BDN was on hand for today's weekly football press conference and we caught up to Duke LB Kelby Brown who relishes the role of a leader on defense.
Now that you have a couple of wins, does this create a hunger for more?
Having two straight wins, we're trying to take advantage and build on that. I think the more we win the hungrier we'll get so it's a great feeling and it's awesome finally getting a home win. The campus was alive and everybody was excited and people were coming up saying great game and that's something that we love. So, the hunger is building and building.
The defense played well against Tulane and only let up a touchdown in the 4th quarter. Can elaborate about the comfort level with the 4-2-5 defense?
Each week we've gained a little more confidence in our defensive scheme. Obviously last week was a great chance to say, hey look, were going to stop this team and they're not going to do anything against us and for most of the game that is pretty much how it went.
You are just a sophomore but already a leader on this team. Can you speak to that?
It's something that I am kind of used to in that I was a leader in high school. Even last year I had to kind of step up and lead as a freshman because I am a real vocal person, so I did to try and keep the energy up on the field. It's something that I love to do. Being a leader is just natural for me.
How tough was it to lose Kenny Anunike for the season?
Hard hit! He was playing so well and made big play after big play. He is such a great person to so it is a huge loss. We have to move forward and have great guys behind him but a tough loss such a good guy.
Two key players in the Blue Devils huge win over Tulane on Homecoming were defensive lineman Charlie Hatcher and running bacck Juwon Thompson. BDN Video caught up to both players to get their post game comments, so see both vids below -
The Blue Devils last defeated Virginia Tech in 1981, but they will be trying to do just that when they welcome the Hokies to Wallace Wade Stadium on October 29. In Head Coach David Cutcliffe’s first two seasons in Durham, Duke gave Virginia Tech a scare, coming within a few plays of pulling off the unlikely upset. When the Blue Devils traveled to Blacksburg a season ago, however, the Hokies put the game away early, cruising to a 44-7 victory.
This year, the defending ACC Champions are the consensus pick to win the ACC Coastal Division, despite the loss of several stars on both sides of the ball. BDN is excited to again have the help of furrer4heisman from Gobbler Country to give us an inside look at the 2011 Hokies.
BDN: Despite all of the scandals in college football over the past several years, Virginia Tech continues to win the right way, year in and year out. What would you consider to be the keys to the Hokies' consistent success? Do you think they receive enough credit for their success, and more importantly, for how they achieve it?
GC: I think they get the proper amount of credit. I don't have the links on hand, but just about any time a news outlet polls the coaches and asks them who they respect, Beamer is usually pretty high on the list. His peers recognize what he's done and how he's done it.
The way they've done it is through good talent evaluation. They go after kids that fit their system and fit their attitude. Not many five-star recruits come to Virginia Tech, but very often you get guys who play above their star rating. A lot of the credit for that goes to Mike Gentry, who runs the S&C program.
There was also a little bit of luck involved. They came to the ACC just as FSU and Miami went in the toilet. If that doesn't happen, who knows? maybe there's one or two fewer 10-win seasons for the Hokies since 2004.
BDN: Some pundits predict that Virginia Tech could go undefeated in 2011, but most still predicted Florida State to win the ACC Championship. How good can this Virginia Tech team be in 2011? Are the expectations among the media and the fan base too high or too low?
GC: I think, right now, it's too high. I'm never a fan of picking a team based on their schedule. I remember there were years in the Big Ten that some teams would have a random year where Ohio State and Michigan would cycle off their schedule and suddenly everyone thought Purdue or whoever was a threat to win the league. Then they'd go 6-6. Virginia Tech has a favorable schedule based on what teams did last year and what's usually expected out of the Hokies.
But we're paper thin on the defensive line, weren't very good against the run last year and will be starting a first-year quarterback. There are a lot of things that could potentially go wrong for the Hokies. No. 13 in the country in both polls is too high in my opinion. Anywhere 16-20 is a much better spot and I think you'll see Tech go 10-2 or 9-3 in the regular season. They'll lose to someone they shouldn't, just like they do every year.
BDN: The Hokies return 12 starters from last year's ACC Championship team, but will have to replace several stars on offense, including ACC POY Tyrod Taylor. The expectations are high for first-year starters David Wilson and Logan Thomas, and they have big shoes to fill. Can they carry the load for the Virginia Tech offense? What are the question marks for the 2011 Hokie offense?
GC: The question marks always exist on the offensive line. For the last four or five years, the offensive line has struggled due to injury or graduation at the beginning of the year and gets much better by the end. Then, in the offseason we're told the line has turned the corner and that this year's line is going to be improved. Then, it's a disaster to start the season again and the process starts over. So until the line actually performs well at the start of the season, I'm not going to believe it.
As for Thomas, he should be fine as long as he isn't asked to win games himself and the line is able to keep him upright. He's thrown a few interceptions during fall practice, but he's a first-year starter so I expect he's going to throw a few of those. As long as we only ask him to manage the game, I'm confident in him. Plus, he has several veteran receives who will make his life easier. It won't be like Taylor's second year when the Hokies' receivers had something like nine career catches and Taylor had no clue if the route called for them was going to be the one they ran.
Wilson's already a folk hero on campus and as long as he stays healthy will have a big year. He's not a concern, but what is a concern is what effect having to handle most of, if not all, of the significant carries will have on him.
BDN: We know how good the Virginia Tech defense and special teams units usually are, producing a +19 turnover margin in 2010. With just five starters returning on defense, who will be expected to step up this year alongside All-ACC candidates Bruce Taylor and Jayron Hosley?
GC: Anyone on the defensive line. And we have no clue who it will be. Every defensive end on the roster is a sophomore or freshman. All have little or no playing time under their belts. At defensive tackle, the injury to senior Kwamaine Battle means the Hopkins Brothers will start at the two DT positions and be backed up by true freshmen Luther Maddy and Corey Marshall, who is 6-1, 253. A 253-pound defensive tackle.
So really two or three of those freshman and sophomore have to step up. I think James Gayle, one of the sophomore defensive ends, is set to have a big year but at this point it's anyone's guess. Somehow, we have to do better than 4.7 yards per carry against, which was 10th in the ACC last year. If we do that again, I don't care if you're playing Alabama or Appalachian State in your opener, it's just not going to get it done.
BDN: Last year's game in Blacksburg seemed to be a blowout before Duke had even snapped the ball. In previous years, the Blue Devils had given the Hokies a bit of a scare. What do you expect to see in Durham this year, and what would the Blue Devils have to do to pull off the unlikely upset?
GC: I don't think Duke's going to go to a bowl this year, I do think they're going to beat someone they have no business beating. Will be the Hokies? Well, in order for that to happen I think Duke's going to have to catch Tech a little fatigued. It's possible since Duke is the last game before Virginia Tech's bye week and will be the Hokies' ninth game in as many weeks. Then, the Blue Devils are going to force turnovers like they did in the 2008 game in Blacksburg. Then they're going to have to get some production on the ground to take some pressure off Renfree. If all three of those things happen, then you might see an upset.
I'm biased, but I don't think it's going to be the Hokies. However, someone other than the usual suspects are going to go down against you guys this year. You guys had so many games last year where you looked good and then turned into a pumpkin that you can't help but learn from that and find some kind of killer instinct.
BDN: Finally, Duke will host Andrew Luck and Stanford in week 2 this fall. After seeing his performance in last year's Orange Bowl, do you have any advice for the Blue Devils?
GC: Sure, watch out you don't get killed.
BDN: Thanks so much for your insight. Good luck this season!
The Blue Devils and Demon Deacons played a shootout last September in Winston-Salem. Sean Renfree and the Duke offense piled on 48 points, but fell to Wake Forest 55-48 on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Wake Forest has had the Blue Devils’ number in recent years, winning the last 11 contests in the rivalry that dates back to 1889; in fact, Head Coach Jim Grobe has never lost to Duke during his tenure. The in-state rivals will clash again this fall, as the Blue Devils will play host to the Demon Deacons on October 22.
BDN is fortunate to have the help of Blogger So Dear to give us an excellent inside look at the 2011 Demon Deacons.
BDN: After finding themselves on top of the ACC in 2006, Wake Forest is now coming off back-to-back losing seasons in 2009 and 2010. What do the Demon Deacons need to do to return to bowl eligibility in 2011? With Wake Forest picked to finish last in the ACC Atlantic Division again, is it conceivable that Head Coach Jim Grobe could be on the hot seat?
BSD: For Wake to get back to a bowl game this year we will need to make sure that we establish a solid running game and that quarterback Tanner Price stays healthy. Last season the Deacs were caught up in formation changes half way through the year on defense as we moved from a conventional 4-3 to a more exotic 3-4, which provides a different look at the line of scrimmage. Since this change was made half way through the year, and implemented for the first time at the Maryland game (a 5+ touchdown loss), Wake had some struggles on the defensive side of the ball that were hopefully a one season issue. Numbers-wise for Wake to make a bowl our best chances come by beating Syracuse, N.C. State, Gardner-Webb, Maryland, Duke, and Vandy. Of those games, only the Syracuse and Duke games are on the road. It will be difficult to get to six wins simply because of the strength of our schedule. Aside from Gardner-Webb our three OOC games are Vanderbilt, Syracuse, and Notre Dame. We also are unfortunate that we have Virginia Tech and Florida State at home in back to back weeks which are almost assuredly losses as strong as those teams look this year. If those teams were both on the road or even one of them were on the road perhaps we would have an easier game to get a W in from the confines of BB&T Field.
I don’t really think Grobe would be on the hot seat after this year unless we see the same type season as we did last year. While 3-9 is not desirable it’s realistic that Wake Forest is going to have years which are akin to last year. The major criticism that came from the fan base was the way in which we were completely non-competitive in a majority of games. After the Duke game and a 2-0 start, we lost 9 games in a row, most of which were by double digits. If we go something like 1-11 and only beat Gardner-Webb I certainly think his seat would be at least luke warm.
BDN: The Blue Devils and Demon Deacons both finished at the bottom of the ACC in defense in 2010, and the teams’ defensive struggles were exemplified in their September 11th 55-48 shootout. Duke is hopeful that a group of young redshirt-freshmen will improve their defensive depth and effectiveness in 2011. With 9 starters returning, what improvements are expected for the Wake Forest defense? What questions remain heading into training camp?
BSD: Like I alluded to earlier, Wake struggled last year on the defensive side of the ball because of the jump we made to the 3-4 halfway through the season. So far this season the defense has looked better in preseason practices, and has really made some strides to get to a competitive level. The 3-4 provides a completely different look up front than the 4-3, an advantage against teams from the get go. A large number of teams in college run the 4-3 look and offenses are used to lining up against it. The 3-4 provides an additional linebacker to the front level and really varies the different ways the blitz can be brought. From the offense’s perspective it can be daunting as there are always seven guys in the box and you never know which side the blitz is coming from or how many guys are coming in on the rush. I’m not expecting Wake to shut everyone out, but I wouldn’t expect Wake and Duke to have a 55-48 shootout when we meet this year in Durham either.
BDN: While the two programs had similar struggles defensively in 2010, Duke and Wake Forest were mirror images of each other on offense. While the Blue Devils were able to move the ball through the air, the Demon Deacons stuck to the ground, led by Josh Harris and Tanner Price. What are the expectations for Harris and Price in their second season of ACC football? What are the keys for the offense to be more consistent in 2011?
BSD: Yeah, both the Deacons and the Devils were able to have at least some consistency on the offensive side of the ball. The biggest question for Wake this year is going to be just that: how consistently will we be able to move the ball downfield? Price and Harris are both sophomores. Harris has the additional experience of a redshirt year, but Price came onto campus late last July and was the starter a month and a half later. Experience is always going to be an issue for quarterbacks where studying tape and just playing the game counts for so much. The key for Wake though aside from these guys is going to have to be the offensive line. While it’s anchored by an experienced group it has really struggled to open up holes for the running game and to adequately protect Tanner. If Price has time to drop back, set his feet, and throw he is deadly accurate, but he simply didn’t have that opportunity much last year. The receiving corps is set up well with senior Danny Dembry as the most likely go to target as a possession guy, junior Chris Givens and sophomore Michael Campanaro as the flankers, and then freshmen Matt James and Brandon Terry as compliments to Dembry as bigger, possession-type receivers. If the line can get some leverage up front, our offense has the potential to be a real threat this year.
BDN: At this year’s ACC Football Kickoff, OG Joe Looney declared the Blue Devils as the Demon Deacons’ biggest rival. From the Duke perspective, the Blue Devils need to start beating their in-state ACC rivals to take the next step forward as a program. Can you describe this rivalry from Wake Forest’s perspective? With all of their recent success against the Blue devils, why do you think the Wake Forest fans and players consider Duke to be their top rival over other ACC programs?
BSD: Since Grobe got to Wake, we have had a ton of success against in-state opponents and it really was one of the keys to Wake’s bowl run a couple of years ago. When I was growing up my view of the Wake-Duke game was that it was a futility battle. No offense to either programs, but I remember a handful of games where the teams combined didn’t have more than 2 or 3 wins so it was always a question mark as to what would happen. The 2006 game with you guys is generally viewed as the most pivotal moment of the season. Had Vaughn not blocked that field goal as time expired to preserve Wake’s 14-13 win, we certainly would not have gone to the Orange Bowl or won the ACC that year. To be blunt though, it is a game that right now I always expect to win. Obviously the 11 game winning streak (dating back throughout Grobe’s entire tenure) will have to end sometime and this year is just as likely as any of them. Wake typically handles Duke fairly well at Wallace Wade though, and a struggle at BB&T. Looney probably considers Duke to be Wake’s biggest rival from a recruiting vantage point, as well as the fact that we have had so much recent success. Both Wake and Duke are battling the same problems in football: small school, lack of a football history, and being in a state where UNC, NC State, and App State, are the first schools thought of when football fans think of North Carolina. For Wake or Duke to be successful on the ACC level I believe they must be successful within the state first and foremost since at least two of the eight conference games every year are against a team from North Carolina.
BDN: The Blue Devils and Demon Deacons are one of the oldest rivalries within the ACC, with the two programs having first met in 1889, with Duke holding a 53-36-2 all-time record, despite Wake Forest’s current 11-game winning streak in the series. In the last few years, it seems that every game between the two schools has come down to the final possession. What do you expect to see from this year’s matchup on October 22nd in Durham?
BSD: I always love watching Wake play Duke, as I said anything can happen and the games are typically exciting (if not nerve-wracking). While it’s pretty early to make a prediction, I honestly believe that Wake will win this one and stretch the winning streak to 12. I’ll certainly be there on October 22nd to watch the game as it’s just a short drive down 40 and tickets are easy to come by. I think that it will probably be another high scoring game as it always is when the teams meet, and that it will probably once again come down to the final possession. Wake needs to force some turnovers, run some zone blitzes to keep Renfree from being able to set his feet and throw deep, and establish a running game to get the victory. I’ll make my way-too-early guess though: 38-34 Wake on a late touchdown run by Harris.
BDN: Thanks so much for answering our questions. Good luck this season!
BDN caught up to Sean Renfree after a recent practice and got his thoughts on his last scrimmage.
How do you feel you perfomed in the scrimmage?
As for my performance, I thought it was lacking at times in situational stuff but we were in a good rhythm throwing the ball there for a while. Conner, Donovan were great out there and as a group I though we were solid and that the offense was clicking.
You have a lot of offensive weapons this season. That has to be nice.
No doubt. When you say we've got a lot of good weapons, it's true. We've got older guys that have proven themselves and they're some of the best players in the ACC. Now, we have young players stepping in and making plays. It's encouraging to know that when guys come in you won't miss a beat.
What do you think of the run by Juwan Thompson?
Usually people don't keep going when Matt hits them like that. It was truly an amazing run and takes a lot of drive to get hit like that, cut across the field. He's a big, strong back and he'll help us this year.
The running backs looked good today in that the top three guys all had a big day.
To have a run game like that and know you don't have to throw fifty times a game to win makes a huge difference.
What happened on the turnover where Desmond Johnson got the interception and returned it for a touchdown? [News & Observer]
I was trying to do to much there, it was stupid and I should have taken the sack. I talked to Coach Roper after and he said you have to know when to take the sack and not always try and make a play.