Tag Archives: Duke Football

Cutlciffe Talks Duke Football

David Cutcliffe

The Duke Blue Devils are coming off a solid 41-17 win over Northwestern.  With the win, the team now stands 2-0 on the young season as they prepare for Baylor.  Here is a general recap of what we heard from David Cutcliffe today.

Stay Aggressive and Consistent

If there is one message Cutcliffe and staff are trying to hammer home to the team it is to remain aggressive and consistent.  Earlier in the day center Austin Davis said that a season ago the team was not as strong up front and that the goal in the off-season was to be better in that area from the start.  So far, this season, the teams offense has been much better by being more aggressive.  The same goes for the defensive front which is getting better pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Cutcliffe is Expecting Temple

With so little film to go on from Baylor, Cutcliffe said he had watched what Temple did a season ago.  He is also well aware that the Bears are changing quarterbacks in Zach Smith.  Their starter Anu Solomon is on concussion protocol but a change seemed to be in the works despite that.   Smith had success starting the last four games a season ago which included a 31-12 win over Boise State in the Cactus Bowl.  Cutcliffe also said that defensive backs look forward to the challenge when they face a good passer and Smith is a pro style back.    It is clear though, that the Duke coach has respect for Baylor despite their rocky start even going as far as to say their athletes have track like speed.

1's vs 1's

The Duke coach also state that the team was practicing with the 1st team units going against each other.  This is being done in an effort to protect the ball,  Cutcliffe said his ball handlers were getting hit quickly after getting the ball in practice in an effort to teach them what to expect.  Duke has flirted with turnovers in both of their early season wins.

Special Teams Work

Duke also worked on individual player assignments in the punting game and on special teams.  They broke down the process on film and expect Austin Parker to have a better effort his week after a sub par experience in the win over Northwestern.

The Focus is on Duke

Duke is also focusing on what they can control, meaning their play.  Cutcliffe and his players say the team is always striving for consistency and building on that aspect each week.  "We still see some things we can do better," said Cutcliffe.

Duke Football Faces Brutal Early Schedule

Duke plays the 22nd toughest schedule in the country per Phil Steele.

With kickoff a mere twelve days away, Duke football is hard at work on the practice field making final preparations.  The Blue Devils open the season against cross town rival North Carolina Central where they will be heavily favored.

While David Cutcliffe is not one to look too far ahead of that match up, he has aware of the most challenging opening schedule in his tenure lies ahead.  In the weeks following the game with the Eagles, Duke will face Northwestern, Baylor, arch rival North Carolina on the road and then Miami.

Here is a look at how this staunch early challenge could play out.

September 2nd - NCCU at home

Firstly, one must respect the Eagles who went to a bowl game last year.  There are a lot of questions here in how Duke will let this game play out.  Do they get their starters lots of snaps or develop talent should they be fortunate enough to gain a comfortable lead?  On one hand you need to develop depth but you also need to make sure the offense is clicking.  Make no mistake, for Duke to go back to a bowl game this season it will be in part because the offense improves.  The team needs to average no less than another touchdown per game in 2017 for that to happen.

September 9th - Northwestern at home

A David Cutcliffe coached Duke football team has yet to beat Northwestern and this may be a tough year to end that streak.  The Wildcats chart in at 31st in the opening A.P. poll.  They are picked 2nd in their division in the Big Ten pre season poll and they return 16 starters which includes a terrific and veteran offensive team.  This is the kind of team you do not want to allow to score first, for when this happens they tend to win.  This game will be a big jump in competition for Duke from week one and we'll have the first measuring stick on where the Blue Devils stand early in the season.

September 16th - Baylor at home

So Baylor has been in the news for all the wrong reasons of late, but they are still quite good.  The Bears will be hard to prepare for in that they have a new coach and system.  They have a physical and big defensive front and a stable of running backs listed as the 2nd best in the Big 12.  As always, they can score in bunches.  While they lost some recruits due to sanctions, the program was on solid footing before that meaning they are talented enough to be considered a possible Top 25 team.  Duke will be coming off a physical game with Northwestern as they kick this game off around noon.  The bottom line is anything less than a split with Northwestern and Baylor will create a losing record going into the game with...

September 23rd North Carolina in Chapel Hill

How is this for an ACC opener?  The Tar Heels will want to get the victory bell back in this rare early season series draw.  Duke is likely to be banged up a bit after facing very good Northwestern and Baylor teams.  Nobody really knows what to expect from the UNC offense which will be a bit different, but there are a lot of returning starters on defense and a bolstered offensive front via the transfer route.  You just don't want to lose your ACC opener to a division rival, so expect some early season haymakers to be thrown by both sides.

September 30th Miami in Durham

Okay.  So Duke is now coming off their emotional match up with UNC only to face the team picked to win the Coastal Division in nationally ranked Miami.  The fans and team will be challenged to catch their collective breath during this brutal September stretch. The Hurricanes are loaded with talent and is a team that has their swag back.  Oh, and did I mention this game will be played on a Friday evening giving Duke a day less to heal and prepare?

We will sure know what Duke football is about after this incredible stretch of early season games.  It will be a challenge to keep players healthy and fresh.  It will be a challenge to put one week behind you in big time games and move on to the next.

It is not like the schedule gets that much easier past these games. Duke will travel to Virginia, play Florida State coming of their bye week, an always physical Pitt team and then Virginia Tech in Blacksburg before they get their bye week.

They will close the season out with Army on the road, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest in Winston Salem.  The hope is that they can somehow survive the brutal early schedule to be in position to make a bowl game by finishing strong.

Oddly, the only game Duke plays this year less than five hours from campus is at Army.  So that may be a small advantage in a schedule filled with oddities.

So early season success is a must in some ways in order to take the pressure off in later games.  Duke is a better football team this season, but they are young in many areas as well.  With a lot of the players on the roster returning for the 2018 season it would be nice to see the program get back to a bowl game in the 2017 season while building a bright future.

Duke football had been to four consecutive bowl games before a season ago.  The talent is there to start another streak but the schedule is an obvious challenge.  But that is why they play the games and it is time to kick it off.

Season and individual tickets and various other plans are available at the Duke ticket office or by visiting GoDuke.com.  Duke football plays some big time opponents on Brooks Field in Wallace Wade Stadium this season and the team needs local support.  See you at the games!

Duke Football Notebook

Duke Football Notebook
Duke Football Notebook

Football season is coming and fast as evidenced by the fact that the ACC media will gather in Charlotte this week to discuss the 2017 campaign.

Duke hopes to get back to a bowl game again this season and to doing so while possible will be difficult in a tough conference.  The Blue Devils return 12 starters from a season ago and will be a young team at several key positions.

The Blue Devils had been to four consecutive bowl games before that streak was broken a season ago.  Duke is expected to be picked 6th in their division once votes are cast but their fortunes could be better in the Coastal race.

Here are a few pre season notes and information heading into Media Day for the Blue Devils.

Team Strengths

  • Daniel Jones had a break out season after replacing the departed and formerly injured Thomas Sirk at the start of last season.  Jones was thrown directly into the fire and after a slow start showed immense promise moving forward.  Jones will take his first snaps this season with much more experience.
  • The wideouts pretty much return intact and there is more depth at this position than in years past.  Duke has experience at Tight end to go with talented newcomers as well.
  • The offensive line should come together at least where the starters are concerned.
  • The Linebackers are solid with depth in the two-man starter scheme.
  • Coaching should be better as many on the staff had a season to get their feet wet in competition after a year that featured major change.

Team Questions

  • While the offense returns a lot of players on paper, the unit has to score no less than 7 more points from a season ago to compete.
  • The defensive front will build depth as it goes and is very young.
  • The defensive backfield is young as well and will break in new starters.  Having a young unproven front and back is not an ideal situation.
  • The kicking game was abysmal a season ago.  There are some newcomers hoping to help, but the team must find a kicker that can knock down a 40 yard and in FG on a moderately consistent basis.

Other notes

  • As far as freshman who are most likely to start during the season we'll tab WR Scott Bracey Jr. on the offensive side of the ball.  A redshirt freshman has the skill set to compete early on for a starters spot.  On defense, look for true freshman DE to possibly start from day one or after a few games into the season.
  • Duke will also need to build running back depth quickly with two freshman high on the depth chart behind senior Shawn Wilson.
  • Duke will send QB Daniel Jones and DB Byron Fields to ACC media day as team representatives this Friday.
  • Duke opens the 2017 season with three consecutive home games before travelling to North Carolina for an early season ACC opener with its arch rival.

2014 Will Be a Senior Laden Team

Boone 150x150Duke will be a senior laden team in 2014. A quick look at the roster reveals 15 seniors with starting experience who will either start or be the first substitute at their position in 2014. Eight of the fifteen will take the field on defense, while the remaining seven are offensive players. Those fifteen players are spread across all positions with the exception of the secondary.

Here is the player listing with the number of career starts in parenthesis:

OG Laken Tomlinson (39), OT Takoby Cofield (29), LB Kelby Brown (29), WR Jamison Crowder (27), LB David Helton (19), DT Jamal Bruce (15), TE Braxton Deaver (15), QB Anthony Boone (12), LB C.J. France (12), RB Josh Snead (11), DE Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo (9), DT Jamal Wallace (8), DE Dezmond Johnson (6), WR Issac Blakeney (5), DE Jonathan Jones (2).

Those numbers reflect a great deal of experience by players who have become accustomed to winning over the past two seasons. Their experience should pay big dividends in the upcoming 2014 season when Duke takes the field to defend their Coastal Division Championship.

Experience can be quantified by looking at the number of games a player has started and the number of snaps he has played. How about talent level? Are Duke's seniors talented? Judging by the number who earned post season and preseason accolades, the answer is yes.

Jamison Crowder and Kelby Brown were 1st Team All ACC in 2013, while Laken Tomlinson was named to the 2nd Team and Braxton Deaver was named to the 3rd Team. Tomlinson and Deaver were also named to the ESPN All-Bowl Team.

A look at 2014 preview magazines lists reveals the presence of the four seniors listed above plus David Helton, Anthony Boone and Takoby Cofield. Here are the preseason All ACC selections by a couple of magazines.

Lindy's: (1st Team) Jamison Crowder and Laken Tomlinson. (2nd Team) Kelby Brown, Braxton Deaver and David Helton. (3rd Team) Anthony Boone.

Phil Steele: (1st Team) Jamison Crowder, Laken Tomlinson and Kelby Brown. (2nd Team) Braxton Deaver and David Helton. (3rd Team) Anthony Boone. (4th Team) Takoby Cofield.

Both Jamison Crowder and Laken Tomlinson were named preseason All America by various magazines.

With the facts all lined up, it is evident Duke's senior class is both experienced and talented.

Strong leadership is a crucial element in team success with experience significantly enhancing leadership acumen. The 2014 squad is loaded with talented, experienced players who are potential team leaders.

Anthony Boone was a team captain in 2013 and will be expected to be the team leader in 2014.

When discussing leadership, Josh Snead has to be part of the conversation. Snead led Duke in rushing in 2013 with 651 yards on 107 carries for an impressive 6.1 yards per carry average. Snead is vocal leader on both the field and the sidelines and will certainly be a guy teammates look to for both direction and inspiration.

The five senior defensive linemen could be the group who will have the biggest impact on achieving success in 2014. Games are won and lost in the trenches so it will be up to the defensive linemen to control the line of scrimmage and generate a pass rush to disrupt the opponent’s offensive flow.

In 2013, Jonathan Jones recorded three quarterback sacks, Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo recorded two, while Dezmond Johnson and Jamal Bruce generated one each. The importance of pressuring the quarterback cannot be overstated so it is imperative the senior defensive lineman are productive in order for Duke to be successful.

Behind the front four, line-up two extremely productive linebackers. Kelby Brown and David Helton are dynamic ball players with a nose for the football. Helton led the team in tackles with 133, while Brown recorded 114 tackles and two big interceptions in wins over Virginia Tech and North Carolina.

On offense, Duke returns their leading passer, receiver and rusher from last season: Anthony Boone threw for 2260 yards an 13 touchdowns; Jamison Crowder hauled in 108 receptions for 1360 yards and eight touchdowns; and, Josh Snead rushed for 651 yards and two touchdowns. Additionally, senior Braxton Deaver recorded 46 receptions for 600 yards and four touchdowns. Those four seniors will bring a tremendous amount of experience onto the field in 2014.

Turning to the offensive line, senior Laken Tomlinson is one of the best offensive linemen in the country. He will be drafted in one of the early rounds of the NFL Draft come next spring. Takoby Cofield also possesses NFL level talent and from his left tackle position he will be tasked with protecting Anthony Boone’s blindside.

While this article focuses on the seniors, the 2014 Blue Devils will include many talented juniors such as 2013 All America selectee Jeremy Cash plus plenty of underclassmen who shined last season. Junior Will Monday and sophomore DeVon Edwards also earned high praise in the various preview magazines.

However, 2014 is the last hooray for the seniors so the expectation is they will be playing with a sense of urgency. It is the seniors who will lead the charge when the Blue Devils take the field looking to earn a second consecutive trip to the Dr. Pepper ACC Championship Game and a third straight bowl game.

Fortunately for Duke, this year’s seniors are a strong group of talented, experienced leaders!