The Duke Blue Devils held their last talk with the media before Saturday's season opener with Florida International, and BDN caught up to cornerback Ross Cockrell and offensive lineman Takoby Cofield for a chat. With Matt Daniels having moved on, Cockrell will be expected to bring leadership to this year's squad, and Cofield will be key in taking on the tough Panthers defensive ends.
It's time to kickoff the 2012 Duke Football season this week, and Monday Musings hopes to see you in the stands at Wallace Wade on Saturday.
Injury-plagued Blue Devils face test up front in opener
The Duke Blue Devils will kickoff the 2012 football season this Saturday when they take on a very solid Florida International Panthers team in Wallace Wade Stadium. While the team has improved in many areas under Coach David Cutcliffe, injuries leading up to the game have been unsettling. As of today, the Blue Devils will be without several key projected starters, including receiver Blair Holliday, linebacker Kelby Brown, tight end Braxton Deaver, safety Jordan Byas and defensive lineman Jamal Bruce. They may also be without linebacker David Helton, who is listed as day-to-day. What this all adds up to for Duke is a serious lack of depth on the defensive side of the ball. This could really matter in this game as the Devils go up against a team that will push the tempo under new offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey. Cramsey's "pedal to the metal" approach will force Duke to go to many unseasoned backups as the game progresses and the front line guys start to wear down.
While the defense will have its hands full preventing big plays, an area that Duke clearly needs to improve upon over last season's performance, the offense faces a stiff challenge as well. The Panthers' defensive front is solid and very deep, so all eyes will be on an improved Duke offensive front, and whether it can give senior quarterback Sean Renfree enough time to work with a bevy of new and unproven wideouts. Duke did move senior Desmond Scott from running back to wide receiver, and he is capable of making big plays once he gets the ball in his hands. But until a strong second receiving option steps up, you can bet that All-ACC wideout Conner Vernon will see nothing but double teams, and it will be tough to get him the ball.
The Scott move may seem odd, as he is the last Duke player to rush for 100 yards in a game. But this could be indicative of Duke's depth and talent at the running back position, where the Blue Devils have two veterans in Juwon Thompson and Josh Snead and two talented newcomers in Jela Duncan and Sheldon Bell.
We'll start to roll out interviews from the Under Armor Elite 24 this afternoon, starting with Duke Basketball recruiting prospect Austin Nichols followed by 2014 stud PG Tyus Jones. There are lots of happenings with hoops recruiting, so join BDN Premium for full site access and don't miss any of it.
Let's face it, we all want to see the Duke football team bowl eligible and ESPN's Heather Dinich has the Blue Devils playing in the Military Bowl. The Blue Devils face a very tough schedule this season, so that is some serious optimism for Coach Cut and company. So are any of you starting to realize how much pressure there is for Duke to win its opener?
Good turnout needed for Duke
It's Duke Employee Day at Duke for the home opener against Florida International and the Blue Devils will need solid fan support to defeat a team coming off two straight bowl seasons. Let's have a great turnout where the home crowd helps lift the team to victory. It has all the makings of being a very tense and competitive game, so don't miss it.
Mark your calendars for October 19th and 20th, for that will be a heck of a weekend for Duke Athletics. On Friday, October 19th the always popular Countdown to Craziness event kicks off the basketball season, and the following day Duke hosts arch rival North Carolina in football. While schools can kick off the basketball season a week earlier with Midnight Madness-type events, Duke is not doing that this year, so CTC was moved back a week in Durham. Regardless, there will be little sleep for the BDN staff as we cover all the events, as we have in seasons past.
The Meet the Blue Devils football event went down this past weekend, as 1500 Duke fans turned out to meet this season's team. Fans got a chance to mingle with players and coaches while seeing the positive changes in the football facilities. Duke unveiled its team posters (ripe for autographs for the youngsters) along with the new helmets and new season ticket plans.
Duke Women's Soccer is hot and ranked #2 in the nation. The team crushed Elonthis past weekend, and they next take to the field in the UNC Nike Classic on August 24th at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill.
Be sure to check out ourBDN Open Group Facebook Pagewhere we load a lot of photos in an environment that more or less acts as our free message board. Of course, BDN's only true message board is reserved for premium members, who have full site access where they get all the latest inside tidbits and nuggets on the program, as well as a place to discuss recruiting with other members. Here is a link to the Facebook site, where you can see photos from the latest scrimmage and Meet the Devils Day. BDN Facebook Group
Speaking of photos, BDN has long used our own photographers, and we do not mind others using our pictures -- provided proper credit is given. All of our photos are copyrighted, and we enjoy bringing you up close and personal with Duke Athletics through the medium. But far too many other sites are now using photos without permission and without crediting the original source. If you want to use our photos, please contact us beforehand. Most recently, we had to remove two photos from a gambling site whose operators felt it was their right to swipe them and tag them as their own. It's not.
On a related subject, it's becoming more apparent to me that on today's web, it can be hard to tell the difference between opinions offered without benefit of real on-scene access and reporting, and opinions offered by those who do have the benefit of firsthand views of a program. The BDN staff regularly attends all Duke athletic functions and media events. Our team is in the trenches doing the work, enabling us to present an "eyes on" view of the subject matter. Why am I mentioning this? There is a growing trend out there of "reporters" and self-styled "insiders" offering what I'll generously term "borrowed information." A recent blog post came to our attention that consisted of BDN reports being simply copied verbatim, with a few minor word changes, and being passed off as the blogger's own work. The bottom line is that you can trust what you read here as being original in every way. We like what we do, and we make the effort to get out there to cover Duke athletics in a comprehensive, professional, and honest way.
Back to the on-the-field stuff: The September 1 home opener against Florida International looms, and it should be a good one. For those unfamiliar with the Panthers, they return 18 starters from a season ago, when they were a bowl team. The problem with playing an upstart program is that many fans underestimate teams they haven't heard that much about, setting themselves up for surprise and disappointment when they realize these guys can play. I can tell you firsthand that Duke will have to bring their "A" game to beat this team. Adding to the pressure is that, given the difficult schedule the Blue Devils face this year, many are already coining this a "must win." I think Duke will be ready but they'll need the 12th man, meaning a fired-up home crowd, to come out of the gates strong this year and get a win against a quality opponent.
What an exciting time of year this has been for Duke fans. Coach K has returned from London with his blokes in tow -- that's assistants Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski, mate -- and with Gold. And football is just two weeks away from kickoff ...
You need a map and compass to keep up with the various appearances Mike Krzyzewski has been making since he returned from the other side of the pond. Amazingly, Coach was the first one in the Duke Basketball offices the day after he got back, which is a testament to his dedication and hard work. Here at BDN, we're still trying to figure out ways of saying thanks for all that he does.
Meet the Devils goes off tomorrow at the Paschall Field House at around 6:00 PM. Paschal is the new facility in the end zone of Wallace Wade, and once you see it you will know that Duke Football is making the necessary moves to compete in the increasingly difficult ACC. This is a serious facility. Free posters, refreshments, drawings for prizes and such will take place. It's a great time to meet the football team in an "up close and personal" environment, and you'll be able to take pictures with your favorite players as well. Come on out if you can!
Staying with the pigskin, check out this in-depth question and answer feature on theACC Sports Journalweb site, where BDN Football Analyst Patrick Cacchio chats with Jim Young about the Duke program and this year's team. Jim made no bones about putting Patrick on the hot seat, and our man predicts a 5-7 season against a pretty dern tough schedule, both in and out of conference. For instance, Duke has to face Florida State and Clemson from the other division, while UNC gets Maryland and Wake Forest.
The pressure is already building for the opener against Florida International, who returns 18 starters from a season ago, when they went to the Beef O'Brady's Bowl. The Panthers dominate the Phil Steele Preview Magazine's All-Sun Belt pre-season team, with 10 players on first or second team. In last season's meeting down in Miami, the Panthers badly outgained Duke in total yardage, but the Blue Devils prevailed because they did not turn the ball over and they capitalized on FIU's only turnover to pull it out late by the score of 31-27. Undoubtedly seeking revenge, the Panthers will have their ears pinned back and be ready to rumble; in many circles FIU will be considered the favorite. It will be a heck of an early test for the Devils, and they'll need Wallace Wade to be packed and ready.
Patrick also has an interview up where he recaps the latest Duke verbal commitment, California running back Joseph Ageigbe. This is verbal number fifteen for the program, which really does seem headed in the right direction.
With all of that going on, Andrew Slater's latest interviews have been flying a bit under the radar at BDN Premium. Slater has set the gold standard when it comes to getting to know these hoops prospects. One recent post profiles The Rockwell Rifleman, Austin Grandstaff who is a young combo guard out of the Dallas area that we talked to at the Nike Peach Jam and then followed up with in Las Vegas. Then there's the Rebel with a Future, KavonLooney, a good-looking prospect from Milwaukee who has been catching the eyes of many scouts. There is also Explosive Potential-An interview with Robert Hubbs focussing on the Tennessee wing who continues his rise in the rankings, and finally the star wing out of Houston is profiled in And Justise for All-The Justise Winslow interview. As a paying subscriber you have full access to all of these articles and can talk recruiting and more on our members-only message board, where you will get all the latest scoop.
BDN will cover today's closed session football scrimmage and we'll have photos galore. Be sure to check out the previous pictures from Photo Day here and we will be adding more as time allows.
Standing at 6-3 and weighing in at around 320 pounds, Laken Tomlinson will be a key player on the Duke offensive front. BDN caught up to the redshirt sophomore during media day and here is what he had to say -