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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.

6'4" WR Anthony Nash could bring a new dynamic to the Duke passing game

Big WR Anthony Nash could bring a new dynamic to the Duke passing game

6'4" WR Anthony Nash could bring a new dynamic to the Duke passing game

Under Head Coach David Cutcliffe, the Blue Devil offense has featured some of the best receivers in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the country. This fall, Duke fans hope to watch All-ACC candidates Donovan Varner and Conner Vernon help lead the Blue Devils to a bowl game. With Varner listed at 5’9” and Vernon at 6’2,” the Duke offense has been lacking a long, physical receiver to create match-up problems with opposing cornerbacks. With only a few available scholarships remaining in the class of 2012, Duke could still use a big, physical receiver, and Bayard Rustin’s Anthony Nash could be a big target. At 6’4” and 180 pounds, Nash had a standout junior year, finishing with 62 catches for over 1300 yards and 16 touchdowns. His efforts earned him 1st Team All-League and 2nd Team All-Area in Pennsylvania. After a slow start, Nash’s recruitment has heated up on the camp circuit this summer, where he recently earned a Duke offer. Duke fans are hopeful that Nash will join the Duke class of 2012 and bring a new dynamic to their offense. [private]

 

BDN: What are some of your strengths as a player?

My strength as a player is my size. As a wide receiver, it’s hard for corners to jump with me. I have good speed for my size, I run a 4.3-4.4 40.

BDN: What are some of the things you have been working on this offseason?

Definitely footwork, a lot of footwork, and my route running.

BDN: What are your goals for your senior year?

For my senior year, just to play well as a team, hopefully win a state championship and just do better than we did in the past few years.

BDN: What are the most important things you are looking for in a college?

Education, if they have a good education, then that’s going to benefit me in the long run. Certainly to see if they have my major, I want to study animal science because I want to be a veterinarian.

BDN: Which schools have been recruiting you the hardest, or have you had the most contact with?

Duke, they gave me an offer when I went up there for camp. I’ve been in a lot of contact with North Carolina, Maryland, and Boston College. Boston College wants me to take a visit up there, they say they have an offer waiting for me, so we’ll see how that goes if I take a visit, probably in August, to Boston College. I’m going to North Carolina, in July, July 22.

BDN: Are both of those visits for camps, or just unofficial visits?

North Carolina is a 7-on-7 thing.

BDN: You mentioned you took a visit to Duke already; which other schools have you had a chance to visit?

I took a visit to Penn State and to Connecticut, that was awhile ago, though.

BDN: Can you talk a little about what you liked so far on your visits?

I liked Penn State because they have a nice campus and they have a nice football facility as well, plus their history, that brings them out more. Connecticut was fine, it was a little small, though, so I didn’t really care about it that much, but it was pretty cool. The camp at Duke went well, pretty good. I was impressed with it also.

BDN: Do you have an idea for how or when you would like to narrow things down and make your decision?

I’m going to wait it out. I’m going to see in August if I can cut it down to my top 3 schools and then maybe in September make my decision.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Anthony, and best of luck to you.

Thank you, you too.

[/private]

 

WR Drae Bowles could become a program-changer for the Blue Devils, on and off the field

Elite WR Drae Bowles is one of Duke’s top recruiting targets

Duke hopes that WR Drae Bowles will become a program-changer, on and off the field

Under Head Coach David Cutcliffe, the Blue Devil offense has featured some of the best receivers in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the country. This fall, Duke fans hope to watch All-ACC candidates Donovan Varner and Conner Vernon help lead the Blue Devils to a bowl game. With the impending graduation of senior Donovan Varner, however, Duke is looking for an elite wide receiver in the class of 2012, and are in the mix for a top prospect from the state of Tennessee. Drae Bowles is a 6’1” 200 pound receiver prospect from Jackson Christian HS. After an impressive junior season that included 14 touchdown catches on offense and an All-State selection at linebacker, Bowles has received countless accolades from coaches and scouts alike. With over 20 scholarship offers, the top wide receiver will have his pick of schools, and the Blue Devils hope he chooses to become an impact player for their program.

BDN: Can you start off by describing your strengths for fans who haven’t had a chance to see you play?

Definitely my hands, coaches tell me I have great hands as a physical receiver.

BDN: What are some of the things you have been working on this summer?

Just working on getting better at all aspects of the game of football.

BDN: What are the most important things you are looking for in a college?

The most important things is a place that feels like home. A place where I have a good relationship with the coaches and I feel comfortable. And also a place where I feel like I can contribute early. Those are probably the most important things for me.

BDN: Which schools have been recruiting you the hardest, or have you had the most contact with?

Well I don’t have any favorites right now, but probably Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Duke, Ole Miss, and Maryland are recruiting me the hardest right now.

BDN: You mentioned the importance of your relationship with the coaching staff; which coaches do you feel like you have a strong relationship with so far?

Which coaches…probably the schools I mentioned. I have a good relationship with a lot of the coaches right now.

BDN: Do you have any plans for visits this summer?

I’m planning to take at least three visits in July, but I haven’t been able to visit any schools this month.

BDN: You mentioned Duke as one of the schools that is recruiting you the hardest; can you talk a little bit about what you like about Duke?

Well Duke is definitely a school I am considering. It obviously is a great school academically and that appeals to me, but I also like their coaches. Coach Cutcliffe seems like a real honest, genuine man and I also really like Coach Loebner and Coach Lubick. I really like their coaches.

BDN: Do you think that Duke is a place where you could contribute early in their offense?

Definitely.

BDN: Do you have an idea for how you would like to narrow things down and make your decision?

I really haven’t thought about it yet, I don’t know, I’m just going to take it one at a time.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Drae, and best of luck to you.

I appreciate it, thank you very much sir.