With the addition of veteran Defensive Line Coach Rick Petri this offseason, expectations are high for the Blue Devils’ defensive line in 2011 and beyond. Prior to his arrival in Durham, Coach Petri has tutored some of the top units in the country at Miami, Kentucky, Ole Miss, and South Carolina. Throughout his career, Coach Petri has mentored numerous All-SEC and All-ACC defensive linemen, including NFL stars such as Warren Sapp and John Abraham. With a young group of athletic defensive linemen already in Durham, Coach Petri and the Duke coaching staff are looking to bring in potential impact players in the class of 2012. With three talented prospects already verbally committed, Duke is focusing their recruiting efforts on a handful of top recruits, including a big-time run-stopper from Alabama. Torey Agee is a 6’4” 250 pound defensive end from Opelika, AL and the son of former Auburn star Tommie Agee. Since we last spoke with Torey, he’s earned scholarship offers from several top schools, including Stanford and Vanderbilt. The star student-athlete was in Durham this past weekend and caught up with BDN to give his thoughts on his visit. [private]
BDN: Which schools have been recruiting you the hardest this spring and summer?
At this point, the schools that have really be in contact with me besides Duke have been Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, Stanford, Southern Miss, and Auburn.
BDN: Which schools have you had a chance to visit recently?
So far I’ve only had a chance to visit Georgia Tech and Duke, but I have plans for other visits later on this summer.
BDN: Do you know which schools you are planning to visit, or is that still up in the air?
I know I’m going to Vanderbilt and I’m probably going to go to camps at Auburn and Troy.
BDN: How did your visits to Duke and Georgia Tech go?
Both those schools are great, they have exactly what I’m looking for and that’s a strong academic program, so it’s right up my alley. Both campuses are beautiful, the football teams are good, the coaches are great, it was just a wonderful trip.
BDN: Since it’s fresh in your mind, can you talk a little about your visit to Duke this weekend?
The Duke visit was great. We toured the whole campus and met some of the coaches and some of the players and they told me what it would be like in a typical day if I became a Blue Devil. It was great, you know, I’m still kind of taking it all in.
BDN: Last time we spoke, you were taking your time with the process. Now that you’ve taken a few visits, do you know how or when you want to start to narrow things down?
No, I’m still pretty much taking my time, like I said, I don’t really want to rush into anything, so I’m just taking it slow this summer, visiting a bunch of places and trying to get my thoughts together before I pick a school to go to.
BDN: Thanks a lot, Torey, and we look forward to hearing from you again soon.
Among the many improvements since Head Coach David Cutcliffe’s arrival in Durham, none may be more significant than the Blue Devils’ special teams. Duke has gone from a team that repeatedly failed to execute on special teams to featuring a preseason All-ACC and All-American kicker in Will Snyderwine. Blue Devil fans have almost become spoiled by Snyderwine’s reliability, and the improvements in punting and returns have been apparent in recent years. On Thursday, Duke solidified their special teams play for the future by securing a commitment from top placekicker Ross Martin, beating out an impressive list of programs. At 5’10″ and 185 pounds from Walsh Jesuit HS in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Martin earned 1st Team All-State honors as a junior, and was named the #2 kicker in the country by Chris Sailer and the #3 kicker in the country by Kohl’s. Needless to say, the Blue Devils’ coaching staff is thrilled to add another future special teams star to the Duke program. Duke fans can get a look at the Blue Devils’ future kicker:
BDN caught up with the newest Blue Devil shortly after his commitment.
BDN: How did you arrive at your decision to commit to Duke?
Pretty much, when my older brother was looking at schools, he visited Duke and I went with him, and that was about five years ago and that’s when I started falling in love with it. Since then, it’s always sort of been my dream school because of the combination of great, world-class academics and D1 ACC football.
BDN: Can you talk about your recent visit and your relationship with the Duke coaching staff?
I’ve been in contact with the kicking coach, Coach Zac Roper, for awhile now. He actually came up to my school to visit with my head coach and that’s the first time we met in person. We hit it off and he’s an outstanding kicking coach. He has a tremendous expertise of the kicking game and I’m definitely confident that he can get me to the next level. They asked me to come out to their summer camp, and I went out last Friday and kicked in the stadium for Coach Cutcliffe and a couple other coaches and that night they offered me, and then just yesterday I went back to campus to commit with my family.
BDN: Scouts obviously have said great things about your kicking ability; how would you describe your strengths in your own words?
Well, probably my biggest strength is my mental ability and focus, and also my accuracy and range for field goals. I’ve hit field goals as far out in practice as 65 yards. For kickoffs, last year I had an over 80% touchback percentage.
BDN: Obviously with your ability, some other schools have taken notice. Who are the other schools that you were in contact with and were considering before your commitment to Duke?
The other schools that had offered me were obviously Duke, and then Texas, Pitt, Rutgers, Iowa State, Kent State. And then from the Ivy League, Harvard, Cornell, Penn, Dartmouth, and Columbia. I’d also been taken to Northwestern, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Cal-Berkeley, too.
BDN: That’s definitely an impressive list, so congratulations and I’m sure Duke fans and coaches are excited to have you join the Blue Devil family.
Oh yeah, I’m definitely thrilled.
BDN: What are your plans for the rest of your summer as you head into your senior year?
Actually I’m heading out to California for Chris Sailer’s Top 12 camp, where he invites the top 12 kickers in the country to compete out there. I’m actually doing that next week. After that, it’s pretty much back to high school football, with summer lifting and practice coming up.
BDN: Well that’s a great honor and best of luck in California next week. Is there anything else you want Duke fans to know about you?
No, not really, other than I’m just extremely excited to start off there. I really felt at home out there, just getting to meet everyone.
Fear not, loyal fans, Football Friday returns! If you’ve been under a rock for the past week, please be sure to check out all of our great interviews and reports from the NBPA Top 100 Camp. BDN was on the scene as always and has the best content with Duke’s prospects in 2012 and beyond. After a week hiatus here at Football Friday, we have a lot to discuss this week, so…lesssgo.
Congratulations to Kyrie, Nolan, and Kyle
All of us at Blue Devil Nation wish the best to Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith, and Kyle Singler, as they begin their NBA journey. To hear their names called last night was certainly a dream come true for each of them and their families. We’ll be pulling for them and we know they will continue to make Duke fans proud in all that they do.
NFL stars invade Duke Football Facilities
With the NFL lockout continuing to drag on, former Duke QB Thad Lewis has become a fixture around campus this summer, but the Duke players were in for a surprise this week as they hit the weight room and the practice field. New York Giants Super Bowl XLII MVP QB Eli Manning has been working out at Duke this week with his receivers, including former UNC star Hakeem Nicks. The NFL players’ presence created a buzz on campus and among the Duke players, generating some excitement around Duke Football during the dog days of summer. It’s a great testament to the investment Duke has made in their football facilities that NFL players are working out on campus. As the program continues to build, Duke’s presence in the NFL should continue to improve.
Nine in Class of 2012
Duke is up to nine verbal commitments in the class of 2012 with the addition of kicker Ross Martin and offensive linemen Casey Blaser and Tanner Stone in the past week. All three were on campus recently for Duke’s football camps and outworked the competition to earn scholarship offers. At 6’5” and 6’6”, Casey and Tanner have solid frames to grow into with some work in the weight room, and appear poised to help anchor the Blue Devil line in 2012 and beyond. Martin is ranked as one of the top placekickers in the country by kicking guru Chris Sailer, and will join 2011 punter Will Monday to solidify Duke’s special teams for years to come.
Duke hosted hundreds of young football players over the past two weeks, all of whom were looking to make a name for themselves in the eyes of the Duke coaching staff. Overall, the competition was outstanding and the Duke staff was thrilled with the turnout from not only the class of 2012, but future classes as well. Several of the camp standouts are already members of the Duke class of 2012, validating the staff’s previous scouting and evaluation. Jacksonville stars Dwayne Norman and Erich Schneider were impressive at safety and tight end; both remain solid verbal commitments to the Blue Devils. Along the offensive line, the two newest Blue Devils, Blaser and Stone, were among the best blockers on the field. The two big linemen have great athletic ability, work ethic, and football mentality.
Three 2012 quarterbacks stood out among the dozens of signal-callers who attended the various Duke camps and the David Cutcliffe QB College. The Blue Devils first offered Miami’s Bilal Marshall back in January, and they remain impressed with his dual-threat ability, hoping he will choose to become an impact player for the Blue Devil program. Highly-coveted lefty Tyler Cameron also showed great dual-threat ability, while 6’5” sleeper Thomas Sirk simply blew the staff away with his arm, ultimately earning himself a scholarship offer from Coach Cutcliffe. At the other skill positions, two receivers from the class of 2013 also earned themselves early scholarship offers. Jacksonville’s Ahmad Fulwood, at 6’4,” seemed to haul in everything thrown his way, while Ohio’s Shelton Gibson showcased his tremendous speed. Charlotte’s Jela Duncan posted a blazing fast 40 time, and he remains at the top of Duke’s RB wish list, along with Tarboro star Todd Gurley and bruising SC back Dondre Brown.
Rubber, meet road
With Duke’s camps now complete and fall training camp still over a month away, the focus over the next several weeks will almost exclusively be on filling out the class of 2012. With the advent of the internet, everyone is now able to become a self-proclaimed expert when it comes to recruiting. But unlike basketball, where one recruit can truly make or break a class, it’s essential to see the big picture in football recruiting. Let’s try to take a look at the forest, instead of the trees.
The best place to start is probably with a rough sketch of the Duke 2012 roster, barring any early defections or injuries, to give us a sense of the Blue Devils’ scholarship situation, depth, and needs:
QB (4): Sean Renfree (R-Sr.), Sean Schroeder (R-Jr.), Brandon Connette (Jr.), Anthony Boone (R-So.)
RB (4): Patrick Kurunuwe (R-Sr.), Desmond Scott (Sr.), Josh Snead (Jr.), Juwan Thompson (Jr.)
WR (8): Conner Vernon (Sr.), Corey Gattis (R-Jr.), Tyree Watkins (R-Jr.), Brandon Braxton (Jr.), Jamison Crowder (?So.), Blair Holliday (R-Fr.), Nick Hill (R-Fr.), Max McCaffrey (Fr.)
TE (5): Jack Farrell (R-Jr.), Ryan Hall (R-Jr.), Braxton Deaver (R-So.), David Reeves (?So.), Erich Schneider (Fr.)
OT (5): Perry Simmons (R-Jr.), Takoby Cofield (R-So.), Marcus Aprahamian (R-Fr.), Casey Blaser (Fr.), Tanner Stone (Fr.)
OG (6): Dave Harding (R-Jr.), Joey Finison (R-Jr.), John Coleman (R-Jr.), Laken Tomlinson (R-So.), Lucas Patrick (R-Fr.), Cody Robinson (R-Fr.)
C (3): Brian Moore (R-Sr.), Conor Irwin (R-Sr.), Matt Skura (R-Fr.)
DE (10): Kenny Anunike (R-Sr.), Justin Foxx (R-Jr.), Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo (R-So.), Dezmond Johnson (R-So.), Nick Sink (R-So.), Jamal Wallace (R-So.), Sam Marshall (R-Fr.), Mario Sanders (R-Fr.), Allen Jackson (Fr.), Carlos Wray (Fr.)
DT (7): Curtis Hazelton (R-Sr.), Sydney Sarmiento (R-Jr.), Will Bryant (R-So.), Steven Ingram (R-So.), Jamal Bruce (R-So.), Lucas Fisher (R-Fr.), Carson Ginn (R-Fr.)
LB (9): Austin Gamble (Sr.), Kevin Rojas (R-Jr.), Kelby Brown (Jr.), C.J. France (R-So.), Kyler Brown (?So.), David Helton (?So.), Britton Grier (R-Fr.), Jon Woodruff (R-Fr.), Deion Williams (Fr.)
CB (8): Tony Foster (R-Sr.), Zach Greene (Sr.), Ross Cockrell (R-Jr.), Lex Butler (R-Jr.), Garrett Patterson (R-Jr.), Quan Stevenson (R-So.), Jared Boyd (?So.), Tim Burton (R-Fr.)
SAF (8): Jordon Byas (R-Sr.), Walt Canty (Sr.), Taylor Sowell (R-Jr.), August Campbell (R-Jr.), Anthony Young-Wiseman (R-Jr.), Issac Blakeney (R-So.), Chris Tavarez (R-Fr.), Dwayne Norman (Fr.)
K (2): Paul Asack (R-Sr.), Ross Martin (Fr.)
P (1): Will Monday (So.)
With only a handful of scholarships remaining (if my math is right, please don’t check me), Duke has a glaring need at RB, where they will only have four scholarship players and no underclassmen. The expectation is that Duke will look to add at least one, but probably two running back prospects with their remaining scholarships. We also think that the staff would love to add a top QB to follow behind Boone, with Bilal Marshall and Thomas Sirk at the top of the list. At receiver, Duke could look to add someone alongside McCaffrey, and Drae Bowles is the number one priority; those around the program call the highly-coveted Bowles a potential program-changing recruit for the Blue Devils.
Duke probably needs to add another tight end in 2012 to join Erich Schneider, and the top two targets are currently Dan Beilinson and Ryan Morris. Elsewhere along the offensive line, Duke has a great amount of depth, which will allow Blaser and Stone to develop during their first years in Durham. There could be room for at least one more lineman in this class, and Duke remains hopeful that Alex Kozan or Andrew Jelks (who will not be announcing his decision soon, contrary to reports) will make their pledge to the Blue Devils.
Defensively, Duke has to be thrilled with the first three members of the class of 2012; both Wray and Jackson should develop into top ACC pass-rushing ends, and Norman is the prototypical hard-hitting safety the coaching staff loves. The biggest remaining need defensively is probably at defensive tackle, where Duke would love to add a potential program-changer in Korren Kirven (although another option could be to move Wray to DT and add an elite DE). A top prospect like Keilin Rayner or Jeremiah Allison to join under-the-radar commit Deion Williams would solidify the linebacking corps, and there’s room for at least one more defensive back at corner or safety.
With the graduation of pre-season All-ACC and All-American selection Will Snyderwine, there will be big shoes to fill at placekicker, and Duke hopes that Ross Martin, one of the top five kickers in the country, will be up to the task. Alongside Will Monday, Martin should carry the Duke kicking game for the next several years.
With so many moving pieces, it’s hard to keep a finger on the pulse of football recruiting, and even harder to objectively evaluate individual commitments. Duke has done a nice job so far of adding solid athletes at positions of need (DE, SAF), while also bringing in a few prospects with high potential at positions of depth (OL, WR). Scholarships remain available for potential program-changers like Drae Bowles or Korren Kirven, and the best way to secure those commitments will be to win games this fall.
Well, that was quite the whirlwind of name-dropping. If we still haven’t satisfied your craving for Duke football, be sure to check out our recent previews featured on College Football Zealots and BC Interruption. And of course follow us on Twitter for up to the minute updates on Duke Football recruiting and team news. We’re on Facebook, too, by the way. And if you clicked on all the links in this article and are wondering why you can’t read the interviews, then it’s time for you to join BDN Premium. If you want to discuss Duke Football, correct my earlier math, or simply just want to become the most well-informed Duke fan on the planet, then you should also join BDN Premium. And current members, be sure to check out our new-look Football Message Boards today.
I guess that’s it for this week. Seriously? You were going to let me get away with that? Yeah, something kind of big happened in Chapel Hill this week. But see, there isn’t much to say, really, the NCAA took care of that for me. And so did Stewart Mandel. And Brett McMurphy. Good luck with all that, Butch. And give us back the Victory Bell.
Until next week, WE ARE DUKE.
This is a sample of the weekly Duke Football updates you’ll have access to as a BDN Premium member. Join today and get inside access to happenings around the athletic programs where you’ll have a front row seat on the recruiting front.
Davonta Pollard is a multi sport athlete that stands 6-7 and weighs in at 200 pounds. Pollard plays AAU ball for the Southern Phenoms and goes to Kemper High School in DeKalb, Mississippi. Pollard is one of the top rated players in the class of 2012 and he recently sat down with BDN to discuss the latest on the recruiting front.
You were just talking to some guys from an N.C. State site. They are one of two ACC schools you mentioned. What do you think about the Wolfpack?
I like their basketball program and staff. They're rebuilding and putting in a new weight room and it seems like it will be a good school in the future.
There is a lot of buzz concerning the Blue Devils as well ...
I talked to both Wojo and Coach Kand they were just telling me what they'd [private] heard about me and asked if I were interested in coming to Duke and I told them that yes, I was. I haven't taken a visit to Duke yet because that was my first time talking to them. I plan on going to visit them and looking at their school. They have a great basketball program.
You are being chased by a lot of SEC schools as well,. Can you list them, please?
Yes sir. Kentucky, Georgetown, LSU, Mississippi state, Ole Miss, Alabama.
Who will play big roles in advising you on your collegiate decision?
My mom. She will be the key in helping me with my coach. And there is also Darrell Carter, a football and basketball coach at our school. He came into our district three years ago and we've had a bond since then. He's like a brother or father to me, so I look up to him.
Do you play other varsity sports in high school?
Yes sir. I play football.
Have some of the coaches recruiting you tried to persuade you to give football up and concentrate on hoops?
Some coaches have and some tell me that I'm young and to enjoy life. Really, I played football before I played basketball.
Describe your game in your own words for our members.
I'm an all around player that can do a little bit of everything. I can take a guard and put him on the block. I need to work on my ball handling skills and jumper and I can always get stronger.
You'll be going to the Nike Skills Academies, right?
Yes sir. The Lebron James and Derron Williams camp.
Is their a definitive timetable on your coming decision?
I really don't know but if things work out I plan on deciding in the spring.
What are you looking for from a coaching staff in college?
Willing to help a kid, accompany his dream and help him be his best and get to the next level. I like coaches to be straight with me and tell me what I need to work on. I want to go pro so I will do anything I need to accomplish my goal
Are you hesitant of going to a big time school where you will have tpo battle for playing time?
No sir. I love competition.
Where did you first learn your basketball skills or who taught you the game?
My mom and my dad. My mom was a player, she went to Kemper High and then she went to Delta State and got drafted by the WNBA's Chicago Hustlers. My mom wants me to go wherever I'm comfortable and she'll be happy with that. She wants someone who will work and push me to become my best.
Is it important for you to go to a school where most every game is televised?
That's not a big deal because she is going to be at the games.
So, she is planning on moving to follow you?
Yes sir. She will come for the first year and no matter where she might be after that, she will find a way to get to games.
Thanks for your time Davonta and we'll be keeping tabs on your progress.
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.
With the impending graduation of Cooper Helfet and Danny Parker, Duke will be looking to reload at the tight end position in the class of 2012. After an early verbal commitment from Florida prospect Erich Schneider, the Blue Devils have remained focused on a local prospect to fill their remaining spot at tight end. Dan Beilinson is a 6’5” 220 pound tight end from Cary, North Carolina. As a junior, Beilinson caught 37 passes for over 500 yards, helping Panther Creek HS to a conference title and the state regional playoffs. One of the top tight end prospects in the state, his performance earned him 1st Team Tri-Nine All-Conference, among many other accolades. Highlights from Dan’s junior year can be viewed here. With eight scholarship offers in hand and interest from several other schools, Beilinson has narrowed his college choices to three finalists. [private]
BDN: Where are you in your recruiting process?
I’d say I’ve basically narrowed the schools down basically to NC State, Duke, and Wake Forest, and I’m just trying to figure out which of those schools is the best fit for me. I’m not really looking at this point for anything else, I’m just trying to decide between those three schools.
BDN: Have you had a chance to visit your finalists recently?
Yes, last weekend I actually visited all three of them.
BDN: You’ve obviously had a chance to visit these schools a few times now; what are the specific things you have been evaluating on your more recent visits?
I’m just trying to see the best relationship with a coach that I can establish, how they coach and how that relates to me. Just try to see what they’re doing and just try to evaluate based on that.
BDN: It sounds like the relationship you are developing with the coaches is important; which coaches are you closest with?
At NC State, Coach Archer would be the recruiter for my area so I’ve got to know him pretty well. And then the former tight end coach, Coach Bridge, I know him very well and I’m establishing with the new tight end coach, Coach Horton, so I’m developing a relationship there. At Duke, mainly I know Coach Middleton and Coach Cutcliffe very well, and some of the other coaches I’ve established contact with. And then at Wake Forest, Coach Russ and Coach Tereshinski have been the two main people that I’ve talked to.
BDN: What stood out to you about each of your three finalists?
They’re all very good educational schools. If I choose to got to [NC] State or Duke, I’d probably do engineering and then if I go to Wake Forest, I’d probably do more of a science field. So in all aspects the education is really good and that’s really appealing to me. And then in football, all the programs are either rising or already good, so that adds more to the effect.
BDN: When do you expect to make your final decision?
I hope, in my head it just kind of happens, but it could be soon, or it could go past the season, I really don’t know, but it might be soon, I’m not sure.