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Previewing the Duke Blue Devils 2010 Football Schedule Part 2

2010 Duke Football Schedule
Devils preparing for 2010

Here is part two of a preview of the 2010 Duke Football Schedule. And here is the link to part one of the 2010 Duke Football Schedule preview

Week 7: October 16
Miami (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, 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, and with two weeks to prepare, expect the Blue Devils to challenge Miami yet again in this matchup.

Week 8: October 23
@Virginia Tech (10-3, 6-2 ACC)

Trips to Blacksburg rarely have been 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 Frank Beamer and DC 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’ young defensive line will have to slow the Hokies’ rushing attack if they want any chance to escape Blacksburg with a win.

Week 9: October 30
@Navy (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. 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 postseason chances.

Week 10: November 6
Virginia (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, and he may be challenged by four freshmen quarterbacks in the 2010 class, including early enrollee Michael Strauss. 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 structure 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’s 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 (8-5, 5-3)

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 return to the 2010 Eagles, after missing 2009 with Ewing’s Sarcoma. If Herzlich can continue his inspirational story by returning to his 2008 form and leading 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 (11-3, 7-1)

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 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 young linemen to be able to match the speed and strength of the Yellow Jackets this year.

Week 13: November 27
North Carolina (8-5, 4-4)

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, thanks in large part to the return of 4 All-ACC defenders, who all elected to defer the NFL draft and return for their senior season. 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. Led by LB Bruce Carter and DT Marvin Austin, the Tar Heels will try to repeat their 2009 success against the Blue Devils with pressure and physical play at the line of scrimmage. 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 claim both the Victory Bell and a bowl bid.

QB Sean Schroeder getting his reps in spring practice

Duke looking a new QB
Schroeder will get plenty of reps in the spring - BDN Photo

Durham, N.C. – One thing is certain for Duke Football in 2010 and that is the fact that they’ll be breaking in a green quarterback no matter who wins the battle.  Replacing Thaddeus Lewis is no easy task, but Cutcliffe will use the spring to see which of three quarterbacks listed on the roster will step up.  With projected starter Sean Renfree sidelined, sophomore Sean Schroeder will get some good looks.  The Blue Devil Nation caught up with Schroeder after a recent scrimmage game and here is what he had to say -

Just press play -

Duke Football Coach David Cutcliffe talks of spring practice and the coming season

Coach David Cutcliffe and the football program has the support of Duke Athletic Director Kevin White.  Coach Cutcliffe encourages fans to turn out for the annual spring football game on April the 18th.
Coach David Cutcliffe and the football program has the support of Duke Athletic Director Kevin White. Coach Cutcliffe encourages fans to turn out for the annual spring football game on April the 18th.

Coach David Cutcliffe has made his way out through the dew-covered turf at Wallace Wade Stadium to spring practice several times in the past couple of weeks.  As he makes that stroll each crisp spring morning, signs of change are in the backdrop.  Construction workers are going at it early on both ends of Wade and, just behind the practice field itself, a visitors locker room is being erected.

But the construction doesn’t stop there for it is happening on the field as well.  Cutcliffe is now in his second year as coach of the Blue Devils and, like the construction crews, he has to tear down and build.

When Cutcliffe arrived in Durham, it was his job to demolish the old way of thinking around Duke Football.  He assembled the best support staff in Duke Football history and then they immediately hit the road recruiting.  After that, he led the win-thirsty Blue Devil Football program to four victories, but he didn’t stop there.

To this day, Cutcliffe has demanded a work ethic from his players and he’s been unafraid to challenge the fan base and those who can get the ball rolling on much needed changes to Wallace Wade Stadium and the football program in general.

“We’re continuing to work on changing the atmosphere around the football program and we will not stop until that task is finished,” stated Cutcliffe before last season began.

Cutcliffe has held to his promise thus far and he is making strides to build a program, not just a winning season.  That kind of change takes time, but there is little doubt that Duke is finally on the right track and that football is once again exciting.

The Blue Devils suffered some key senior losses and must break in a lot of young players this spring.  A quick look up and down the roster and then adding the incoming players clearly shows that Duke is one of the youngest, if not the youngest, teams in the  ACC.

“We’re so much further ahead than where we were last year,  it’s like night and day.  Not a lot of numbers (players), but sometimes that’s a good thing with a lot of young guys getting reps.  It’s been one of the more energetic springs I have been around.  We are a faster football team on both sides of the ball.  That’s one of the things we felt like was key.  Our conditioning level is excellent, which has allowed us to work hard,” said Cutcliffe when questioned as to how spring practice had been going.

Coach Cutcliffe had also mentioned earlier this spring that, despite the losses and the youth replacing them, this looked like a football team.  Perhaps he was referring to what the team looked like when he came in last year, for he more or less said they were fat and lazy — or perhaps out of shape is a kinder term.  I asked Cutcliffe if he could elaborate on what he meant when he said we looked like a football team and he replied -

“Just the overall fitness, bending our legs, playing lower, using our hands better – things that a football coach would look for.  I don’t want to confuse that statement with we are ready to take on the world, but it’s starting to really look like football and when you can compete and the energy level is as high as it is it has that feel and sound at football.”

Cutcliffe is still well aware that his team must replace some key components, especially on the offensive line.

“We have a lot of work to do, obviously, in replacing three starters in the offensive line.  That’s obviously a work in progress, as is replacing Eron Riley.”

Despite those areas of concern, Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis recently told the Blue Devil Nation that the receivers had made good strides.  That is good to hear from the senior who will lead the offense.  But it was a player on the defensive side of the ball who said good things about the offensive line.

“Those guys are working really hard,” said Duke linebacker Vinnie Rey.  He continued, “Sometimes they get a pancake on us and sometimes we knock them back, but they are coming along.”

When Cutcliffe was asked about Vinnie Rey and what he meant to this years team he stated -

“Vinnie Rey has had a great spring – Vinnie is our leader.  He is our passionate and vocal and work leader and not just with our defense but with our football team.”

Another concern is the secondary where Duke has some bodies but needs players to step up and claim the position with their play.

“We are still trying to deal with the secondary.  I see some growth but, unfortunately, Leon [Wright] has been out with his hamstring again.  That’s allowed Zach Greene, Lee Butler, Colin Jones and Chris Rawakamba to get some work in.  At safety, Matt Daniels is an extremely talented youngster and we’ve just got to take our execution to another level.  We also have Byas and, of course, Catron Gainey is in there as well.  The experiment with Greene has been slowed due to his injured ankle, so it’s hard to evaluate there.  But this does let us evaluate where we are and, hopefully, we will find some freshman help when we get here in the Fall, but we are not counting on that.  Instead, we are trying to get with the squad we have here currently,” said Cutcliffe

Last season the tight end position had little depth due to injury, but this season the position could prove to be a strength and may be the most improved unit.

“Seeing Brandon King and Huff back healthy and Danny Parker who has had back problems all fall is healthy is positive for the position.  Getting Ryan Hall in early has been a big plus, so it is a position that could be a strength for us and I think it will be.”

The Blue Devils have a few more practices before they go to the summer break and that means the spring game which will kick off on April 18th is just around the corner.  BDN asked Cutcliffe about that game.

“I’m looking forward to the spring game but I am kind of wondering what the format is that I want to use.  With the squad as small as it is, we may not be able to have a standard spring game, but I am still thinking about that and we’ll send a release out to our fans soon.  We had a great crowd last year and I am expecting a good crowd this year with alumni weekend being the same weekend.  I am really anxious to get a huge crowd out here.  We are going to make it fun and I can promise you it will look like football.”

You can find out more information on this game by going to GoDuke.com and it would be nice to see a big turnout for the affair.  In closing our chat, I asked Coach Cutcliffe if he had a message for the Blue Devil Nation [Duke fans] and the coach said without hesitation -

“I would tell the Duke fans the same thing I would tell our players in that this is year two.  Anything we did including our fan support was awesome for year one, but isn’t good enough for year two.  Everybody needs to step up.  This football program needs to step up and we will, but our fans need to step up.  We need to break season ticket sales, we need to have a full stadium from the corners all the way to the bottom.  It’s time to go … what are we waiting on?  This is good football here and we’re really excited and ready to start this thing.”

Duke Spring Football Practice – Vinnie Rey is ready to bring it

2009 Season Ticket Packages are on sale at GoDuke.com
2009 Season Ticket Packages are on sale at GoDuke.com

When you are talking about the Duke defense in 2009, you can start with Vinnie Rey.  The senior linebacker is ready to bring it to the field this season and will be counted on to ease the loss of All ACC teammate Michael Tauiliili.  Rey was a defensive star last season for the Blue Devils and at times is a tackling machine.  Blue Devil Nation took in spring practice and was able to talk with Rey and get his thoughts on the linebacking unit and more -

Coach Cutcliffe just said that he sees you stepping up on this team and being a leader.  What are your thoughts on that?

In terms of being a vocal leader, that just comes with confidence.  It means watching film and listening to what Coach wants and carry that to the field.  We have other linebackers that are leaders like Damian Thornton, Abraham Kromah and Adam Banks.   We watch a lot of film and we are working a lot and that brings confidence that allows us to play fast and be vocal on the field.  That’s from Coach Mac [Macintyre], he teaches us to do these things.  Personally, I feel a lot more confident on the field.

This is your second year or spring under Coach Cut.

I feel that the difference from last year is there  is another step we have to take.  coaches are demanding a lot from us be it conditioning, playing fast, mental toughness on the field.  Even if you might be tired or hurt not to show that which is something I have to work on.  Just to be able to take the extra step and get better and better.

Some of the pundits are already saying the line backers could be a weak spot on defense.  What do you think of the guys you have been working with this spring?

Well, to tell you the truth, we feel we can be one of the best units in the ACC.  Our goal is to be the best bar none and it’s all about bringing it every day which we continue to try and do.  Every day we bring the intensity to the field – we make some mistakes, but as long as the intensity is there you can build off that.  I don’t see any reason why we can’t be one of the best units on this team if not the best.

In the back of your mind are you already thinking about Richmond (home opener)?

(smiling) I do sometimes!  One of our quotes is we prepare for Saturday today … Saturday in 2009.  We are thinking about them a little bit, but we are also thinking about stopping the guys on our offensive side in practice.  We have to think about going up against the offensive line and beating them every play.  How are we going to beat Richmond if we don’t practice winning in practice?

Speaking of the offensive line, there were some major losses there.  What has it been like going up against those guys so far this spring?

We have had some battles with them.  I don’t know that much about the trenches but toughness is a big issue.  They’ve knocked us on the ground sometimes getting pancakes on us, but we’ve knocked them back sometimes.  There has been some battles.  All this stuff about linebackers or the offensive line being a weakness – we don’t even care, we just go out and work hard every day.  We’ll see what happens when all is said and done.

Talk a little bit about your coaches …

Coach Cu [Cutcliffe] t gives us several fundamental quotes and statements and we just go about it.  Coach [Mike] Macintyre?  He preaches hawking the ball.  We have a board in our meeting room which shows how many times you hawked the ball and if your numbers are bad on the board it’s kind of embarrassing, so you want to get those numbers high.  That’s an incentive to go out and hawk the ball every day.

And the bottom line is …

We know how to work better.  We know how to bring it.  So, we bring it every day.  One thing Coach Cut always says is you are either going to get better or you are going to get worse and I feel that we are getting better every day.