Tag Archives: Duke Offensive Line

Duke with host OL Elijah George on an official visit this weekend.

Duke stands out to hard-working Arbor View OL Elijah George

Duke has stood out early to Arbor View OL Elijah George

In the class of 2012, the Blue Devils gained a big commitment from the state of Nevada in RB Shaquille Powell. Coach Cutcliffe and the Duke staff are hoping to add another player to the program from the Las Vegas area in OL Elijah George. George is a 6’5″ 245 pound lineman from Arbor View HS in Las Vegas. Playing on both sides of the ball, George helped to lead Arbor View to the Sunset Region semifinals and a 9-3 overall record as a junior, earning himself 1st Team All-Northwest Division and 2nd Team All-State honors. Not surprisingly, he has seen his recruitment heat up this spring. The Blue Devils were among the first to offer and have made a strong early impression on the big offensive line prospect. BDN caught up with the hard-working lineman over the weekend to get an update on his recruitment. [private]

 BDN: How would you describe your strengths as a player?

Well, I think that the thing that attracts colleges is my height, and how they see that I adapt to what they’re trying to accomplish on the college level. My strength on the field is that I don’t give up, I don’t care if they’re 8 feet tall or 600 pounds, no game is unbeatable, that’s how I look at it, that’s how my teammates look at it.

BDN: What are you working on this offseason as you prepare for your senior year?

In the offseason, I went to a Nike camp recently, I’ve been working on my footwork and my hand placement, and my speed, just finding ways to get better each day. I definitely hope to accomplish going to state, I want to leave my mark on my high school, just want to help put the best team out there, that’s how I look at it.

BDN: As you approach your college decision, what are the most important things you are looking for in a school?

I’m looking for most in a college is education, that’s what my family is strong about, most of my family went to college. Education will get me farther than football. I’m looking for the best education that colleges can offer me.

BDN: Where do you stand with offers and interest from schools now?

I have three from UNLV, SMU and Duke. BYU is coming to see me and I’m talking to Nebraska. But at this point, Duke is probably where I’m headed.

BDN: Which schools have you had a chance to visit or do you have plans to take any visits later this spring or summer?

I think I’m going to go see some sometime in the spring. I don’t know about Nebraska yet, my family is talking about a visit to Duke and some other colleges.

BDN: You mentioned that Duke was a school that stands out to you; what is about the Duke program that interests you?

The coaches that came to see me, I like their plans for the future about, well they’re not really known as a football school, but their mindset about making football be as big as the basketball team. I’ve been looking up their program, it just seems like they have a plan and I like where they’re going.

BDN: Are there any schools that you haven’t heard from that you are interested in, or grew up following?

Well, I grew up in LA and always wanted to go to USC, or maybe Oregon, but you know, those were just childhood dreams.

BDN: Do you have a timeline in mind for when you plan to narrow things down or make your final decision?

I don’t know, sometime around my senior year, definitely after football season, but before signing day, like a month or two before signing day.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Elijah, and best of luck.

Thank you. [/private]

Highlights from Elijah George at the Nike SPARQ Combine in Long Beach can be seen here.

Richmond HS OG Tyrone Crowder already holds 14 scholarship offers

Top in-state OL Tyrone Crowder likes Duke, UNC, and NC State early

Richmond HS OG Tyrone Crowder already holds 14 scholarship offers

Under Coach Cutcliffe, the Blue Devils have built one of the top offensive lines in the ACC, ranking near the top of the conference in sacks per pass attempt a year ago. The offensive line is expected to be a strength yet again this year, led by senior Brian Moore and Freshman All-American Laken Tomlinson. The Blue Devils’ coaching staff is looking to continue to build strength up front in the class of 2013, and have the top lineman in the state at the top of their wish list. Tyrone Crowder is a  6’2″ 310 pound offensive guard prospect from Richmond Senior HS in Rockingham, NC. An ESPNU150 Watch List member and with 14 scholarship offers already, Crowder will have his pick of schools from across the country, but three in-state ACC schools have made a solid early impression. After his recent visit to Durham for the Duke vs. North Carolina basketball game, BDN caught up with the talented lineman to get an update on his recruitment. [private]

BDN: How would you describe your strengths as a player?

I guess I’d say I’m explosive, have quick feet, and am just explosive at the line. That’s pretty much it.

BDN: What are you working on this offseason as you prepare for your senior year?

Lots of things. Right now, just working out some of the wrinkles, just the basic steps and improving my pass protection.

BDN: As you approach your college decision, what are the most important things you are looking for in a school?

A great program, great coaches, and the campus lifestyle, because I’ll be there for 3-5 years. I haven’t really set up my major, but it might be a factor.

BDN: Do you have any ideas for what you might want to study in college?

Not right now, I’m working on it, but I’m just getting started.

BDN: Where do you stand with offers and which schools are you hearing from the most?

I have 14 offers, but I’m hearing basically the most from the schools in North Carolina.

BDN: Which schools have you had a chance to visit recently?

Duke, [North] Carolina, and [NC] State.

BDN: What did you like about those visits?

The coaches, all the coaches are great there. I got to visit the campuses a bit, they were nice, and see the facilities.

BDN: Are there any coaches you have started to develop a close relationship with?

From UNC, me and Coach Kap[ilovic], we talk basically once or twice a week. Also Coach Bridge from [NC] State, and Coach Collins from Duke.

BDN: Are there any other schools you plan to visit or would like to hear from?

Well, I know I’m planning on going to Florida this April 6th.

BDN: Do you have a timeline in mind for when you plan to narrow things down or make your final decision?

Right now, I don’t really have a timeline, but I’d like to narrow it down soon, I haven’t really decided it yet. For making my decision, whenever I feel like I know where I want to go, I‘ll just make my decision and make it, it doesn’t have to be on Signing Day…I’ll probably have a top five soon.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Tyrone, and best of luck.

Okay, thanks.

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6'9" Mike McGlinchey is one of the top OT prospects in the country

Elite 2013 OT Mike McGlinchey comes away impressed by Duke visit

6'9" Mike McGlinchey is one of the top OT prospects in the country

As the Duke Football coaching staff works to improve the 2012 Blue Devils on the field this spring, they’re also looking forward to the 2013 recruiting class. Already this spring, several top 2013 prospects have toured the Duke campus and football facilities. This past weekend, Duke welcomed 9 top prospects to Durham, headlined by one of the top offensive line prospects in the country. Mike McGlinchey is a 6’9″ 275 pound offensive tackle prospect from the William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia. His combination of strength and size has placed him squarely at the top of new OL Coach John Latina’s recruiting board. Having coached several NFL linemen during his tenures at Notre Dame, Ole Miss, and Clemson, Coach Latina now looks to continue his success with the Blue Devils in Durham. McGlinchey is exactly the type of prospect with the skills to succeed at Duke, both on and off the field. With 20 scholarship offers, however, the big lineman will have his choice of schools; the Blue Devils are among those who have made a good early impression. [private]

BDN: How would you describe your strengths as a player?

I’m getting recruited to play offensive tackle and I guess they like me because of my length and my size and stuff like that. Also, as a player, I’m very physically sound, I have fast, quick feet and I like to finish blocks. It’s a good combination, I guess, for college coaches to look at.

BDN: What are you working on this offseason as you prepare for your senior year?

Just to keep getting stronger as a whole, physically, and being able to move faster and have better feet. I’m just trying to work out on every aspect of my game.

BDN: As you approach your college decision, what are the most important things you are looking for in a school?

I’m looking for a school that has a bunch of great people there. I’m looking for a school that is a great school in itself. I’m looking for a program that is going to be a solid program and help me grow as a player, and somewhere that I know that I’ll fit in and have success.

BDN: Where do you stand with offers and visits now?

I’m at 20 offers now, I’m trying to narrow it down. I’m planning on taking about 3 or 4 more visits and then I’ll probably make a decision after that. I’m really excited about all of the opportunities that I have and I can’t wait to see all of the other schools that I’m going to visit.

BDN: Which schools have you had a chance to visit?

I’ve visited Maryland, Virginia, Rutgers, and Boston College so far. And I visited Duke yesterday. I liked all the schools and it’s going to be hard to narrow one down to see what one is right for me.

BDN: Do you know which 3 or 4 schools you definitely plan to visit this spring?

I think I’m going to visit Penn State, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, and maybe one other school, I’m not sure. Those are the 3 I’m definitely going to visit.

BDN: Can you talk a little bit more about your visit to Duke yesterday?

Duke was awesome yesterday. I loved it there. It was a great experience, obviously, they took us to see the Carolina basketball game and the atmosphere was unbelievable. I really enjoyed the experience and I got to know the coaching staff and I liked them a lot. It’s a great place down there and I’m really excited about the opportunity to have them recruiting me.

BDN: How did your visit to the other schools like Virginia, Maryland, and Boston College go?

They all went well as well. Like I said, it’s going to be tough because everywhere you go you like seeing. I’m just going to have to make a list and think about it pretty long and hard about which school is going to be the best spot for me.

BDN: You mentioned that you plan to take a few more visits and then make your decision. Do you have a date in mind for when you plan to narrow things down or make your final decision?

I think I’m going to make a decision by the end of the school year, if not then, then by a couple months later, if needed. I want to get it done before my senior football season.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Mike, and best of luck.

Alright, thank you so much.

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In just over a month, Duke and Richmond will kickoff the 2011 season under the lights in Wallace Wade Stadium

Football Friday, the extended version – previewing the Duke Offense

In just over a month, Duke and Richmond will kickoff the 2011 season under the lights in Wallace Wade Stadium

If you think football season is close, consider this: there is only one more Football Friday before Duke opens training camp. If that doesn’t get you excited, hopefully the rest of this column will. Early analysis suggests that this may be the longest Football Friday ever, so pace yourself!

No sales pitch this week. If you’re reading this, you already know how good BDN is. One other note: Duke football season tickets are still available, so if you haven’t got yours yet, time is running out. Away game tickets are also available, and we can say from experience that it’s a lot of fun to be part of the Duke faithful in watching a big Blue Devil road victory. Starting on August 1st, Duke will make single game home tickets available at GoDuke.

What happened?

I don’t know what else to say. Last weekend, all seemed well at the ACC Football Kickoff in Pinehurst. Though still somewhat hard to believe, Butch Davis continued to weather the storm and appeared poised to lead the Tar Heels in 2011. Then, Wednesday happened. For reasons that still remain unclear, Chancellor Holden Thorp fired Davis after a closed-door meeting with the Board of Trustees. Thursday, Athletic Director Dick Baddour announced that he will be stepping down as well, and the Tar Heels later tagged Defensive Coordinator Everett Withers as interim Head Coach. The timing of all this is puzzling, to say the least, and leaves the Tar Heel players, fans, and administration in a difficult position. In addition to the financial costs associated with Coach Davis’ termination, the Tar Heels will now have to pay off their stadium improvements. With many players, fans and boosters upset with the handling of the football scandal for one reason or another, UNC is certainly in an unenviable position. We could spend all Football Friday talking about the scandal and these recent developments, but we’ll just highlight two points:

  1. First, in the current climate of NCAA athletics, let’s be thankful for those who do things the right way. Duke is fortunate to be led by good people who want to win, and want to do it honestly. Thank you to Coach Krzyzewski, Coach Cutcliffe, Dr. Kevin White and Dr. Richard Brodhead for their outstanding character and dedication to Duke University. Every program has problems, but the Blue Devils’ leadership has handled these situations appropriately, consistently, and with class. And thank you to all of the coaches and administrators throughout the NCAA who continue to improve the lives of thousands of student-athletes and uphold the integrity of college athletics.
  2. Those responsible should be held accountable for the egregious transgressions within the North Carolina football program, athletic department, and academic administration. It appears that this is finally being done, and one could argue that there is no wrong time to do the right thing. That being said, this puts the football program in a difficult position, and while it may be difficult for any Duke fan to say something nice about a Tar Heel, we all want what’s best for the ACC and the student-athletes. We want to see the ACC become a more competitive football conference, and we want to see programs win the right way. Hopefully, the Tar Heels will eventually arise from this scandal as a better program and a more respectable member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

    Duke's Brandon Harper signed a free agent contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars this week

Congratulations to Duke’s Brandon Harper

With the NFL lockout finally over, Duke’s Brandon Harper was the first former Blue Devil to earn an opportunity as a professional, signing a free agent contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. BDN wishes the best of luck to Brandon and all of the Blue Devil alumni pursuing their NFL dreams!

Dondo Files, episode 4

Duke senior receiver Donovan Varner has started a video blog, the Dondo Files, and released episode 4 this week. He has great messages for young players and fans about hard work and achieving your goals. This week, he discusses being able to take constructive criticism. With that in mind, how about more than 1 touchdown this year, Donovan? In all seriousness, though, we’re looking forward to a big year from the senior receiver and are proud to have him as a role model for young Blue Devils and players everywhere.

BDN previews continue

We hope you’re enjoying our week-by-week preview of Duke’s 2011 opponents. This week, we wrapped up Duke’s first half of the season with Tulane and Florida International, two important, but tough, games for the Blue Devils to win. After the off week, Duke will face yet another top 10 opponent in Wallace Wade Stadium as the ACC-favorite Florida State Seminoles invade Durham. Check back next week for a look at FSU along with Duke’s week 8 opponent, Wake Forest.

Last week, we took a look around the Atlantic Coast Conference, and our predictions weren’t too terribly out of line with the rest of the ACC media. The Blue Devils landed two players on the preseason All-ACC team in WR Conner Vernon and K Will Synderwine. Now that we got the ACC predictions out of the way, let’s take an in-depth look at the team that really matters – the Blue Devils. There are high hopes for a bowl game in 2011, and a lot of that may depend on how good the Duke defense can be, but the reality is that the Duke offense will have to carry this team for much of the season. For that reason, we kickoff our 2011 Duke Football Team Preview with a look at the high-flying Blue Devils’ offense. If this unit lives up to expectations, there should be plenty of excitement in Wallace Wade Stadium this fall.

Duke QB Sean Renfree is ready to lead the 2011 Blue Devils Offense

BDN Duke Football 2011 Team Preview: Offense

With considerable youth and inexperience on defense, the 2011 Duke Football team will rely on a veteran offense that finished 2nd in the ACC in passing offense and 7th in total offense a year ago. While the Duke offense showed flashes of dominance in 2010, there will need to be dramatic improvements across the board if the Blue Devils hope to make a bowl in 2011.

Quarterback

Losses: none

Key returners: Sean Renfree (R-Jr.), Brandon Connette (So.)

Newcomers: Anthony Boone (R-Fr.)

2010 Review: In his first year as a starter, Sean Renfree showed glimpses of his potential, but overall was inconsistent in leading the Duke offense. In particular, Renfree struggled with turnovers, finishing the season with an ACC-high 17 interceptions. Coming off of season-ending knee surgery in 2009, Renfree’s mobility appeared to be limited at times, particularly early in the season. More importantly, and not unexpectedly, the redshirt-sophomore struggled with his confidence throughout the season, especially on the heels of Duke’s embarrassing loss to Alabama. Despite the struggles, it wasn’t all bad for Renfree. He led the Blue Devils to three wins, finished third in the ACC with 3,131 total yards and completed 61.4% of his passes, including a midseason stretch of 16 consecutive completions and 28/30 completions against Navy, both school records. The 3,131 yards were the 3rd highest total in Duke history and helped to earn him the Carmen Falcone Award as Duke’s Most Valuable Player. The biggest area for Renfree to improve is certainly turnovers, and he demonstrated tremendous growth throughout the 2010 season. After throwing 15 interceptions in the first 7 games of the season, Renfree finished the season with just 2 interceptions in the Blue Devils’ final 5 contests.

In 2010, dual-threat QB Brandon Connette served as Renfree’s primary back-up and earned significant playing time with his legs. Connette set a Duke freshman record with 8 rushing touchdowns and finished the year with 321 yards on 78 carries. He struggled to move the ball through the air when called upon, finishing just 10/22 with 2 interceptions.

2011 Outlook: Simply put, the Duke offense will rely heavily on the play of Sean Renfree. If Renfree is unable to significantly reduce his turnovers, the Blue Devils will not be bowling in 2011. Now nearly two years removed from knee surgery and with a year of starting experience under his belt, Renfree’s mobility and confidence should be drastically improved from this time last year. With three of his top four receivers returning, along with 4 of 5 offensive line starters, Renfree will be surrounded by familiar faces and will be counted on to lead the Blue Devil offense. While there is no doubt within the Duke program that Renfree is the clear starter, he will continue to be pushed by a sophomore Connette and redshirt-freshman Anthony Boone, which should only help the Duke offense. Reports from spring practice were overwhelmingly positive for all three quarterbacks and for Renfree in particular. Coach Cutcliffe has anointed Renfree as the best returning quarterback in the ACC in 2011, and believe he is poised to have a “special” season. If the Blue Devils plan on playing in December or January, he will have to play like the best quarterback in the conference.

 

Coach Cutcliffe has senior Donovan Varner and the Blue Devils expecting to win in 2011-GoDuke, Duke Photography

Wide Receiver

Losses: Austin Kelly

Key returners: Conner Vernon (Jr.), Donovan Varner (Sr.), Brandon Braxton (So.), Tyree Watkins (R-So.), Corey Gattis (R-So.)

Newcomers: Jamison Crowder (Fr.), Blair Holliday (Fr.), Nick Hill (Fr.)

2010 Review:  As you might expect, the performance of Duke’s wide receivers mirrored the ups and downs of QB Sean Renfree. Overall, Donovan Varner and Conner Vernon make up one of, if not the, top receiving tandem in college football. After his All-ACC campaign in 2009, Varner became just the 2nd Duke receiver to post back-to-back 60-reception seasons, finishing 2010 with 60 catches for 736 yards and 1 touchdown. After a breakout freshman season that earned him freshman All-American honors, Vernon topped his 2009 campaign with 73 catches for 946 yards and 4 touchdowns. The duo of Varner and Vernon partnered with senior Austin Kelly to form the top receiving trio in Duke history in 2010. Kelly battled injuries throughout his senior year, but still finished tied for the team lead with 4 touchdown catches. Outside of the top three, Duke’s younger receivers had an inconsistent 2010. After a good spring, freshman Brandon Braxton had an up and down season in his first year of college football, playing in 11 games and starting 5. Braxton finished 2010 with 14 catches and 1 touchdown; however, of those 14 receptions, 8 went for a Duke first down. Overall, fans should be excited with his potential and can pencil him in as the third starter alongside Varner and Vernon in 2011 after a strong offseason. Redshirt-freshmen Corey Gattis and Tyree Watkins saw the field sparingly in their first year of college eligibility.

2011 Outlook: Despite the loss of Kelly, Duke’s third-leading receiver in 2010, expectations are extremely high for the 2011 Duke receiving corps. Led by upperclassmen Varner and Vernon, this should be one of the top receiving units in the country. As good as Duke’s receivers were in 2010, they will need to be better in 2011, particularly in finding their way to the end zone and securing passes (not all of Dukes 2010 turnover troubles can be blamed on the QB). Expected improvements in the Duke running game should open up big play possibilities for Duke’s receivers, allowing them to eclipse their previous career highs. With Varner and Vernon likely to draw significant attention from opposing defenses, the opportunities will be there for Duke’s young receivers to step up and make plays. Braxton will get the first shot as the third starter at receiver, and is beginning to develop good chemistry with Renfree. Expect Braxton, Watkins, and Gattis to show dramatic improvement over 2010, and they should be pushed by true freshmen Blair Holliday and Nick Hill for playing time. The athletic ability of freshman Jamison Crowder will be hard to keep off the field, and he may find some time at slot receiver in certain offensive sets. Led by two determined, dynamic upperclassmen, this group has the potential to be the best in the ACC.

 

Senior Cooper Helfet will lead the Blue Devils' Tight Ends in 2011 - Rick Crank, BDN Photo

Tight End

Losses: Brett Huffman, Brandon King

Key returners: Danny Parker (R-Sr.), Cooper Helfet (Sr.), Jack Farrell (R-So.)

Newcomers: Braxton Deaver (R-Fr.), David Reeves (Fr.)

2010 Review: For the past several years, the Duke tight end position has been led by two warriors in Brett Huffman and Brandon King. Seemingly always injured, it took a lot to keep them off the field. With some struggles along the offensive line, Huffman and King were called upon to aid the Blue Devils’ blockers for much of their careers, and did so admirably. The Duke staff likes to move the tight end around in their offense, and the versatility of Huffman and King allowed them to thrive in multiple roles. While Huffman and King assumed roles as the unheralded warriors of the Duke offense, junior college transfer Cooper Helfet emerged as another potent weapon in Sean Renfree’s arsenal. After struggling with an ankle injury early in the season, Helfet finished the year with at least 4 catches in Duke’s final 5 games, leading the team in receiving in two contests and earning two ACC Player of the Week honors.

2011 Outlook: Huffman and King will not be easily replaced in the Duke offense, but with two seniors and a talented group of young players, the tight end should remain a strength for the 2011 Blue Devils. Helfet appears poised for a breakout senior campaign and will be joined by redshirt-senior Danny Parker, who redshirted in 2010 after seeing 232 snaps as a junior in 2009. Redshirt-freshman Braxton Deaver should be ready to contribute in his first season of college eligibility and true freshman David Reeves may be too good to keep off the field in his first year in Durham. The concern for this group will be replacing the blocking of Huffman and King, but their receiving numbers should improve over 2010.

 

Desmond Scott leads an improved Blue Devil running game

Running back

Losses: none

Key returners: Jay Hollingworth (Sr.), Patrick Kurunuwe (R-Jr.), Desmond Scott (Jr.), Josh Snead (So.), Juwan Thompson (So.)

Newcomers: none

2010 Review: The 2010 Duke running game had nowhere to go but up, finishing last in the FBS in rushing in 2009. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the Blue Devils took significant steps forward in 2010, increasing their rushing averages by 46.5 yards per game and adding 13 more touchdowns on the ground from 2009. Still, Duke finished last in the ACC in rushing and 104th in the country in 2011. Desmond Scott led the Blue Devils in rushing for the second straight season, finishing with 549 yards and a 4.4 yards per carry average. Scott established himself as Duke’s best all-around back and endeared himself to the Duke faithful with his game-winning touchdown dive against Virginia. Freshman Josh Snead showed flashes of his ability before injuries interrupted his season, but still finished with a team-best 4.9 yards per carry. Fellow freshman Juwan Thompson saw his offensive role increase as he adjusted to the college game, but was primarily limited to kick return duty. Junior Jay Hollingsworth came on strong late in the season, igniting the Duke offense with impressive 2nd half runs against Miami. Redshirt-sophomore Patrick Kurunuwe saw limited action on offense and special teams.

2011 Outlook: Duke returns all of their running backs in 2011, along with four of five starters along the offensive line. While blocking may be partly to blame for Duke’s struggles in the running game, Duke’s rushers must continue to improve their vision, burst, and strength. Improved confidence could go a long way to improving Duke’s running, as some of Duke’s best runs in 2010 appeared to come when the Blue Devil backs were “running with a purpose.” Scott has emerged as the face of Duke’s running game, and must become a consistent threat both on the ground and through the air for the Duke offense. While Scott is likely to again see the majority of carries, Duke’s depth at running back means that there will be significant competition for snaps in training camp and throughout the season, which should force this group to continue to improve. Snead and Thompson should take a big step forward in their second year of college football, and the overall depth at running back should allow Duke to do a better job wearing down opposing defenses. Thompson, in particular, appears poised to be a breakout candidate for the Duke offense. While no one should expect Duke to become a great running team overnight, the pieces are there for the Blue Devils to continue to improve on the ground, open things up in the passing game, and keep opposing offenses off the field.

 

Brian Moore will slide to center and anchor the Duke offensive line in 2011-GoDuke Photo

Offensive Line

Losses: Bryan Morgan, Brandon Harper, Mitchell Lederman

Key returners: Kyle Hill (R-Sr.), Jon Needham (R-Sr.), Brian Moore (R-Jr.), Conor Irwin (R-Jr.), Dave Harding (R-So.), John Coleman (R-So.), Perry Simmons (R-So.)

Newcomers: Takoby Cofield (R-Fr.), Laken Tomlinson (R-Fr.), Marcus Aprahamian (Fr.), Lucas Patrick (Fr.), Cody Robinson (Fr.), Matt Skura (Fr.)

2010 Review: After watching Thaddeus Lewis play under seemingly constant pressure for four years, the Duke offensive line appeared to take a step forward in 2010. The group struggled again in run-blocking, but finished near the top of the ACC in sacks allowed per pass attempt. Morgan, though undersized, was the anchor up front, starting at center for 36 consecutive games. With little depth, the offensive line was asked to play through injury in 2010. For many weeks, Duke’s starters sat out practice but suited up on Saturday. That warrior mentality showed through on the field, as Duke improved their rushing by 46.5 yards per game, and the line successfully protected their first-year QB coming off knee surgery (25 sacks allowed, only 5.1% of dropbacks).

2011 Outlook: Of all the position groups on the Duke offense, the offensive line appears the most ready to take a big step forward in 2011. That being said, this group loses seniors Morgan and Harper and will need to continue to work hard and produce results on the field. Duke’s starting offensive line is expected to average close to 290 pounds in 2011, and that increased size and strength should help in both pass and run blocking.  For the first time since Coach Cutcliffe’s arrival in Durham, the Blue Devils will be able to go two-deep across the offensive line without significant drop-off. In fact, there should be interesting position battles in training camp at right tackle and right guard, where redshirt-freshmen Takoby Cofield and Laken Tomlinson will push Perry Simmons and John Coleman for snaps. A talented group of freshmen offensive linemen should help solidify the position for the next several years and could see the field in the event of a significant injury. For the first time in several years, Duke has multiple NFL prospects among their offensive linemen, led by Brian Moore, Kyle Hill, Laken Tomlinson, Takoby Cofield, and Cody Robinson. Overall, the size, skill, and depth has improved, but this group will need to produce results on the field for the Duke offense to realize its full potential.

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Recruiting updates

There’s more? Sure, why not? To reward our loyal members, let’s take a quick look at where Duke stands with a few uncommitted 2012 prospects:

Mallard Creek RB Jela Duncan is Duke's top remaining priority in the class of 2012

Running back: Jela Duncan is the guy here, and Duke would love to try and secure a commitment from him soon, though he seems content to wait out other offers. Earlier this week, we took a look at possible destinations for the Mallard Creek star, and the smart money is still on the Blue Devils here, whether it’s sooner or later. There’s no telling what will happen with North Carolina, but they remain in play for a few other backs, and with scholarship restrictions on the horizon, new offers will be few and far between. Scholarships are also scarce at South Carolina, another potential competitor for Duncan’s services. As for his current offers, Duncan hasn’t shown a lot of interest in Pittsburgh, Purdue, or Wake Forest up to this point. Some other prospects to keep an eye on include Dondre Brown, Jamie Gilmore, and Chris Mangus, but Duncan is the clear priority.

Braddock HS OL Robert Conyers recently visited Duke

Best available: Outside of running back, the Duke coaching staff feels very good about the class of 2012 and will be in a position to take the best available players with their last 2 or 3 scholarships. In the past week, Duke has hosted OL Robert Conyers and ATH Ryan Janvion, and it looks like a good bet that the Blue Devils will find themselves among the finalists for both of those Florida prospects.

In addition, we’ve long reported Duke’s interest in Korren Kirven, but they face a huge uphill battle against his in-state ACC schools and several top SEC programs. Kirven is expected to narrow his list soon, and it would be nice for the Blue Devils to make the cut, but there are no guarantees. Elsewhere along the defensive line, Duke is still very much in it for Alabama standout Torey Agee, and will likely be a finalist along with Vanderbilt. BDN’s thinking is that Auburn or Georgia Tech would jump to the lead for Agee, if they were to offer. Duke is a longer shot for Greensboro’s D.J. Reader, who plans to play both football and baseball in college. With the academic requirements at Duke, it takes a very dedicated student-athlete to balance classes along with two sports.

Duke has been the leader for top in-state linebacker Keilin Rayner, but something has kept him from pulling the trigger for the Blue Devils so far. He’s been busy on the camp circuit this summer, and we’ll see where things stand with him soon. It appears that other schools have closed the gap, but Duke is still in the running for his services and a good start in September could help the Blue Devils’ chances. Florida athlete Marcus Allen is another intriguing prospect who looks like a good fit in Durham with his success in the classroom and on the field, but with a Florida State offer in hand, it may be tough to pull him out of the sunshine state. California LB Jeremiah Allison is another star student-athlete who seems to fit the Duke mold, and if the Blue Devils can maybe get him on campus for an official visit, they could become a serious contender in his recruitment.

As always, BDN will keep you posted with new developments. By securing a solid 2012 recruiting class early in the summer, the Duke coaching staff has been able to get a head start on evaluating the class of 2013, and we’ll slowly start to introduce members to some of the early targets as we head into the fall.

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Ok, seriously, I can’t write any more, and I bet your eyes hurt if you’ve made it this far. So next week, Duke defense preview time. Until then, WE ARE DUKE.

Braddock HS OL Robert Conyers recently visited Duke

Blue Devils looking to add coveted Florida OL Robert Conyers

Braddock HS OL Robert Conyers recently visited Duke

The Duke Football class of 2012 is up to 14 verbal commitments now, and with only a handful of scholarships remaining, the Blue Devils’ coaching staff is looking to add a few impact players. One such prospect is a highly-coveted offensive lineman from the talent-rich state of Florida. Duke recently hosted 6’5” 275 pound junior Robert Conyers on an unofficial visit in Durham. Conyers is one of the top remaining uncommitted offensive linemen in the class of 2012, with 20 scholarship offers from programs throughout the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, and SEC. As a junior, Conyers helped lead Braddock HS to an 8-2 overall record and the state playoffs. His performance earned 1st Team All-County and 2nd Team All-State honors. Duke Offensive Line Coach Matt Luke is developing a talented group of linemen in Durham, and a potential star like Conyers would be a great late addition to Duke’s class of 2012. [private]

BDN: Can you tell us a little bit about your high school career and your strengths on the field?

Well, I only started playing offensive line at the end of my sophomore year. I went to a bunch of camps, and this past year I made the All-County Team and the 2nd Team All-State. Some of my strengths are just my footwork and my aggression.

BDN: You mentioned that you’ve been able to attend a few camps this year; what are some of the things you’re working on as you head into your senior season?

Just my strength and my pad level.

BDN: I know you have a pretty long offer list, so I won’t ask you to name all of the schools that are interested in you, but where do you currently stand with scholarship offers?

I have about 20 scholarship offers right now. And some of the bigger ones are Michigan State, Duke, USF, Wake Forest, Illinois, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, UCF, and a couple other ones.

BDN: That’s an impressive total. Where would you say you are in your recruiting process right now?

Right now I’m looking to narrow it down. I’m going to visit Michigan State and Illinois and then I’ll have like a top 5 probably after I make that trip.

BDN: Obviously, it will be tough to narrow things down to five schools, but what are the most important things that you are looking for as you evaluate a program?

Just the school’s atmosphere, the coaching staff, and the way I feel when I’m around them and around the other players that are playing there currently.

BDN: Which schools have you had a chance to visit so far and have any stood out to you?

I’ve visited Wake Forest, Duke, Vanderbilt, Georgia, LSU, Florida, Miami…I visited UCF, USF, and some of the schools that are standing out to me are USF, Wake Forest, Duke, just because of their coaching staffs and the total package of the school.

BDN: You mentioned that you’d like to have a top 5 after these next couple of visits. What are your plans for narrowing things down and making a decision from there?

Probably going to take like 2 or 3 official visits, but most likely the middle of my season is when I’m going to make my decision.

BDN: Are there any schools that you think you definitely want to take an official visit to at this point?

I’m still kind of narrowing all that down.

BDN: Is there anything else you want college football fans to know about you?

That I’m only 16.

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

Alright, thanks.

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Head Coach David Cutcliffe added Tanner Stone to the Duke class of 2012 Wednesday.

Duke adds Texas OL Tanner Stone to class of 2012

Head Coach David Cutcliffe added Tanner Stone to the Duke class of 2012 Wednesday.

One of the areas of greatest improvement within the Duke football program since the arrival of Head Coach David Cutcliffe has been the offensive line. This fall, Duke is expected to feature one of the strongest and deepest groups in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Offensive Line Coach Matt Luke has worked hard to build the position group with Duke’s current players, while also working tirelessly on the recruiting trail. On Wednesday, his efforts resulted in the addition of another talented offensive lineman to the Duke program. Tanner Stone, a 6’6” 260 pound prospect from Highland Park HS in Dallas, Texas, has committed to the Blue Devils. As a junior, Stone helped lead the Scots to a 12-1 overall record and the Texas 4A state playoffs.

Tanner spoke with BDN shortly after his decision today.

BDN: What are your strengths as a player?

I think they say I’m a good pass-blocker, I have good feet, and I’m quick enough to catch someone off the edge and I work hard and all that jazz.

BDN: What are you working on this summer as you prepare for your senior year?

I think the main thing is gaining weight, because I’m at about 250 right now and I know for a college offensive lineman, I need to be near the 300s.

BDN: How did you arrive at your decision to commit to Duke?

Yeah, I actually was up there last weekend for their football camps and met all the coaches, and all the coaches were really cool and they just have a really good program. They’re on the rise because all of their coaches are from really good schools and I think they’re going to do a lot for the program. Also, it’s just outstanding academic-wise and it’s overall just a good fit for me.

BDN: Is there anything else you want Duke fans to know about you?

I’m going to try my best to do whatever I can for the team and just try to win and work hard.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Tanner, and welcome to Duke.

Thank you.