Ross Cockrell and Duke Football are just 13 days away from kickoff and the team held a scrimmage today in preparation. We caught up to Cockrell after practice who stated the team is ready to hit somebody else. A reminder, you can meet Ross and his teammates tomorrow and get a team poster and autographs at Meet the Devils Day which will go on sun or shine. If there is inclement weather, the event will take place in the Paschall Field House, so turn out and support the 2013 Duke Football Team.
Jamison Crowder is the clear leader of the Duke receiving corps this season, but he leads more with his actions than with his chatter, as you will see in the following interview. Crowder also admits that he got quite a few notices and quips over the summer due to his big catch against North Carolina last season.
If you follow Duke Football closely, you realize that Coach Cut and company are high on the return of Tight End Braxton Deaver to the lineup. Deaver admits he was humbled a bit when forced to watch from the sidelines a season ago with an injury. His return gives Duke solid depth at a critical position.
DURHAM, N.C. - Several years ago a sugary pop group named the Carpenters had a big hit on the charts called "Rainy Days and Mondays." The lyrics went like this: "Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down." There was a time when that type of gloominess and despair applied to Duke's kicking game, but Will Monday has changed all that.
A couple of weeks ago, Monday, Duke's freshman punter, was in class when a friend messaged him on Facebook telling him he'd been selected to the All-ACC team. Monday was elated at the news. "It's something that has definitely been one of my goals and to win it as a freshman, and it means a lot to me and has helped me achieve one of my goals," he said. But Monday had to admit that he actually was not surprised; in fact, he expected the honor.
That's one of the things I learned about the ACC's best punter during our recent conversation. Monday places very high expectations on himself, and does not consider failure to be an option. To him, being the top punter in the ACC is just a start. What he really wants is to be the best in the entire nation. And it's that kind of confidence in his abilities plus his desire to improve further that should drive him towards his goal of being named 1st team All-American.
The youthful Monday, son of Bedford and Judy Monday, hails from Flowery Branch, Georgia. And when asked who congratulated him first on the all-ACC selection, Monday said, "Well, my parents were very happy for me. They were so excited knowing this is something I had been wanting, to be able to be named the best at your position in my freshman year, and so they were proud of how much I have worked to get this. I got texts from my coaches and high school teammates as well."
Monday was a known commodity coming out of high school, ranked as the best schoolboy punter in most of the recruiting ratings. The expectations that come with those rankings are something he learned to deal with early on, so it was no surprise that he was cool under the pressure of big-time college football, right out of the gate. "I felt pressure in high school. I felt pressure in camps and I felt pressure when I got here. But it is not something I am not used to and I have always put expectations on myself to succeed and be the best I can at every opportunity. So while it is challenging, you have to keep your head up and move on to the next play."
Standing 6'4" and weighing in at 210 pounds, Monday is not likely the butt of kicker jokes. In fact, he played baseball, basketball and soccer before trying out as a kicker for his high school football team as a freshman. So we're talking about an athlete here. "I started kicking in my freshman year in high school and did really well," said Monday. "After my sophomore season in high school I really figured out the punting thing, and I have a better frame to be a punter than a kicker. So I went with it, started going to a bunch of camps and started to get recognition. I quickly saw I had an opportunity to get a scholarship in this sport, and it worked out for me with concern to both education and football."
Monday was recruited by pretty much everybody, and could practically name his school. But he bought into what Duke Coach David Cutcliffe and his staff were selling. "I always liked Duke growing up and the school has always intrigued me. I was a basketball fan when I was little and living in Charlotte. When an opportunity came available, I met with the coaches and liked what they had going on in Durham. They seemed like they were looking out for you and they told us you would grow as a man in our program. I was able to use football to get to a great school, one that without football I would not have been able to go to, and at Duke I think I have really maxed my opportunities in both education and football."
Patience does not come easily to a confident young man, especially when he's accustomed to being a star on the athletic field. But before Monday sent his first punt booming in Wallace Wade Stadium, he had to sit out a year as a redshirt. It was not easy sitting behind Duke punter Alex King, who transferred to Texas for his senior season, as he knew Monday was gaining on him quickly. But the redshirt used that extra year to learn from the sidelines, getting stronger every day, and thus the wait -- while difficult -- proved worth it in the end.
"It was definitely tough (to redshirt) always being a starter throughout high school, and having to come here and sit on the bench. But it was an experience I'm glad I got to be a part of, and I learned a lot giving me time to figure out the coaches and how they did things at Duke. And it allowed me to get stronger and better at what I do," Monday said.
When Duke heads to the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, a lot of people will analyze how exactly they got there. When doing so it's going to be hard not to notice the big improvement in the Blue Devils' kicking game. Monday's teammate, placekicker Ross Martin, has been earning honors of his own of late, and the two freshmen have stimulated high hopes for a bright future in Durham. "Ross (Martin) and I met each other while at summer camps, so we knew each other. And when he came here, I knew right away that we would have a bond that would carry us through our four years and we would flourish together. Ross is a good guy with his head on straight and from a good family, so we meshed right away."
It's been 18 years since Duke last played in a bowl game, and had the Blue Devils not solidified their kicking game it wouldn't have happened this year either. The days of chip shot field goals being botched as time elapses or a key punt being shanked are over for the foreseeable future. And if the rest of the team commits to perfecting their game in the same way that Will Monday has, then the best of Blue Devil football is yet to come.
DURHAM, N.C. - Duke Head Football Coach David Cutcliffe has been named Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year. Cutcliffe led Duke to a 6-6 regular season record, a three win jump from a season ago. The Blue Devils were picked last in their division in the pre-season and surpassed almost all expectations, becoming bowl-eligible for the first time since the 1994 season.
Cutcliffes' Blue Devils lost several starters in the pre-season and his team weathered further injuries during the year, yet still overcame the adversity to post the best season at Duke in 18 years. Cutcliffe recently signed a well-deserved contract extension at Duke, but he is not resting on his laurels. He's out on the recruiting trail this week as his team awaits a sure bowl invitation, expected to be issued as early as this coming Sunday.
“This honor is both humbling and rewarding because of the quality of the coaches in our conference,” said Cutcliffe. “Like all awards, the credit reaches far beyond one person and this is truly one for our entire program. Ultimately, the acclaim goes to both our staff and the group of young men that came to practice every day with a desire to improve and prepare, gave their best effort on Saturdays, succeeded academically and served our community with pure selflessness. While this was a season of progress for our program, many of the goals we laid out five years ago have not been reached and we’ll continue our pursuit of excellence.
2012 ACC Coach of the Year Voting Results
David Cutcliffe, Duke (25)
Dabo Swinney, Clemson (7)
Jimbo Fisher, Florida State (5)
Larry Fedora, North Carolina (4)
Al Golden, Miami (4)
Tom O’Brien, NC State (1)
Blue Devil Nation congratulates Coach Cut on a successful season and a well-deserved award.
BDN caught up to Duke Defensive Lineman Sydney Sarmiento earlier this week to get his thoughts on the upcoming game with Clemson on Saturday in Wallace Wade Stadium.
You guys have a tough game this week against Clemson and their explosive athletes. What are your initial thoughts on playing them.
It's a great team, you can't take anything away from them, a great team. We are going to have our work cut out for us.
Duke did not get the results they wanted in the loss to Florida State. How can the team bounce back from that kind of performance?
Just forget about what happened in the past and move on because Clemson will present new challenges to us we didn't see last week and we are going to have to improve on what we didn't do well this week.
Duke is already bowl eligible but still going for other honors. Was last week a bit of a wake up call?
I feel like it was a big wake up and we have to get back to fundamentals and what we do well and stay on top of our game.
The defensive line has improved their play this season. How do you impact the many younger players around you?
We have challenged ourselves this season unlike we did a year ago and that's one thing I am trying to do with the younger guys. Like in the Virginia game where they were running all over us in the first half, we stepped up and stopped them in the second.
How much did it help for Duke Football to have great crowd support in the big win over UNC and is it important for the team that the students turn out in force again?
It was important and it surprised me during the game because that's the loudest it's been since I've been at Duke with the exception of maybe the Alabama game. It was a great atmosphere that lifted me up to play even better and more. It's more of a sense of pride at home and the five game winning streak is important but we understand we have our work cut out for us this week.