted a group of prospects last weekend on campus, and among them was athlete Kedrick Davis from Charlotte. The trip was well worth the visit for Davis, as he picked up his first verbal scholarship offer from the Blue Devils, who are recruiting Davis as a receiver. Davis has been on campus for several visits already and it seems likely that Duke will remain a big player in his recruitment. A few other offers may be in the works, and we’ll keep you up to date with the latest from the staff and the prospects themselves.

As other prospects continue to come off the board, either through commitments or lack of mutual interest, several more scholarship offers will be extended over the coming weeks. Duke is working hard to land a defensive back or two this spring and has been after several elite offensive and defensive linemen. At running back, Duke did not make the top 12 for Raleigh’s Keith Marshall, the top running back in the class of 2012, but remain in consideration for Tarboro’s Todd Gurley and a few other backs. As we’ve mentioned previously, recruiting (and commitments) are most likely to peak this summer, as Duke will host several camps and written offers will go out August 1.


Class of 2011

Blue Devil fans already got to see LB Jonathan Woodruff in the spring game, but he’ll soon be joined by several of his classmates on campus. It’s hard to believe the spring semester is starting to wrap up, and the first freshmen will report to campus on May 15, just over a month away. The new Blue Devils are excited to get on campus and get to work. This is a stronger class than many people think, and they are coming to Duke with the expectation to play in bowl games and win ACC championships.


More 2011 previews to come

We will continue to bring the best recruiting coverage around, but we’ll also start to transition into 2011 mode with some position previews and a look around the ACC. With all of the new faces on the sidelines and under center, there’s been a lot of activity in the ACC this spring and we’ll take a look at some of the headlines as spring practices start to wrap up.


Short and sweet

I’ve kept this week’s Football Friday relatively short, as we’re really in the calm before the storm. With spring practice now behind us and the contact period in front of us, it’s been a good time to recharge our batteries and prepare for the summer recruiting rush, which will carry us right into the 2011 season. Speaking of the 2011 season, don’t forget to get your season tickets on GoDuke.com. After retooling in 2010, the Blue Devils are ready to take a step forward in 2011. We’d love to see you all out in Wallace Wade this fall, chanting WE ARE DUKE.


Is it football season yet?

Football Friday interrupts March Madness

Even in the middle of March Madness, Football Friday is back to satisfy your weekly craving for Duke football. So far, we’ve covered Duke’s incoming freshman class, football recruiting 101, and a look at the fall schedule. While we love us some good recruiting scoop here at BDN, we think it’s also just as important to talk about the players we already have. With that in mind, this week’s Football Friday takes a look at the early reviews from Duke’s 2011 spring practice. [private]

Sir Nolan Smith leads Duke to Chapel Hill - Lance King Images

Duke travels to Chapel Hill

This weekend is all about Duke vs. North Carolina. The Tar Heels have dominated the Blue Devils on the gridiron of late, and that’s a trend that we’d all like to see come to an end this fall. More importantly, however, is to come away with a victory and the #1 seed on the hardwood Saturday, and I think the Blue Devils have a great chance to do it. The two teams match up with each other poorly, and that should make for another very interesting game. In the first game, UNC had no answer for Duke’s guards, while Duke struggled to contain UNC’s bigs. Kyle Singler and Harrison Barnes essentially neutralized each other. I expect to see much of the same on Saturday, and if either team can get a boost from their bench, that could end up being the difference. It’s Duke and Carolina, with the ACC regular season championship on the line, which means we’re in for another thriller.

Recruiting news

The Blue Devils hosted 26 prospects on February 19th for the second of their junior days. The prospects took in Duke’s practice, toured the facilities, and met with the coaches.

Duke commit Erich Schneider enjoyed his visit to Durham

Current Duke commit Erich Schneider made the trip from Florida and got to spend a lot of time with Coach Middleton and the tight ends. The long distance award goes to QB Bart Houston, who flew in from California for the weekend. Houston’s recruiting has recently picked up and offers are starting to come in for the talented signal-caller. A few other prospects were in town this past weekend to take in Duke’s spring practice, including offensive lineman Andrew Jelks. Jelks told BDN he really liked Duke and had high praise for Coach Cutcliffe and Coach Luke. The top Tennessee prospect intends to make visits to Knoxville, Tuscaloosa, and Oxford, Mississippi this spring.

Congratulations are due for Duke TE commit David Reeves, who helped Greensboro High School capture a Regional Championship on the hardwood. Best of luck to David and Greensboro as they continue their quest for an Alabama State Title.

With only 12 seniors scheduled to graduate this season, the Blue Devils will be particularly selective this year with their recruiting. No new offers were extended this week, and the top targets remain the same as we discussed in our earlier Football Friday. Invitations have been sent out to prospects for the spring game on March 26, and it will be important for the Blue Devils to have a good showing, both on the field and in the stands.

Spring Practice

Duke wrapped up the first half of spring practice on Wednesday, and will take a much-needed two-week break for spring break. No coach or fan wants to hear that Duke is banged up this spring, but it’s the truth. Duke has been practicing with about 55 players this spring, which can make it difficult to assess individual performances. In particular, the Blue Devils are thin on the defensive side of the ball, where Kenny Anunike, Kelby Brown, Lee Butler, and Quan Stevenson are out for the entire spring, and other key players have missed time. At this point, everyone is expected to be healthy for the fall, which obviously is most important, but with a young team, you’d like to see players play as many snaps as possible this spring.

QB Sean Renfree is off to a good start this spring - BDN Photo

Right now, the strengths of this team should be no surprise to most fans, and it starts with the play at quarterback and receiver. Sean Renfree has had a very good start to spring practice, and Brandon Connette and Anthony Boone have also made strides since the fall. Renfree told BDN last week that he feels as comfortable as he ever has playing football, and it’s shown on the field. For the most part, he’s been on the same page with his receivers and his offensive line, which has made things difficult for the Duke defense. As we mentioned last week, the Duke offense must take a big step forward in taking care of the football if the Blue Devils are to have any success this fall. So far, Renfree and co. look poised to do just that.

For those who have followed Duke’s spring scrimmage statistics, you’ll note that the running backs have put up some impressive numbers. Josh Snead has been out with a MCL sprain, but Desmond Scott. Patrick Kurunuwe, and Juwan Thompson have played well and shown the ability to break out big runs. The real credit here goes to Duke’s offensive line, where they lose only one starter in center Bryan Morgan. Brian Moore shifts over from right guard to take the starting center spot, and Duke has been working in Conor Irwin, Joey Finison, and Dave Harding as well. Overall, the line looks much improved, and projects to start Moore at center, Kyle Hill at left tackle, Harding at left guard, John Coleman at right guard, and Perry Simmons at right tackle. Redshirt-freshmen Laken Tomlinson and Tacoby Cofield have both played well this spring and will likely back-up Coleman and Simmons this fall.

As you can expect with several starters out, defensively, Duke has had mixed results this spring. The theme on defense seems to be athleticism and inconsistency; Duke is clearly stronger and faster than they have been in past years, but they are extremely inexperienced with only 5 seniors on the entire defensive unit. The key for the Blue Devils will be the play up front, and newcomers Jamal Bruce and Jordan Dewalt-Ondijo have shown some play-making ability and will compete for playing time this fall. New DL Coach Rick Petri is working hard with his young linemen, which include 10 underclassmen. Over the course of the spring and fall, the expectation is that this group, led by returnees Charlie Hatcher, Sydney Sarmiento, and Justin Foxx, will develop under Coach Petri into a solid ACC defensive front, but there will continue to be growing pains along the way. Among the defensive backs, the Blue Devils’ athleticism has been evident, as players such as Austin Gamble, C.J. France, and Jordon Byas appear ready to contribute this fall.  Duke has the athletes on defense to improve from last season’s ACC-worst unit, and consistency will be the key to the group’s success this fall.

In summary, at this point in the spring, the offense is clearly ahead of the defense, which is what you would expect to see with a more veteran group. I think Coach Cutcliffe said it best with his assessment of the first half of spring practice: “I’m not disappointed at all. What you see is that we don’t have a lot of people who are ready to play 50 or 60 snaps of ACC football, so there’s a learning process to that.” Overall, the effort and energy from the Blue Devils has been excellent. The team continues to work hard this spring and improves each day, which is exactly what you want to see from a young team.

Next week

We’ve got lots more football prospect interviews coming your way, so be sure to check back during your March Madness downtime. Until next week, GTHC.



Football Friday Debut

David Reeves committed to Duke on National Signing Day

While most Blue Devil fans have been lost in the euphoria of Wednesday's dramatic victory over the Tar Heels, we here at BDN have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to continue to bring the best Duke Football coverage around. Yes, Duke Football coverage. In the middle of basketball season. In fact, Patrick Cacchio will be penning a weekly column for Blue Devil Nation Premium members on all things Duke Football (suggestion: Join Now). Here’s his first installment.[private]

When I was in high school, we had “Fun Fridays.” I don’t remember anything particularly fun about them, and in hindsight, it was probably just a gimmick to try and make kids feel better about sitting in a dreary classroom on a Friday afternoon. Well, with that in mind, here at BDN, we’re going to bring you Football Friday. Fridays have absolutely nothing to do with football, of course, but that’s when I’ll probably get around to posting this new column so we’ll go with it for now. We’ll do our best to keep you entertained with the latest in the world of Duke football on Friday afternoons. Since it’s also a premium article, I’ll try to make sure you get your money’s worth of #SCOOP, too.

BDN Salutes

Congratulations to former Duke Head Coach Ted Roof on leading the Auburn Tigers' defense to a National Championship. Roof's defense, which was criticized throughout the season, managed to stall Oregon's juggernaut offense while Cam Newton took care of the rest. While Ted's career at Duke didn't work out as anyone hoped, it's great to see him having success on the sidelines.

Congratulations also to former Duke wide receiver and coach Scottie Montgomery, who helped the Steelers reach the Super Bowl in his first season coaching on an NFL sideline. Though the Steelers' receivers were led by veterans Hines Ward and Mike Wallace, don't overlook the contribution of Montgomery, who tutored rookies Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. Scottie will always be welcome back in Durham and continues to make the program proud.

Blue Devils get some good news on Signing Day

Duke fans got their first real taste of some Signing Day drama this year, as the Blue Devils completed their class with two late commitments. California WR Blair Holliday re-affirmed his commitment to Duke during a streaming press conference last Tuesday, but not before first flashing his hometown UCLA t-shirt. The real recruiting coup came early on Signing Day itself, as Alabama TE David Reeves signed with Duke in a ceremony at his high school. Reeves was pursued down to the wire by Memphis, South Florida, Mississippi State, and even in-state powerhouse and reigning National Champion Auburn, but chose Duke in the end. The Blue Devils weren’t so fortunate when it came to the decision of Tennessee TE/OL Cam Clear, as they joined Alabama and Memphis as runners-up to Tennessee. It’s a tribute to the work of the Duke coaching staff that the Blue Devils remained in this high profile recruitment all the way to the wire, but ultimately even recruiting extraordinaire Nick Saban was unable to pull Clear from his home state. Of course, since you’re a BDN Member, you already knew where all 3 players were going since we predicted it on the premium message board. I’ll definitely be using that magic 8-ball again.

Duke finishes with 20 commitments in the class of 2011

L to R: Marcus Aprahamian, Cody Robinson, Coach Matt Luke, Matt Skura, Carson Ginn

Two facts come to mind when looking at the Duke class of 2011. First, 16 of the 20 players had verbally committed to Duke before August 1st, with 19 of the 20 players verbally committing to Duke before October 1st (Reeves being the lone exception). The second fun fact about this class is that Duke hosted 21 prospects on official visits and 20 of them ultimately signed with Duke (Clear being the lone exception). Sure, there were defections and misses, but all in all, Duke held together a pretty good group of players, despite coming off a 3-win season; that’s not easy to do.

Now that the letters are signed, sealed, and delivered (I know, they were actually faxed), everyone wants to know who will be the impact players from this class. The truth is that I don’t know, the coaches don’t know, and every player would tell you that he’s going to be the guy. Of course, most will end up redshirting, and isn’t that a rare luxury for Duke Football? Duke has actually built some depth, especially along the offensive and defensive lines (albeit mostly young, unproven, and inexperienced depth). There will of course be a few players who will earn playing time and make an immediate impact, much like Kelby Brown, Brandon Connette, and Josh Snead did a year ago. I’ve been fortunate to get to know most of these prospects pretty well over the past year, so here’s my take on the Duke class of 2011:

  1. Three athletes stand out in this class: Jamison Crowder, David Reeves, and Blair Holliday. These guys all possess a natural playmaking ability that had been lacking in Wallace Wade Stadium prior to Cutcliffe's arrival. With hard work and good health, I expect great careers from all three.
  2. I really like the group of offensive linemen. They’ve already developed a strong bond amongst themselves, and I think every one of them will develop into a very good college lineman. They’re great kids, hard workers, and have a passion for football that has also been missing at Duke.
  3. There’s a confidence among the new DBs that should infuse life into the much-maligned Duke secondary. Jared Boyd played for a powerhouse program in Georgia and could be ready to compete for playing time. Chris Tavarez, Duke’s own Disney teen idol, is a sleeper who can make plays. And if you like underdogs, Tim Burton may be undersized, but he’s probably the fastest guy on the team. And if you don’t think any of these guys are good, just ask them.
  4. We all learned our lesson last year and know better than to sleep on Kyler Brown, but I wouldn’t sleep on the other linebackers in this class, either. Jon Woodruff has a great frame and is already on campus, while Britton Grier and David Helton both have a reputation as a hard-hitter. The fact that the Duke staff didn’t go out after any high-profile guys along the defensive line leads me to believe they’re pretty satisfied with the group of redshirts from a year ago. Sam Marshall, Lucas Fisher, and Mario Sanders will develop into solid players up front, but are probably long-shots to see a lot of snaps as freshmen.
  5. Will Monday is a nice addition as well, and he will help take Duke’s special teams play to another level. He'll challenge Alex King for the starting spot at punter.

It’s not a class that will blow anybody away according to the various ranking services, and we all know that Coach Cutcliffe doesn’t put a lot of stock in analyst grades and stars. For the most part, this is a class with D-1 talent and a strong work ethic, who Duke hopes will develop into solid ACC football players over four or five years. For those who put more stock into rankings than Coach Cutcliffe, it is worth pointing out that ESPN has Duke’s class collectively ranked higher than Florida, Oklahoma and Miami. I think I’ll wait until we see the players on the field before I agree with that assessment.

We'll talk 2012 Duke football recruiting next week

2012 updates next week

So I probably didn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know this week, but I have to leave something to make you come back next week. We’ll look at Duke’s early offers in the class of 2012 and take a look at the biggest areas of need for that class. We’ve also got to find time to talk about Duke’s 2011 schedule, why the ACC’s football struggles have carried over to basketball, ways to improve the compliance department at UNC, and what bowl we want to go to this year. So much to say before September and your attention span only lasts a few hundred words at a time (your poor spouse). Anyway, if you have compliments, please send them to me, and complaints can be sent directly to Mark.

Until next week, GTHC. We Are Duke. [/private]

Rick Petri joins Duke Football Staff

DURHAM, N.C. – Duke head football coach David Cutcliffe announced on Thursday the addition of Rick Petri to the Blue Devil coaching staff.  Petri, a 34-year veteran in the college ranks including a six-season stint with Cutcliffe at Ole Miss, will serve as an assistant coach and coach the defensive line.
In addition, Cutcliffe announced that defensive coordinator Jim Knowles will assume the lead role with Duke’s practice scheduling, weekly preparation and game day play-calling.
“We are very fortunate to strengthen our defensive staff with the addition of Rick Petri,” Cutcliffe said.  “Rick is widely known in the coaching profession as one of the top teachers of defensive line play, and his track record of preparing young men for the National Football League speaks for itself.  Also, his ideas and methods of helping players mature into young adults fit very well with our philosophies.
“Jim Knowles will coordinate our defense,” Cutcliffe continued.  “Rick will coach the defensive line, Jim Collins the linebackers and Derek Jones the secondary.  I believe with this group of coaches we have assembled the finest defensive staff in America.”
Petri served on Cutcliffe’s staff at Ole Miss from 1998-04, helping the Rebels to a 44-29 record and four bowl victories.  In 2003, Ole Miss went 10-3, captured a share of the SEC Western Division title and defeated Oklahoma State, 31-29, in the Cotton Bowl.  While with the Rebels, Petri coached the defensive tackles and tutored a pair of first team All-SEC selections in Kendrick Clancy and Jesse Mitchell.  Clancy went on to be a third round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2000 NFL Draft.
Petri comes to Durham after spending the 2010 campaign at ACC member Miami.  Last year the Hurricane defensive unit ranked among the league’s leaders in pass defense (1st), pass defense efficiency (1st), opponent third down percentage (2nd), opponent first downs (2nd) total defense (3rd), sacks (3rd), and scoring defense (5th).  Under Petri’s guidance, senior Allen Bailey earned All-ACC honors after leading the Hurricanes in quarterback sacks.
From 2005-09, Petri was on the staff at Kentucky where he helped the Wildcats to four consecutive bowl game appearances that included victories over Clemson (2006 Music City Bowl), Florida State (2007 Music City Bowl) and East Carolina (2009 Liberty Bowl).  In Lexington, Petri coached three future draft picks in Myron Pryor (6th round, New England, 2009), Jeremy Jarmon (3rd round, Washington, 2010) and Corey Peters (3rd round, Atlanta, 2010).
A native of St. Louis, Mo., Petri got his start in coaching at Pittsburg State (1977-78).  He then spent 10 years on the staff at Arkansas State before a three-year (1989-91) stint at Ole Miss under head coach Billy Brewer.  During his first stint in Oxford, Petri coached Kelvin Pritchett, who was a first round choice of the Dallas Cowboys in 1991 and spent 14 seasons with the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars.
After one season at Louisiana Tech (1992), he enjoyed three seasons at Miami (1993-95) as the Hurricanes went 27-7, won two BIG EAST championships, finished all three seasons ranked in the Associated Press national poll and played in both the Fiesta and Orange Bowls.  In addition, Petri coached three future first round NFL draft choices in Warren Sapp (Tampa Bay, 1995), Kenard Lang (Washington, 1997) and Kenny Holmes (Houston, 1997).  Sapp went on to earn NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1999.  In 1994, the Hurricanes led the nation in both scoring defense and total defense.
From 1996-98, Petri tutored the defensive ends at South Carolina where he helped develop John Abraham, a first round pick of the New York Jets in the 2000 NFL Draft.  One of just 25 players in NFL history to record 100 or more sacks, Abraham completed his 11th professional season in 2010 and earned his fourth trip to the Pro Bowl after helping the Atlanta Falcons to the NFC South Division championship.
Petri is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Rolla.  He and his wife, Marsha, have two sons, Brad and Kory.