Tag Archives: Duke Football Preview

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.

The Blue Devils will open the 2011 football season at home against Richmond September 3

BDN takes an in-depth look at the Duke Football opener vs. Richmond

The Blue Devils will open the 2011 football season at home against Richmond September 3

Is it September 3rd yet? Well, not quite, Duke Football faithful, but we know the feeling. With 60 days until kickoff, it’s no longer too early to take an in-depth look at Duke’s 2011 opponents. Over the next several weeks, BDN will team up with other college football insiders to preview the 2011 Duke schedule. Season tickets are on sale now at GoDuke.com, or through the Duke Ticket Office at (919) 681-BLUE.

For the Blue Devils, there is no game more important than the first one, which is a September 3rd matchup with the Richmond Spiders under the lights in Wallace Wade Stadium. Duke has opened with home games against the Spiders twice in recent years, and Richmond has emerged victorious in both contests. The last meeting occurred in 2009; the Spiders were the aggressors from the start, spoiling the opening to Duke QB Thad Lewis’ record-setting senior year with a 24-16 victory. Though the Blue Devils outgained the Spiders overall, Richmond was able to control the line of scrimmage, stifling the Duke running game and scoring two touchdowns on the ground. Mike London has since left the program for Charlottesville, and in 2010, the Spiders finished 6-5 under first year Head Coach Latrell Scott. Though many of the coaches and players have changed, the Spiders are still expected to be among the top programs in the FCS in 2011, and their strengths continue to be along the line of scrimmage. In 2010, Duke struggled to consistently run the ball effectively and was among the worst FBS defenses against the run, making the 2011 opener with Richmond an intriguing early season test for the Blue Devils.

To get an inside look at the 2011 Spiders, BDN was fortunate enough to have the help of David Weissman, Online Sports Editor for The Collegian at the University of Richmond.

Latrell Scott became the youngest HC in Division I football when he replaced Mike London after the 2009 season. Photo Credit-RichmondSpiders.com
BDN: What have been the biggest changes within the Richmond program since Latrell Scott replaced former Head Coach Mike London?
The changes are few and far between as Richmond understandably didn’t want a huge change with Coach London having as much success here as he had. Coach Scott actually coached under London for a few years and I think he realizes that he didn’t need to mix too many things up in the program to have success. I’d say the biggest change I’ve noticed is in offensive philosophy. Coach Scott’s offense proved much more run-oriented than in years prior and he seems to keep trying to establish the run throughout the game no matter how much success it is having. It’s tough to tell if the offense will continue that trend this year or if the high amount of run plays called last year was an anomaly due to the quarterback injuries Richmond had last season.

BDN: The Spiders started four different quarterbacks in 2010 due to injuries. How has USC transfer Aaron Corp recovered from midseason ACL surgery, and what are the expectations for the Spiders’ offense in 2011?
Based on all that I’ve heard coming from camp is that Corp is fully recovered and ready to go, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll carry the entire load at the quarterback position. Junior John Laub, who also got injured last season, was getting snaps even when Corp was completely healthy last year and London seems to like to put him in the game to run quarterback draws on third and short situations. As for the rest of the offense, the running game should be the strength with the offensive line looking stronger than last year and a number of backs that have shown the ability to have breakout games, led by Garrett Wilkins and Kendall Gaskins. The wide receivers are also looking good, but suffered last year without a consistent starter throwing them the ball. Senior Tre Gray is the most consistent of the bunch, with sophomore speedster Ben Edwards looking like he might have a breakout season.  

BDN: Richmond will have to replace several starters from last year’s defense, including CAA Defensive Player of the Year Eric McBride. Which players are expected to step up this fall, and which positions still have question marks?

The defense as a whole will definitely determine how many games the Spiders win this year. They were really inconsistent last season, at times looking unmovable and others, like they didn’t start trying until the opponent was in the redzone. Martin Parker, Eric McBride, and Justin Rogers (who was drafted by the Bills) are going to be tough to replace as they anchored all three lines of defense for Richmond for as long as I can remember, but there is definitely no lack of talent to fill in. The major buzz coming out of camp is around safety Cooper Taylor who just transferred to Richmond from Georgia Tech. Some other guys the Spiders expect to step up are cornerback Tremayne Graham, linebacker Darius McMillan, and defensive lineman Corey Jackson. The biggest question marks look to be the linebacking corps, as the Spiders will need a couple young guys to step up into starting roles without much experience.
The Richmond Spiders have emerged victorious in their last two trips to Durham. Photo credit-The Collegian

BDN: Richmond has won both of their last two trips to Durham. Why do you think the Spiders have had success against the Blue Devils?

It’s hard to say why Richmond has been successful against Duke specifically, but I do know that as a whole, Richmond has a history of stepping up their level of play against the bigger, more well-known schools in all sports. The coaches do a good job of not letting the name on the opponent’s jersey affect the way their players prepare and play, and I think maybe sometimes schools like Duke underestimate the ability of Richmond’s athletics. A lot of the players here at Richmond were on the radar of ACC or SEC-type schools, but end up here and I think these guys like to be given the chance to show opposing coaches of these schools what they missed out on.

BDN: If you were an opposing coach, how would you plan to attack the Richmond defense and slow the Spiders’ offense?

My gameplan would be dependent on my two lines. I’d say the keys to defeating Richmond are running the ball and stopping the run. The experience that Richmond does have on defense is mostly on the back end and I think the young guys on the line and in the linebacking corps could lead to a few big plays on the ground if you keep at it. As for defensively, London loves to run the ball as I mentioned before and the quarterbacks for Richmond did throw a good number of interceptions last year when they got put in third and long situations.

BDN: Thanks again for your help and insight, David!

Next Week: September 10, Stanford at Duke.

Join BDN Premium for the best insider coverage of Duke Football all season long, and be sure to visit our Premium Message Board to discuss all things Duke Football.


 

 

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!

 

A Fan’s Guide to the 2010 Blue Devils

Blue Devils star wideouts ready for Elon. Pictured are Donovan Varner Austin Kelly and Conner Vernon. Photo copyright Blue Devil Nation

In preparation for kickoff Saturday night against Elon, BDN provides a  guide to the 2010 Blue Devils. Hop on the Duke Football bandwagon now and join Blue Devil Nation as we cover the Duke Football beat all season long.  We’re ready for some football! 

Gameday

Blue Devil Walk: Coach Cutcliffe has adapted this pregame ritual to Duke. Two and a half hours prior to kickoff, the entire team gathers in front of Duke Chapel for a moment of reflection and prayer. The team is led by the marching band on their procession across West Campus and into Wallace Wade Stadium. Fans line the sidewalk to offer encouragement and support. Arrive early to find your spot.

Blue Devil Alley: On football gamedays, the area commonly known as Krzyzewskiville during basketball season is transformed into Blue Devil Alley. Blue Devil Alley is an area of games, music, and concessions for all ages and opens two and a half hours prior to kickoff.

Gameday updates: Visit Duke’s A to Z guide for information on parking, traffic, and other stadium policies. New for 2010 will be text message and Twitter updates.  And of course BDN’s twitter site has long been a popular destination on gameday for updates.  We’ll have same day/evening post game interviews as well on Blue Devil Nation.

Coaching Staff

Coach David Cutcliffe goes into his third season with Duke. Photo copyright Blue Devil Nation

Coach David Cutcliffe is in his third season as head coach of the Blue Devils, having turned down the opportunity to coach at the University of Tennessee this past offseason. Coach Cutcliffe is best known for having coached several great quarterbacks at Tennessee and Mississippi, including both Peyton and Eli Manning. Coach Cutcliffe’s teams feature a no huddle offense and prolific passing attack. In his two seasons at Duke, Coach Cutcliffe has a record of 9-15, having won 4 games in 2008 and 5 games in 2009. Kurt Roper serves as Duke’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Marion Hobby takes over as defensive coordinator in 2010, after the offseason departure of Mike MacIntyre to become the head coach at San Jose State.

2010 Blue Devils

Duke returns 18 starters from last year’s team that finished 4th in the Coastal Division of the ACC. The Blue Devils will play 7 home games in 2010 against Elon, Alabama, Army, Miami, Virginia, Boston College, and North Carolina. Duke’s 5 road contests will take place at Wake Forest, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Navy, and Georgia Tech. This represents the third most difficult schedule in the ACC, based on 2009 records ; Duke’s opponents were a combined 94-60 overall. Season tickets have sold out, but individual game tickets and ACC 3-packs are still available at GoDuke.com

Duke senior tight ends Brett Huffman and Brandon King pose for BDN on photo day - copyright BDN photo

Returning Players to Watch

#19 Sean Renfree QB, redshirt-sophomore: Renfree takes over at starting quarterback in his third season with the Duke program. In 2009, Renfree played in 5 games, throwing for 4 touchdowns with 2 interceptions and completing 68% of his passes. Renfree suffered a torn ACL against Georgia Tech and missed the remainder of the 2009 season and 2010 spring practice. He was a full participant in fall training camp and has impressed his coaches and teammates with his grasp of the offense. A highly-ranked recruit out of high school, Duke expects big things from Sean’s arm in 2010 and beyond.

#26 Donovan Varner WR, junior: Varner’s 2009 campaign earned him first team All-ACC honors, as he posted team-high 65 catches, 1,047 yards, and 8 touchdowns. Despite the graduation of QB Thaddeus Lewis, analysts expect Varner to maintain his high level of performance, selecting him to the preseason All-ACC first team and preseason All-American honorable mention. Varner joins a dangerous receiving corps for the Blue Devils with senior Austin Kelly (#83) and sophomore Conner Vernon (#2).

#33 Desmond Scott RB, sophomore: After leading the Blue Devils in rushing as a true freshman in 2009, Scott won the starting running back job during fall training camp. His 2009 campaign included a breakout 100 yard game against North Carolina Central, followed by mixed success. Coach Cutcliffe has praised Scott’s ability as a “complete back,” being able to excel in running the ball, catching the ball out of the backfield, and pass-blocking.

#62 Bryan Morgan C, senior: Morgan was elected a permanent team captain in 2010 by his teammates, and for good reason. The senior center leads the team with 24 consecutive starts and over 2,000 career snaps. Though undersized for an offensive lineman, Morgan is one of the strongest linemen on the team and consistently battles on every snap. His musical gifts and community service are also well-documented. He is a true leader for the team on the field, in the classroom, and in the community.

#8 Abraham Kromah LB, redshirt-senior: Kromah was also elected a permanent team captain in 2010 by his teammates and is the vocal leader of the defense. After battling injuries in 2009, Kromah is one of the strongest players on Duke’s defense and should become one of the team’s leading tacklers.

#56 Damian Thornton LB, senior: Thornton is Duke’s strongest player on defense and will line up in several different formations at linebacker. Having played over 1,100 snaps in his career, Thornton is one of Duke’s defensive leaders and hardest hitters. Thornton will use his strength and speed to bring pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

#40 Matt Daniels S, junior: Daniels is one of Duke’s most talented defenders and is also the active leader in career tackles with 105. An Academic All-ACC selection, Daniels started all 12 games for Duke in 2009 and showed flashes of his playmaking ability. Duke will call upon Daniels to be a consistent playmaker in the secondary in 2010.

#16 Chris Rwabukamba (RUB-uh-COME-buh) CB, redshirt-senior: Rwabukamba is Duke’s senior leader in the secondary and is the third permanent team captain elected by his teammates. A fourth-round selection in the 2010 Canadian Football League draft, the Ontario native is Duke’s active leader in pass break-ups, including a game-saving interception at the 1-yard line at Vanderbilt in 2008.

#3 Johnny Williams CB/WR/PR, junior: Just call him Johnny-on-the-spot. Williams transitioned from WR to CB during spring and fall practice, but will be on the field in all phases of the game. As one of the best athletes and playmakers on the team, Williams will line up at cornerback, wide receiver, and punt return for the 2010 Blue Devils.

New Players to Watch

#81 Cooper Helfet TE, junior: the junior college transfer is an explosive receiver and will line up in several different positions in Duke’s potent passing attack. At 6’4” and the fastest of Duke’s tight ends, Helfet will help the Blue Devils stretch opposing defenses downfield.

#9 Josh Snead RB, freshman: From nearby Smithfield, NC, Snead enrolled at Duke in January and hit the ground running, leading the Blue Devils in rushing in the 2010 spring game. Snead will use his dynamic speed to break open runs on offense and special teams.

#23 Juwan Thompson RB, freshman: Another speedy freshmen who has earned playing time with his play during training camp.

#5 Brandon Braxton WR, freshman: Even with Duke’s depth at wide receiver, Braxton has earned playing time already as a true freshman. His big-play ability brings a new weapon for QB Sean Renfree.

#18 Brandon Connette QB, freshman: Another January enrollee, Connette beat out returner Sean Schroeder (#12) for the backup quarterback job. He will receive snaps as a true freshman and will utilize his ability to run the ball to help Duke move the chains.

BDN previews the 2010 Duke Football Schedule

After 9 wins in his first two seasons at Duke, Coach David Cutcliffe and the 2010 Blue Devils will look to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 1994. Do they have the schedule to do it? As training camp kicks off, BDN takes a quick look at the 2010 Duke football schedule. The Blue Devils return 40 letterman, including 18 starters, from 2009’s 5-7 team, which finished in 4th place in the ACC Coastal Division. Season tickets are on-sale now for Duke’s 7 home games in 2010 and can be purchased online at www.goduke.com or by calling (877) 375-3853.

The 2010 Blue Devils will play 7 of their 12 regular season games at Wallace Wade Stadium, highlighted by a September matchup with Coach David Cutclife’s alma mater and reigning BCS National Champion, Alabama. Seven of Duke’s 2010 opponents were bowl-eligible in 2009, including two BCS bowl teams in Georgia Tech and Alabama. Duke’s lone FCS opponent, Elon, finished the season at 9-3 and was invited to the FCS playoffs, where they lost to Richmond, 16-13. Overall, Duke’s 2010 opponents were 94-60 in 2009, which represents the third toughest 2010 schedule in the ACC.

Week 1: September 4
Elon (2009: 9-3, 2nd place in Southern Conference, lost in 1st round of FCS playoffs to Richmond, 16-13)
The Phoenix will make the short trip up I-85 to Durham to kick-off the 2010 season. Elon is coming off the program’s first ever FCS playoff invitation in 2009, in head coach Pete Lembo’s fourth year with the program. The Phoenix finished 2009 ranked in the FCS top 10, but lose several key players from the team that finished second in the Southern Conference, including WR Terrell Hudgins, who was runner-up for the Walter Payton Award in his outstanding senior campaign (123 receptions, 1633 yards). Scott Riddle returns for his senior year as the team’s quarterback, but the team lost junior RB Jamal Shuman to injury after an impressive sophomore campaign during which he averaged 5.1 yards per carry. The Phoenix do lose several key seniors on both the offensive and defensive lines, so question marks will exist heading into the season opener. Elon fell at Wake Forest last season, 35-7, in the team’s only game against a FBS opponent. Elon represents a quality FCS opponent, and one that the Devils will need to defeat to start off the 2010 season on the right track.

Week 2: September 11
@ Wake Forest (2009: 5-7, 3-5 ACC)
Duke kicks off the 2010 ACC schedule early, with a rematch of last year’s season finale against Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons defeated the Blue Devils on Senior Day in Wallace Wade Stadium, 45-34. While that game served as a celebration of the historic careers of senior QBs Thaddeus Lewis and Riley Skinner, this year, both programs will start the season with inexperience under center. The Demon Deacons lose 9 starters and return 49 lettermen from the 2009 team. Both the Devils and Demon Deacons will kick off the year against FCS programs in week 1, and thus this matchup will likely be the first true test for their new signal-callers and other new faces in 2010. Jim Grobe is 9-0 against Duke in his career at Wake Forest, though the two teams have produced some memorable games in recent years. The Demon Deacons will likely employ a more conservative, run-heavy offense than in recent years, featuring senior RB Josh Adams. Expect Grobe to have his team ready to play the Blue Devils after their opening Thursday night match-up with Presbyterian. This will be an important early season test for the young Blue Devils on the road.

Week 3: September 18
Alabama (2009: 14-0, 8-0 SEC, BCS National Champion)
This game may already be the hottest ticket in Wallace Wade Stadium since the Rolling Stones a few years ago. The Crimson Tide faithful will be out in full force to see their reigning National Champions and Heisman trophy winner. It’s important for the Blue Devils to have a good turnout both on and off the field in this one (plug: get your tickets now), as this will be one of the highest attended and most covered games in recent Duke history. Alabama will of course be the heavy favorite in this matchup, but you can bet Coach David Cutcliffe will have a few tricks up his sleeve for his alma mater and SEC power. The Crimson Tide will be coming off a big home game against Penn State in Week 2, and they’ll have to avoid a letdown against a fired up Duke team. There are several terrific storylines here: from Wallace Wade, whose statue stands outside the stadium at both Duke and Alabama, to David Cutcliffe squaring off with his alma mater, to the appearance of a reigning national champion and Heisman trophy winner in Wallace Wade Stadium. Duke is 0-10 all-time against the #1 ranked team, and is 3-8 all-time against the reigning national champion, with their last win coming in 1955 at Ohio State. You can be sure BDN will have lots more coverage on this game between now and September 18, so stay tuned and get your tickets now.

Week 4: September 25
Army (2009: 5-7)
Army fell just short of a bowl bid in their first year under head coach Rich Ellerson and his option offense. In a week 2 matchup at West Point last season, Duke defeated Army 35-19, behind the arm of QB Sean Renfree and the clutch play of CB Leon Wright. This will be the first of three matchups against the option offense for Duke in 2010, and it will be an important game for the young Blue Devils to stay disciplined and focused after a much-hyped Alabama game. This is a game that Duke will need to win to improve their chance for a bowl bid, but Army will have revenge on their mind after last year’s loss at West Point, and likely will have some momentum coming off two home games in Weeks 2 and 3. This will also serve as Duke’s Homecoming game in 2010.

Week 5: October 2
@ Maryland (2009: 2-10, 1-7 ACC)
Not much went right for the Terrapins in 2009, including a 17-13 loss in rainy Wallace Wade Stadium in late October. Coach Ralph Friedgen will be on the hot seat in 2010, and while a return to bowl eligibility might be a stretch for the 2010 Terrapins, you can expect them to be a much improved team. The Terrapins will have a new signal caller in 2010, along with some new faces on both the offensive and defensive lines. The growth of these young players may determine the Terrapins’ success, and the fate of the coaching staff. The Terps are fortunate to have a relatively easy start to their schedule, with a road matchup at West Virginia in week 3 as their biggest early-season test. This will be the Blue Devils first trip to College Park under Coach David Cutcliffe, and as we know, they will not be greeted kindly.

Week 6: October 9
Open
The Blue Devils open date again falls in the middle of their season in 2010. They will have already played 2 ACC games in the first five weeks, both on the road. With regards to bowl eligibility, the Blue Devils would be wise to enter the bye week with at least a 3-2, if not 4-1 record. The first half of the schedule includes only 1 FBS 2009 Bowl team (albeit, the National Champions), but the second half includes 6 FBS 2009 Bowl teams. The Blue Devils will finish the year with 4 ACC home games, 2 ACC road games, and a non-conference road matchup with Navy.

Week 7: October 16
Miami (2009: 9-4, 5-3 ACC)
Playing one of the toughest schedules in the ACC and the country, including 4 straight games against ranked opponents to open the season, the Hurricanes finished the year at 9-4 overall, capped by a 20-14 Citrus Bowl loss to Wisconsin. For the second straight year, the Blue Devils gave the Hurricanes a scare, taking a 16-13 lead into the 4th quarter, but surrendered three unanswered 4th quarter touchdowns to fall 34-16 at Sun Life (Land Shark) Stadium. In 2010, Miami will have to replace three starters on the offensive line and will again take on a challenging schedule, including two Thursday night non-conference matchups in September at Ohio State and at Pittsburgh. QB Jacory Harris will return for his junior year and should be fully recovered from off-season surgery to fix the injured thumb that bothered him late in 2009. Miami is loaded with athletes on both sides of the ball, but their performance has been inconsistent in recent years. The keys for the 2010 Hurricanes will be the development of the offensive line and consistency in the running game; Harris alone is capable of making big plays and is poised for a potential Heisman campaign, but he needs help from RB Graig Cooper and RB Damien Berry for the Hurricanes to compete for an ACC championship. Miami hosts Florida State in a big rivalry game at home in Week 6, while Duke has a bye. With two weeks to prepare, expect the Blue Devils to challenge Miami yet again in this matchup.

Week 8: October 23
@Virginia Tech (2009: 10-3, 6-2 ACC)
Trips to Blacksburg are rarely much fun for ACC teams, and the Blue Devils are no exception, having never won a game at Lane Stadium. The Hokies have won 9 straight meetings between the two schools overall, including last year’s 34-26 win in Durham. Virginia Tech will feature a talented offense in 2010, led by QB Tyrod Taylor and two 1,000 yard rushers in RB Ryan Williams and RB Darren Evans, who returns after missing all of 2009 with an ACL tear. In a change from recent Hokie teams under head coach Frank Beamer and defensive coordinator Bud Foster, the offense may have to lead the way behind their senior QB, as the Hokies will be replacing six starters on defense, including 3 out of 4 spots on the defensive line. Duke will travel to Blacksburg as part of the Hokies’ four-game mid-season homestand, which starts with relatively easy matchups against Central Michigan and Wake Forest. The final game in the homestand will be a Week 9 rematch with 2009 ACC Champion Georgia Tech, and the Hokies might be tempted to look ahead. The Blue Devils’ new defensive schemes will have to slow the Hokies’ rushing attack if they want any chance to escape Blacksburg with an upset win.

Week 9: October 30
@Navy (2009: 10-4)
Navy is a team that is flying under the radar heading into 2010 after a 10-win season in 2009, which was capped by a 35-13 drumming of Missouri in the Texas Bowl. The Midshipmen return 15 starters in 2010, including senior QB Ricky Dobbs, who both threw and rushed for over 1,000 yards in 2009. This will be Duke’s second of three tests against the option offense in 2010. In their last meeting at Wallace Wade Stadium in 2008, the Blue Devils defeated the Midshipmen, 41-31, behind three touchdowns from Thad Lewis and Eron Riley. The 2010 matchup will be televised by CBS College Sports Network and will serve as Navy’s homecoming game in Annapolis. Navy’s 2010 schedule features three games against ACC opponents, with a trip to College Park scheduled for Week 1 and a trip to Winston-Salem in Week 6. The Blue Devils will travel to Annapolis a week following Navy’s nationally-televised (on CBS) matchup with Notre Dame at the New Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. This game comes at a key stretch in the Blue Devils’ season and a win would significantly improve their chances for postseason eligibility.

Week 10: November 6
Virginia (2009: 3-9, 2-6 ACC)
After two straight wins against the Cavaliers, the Blue Devils were sad to see Al Groh leave, and may be even more disappointed to see former Richmond coach Mike London on the sideline. However, after a disappointing 2009 that resulted in the dismissal of Al Groh, the Cavaliers have even more question marks in 2010, thanks to the departures of key players and the arrival of an entirely new staff. Virginia loses their top four rushers from 2009 in Jameel Sewell, Vic Hall, Mikell Simpson, and Rashawn Jackson. Marc Verica is the only returning quarterback with experience. With the new staff, there is new energy in the program, and the Cavaliers have several key returners on the offensive and defensive lines, so there is a foundation to build upon. Their schedule won’t do them any favors, however, with a potentially awkward season-opener against Richmond and a Week 2 cross-country trip to Pasadena to face Lane Kiffin and the much-maligned Trojans. As the season progresses, the development of the many new faces, especially at the skill positions, will likely determine Virginia’s success in Mike London’s first season. The Blue Devils will need to continue to assert their dominance over the new-look Cavaliers if they hope to climb in the ACC Coastal Division standings.

Week 11: November 13
Boston College (2009: 8-5, 5-3 ACC)
Duke will face an unfamiliar foe in Week 11, as Boston College makes a rare trip to Wallace Wade Stadium. In fact, the two programs have faced each other just four times overall (1927, 1928, 1929, 2006), with the Eagles holding a 3-1 series advantage. Thanks to the unbalanced ACC schedule, the Blue Devils and Eagles last met all the way back in 2006 in Chesnut Hill, with Boston College claiming a 28-7 victory. Both programs have since gone through coaching and roster changes, so it will be a new test for both teams. 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year Mark Herzlich will make his inspirational return to the 2010 Eagles, after missing 2009 with Ewing’s Sarcoma. If Herzlich can return to his 2008 form and lead this defense, the Eagles will compete for their third Atlantic Division title in four years. The Eagles overachieved under Frank Spaziani in 2009, and with most of the team returning, including 26-year old sophomore QB Dave Shinskie, they will be a tough test for the young Blue Devils.

Week 12: November 20
@Georgia Tech (2009: 11-3, 7-1 ACC)
After a two-game homestand, the Blue Devils will make the trip to Atlanta to face the defending ACC Champions at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Coach Paul Johnson will have his work cut out for him as he and the Yellow Jackets prepare to defend their title in 2010. Georgia Tech will have to replace their leading rusher, leading receiver, and top two defenders in Jonathan Dwyer, Demaryius Thomas, Derrick Morgan, and Morgan Burnett. On the offensive side, they do return All-ACC QB Josh Nesbitt, and B-Back Anthony Allen (and his 9.7 yards per carry in 2009). They’ll likely need to replace three starters on their offensive line, and have to find a big-play receiver to replace Thomas to keep opposing defenses honest. The biggest changes, however, will occur on defense, where former Virginia head coach Al Groh takes over as coordinator and will switch the Jackets from a 4-3 to 3-4 scheme. The defense will need to make the transition smoothly to allow the Ramblin’ Wreck option-attack to control the game. In recent matchups, including last year’s 49-10 defeat, Duke has failed to match the physical play of the Georgia Tech linemen; this will be Duke’s third test against the option-style offense, and it will be important for Duke’s new-look defense to match the speed and strength of the Yellow Jackets this year.

Week 13: November 27
North Carolina (2009: 8-5, 4-4 ACC)
This rivalry matchup returns to its traditional spot on the schedule, as the Blue Devils will close out the 2010 regular season with the Tar Heels in Durham. Though the Tar Heels have dominated the series in recent years, the rivalry has still provided memorable games, including last year’s 19-6 loss in Chapel Hill. The Blue Devils and Tar Heels traded field goals through the first three quarters, with North Carolina taking a 9-6 lead into the 4th quarter. The Tar Heel defense and strong running of Ryan Houston were too much for Thad Lewis and the Blue Devils to overcome, as they failed to find the end zone, finishing just 2/13 on third downs, and gave up a total of 192 rushing yards to North Carolina. The 2010 Tar Heels will again feature one of the nation’s top defenses, regardless of the outcome of the NCAA investigation. The biggest questions will be on the offensive side of the ball, where the Tar Heels will need to score points more consistently to compete for an ACC Championship. Tyler Yates will enter the spring as the starting QB, but if he struggles, redshirt freshman Bryn Renner may be given an opportunity. The Tar Heels will also need to replace two starters on the offensive line in front of Yates and RBs Ryan Houston and Shaun Draughn. The Tar Heels will play one of the toughest overall schedules in the ACC in 2010, and there is a good chance that the winner of this heated rivalry could secure both the Victory Bell and a bowl bid.