The Blue Devils hosted several high school prospects on campus this weekend for the Duke Athletics Hall of Fame ceremony and Saturday's game against Stanford. BDN Premium caught up with several of the prospects after their visit and got their thoughts on the game and the trip. [private]
TE Dan Beilinson, 6'5" 220 pounds
Panther Creek HS, Cary, NC
It was very good! I'm solidifying my relationship with the coaches and staff even more...they can bounce back!
Dan helped Panther Creek to a thrilling 23-20 victory over Athens Drive on September 2, finishing with 4 catches for 67 yards. The Catamounts are 3-1 on the season after last week's 42-21 win over Holly Springs. They will square off with Apex at home on Friday, September 16.
WR Max McCaffrey, 6'3" 190 pounds
Valor Christian HS, Highlands Ranch, CO
Great trip. Very impressed with Coach Cutcliffe and the rest of the staff.
Max is off to a great start to his senior year, leading 2-0 Valor Christian with 7 receptions for 89 yards. They will travel to Rampart on Friday, September 16.
DE A.J. Wolf, 6'4" 245 pounds
The Hackley School, Tarrytown, NY
It went great. I really enjoyed seeing the coaches again. But it was too bad Duke couldn't pull off the upset.
A.J. kicks off his senior season at Hackley this Saturday at home against Riverdale Country. Good luck!
Duke's top priority in the class of 2012 remains Mallard Creek RB Jela Duncan. Duncan was in Durham for the opener against Richmond, but was not able to make the trip for the Stanford game. Duke remains his leader, with South Carolina not far behind. He has also stated a desire to visit Pitt and Purdue this fall. As for the class of 2013, the Blue Devils have begun to extend verbal scholarship offers, the first going out to Charlotte Christian DB Desmond Lawrence. Lawrence visited Durham in August and is a former teammate of Duke's Kelby and Kyler Brown.
The strength of the new Duke defense relies on a group of dynamic athletes at the safety position to slow opposing offenses. Duke’s safeties are led by seniors Matt Daniels and Lee Butler, which means that the Blue Devils will have to reload at the position in 2012. The Duke coaching staff has secured a verbal commitment from Jacksonville safety Dwayne Norman and hopes another athletic Florida safety will join him in the Blue Devils’ class of 2012. Ryan Janvion, a 5’11” 175 pound athlete from Miami, recently took a visit to Durham and came away impressed. A four-year starter for Dade Christian HS, Janvion has played all over the field in his high school career, but is focused on playing strong safety at the college level. A star on the field and in the classroom (4.0 GPA), Ryan has narrowed his college choices down to Duke, Vanderbilt, and Wake Forest. As the prototypical elite student-athlete Duke targets, the Blue Devil coaching staff is hopeful that Ryan will fill one of their few remaining available scholarships in the class of 2012. [private]
BDN: Can you tell us a little bit about your high school career and your strengths on the field?
I’m definitely being recruited most heavily as a strong safety. Colleges feel like I can be the best threat at that position because I can be involved in both the run and the pass game. My high school career has been great, I’ve been a four-year starter at Dade Christian, I started as a freshman. I actually started my 8th grade year during the spring, and that really helped me to get to the point where I am now because I was starting to define where I was going and I got used to playing the game of football early and that gave me an advantage over a lot of people. The game started slowing down for me each and every year and I’m at a point now where I just want to dominate on the field and be an unstoppable force and a game-changer.
BDN: What are some of the things you’re working on as you head into your senior season?
I’m definitely hitting the weights hard, trying to put on as much muscle mass as I can, well not so much that as just getting the strength portion in, continuing to get stronger. Since I know where I will be playing as a college player, I’ve started working on position-specific drills to improve my footwork, making sure my backpedal is right, my plant foot, different things that a safety would use on a gamefield. My hips, making sure my hips are flexible allowing them to turn and stop and do all the things to be able to cover good receivers, that’s what I’ve basically been doing. And also just working on speed because speed kills, you never want to neglect your speed. That’s probably one of, if not the, most important parts of the game, especially playing in the ACC football league.
BDN: Where do you stand with your recruiting process in regards to schools and scholarship offers?
I have a lot of offers, but the thing that made it really easy in my case, so to speak, was the academic standpoint. I definitely am one of those guys who is very serious about my academics, I’m a 4.0 student and I have straight A’s and I’m at the top of my class, so academics is really important to me. I definitely was only really looking at the schools that have the academic part to it as well, so that just kind of narrowed schools down for me just like that. And then I was able to narrow it down to my top 3 schools which were Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, and Duke, and that’s who I just visited this past week, I just got back today.
BDN: That’s a perfect segue into my next question about your visits, but before you talk about that, can you talk about what stood out to you about each of your three finalists?
They have great programs. They offer me a great opportunity to play early as well. Wake has been a special one, they were my first offer and they’ve been on me since my sophomore year. I’ve gotten to know my recruiting coordinator very well. I also have a teammate who plays at Wake Forest who was a great help to me my freshman year. His name is Daniel Mack and he was the one who really just carried me through high school football my freshman year. It was really new to me and I was one of the youngest players on the field, so me and him definitely have a great relationship.
BDN: That’s great to have a mentor like that. Can you talk a little about your visits, what you got to see and what stood out to you?
Well my first visit was to Duke. Duke’s campus is beautiful. The coaches actually had left on a retreat so when I saw the campus I didn’t get to see any of the coaches, but they actually came down just to see me the next day. I got to meet Coach Cutcliffe again, and my recruiting coordinator, Coach Lubick, and my position coach, Coach Knowles, my safety coach. Coach Cutcliffe is….wow, he’s amazing. He’s so wise and he knows what he’s doing. He’s a great head coach and he’s definitely going to do big things with that program. I had a great talk to him, I talked to him for over two hours and he really feels like I can be a part of something big at Duke.
BDN: I’m guessing you drove over to Wake Forest after Duke?
The next day I went to Wake. I had a sit down, the same talk with Coach Grobe. They’re both…I honestly really can’t pick a head coach between Coach Grobe and Coach Cutcliffe, they’re both tremendous guys, they’re very wise, they know what they’re doing and they know how to win. That’s definitely going to be a tough decision on my part. I’d have to look at the whole spectrum. Wake also has given me a great opportunity to play early. Two of their main guys at safety are graduating this year coming up, so that gives me an opportunity to step up and play early. Their campus is definitely beautiful. They were the first campus that I ever saw, I got to go up there and visit my sophomore year when I went to a camp, so this was my second time going and I was able to bring my dad and stuff. That was a really good visit to.
BDN: That’s a long drive from Winston-Salem to Nashville, so I’m hoping you flew. What did you think of Vanderbilt?
Yeah definitely, we flew. I didn’t expect to see what I saw at Vanderbilt. Their campus is really just in the middle of Nashville and it’s not closed off in any way. There’s main streets running right through their campus, and not just one, multiple streets. It was cool they were taking me on the golf cart and I was like “man, there’s no gates or anything like that.” The buildings are nice, I met the coaches, I have a great relationship with my recruiting coordinator over there as well, Coach McGriff. I met the head coach and he showed me his background and stuff like that and he’s looking to do big things at Vanderbilt, and we’ll see how that goes.
BDN: You’ve obviously narrowed things down to three great schools, so how do you plan to narrow things down and make a decision from here?
Well I’m looking to make a decision soon, like before school starts. I already took my unofficial visits to my top 3 schools so now it’s basically just coming here and first of all getting some rest, because I’m exhausted, so I can think straight and then I’ll take it over with my parents and my family and see what school is the best for me. Every time I went up there on my visits they would go through all this stuff and they would remind me that this is one of the most important decisions in your life. It’s not just the next four years, it’s actually the next forty years, because it’s what you’re going to do after school that matters so you want to get a good education and not regret your choice. You have to be selfish in this decision. You can’t think about disappointing somebody or trying to impress somebody. You have to look out for yourself in this decision because at the end of the day it’s about you. It’s about where you want to go to college. That’s where I’m at right now.
BDN: I know you’re exhausted and I really appreciate you taking a few minutes to speak with us. Thanks a lot, Ryan, and best of luck to you.
In the midst of a scholarship crunch, the Duke coaching staff has secured 14 verbal commitments in the class of 2012, and may only have one or two remaining scholarships available. With four upperclassmen at running back in 2011, an elite running back remains Duke’s biggest need in the class of 2012. Specifically, the Duke staff is looking for a player who can come in and contribute early, and they believe they found exactly that type of athlete just down I-85 in Charlotte. After an impressive performance at Duke’s camp earlier this summer, Mallard Creek’s Jela Duncan remains at the top of the Blue Devils' list. [private]
Duncan is a 5'10" 190 pound prospect who posted a blazing 4.23 second 40-yard dash in Durham in June. In his first full season at running back, Duncan helped Mallard Creek to a 13-1 record, rushing for 1,375 yards on 101 carries with 17 touchdowns, despite missing three games. His junior year performance earned 1st Team I-Meck Conference and plenty of attention from college coaches and scouts, making him a consensus top-40 RB prospect nationally. To date, Duncan has picked up scholarship offers from Duke, ECU, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Wake Forest, and Western Michigan. The star tailback has been busy on the camp circuit this summer, and checked back in with BDN to update Duke fans on his recruitment.
BDN: Where do things stand with scholarship offers?
I still have the same offers from last time I talked to you, but South Carolina came into the picture. They said they should be offering me because I went down there to their showcase on Friday and performed really good. Coach Graham and Coach Spurrier really liked me.
BDN: So you were at South Carolina last weekend; have you been to any other camps recently, or do you have any planned?
Just South Carolina, that’s it right now. I’ve got an unofficial coming up on Friday to Carolina, North Carolina, so I can go up there and get evaluated.
BDN: Will that be your first visit to UNC?
Yeah, it’s going to be my first time visiting there, but I’ve driven through the campus and stuff.
BDN: Overall, what schools stand out to you at this point?
Duke is my leader for now.
BDN: Where would you say you stand with your recruitment – would you say you are hoping for more offers, or are you trying to narrow things down?
I’m going to try and stay up and earn some more offers during the season. I’ll probably narrow my offers down, I want to say probably towards the end of the season.
BDN: So is your plan to narrow things down towards the end of your season and then take your official visits?
BDN: Thanks a lot, Jela, and best of luck in your senior year.
Under Head Coach David Cutcliffe, the Blue Devil offense has featured some of the best receivers in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the country. This fall, Duke fans hope to watch All-ACC candidates Donovan Varner and Conner Vernon help lead the Blue Devils to a bowl game. With Varner listed at 5’9” and Vernon at 6’2,” the Duke offense has been lacking a long, physical receiver to create match-up problems with opposing cornerbacks. With only a few available scholarships remaining in the class of 2012, Duke could still use a big, physical receiver, and Bayard Rustin’s Anthony Nash could be a big target. At 6’4” and 180 pounds, Nash had a standout junior year, finishing with 62 catches for over 1300 yards and 16 touchdowns. His efforts earned him 1st Team All-League and 2nd Team All-Area in Pennsylvania. After a slow start, Nash’s recruitment has heated up on the camp circuit this summer, where he recently earned a Duke offer. Duke fans are hopeful that Nash will join the Duke class of 2012 and bring a new dynamic to their offense. [private]
BDN: What are some of your strengths as a player?
My strength as a player is my size. As a wide receiver, it’s hard for corners to jump with me. I have good speed for my size, I run a 4.3-4.4 40.
BDN: What are some of the things you have been working on this offseason?
Definitely footwork, a lot of footwork, and my route running.
BDN: What are your goals for your senior year?
For my senior year, just to play well as a team, hopefully win a state championship and just do better than we did in the past few years.
BDN: What are the most important things you are looking for in a college?
Education, if they have a good education, then that’s going to benefit me in the long run. Certainly to see if they have my major, I want to study animal science because I want to be a veterinarian.
BDN: Which schools have been recruiting you the hardest, or have you had the most contact with?
Duke, they gave me an offer when I went up there for camp. I’ve been in a lot of contact with North Carolina, Maryland, and Boston College. Boston College wants me to take a visit up there, they say they have an offer waiting for me, so we’ll see how that goes if I take a visit, probably in August, to Boston College. I’m going to North Carolina, in July, July 22.
BDN: Are both of those visits for camps, or just unofficial visits?
North Carolina is a 7-on-7 thing.
BDN: You mentioned you took a visit to Duke already; which other schools have you had a chance to visit?
I took a visit to Penn State and to Connecticut, that was awhile ago, though.
BDN: Can you talk a little about what you liked so far on your visits?
I liked Penn State because they have a nice campus and they have a nice football facility as well, plus their history, that brings them out more. Connecticut was fine, it was a little small, though, so I didn’t really care about it that much, but it was pretty cool. The camp at Duke went well, pretty good. I was impressed with it also.
BDN: Do you have an idea for how or when you would like to narrow things down and make your decision?
I’m going to wait it out. I’m going to see in August if I can cut it down to my top 3 schools and then maybe in September make my decision.
BDN: Thanks a lot, Anthony, and best of luck to you.
With fall training camp just one month away, the Duke coaching staff is hoping to close out their July by adding the final pieces to the class of 2012. The Blue Devils have already had a busy summer, securing 13 verbal commitments before Independence Day. Looking at the projected Duke roster, however, there are a few noticeable missing pieces. With four upperclassmen projected at the position, running back appears to be one of the Blue Devils' biggest remaining needs. The Duke coaching staff has demonstrated a willingness to play true freshmen in the backfield, with in-state stars Desmond Scott and Josh Snead both receiving carries in their first year in Durham. In the class of 2012, it's no secret that the Blue Devils have two more in-state running backs at the top of their wish list, hoping to continue the trend. [private]
Jela Duncan is a 5'10" 190 pound running back from Mallard Creek HS in Charlotte, NC. In his first full season at running back, Duncan helped Mallard Creek to a 13-1 record, rushing for 1,375 yards on 101 carries with 17 touchdowns, despite missing three games. His junior year performance earned 1st Team I-Meck Conference and plenty of attention from college coaches. Now that he is approaching double digit scholarship offers, including Pittsburgh, Purdue, and Wake Forest, it's safe to say his recruitment is in full swing. Duke hopes that Duncan will join a growing pipeline of young players from the Greater Charlotte area, including OL Casey Blaser, LB Kelby Brown, LB Kyler Brown, WR Jamison Crowder, DL Carson Ginn, LB Britton Grier and DL Carlos Wray. After an impressive performance at Duke's camp in June, Duncan could be the next impact freshman running back in Durham.
BDN: What are some of your strengths as a running back?
I would have to say I’m a power back, but I have great speed, too.. I’m more cut and go, I can catch it out of the backfield, I have really good hands, and I just like to make plays for my team.
BDN: What have you been working on this summer?
Footwoork and speed, speed training. I’ve been in the weight room, so mostly all-around.
BDN: What are your goals for your senior year?
State championship, first of all. And I’m hoping to go over 2,000 yards this year.
BDN: As you approach your college decision, what are you looking for in a school?
I want it to feel like it’s home, like all the players are just one, the coaches are one, they’re real with me. They like hard work just like I like hard work, and it’s just a family football environment.
BDN: Which schools have been recruiting you the hardest this summer?
Duke, first of all. And then Purdue started to come into the picture, and Pittsburgh.
BDN: Which schools have you had a chance to visit so far?
I went up to Duke for their football camp about three weeks ago. And I’ve been to NC State two weeks ago, and I’ve been up to Virginia and Virginia Tech.
BDN: What were some of the things that stood out on your visits?
Well, the Virginia Tech visit, it was really exciting. The fans are just crazy. When we first pulled up, they were all out there tailgating for their spring game. It was almost full, it was amazing how loyal those fans are up there.
Duke, it was really good. The players were bonded together. They seemed like they were one family. There was one guy, he left his iPod on the charger, and it was just sitting there, nobody touched it, then he came back and it was still there. It was great to see.
The Virginia visit, it was pretty cool. It was a pretty cool visit. I went up there for a spring basketball game, so I didn’t get to chill with the players very much, but they seemed pretty cool though.
NC State – that went pretty good. I got to met the head coach. He seemed like a really cool guy, he seemed like he wanted to win some ball games.
BDN: What are your plans for the rest of the summer?
Well, we’ve got a national 7-on-7 to go to this Thursday, so we’ll be training for that the next two days. I probably won’t go on any more visits or camps, well I might go to the Wake Forest camp, that will probably be my last one.
BDN: Do you have an idea for when or how you would like to narrow things down?
It’s just going to have to come to me, because I’m not planning on making the decision anytime soon, really.
BDN: Is there anything else you want college football fans to know about you?
I’m a hard worker, I love hard work, I love it, that’s what drives me and my team.
When you're the head coach of an ACC football program, it can be hard to get away. Duke Head Coach David Cutcliffe knows the feeling, as he and his family have been on vacation this past week, while his phone has continued to ring with prospects wanting to commit to the Blue Devils. On Saturday, Coach Cutcliffe received the good news from Michael Westray, a 6'2" 185 pound safety prospect from Westlake HS in Waldorf, Maryland. Duke fans should be familiar with the Westlake program, as it is also the alma mater of freshman Duke LB Jon Woodruff. After playing primarily defensive line at Westlake, Woodruff is making the transition to linebacker at the college level. The newest Blue Devil, Westray, will make a similar move, as he slides over to safety after playing mostly cornerback in high school. Westray earned offers this summer from Duke and North Carolina State after impressive performances on the camp circuit, where he was clocked with a 4.4 second 40-yard dash. Prior to his commitment, Westray had also received interest from Maryland, Penn State, Pittsburgh, and Wake Forest. The Duke coaching staff is excited to see Westray develop at safety, and believe they have stolen two very good prospects out of Maryland this year in Westray and DE Allen Jackson. Blue Devil fans can get a look at Westray's junior highlights here.
BDN caught up with the newest Blue Devil over the holiday weekend.
BDN: How did you arrive at your decision to commit to Duke?
Duke has always been there from day one, as part of my recruiting process as a player, as a student-athlete. They were one of the first schools to show me attention and they’ve been showing it consistently. My recruiting coordinator, Coach Zac Roper, has been very close to me, my head coach, and my family as a whole. That’s been a big part of my commitment. I’ve been to the campus twice, once for the camp and one on an unofficial visit. I enjoyed myself both times, I enjoyed the coaching staff and I enjoyed the whole vibe I got there. Another thing is one of my teammates from last year commited to Duke as well, Jonathan Woodruff.
BDN: How did you inform the Duke coaching staff about your decision and what did they say to you?
I was in the office of my high school head coach, and we called Coach Cutcliffe. He called Coach Cutcliffe directly and I said, “Coach, I want to be a Blue Devil.” He was excited, he was on vacation actually, and he said “well my vacation is going to be a whole lot better now, my dinner is going to taste a lot better tonight,” and stuff like that.
BDN: You’ve played all over the field in high school. Where do the coaches see you fitting in at Duke and what do you hope to bring to the program?
They put me at safety and I really hope to be an impact player for the team, get after this ACC championship.
BDN: Now that you’ve made your decision, what are your plans for the rest of your summer?
I’m just focusing on my football team, my high school football team, preparing, lifting weights, things like that.