Tag Archives: Duke Football

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!

Magical Night for DeVon Edwards – The Man of the Hour

In case you missed the Duke Blue Devils thrilling 38-20 win over N.C. State, some guy named DeVon Edwards scored on a 100 yard kickoff return to give Duke a 17-13 lead over N.C. State and he would later have back to back interceptions on consecutive plays both for touchdowns.  If you didn't know Edwards name before, you certainly will moving forward.  Coach Cutcliffe said he had a "A magic night," in his post game presser and most of the media agreed.  In fact, the only thing Edwards didn't do was leap over a tall building with a single bound.  Edwards was a gem on the recruiting trail that Cut and company turned up and few recruited him out of high school, so yes, the staff knew what they were doing offering him.  It was quite simply one of the better personal efforts of any player in recent memory and his play electrified the near capacity crowd.  In fact, Edwards gave Duke a shot in the arm when their offense struggled mightily in the second half.  Enjoy his post game interview and you'll quickly see he is a humble young man, one which represents the type of character the current staff loves to bring in.







A Signature Win For Coach Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils

SONY DSCThe bus that pulled up on the Duke campus at 11:45 last evening carried a team that for the first time in its long history will be going to back-to-back bowl games. Duke football gained its biggest victory of the season, and one of its biggest in decades, disposing of the 14th-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies 13-10 in Blacksburg, VA.

As the game wound down, you could see the joy in the face of sixth-year coach David Cutcliffe, the man who came to Durham and turned around the fortunes of a team at the bottom of the BCS barrel.

No longer can the local radio stations or other media make fun of the gridiron Blue Devils, for they are 6-2 and riding a four game winning streak, including owning the state of Virginia with two consecutive ACC road wins over UVA and now Virginia Tech.

Nobody can begrudge Coach Cutcliffe the broad smile on his face when he realized Duke had the game in hand, and the program had the signature win of his tenure.

It wasn't that long ago that Duke was the joke of the ACC, and indeed the country. It has taken time to get the program to where it garners respect from its opponents and from the media. Now, the labor of Coach Cutcliffe, the staff, and of course the players, is bearing fruit. Their hard, hard work is clearly and emphatically paying off.

Coach holds his call-in show on Sunday afternoon and you can bet that some of us regulars will have to make way for more national media as folks address the big win and recognize the resurgence in a once-dormant program. In fact, before he could even get settled in upon his return last night, Cutcliffe did one show for satellite radio, and those requests will assuredly continue to come his way.

Cutcliffe has yearned to compete at this level, and to get his team to round the corner and establish real confidence that they should win games against quality opponents.

In the past, he would often say that the program was going in the right direction, and many would scoff at the notion as the team headed for a 3-9 season. And to be fair, it had been a long time since Duke Football was relevant, so taking the "show me" approach was not unreasonable.

Now, Cutcliffe and company have shown everyone not with words but with results on the field. There will be reverberations from yesterday's gutty win in many different areas.

With two home games left, with crosstown rival N.C. State and top-10 opponent Miami, expect Duke fans to come out of the woodwork and be a force in Wallace Wade Stadium. Historically, it takes Duke fans awhile to warm up to the football team, but when they do, it's a sight to see. With this bowl-bound team at this time, the stands at Wade should absolutely be awash in royal blue.

And then there is the recruiting trail. You can bet that the assistant coaches' phones have been constantly in need of re-charging as they try to take advantage of the program being at a high water mark. Duke now has a big-time win to point to, proof that the program is on solid footing. There is no doubt that prospects will take notice and be more open to a call from Duke.

With four games to go this season, the Blue Devils have done something rare. They have positioned themselves to create their own destiny. This team has turned a major corner. Coming into the season, I had several discussions on the state of the program with media members whom I respect. The one thing everyone agreed on was that Duke needed a win over a nationally-ranked team. The Blue Devils not only got that win, but they found a way to do it on the road in one of the ACC's most hostile environments.

Imagine for a second, a dark Yoh Center where Coach Cutcliffe's office resides. Imagine too for a moment, that the team has just gotten off the bus and found their way to campus parties.

Imagine his family waiting on him outside as Cutliffe takes the elevator and turns on the light in a dark hallway that leads to his office.

Imagine the joyous coach taking a moment alone to reflect as he reaches towards a shelf in his office.

You do not have to imagine the next thing that happens, for it will happen.

You see, in his office, Coach Cut has footballs commemorating key Duke football victories. One was his first win at Duke, over James Madison. Another was his first road win over an ACC team (N.C. State), which was also the program's first ACC road win in a long time. Most recently, the ball from the UNC game was added after Cutcliffe helped Duke break a long losing streak against the Tar Heels, and reclaim the Victory Bell.

So it may have already happened last night, or maybe it will happen today, but he will now add another football to the mantle, with the words "Duke 13, Virginia Tech 10 October 26, 2013" on it, and deservedly so. And that game ball for the win over Virginia Tech will be the most special addition yet.

And if it seems like I'm saying that the season and its accomplishments are complete, they're obviously not.

With four games left, the team has plenty of opportunity to expand on what is fast becoming a special season for Duke Football, and make more Duke football history.

And now when people hear David Cutcliffe saying the Duke football program is moving in the right direction, nobody will be snickering and nobody will be raising their eyebrows, because there can be no doubt that it is true.