Tag Archives: Football Recruiting News

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Happy New Beer’s Eve from BDN Football Friday

Happy New Beer's Eve, Blue Devil Nation!

Two weeks of Football Friday in a row? For what do we deserve such fortune, you ask? I guess it just seemed like the right thing to do. Or maybe because it’s New Beer’s Eve, one of America’s terrific obscure holidays. In all seriousness, though, thanks for reading and please spread the word that Blue Devil Nation is home of the best Duke Football coverage around.

Spring Game Recap

One – okay, three – important points to remember about last Saturday’s scrimmage.

1. It’s a spring game. The team is a work in progress; September 1st is still nearly five months away.
2. It’s a spring game. Several starters did not play; players with injuries have plenty of time to heal.
3. It’s a spring game. Duke played against Duke; who knows how they’ll look against another opponent.

All that being said, there was plenty to be excited about and a number of things to be concerned about based on Saturday’s performances. If you haven’t checked them out already, be sure to watch our video interviews with Coach Cutcliffe, Sean Renfree, Ross Cockrell, and David Reeves to get their thoughts on Duke’s spring.

Ross Cockrell is developing into a shutdown corner for the Blue Devils -BDN Photo

The Good

Honestly, I don’t think it was a fluke that the starting defense outplayed the starting offense. Even without Kelby Brown, August Campbell, Kenny Anunike, and Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo, the white team defense took it to the blue team offense. And it was a balanced effort. The secondary, crucial to Duke’s 4-2-5 scheme, was particularly encouraging. Brandon Braxton looked comfortable at safety and led the way with 5 tackles, a number that was matched by his replacement, redshirt-freshman Chris Tavarez, who also forced and recovered a fumble late in the game. Jordon Byas and Walt Canty, two veterans at safety, also had strong efforts, each adding 3 tacklesincluding a tackle for a loss by Byas. Cornerbacks Ross Cockrell, Lee Butler, Anthony Young-Wiseman and Tony Foster held the blue team’s top receivers, Blair Holliday and Jamison Crowder, without a touchdown and to just 4 total catches on the day. Of course, it was Cockrell’s forced fumble on Josh Snead that was the play of the day and earned him defensive MVP honors. Kyler Brown and David Helton added strong performances from the linebacker position, and the Blue Devils will need them to continue to matuer ahead of schedule this fall. Duke was able to pressure the blue QBs from a number of positions, as DE Jamal Wallace registered a sack, while Braxton, Cockrell, and LB David Helton all were credited with a QB pressure. As with all things, it’s far from perfect, but the overall defensive effort appeared to be a big step in the right direction heading to the fall.

On the opposite side of the ball, there were plenty of flashes from individual players, but the blue team offense never seemed to be clicking on all cylinders – yet. Brandon Connette, the offensive MVP, certainly had a strong performance, highlighted by two powerful runs through the teeth of the defense to put the blue team on the scoreboard for the first time all afternoon, halfway through the 2nd quarter. Of note, he was also an efficient 4/7 through the air for 83 yards, including a 27-yard TD strike to Josh Snead. Speaking of Josh Snead, it was great to see him healthy and focused. His burst and speed was something that was lacking in Duke’s running game a year ago. All indications are that with the return of Snead alongside last year’s leading rusher Juwan Thompson and senior Desmond Scott, this should be Duke’s strongest running game under Coach Cutcliffe. We certainly saw flashes from some other players, such as David Reeves and Will Monday, all of which were encouraging. Perhaps most encouraging, however, was a glimpse at the increased tempo and diverse schemes utilized by the blue offense. It’s all still a work in progress, with much more to be added in terms of personnel and plays, but opposing defenses should have a lot to prepare for against this year’s Duke offense.

And finally, a look at the future. With the way the teams were divided, it was hard to take much of anything away from the matchup of the white offense against the blue defense, as both units were comprised primarily of walk-ons. Several walk-ons did have strong efforts, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see guys like Chris Hoover, Brandon Watkins and Eric Adams eventually play a few snaps in limited situations. Their blue-collar efforts are to be commended, and it was great for them to receive recognition. The scholarship players on those units, however, provide a nice glimpse into the future of the Blue Devil program. Obviously, freshman Thomas Sirk is the most notable, and he played well on Saturday. But before we crown him the starting QB, remember that most of his snaps came against an inexperienced defense and he still only played one year of quarterback in high school. All that being said, Sirk has the tools to compete for snaps in 2013, and given the depth issues at wide receiver, it’s too early to rule out lining him up out wide at some point this fall. Another strong performance was put in by redshirt-freshman WR Nick Hill, who has an excellent opportunity with the recent loss of senior WR Tyree Watkins. Defensively, Tim Burton, Britton Grier, and Sam Marshall all piled up tackles; they will push the starters on the depth chart for sure this fall, but realistically may be a year away from significantly contributing.

Sean Renfree had a forgettable spring game -BDN Photo

The Bad

Ok, let’s get it out of the way. Sean Renfree had a forgettable spring game. He finished 10/23 for 104 yards with 2 interceptions. His first interception was a poor throw that shouldn’t be made by a redshirt-senior QB; the second was slightly more forgivable, as the ball appeared to be tipped into the waiting arms of Kyler Brown. Most concerning, however, was the apparent lack of rhythm with the new offense, and the lack of chemistry with some of the younger wide receivers. Fortunately, Renfree is his own biggest critic, and one of the hardest workers on this team; fully expect for him to put in the work to be ready for a strong senior campaign. After a big spring, WR Blair Holliday didn’t have the breakout performance many expected, and he and Jamison Crowder will have to emerge as consistent threats if Duke is to have any success moving the ball this fall.

The other biggest concern of the day was the play along the line of scrimmage. Neither the offensive nor defensive line was able to control the game, and I think there’s still a lot of work to be done along both units. The offensive line needs to get Brian Moore back at center, and the hope is that this group will be able to stay healthy and consistent this fall. They will have to be a stabilizing force for a potentially dynamic and at times unconventional offense. The defensive line remains the big weakness of this team, overall. Brandon Connette exposed the weakness up the middle on two big runs in the 2nd quarter. Hopefully, the return of Kenny Anunike and Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo, along with another year under Coach Petri, will allow this group to take a big step forward this fall.

Duke hosted QB Chavas Rawlins on an unofficial visit Thursday

The Awesome

Come on, you didn’t really think I was going to end on a down note, did you? I thought it might be more fun to discuss recruiting than to argue over whether or not to renew your season tickets, debate the temperature of the leather chair in Coach Cutcliffe’s office, or complain about play-calling. Just my opinion. I’m sure you can find a place to discuss those things.

As for recruiting, Duke locked up two more verbal commitments over the weekend, solidifying the defensive backfield in the class of 2013. Safety prospect Jake Kite is receiving rave reviews for a highlight video that has basically gone viral throughout the Duke Football fanbase. At 6’1,” the junior from Roanoke packs a heavy punch, and Duke fans should be very excited to watch this young man bring down opponents in Wallace Wade Stadium. About a month ago, BDN spoke with a little-known sleeper prospect from Nash County in Dequavais Mann. At 5’9″ and playing multiple positions for a Northern Nash team that finished 2-8 last year, Mann’s recruitment got off to a slow start. That changed quickly when the junior athlete posted a 4.42 second 40-yard dash at a recent combine, and showcased his abilities as a lockdown defender. Mann started lining up visits, starting with a return trip to Durham for the Duke Spring Game. The Blue Devils extended a scholarship and it took just two days for Mann to offer his commitment to Coach Cutcliffe. And the staff is keeping the pedal to the metal, hosting top Pennsylvania QB Chavas Rawlins on an unofficial visit in Durham yesterday.

Don’t expect things to slow down anytime soon; we’re just getting started. The spring evaluation period kicks off on April 14th and lasts through the end of May, nicely coinciding with most high school spring football schedules. With their own spring practice behind them, the Duke staff will be out in full force, evaluating dozens of prospects and checking up on others. We’ll then reach the height of the recruting season in June, as Duke hosts their annual football camps, an opportunity for serious evaluation for both the prospects and coaches. So in other words, if you want to keep up with the latest in Duke Football, now would be an excellent time to try out a BDN Premium Membership. Ok, that’s my pitch for the day.

I know, these columns get wordier and wordier. Though in person I’m known for brevity, my writing clearly is not. Check back next week for another helping of Football Friday, provided I am able to purchase a new ribbon for my typewriter. In the meantime, enjoy the Masters for you golf fans, Happy Easter to the Christians, and regardless of your interests or beliefs, I hope you all enjoy National Beer Day on Saturday. WE ARE DUKE.

Oaks Christian star LB Cameron Judge is on Duke's radar in the class of 2013

Athletic Oaks Christian LB Cameron Judge is on Duke’s radar

Oaks Christian star LB Cameron Judge is on Duke's radar in the class of 2013

The Blue Devils are hoping to see one former Oaks Christian star light up the scoreboard in Wallace Wade Stadium this fall in receiver Blair Holliday. The Duke coaching staff is hoping that a current Oaks Christian star will light up Blue Devil opponents in the future. Cameron Judge is a 6’2″ 210 pound linebacker prospect from Westlake Village, California. As a junior, Judge totaled 112 tackles, 3 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles, earning 1st Team All-Ventura County honors. Though it’s early in his recruitment, the impressive athlete is hearing from a lot of schools, and the Blue Devils are giving him a long look. BDN caught up with Cameron last week for an update on his recruiting process. [private]

BDN: How would you describe your strengths as a player?

My athleticism, being a linebacker, it’s one of my strengths. Not many linebackers, I think, have my athleticism. I have a 39 inch vertical and I ran a 4.4 [second] hand-time 40 [yard-dash] yesterday. I feel like my athleticism is a big advantage for me.

BDN: What are you working on this offseason as you prepare for your senior year?

I’m trying to put on some more size, gaining some more weight, I want to be like 220-225 [pounds] by the season start.

BDN: You play for a strong program at Oaks Christian; what are some of your goals for your senior year?

We’re moving into the PAC-5 this year for playoffs, it’s a big statement year for the entire school, so we just want to do our thing and try and win CIF in this new playoff division.

BDN: As you approach your college decision, what are the most important things you are looking for in a school?

Academics is pretty important to me, so that’s definitely near the top of my list. And then also, like the environment, I want to be able to call the place home every day and feel happy there, amongst the players, coaches, and just the environment of the school in general.

BDN: Where do you stand with offers and interest from schools now?

I’ve been hearing from quite a bit of schools, I talk to Texas A&M quite a bit, Vanderbilt, Utah, UCLA, Oregon State, I hear quite a lot from those schools.

BDN: Which schools have you had a chance to visit?

UCLA is actually the only one so far.

BDN: Do you have any plans to visit any other schools this spring or summer?

I haven’t planned any yet, but I want to get out and see some schools over the summer.

BDN: Being on the West Coast, you’ve got a lot of PAC-12 and other West Coast schools interested in you. Is location going to be an important factor in your college decision?

Not really, no, I’d be open to going anywhere at this point.

BDN: Do you have a timeline in mind for when you plan to narrow things down or make your final decision?

Yeah, I want to have a commitment made before the start of my senior season, but if I don’t have a decision made by then, I don’t want to rush it.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Cameron, and best of luck.

Thanks.

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Northern Nash ATH Quay Mann is Duke's 5th commitment in 2013

Duke adds 5th commitment in 2013 from in-state ATH Dequavais Mann

Northern Nash ATH Quay Mann is Duke's 5th commitment in 2013

Head Coach David Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils have been on a roll over the past two weeks on the recruiting trail, securing 5 verbal commitments in the class of 2013. On Monday evening, they added another talented athlete to their defensive backfield in Northern Nash’s Dequavais “Quay” Mann. The 5’9″ 185 pound athlete picked up a scholarship offer from the Blue Devils on Saturday during his visit for the annual spring game. Mann has showcased his speed and skills on the combine circuit this spring, posting a 4.42 second 40-yard dash and earning several accolades from coaches and scouts. The speedy athlete is likely to join fellow class of 2013 commit Evrett Edwards at cornerback in Durham, but has also showcased his abilities on offense and in the return game at the high school level. BDN spoke with Quay earlier this spring, and also caught up with him just minutes after his commitment to the Blue Devils.

BDN: Congratulations on your decision, Quay. What was is that led you to your decision to commit to Duke tonight?

Yes sir, I committed to Duke about 25 minutes ago. I just love the atmosphere down there, I love Coach Cut and what he’s telling me. I just love the way it feels like a second home there, it feels good. It’s close to home, so my family will get to come see me on Saturdays. It just is a great fit, you know, great academics, get a degree from Duke…it was a bunch of different things that went into my decision.

BDN: What did the coaching staff have to say when they heard about your decision?

Coach Cut was very excited when I told him, he made the comment that he was anxious to get the best cornerback in the nation to campus, so he was just really excited about that and  talked about how much I can help them on defense and maybe a little bit on offense and in the return game also.

BDN: What should Duke fans expect to see from you on the field?

As soon as I get on campus, I’m going to work hard, try my best and help my new teammates to turn it around, you know, Coach Cut has done a great job down there building up the program and I feel great to be a part of that.

BDN: We’ll definitely keep in touch with you during your senior year. Congratulations on your commitment, Quay, and best of luck this fall.

Thanks a lot, Patrick.

Jake Kite will be a force in the Duke secondary.

Duke remains hot on the recruiting trail, adds a commitment from hard-hitting Virginia S Jake Kite

Duke gained a commitment from hard-hitting safety Jake Kite over the weekend

The Blue Devils are officially on a roll in the class of 2013, picking up their 4th commitment over the past two weeks in safety Jake Kite. Kite is a 6’1″ 180 pound hard-hitter out of Roanoke, Virginia. The Blue Devils beat out in-state ACC rival NC State for Jake, the son of Chris Kite, a former UVA defensive back. Duke was the first school to extend a scholarship offer and made a strong impression on a visit earlier this spring. Kite was on hand for Duke’s Spring Game this weekend, and decided to make his pledge to Coach Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils. After his junior season at Hidden Valley HS in which he totaled 149 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and 5 interceptions, Kite was named Regional Player of the Year and 1st Team All-State. He runs a 4.5 second 40-yard dash and the Blue Devils hope he’ll become a star in Coach Knowles 4-2-5 defense.

 

Duke-football

BDN Football Friday: Spring Game Preview

 

Coach Cutcliffe and the team will kickoff the festivities with the Blue Devil Walk at 11AM Saturday- BDN Photo

Are you ready for some football, Blue Devil Nation? Saturday afternoon will be your last chance until September 1st to see some Duke Football, so get your fill. The Blue Devils will take to the field on Saturday at 1PM in Wallace Wade Stadium for their annual spring game. BDN’s Football Friday is here for your preview.

 

Logistics

First of all, highs in the upper 70s, with a slight chance of isolated thunderstorms. Should be a perfect spring day for some football if the rains miss the Methodist Flats. That also means a perfect day for some tailgating. Get there early, as the team will conduct the Blue Devil Walk at 11:00 AM. Team BDN will be there in full force, so be sure to say hi. Here’s the information on the parking situation. Bring your wallets, even though admission is free (stadium gates open at 11:15), as there will be plenty of opportunities to get your Blue Devil gear, as well as stuff your face with Chick-fil-a, Domino’s, and Blue Devil Concessions. Oh, and the most important reason to bring your wallet is to purchase your 2012 season tickets. Ticket office reps will be on hand and help you pick your exact seats. Try before you buy. The game kicks off at 1PM and Coach Cutcliffe will address the crowd during halftime of the scrimmage. Spring practice awards will also be announced at halftime.

TE Issac Blakeney has had a big spring for the Blue Devils

Scouting the Blue Devil Offense

The Duke offense will feature a number of familiar faces, but it’s likely to be the unfamiliar ones who will make an impression on Saturday. We all know what Conner Vernon is capable of at wide receiver, but as he’s been limited due to injury this spring, expect to see a lot of Blair Holliday and Jamison Crowder, both of whom have had very strong spring performances. Nick Hill is another young face who appears ready to contribute, and Corey Gattis and Tyree Watkins add a veteran presence to the receiving corps. With Jack Farrell and Braxton Deaver sidelined with injuries, the Blue Devils had concerns at wide receiver heading into spring practice. Coming out of spring practice, tight end is no longer a concern, and you’ll likely see why as Issac Blakeney and David Reeves are sure to impress.

Up front, the Duke offensive line returns all but graduating senior Kyle Hill, and that continuity should benefit the Blue Devil offense. This group has improved each year under Coach Cutcliffe, and they’re looking to take a big step forward this fall under new OL Coach John Latina. Expect to see a few holes opened for the likes of the now healthy Josh Snead and last year’s leading rusher Juwan Thompson, who have seen the majority of carries with senior Desmond Scott nursing injury. If that trio isn’t impressive enough for you, the Blue Devils will add two more big-time running backs in just a few months, as Jela Duncan and Shaquille Powell will push for early playing time.

Am I forgetting something? Ah, yes, quarterback. While Peyton Manning had been a fixture in the Duke practice facilities this offseason, he will not be taking snaps under center for the Blue Devils on Saturday. Sean Renfree remains entrenched as the starter, and he’s had yet another good spring running the Duke offense. While much of spring practice is situational, Renfree has shown the ability to get the ball downfield, averaging 15.7 yards per completion in the last scrimmage. But Renfree’s old news, right? Coach Cutcliffe and the Duke staff have been looking at ways to get guys like Brandon Connette and Anthony Boone more involved in the offense, and they’ve done well with running the ball and catching the ball in some unique schemes. But don’t get too excited. Knowing the Duke coaching staff, the Blue Devils are unlikely to show off anything particularly new or exciting on Saturday, so we’ll all just have to wait until the fall. Expect to see Connette, Boone, and freshman Thomas Sirk take several snaps under center in relief of Renfree; all have taken big steps forward in their command of the offense this spring.

Ross Cockrell has developed into a shutdown corner for the Blue Devils

Scouting the Blue Devil Defense

Somehow, it seems that Duke has had a perpetually young defense the past few years, and that remain the case this spring, though they are overall more experienced. The losses of Matt Daniels and Charlie Hatcher will be the biggest voids to fill, and there are a number of candidates looking to contribute. Up front, Duke will be without their top pass-rushers Saturday in Kenny Anunike and Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo, but will feature much of the same group of athletic ends we saw a year ago, led by Justin Foxx, Dezmond Johnson, and Jamal Wallace. Sydney Sarmiento, Jamal Bruce, and Nick Sink are likely to see the majority of time on the inside up front. The defensive line continues to improve under Coach Petri and has the benefit of going up against a big and experienced offensive line in practice.

At linebacker, the Blue Devils will be without Kelby Brown for the foreseeable future, but expect sophomore David Helton to continue to impress. The redshirt is off for Kelby’s younger, but bigger, brother Kyler, and it appears that a nose for the football is in their genes. Austin Gamble is the lone upperclassman, though sophomores C.J. France and Jon Woodruff have some experience. And before you get down on the Blue Devil linebackers, keep in mind that stud recruits Keilin Rayner and Deion Williams will be on campus in just a few months.

Coach Knowles’ 4-2-5 scheme relies heavily on the secondary, and the emergence of Ross Cockrell as a shutdown corner is key. He’ll be joined by senior Lee Butler at cornerback, though youngsters Jared Boyd and Tim Burton will see time. The leader of the secondary this year is most likely to be leading returning tackler Walt Canty, though hard-hitting Jordon Byas has also turned some heads with August Campbell sidelined this spring. Newcomers to look for at safety include the hard-working Chris Tavarez, Britton Grier, transfer Jeremy Cash, and former WR Brandon Braxton. All should see snaps on Saturday and overall, this group has some of the best playmakers on the defensive side.

Scouting the Blue Devil Special Teams

Will Monday. That’s about all you need to know. With Will Snyderwine and Alex King now graduated, Monday has handled all of the punting and kicking duties this spring, and handled them well. By the fall, incoming freshman Ross Martin may challenge him for the placekicking duties, but expect to see Monday handle the punting for the next four years in Durham. On the return side, Jamison Crowder remains the Blue Devils’ top threat, but he’ll be joined by incoming freshman DeVon Edwards this fall, who took more than a few kicks to the house during his high school career. In all likelihood, getting to see Monday punt and kick should be a refreshing sight for Blue Devil fans and the only real highlight on special teams Saturday.

Recruiting still sizzling

Who are all those people with lanyards and nametags? That would be the dozens of high school prospects and their families who will be on campus this weekend to take in the Blue Devil program. Several members of the Duke class of 2012 will be on hand Saturday, and they’ll be joined by a huge group of future prospects. With 3 commitments already on board in 2013, the coaching staff is flying high on the trail and will have in some of their top targets in this class, including a handful considered among the nation’s elite. Coach Cutcliffe and his staff work on recruiting every single day, and this weekend will be no exception. And just like the staff, we follow the recruiting trail here at BDN, so be sure to check out some of our recent interviews with the likes of TE Nathan Marcus, and OL Sterling Korona, and of course lots more to come. Don’t be surprised if the Blue Devils hear more good news by the end of this weekend.

In case you haven’t figured it out already, Blue Devil Nation is the place to be for Duke Football fans. We cover the team year-round, and would love to have you join our growing BDN Premium community. We can’t wait to see you all in Wallace Wade Stadium this Saturday. WE ARE DUKE.

Duke would love to add top pass-rusher Jaylen Miller to their class of 2013

Gaffney DE Jaylen Miller plans to hit the road this summer

Duke would love to add top pass-rusher Jaylen Miller to their class of 2013

Duke is looking to build their defensive line on the recruiting trail, and have targeted a number of top prospects across the country. One of the first prospects to receive a scholarship offer from the Blue Devils is DE Jaylen Miller, a 6’2″ 263 pound prospect from Gaffney, South Carolina. One of the top pass-rushers in the class of 2013, Miller is attracting interest from a number of ACC and SEC schools, and plans to hit the road hard this summer to evaluate his many suitors. BDN caught up with Jaylen earlier this week to get an update on his offseason and his recruitment. [private]

BDN: How would you describe your strengths as a player?

I would say some of my strengths are pass-rushing. My pass-rushing has to be the best strength that I do have, and my quickness.

BDN: What are you working on this offseason as you prepare for your senior year?

For my senior year, I’ve got to work on my motor. I’ve got to stay 100% every play, that’s a problem that I’ve been having. I can’t take any plays off. My senior year, I want to have no regrets. My senior year, I want to be able to say I left it all out on the field.

BDN: As you approach your college decision, what are the most important things you are looking for in a school?

The most important thing I would say is the feeling I get. I mean, the education and everything, the football program, but the feeling I get, the atmosphere about the school. That’s somewhere I’ve got to spend four years of my life, in college, so I’ve got to be comfortable going there for four years, so the feeling that I get when I go to the school, the campus, the people, and everything around it, that will play a major role in it.

BDN: Where do you stand with offers and interest from schools now?

I’ve been in contact with plenty of schools, but I’ve got offers from Wake Forest, Duke, North Carolina, and I got one from Florida just yesterday. I think some schools locally around here have offered me, I have one from Alabama State, I have one from Wofford and Furman.

BDN: Which schools are you planning to visit this spring or summer?

This summer I’m going to visit as many schools as possible, just to make sure I get the right idea about the school. That’s basically my plan for the summer, to make sure I get the right idea about the school. I don’t want to misjudge a school or anything like that. I’m going to try and get to some camps also this summer.

BDN: It’s still early in the process, but are there any schools that have stood out to you at this point, either on a visit or your relationship with the coaching staff?

I’ve been to Clemson a few times, like Junior Day. I went to South Carolina’s Junior Day and North Carolina’s Junior Day. I know most of the coaches pretty well, except for [South] Carolina, I don’t know their coaches very well. As far as Clemson, I know the coaches very well and North Carolina, I know the coaches pretty well.

BDN: Do you have a timeline in mind for when you plan to narrow things down or make your final decision?

Right after the end of my senior football season, I don’t know if I’m going to narrow it down then, or what. It all depends on who offers and the feeling that I get. They say you’ll know what school is best for you when the time comes.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Jaylen, and best of luck.

Okay, I appreciate it.

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