Tag Archives: Duke Richmond Football

Let's get this season started!

BDN previews Duke’s season opener vs. Richmond

2nd and 10 from the Duke 35 yard line

Renfree drops back, completes a pass to senior Austin Kelly across the middle. Kelly tries to elude a tackle but is brought down by Quan Sturdivant at the Duke 41 yard line. The clock hits zero. The Tar Heels celebrate and reclaim the Victory Bell. Duke’s 2010 season is over.

That was the last we saw of Sean Renfree and the Blue Devils, all the way back on November 27, 2010. Over the past nine months, Duke’s coaches and players have shed blood, sweat, and tears in preparation for the 2011 season. The 3-win 2010 season is gone, but not forgotten. It’s week one of the 2011 college football season, and time for Blue Devil fans to recite their familiar credo, “this year has to be better, right?”

Sean Renfree is ready to lead the Blue Devil offense in his second year as a starter

KEYS FOR DUKE

Second-year starter Sean Renfree and the Blue Devil offense have the potential to be one of the ACC’s top units in 2011. In order for that potential to be realized, the Blue Devils must accomplish two things: take care of the football and establish a consistent, effective running game. After struggling with turnovers early in 2010, the Blue Devils showed dramatic improvement in their final five games. Turnovers have continued to be a point of emphasis all offseason. Junior Desmond Scott and sophomore Juwan Thompson will pace the ground game and have had an excellent training camp running behind a big, experienced offensive line. Dave Harding has stepped in flawlessly for the injured Brian Moore at center, and he will have to play at a high level in his first college game action snapping the football. With several question marks on defense, the margin for error for the Duke offense is slim.

Defensively, Duke needs to see big games from their returning stars in senior Matt Daniels, sophomore Kelby Brown, and senior Charlie Hatcher. These three players will be supported by a group of talented but mostly inexperienced Blue Devil defenders, a typical recipe for inconsistency. Similar to the offense, there are two primary goals for the Duke defense in 2011: limit explosive offensive plays and improve their play at the line of scrimmage. Duke has a deep group of high-level athletes in their secondary, and the new 4-2-5 defensive scheme will rely on their ability to make plays all over the field in an effort to slow opposing offenses. In his second year as a starter, Ross Cockrell will have to develop into a shutdown cornerback for the Blue Devils. Seven redshirt-freshmen will enter the rotation on the defensive line for Duke in 2011, and the maturation of these young athletes will be key to the defense’s success. Expect to see flashes of ability from players like Jordan DeWalt-Ondigo, Jamal Wallace, and Dezmond Johnson. If the Blue Devils are able to successfully execute their new defensive gameplan, this group’s results should be greater than the sum of its parts.

If Duke is going to make a bowl game in 2011, their special teams unit will have to be special. The Blue Devils have the talent in the kicking game to dominate special teams at times this season. Will Snyderwine has established himself as one of the top kickers in the country. Alex King is a proven veteran with experience and versatility. Freshman Jamison Crowder is a playmaker at kick and punt return. Improved depth across the roster should lead to better kick and punt return units. The pieces are in place for a solid special teams effort; the players simply have to execute.

GAME ANALYSIS

Turnovers

To put it lightly, Duke was plagued by turnovers in 2010. Duke’s 28 turnovers, however, are eclipsed by Richmond’s 32 turnovers a season ago. Needless to say, the team that takes care of the football stands to have the best chance of winning this matchup. Late in the season, Sean Renfree appeared to turn a corner, throwing just three interceptions in the final five games. Limiting turnovers has been a point of emphasis for the Duke offense all spring and summer, while the Duke defense is hoping to create more turnovers than they did a year ago. If the Blue Devils can build a first half lead, expect the Duke secondary to make some plays when the Spiders are forced to pass. Duke should win the turnover battle.

Duke's young defensive linemen will need to pressure Richmond's Aaron Corp

Sacks

Richmond plays a physical game of football, and in the last two meetings between these schools, dominated the line of scrimmage. The Duke defense has struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks. With youth along the defensive line and a pass-happy offense, Duke will rarely win the sack battle. The key will be to limit the loss of yards on offense and to make some timely tackles for loss against the Spiders. The Spiders did graduate their top 3 tacklers from 2010, but still have the players to apply some pressure. Richmond will win the sack battle.

3rd Down Production

Richmond converted just 34% of their 3rd downs in 2010, while the Blue Devils were able to convert 40% of 3rd down opportunities. With a veteran offense returning, Duke should again have success on 3rd downs, utilizing their deep receiving corps to pick up 1st down yardage. The Duke defense has struggled on 3rd down in recent years, but with an improved secondary and a better scheme, they should do a better job of limiting big conversions. Duke will win the 3rd down battle.

Ross Cockrell will have a tough matchup with All-CAA WR Tre Grey, BDN Photo

Explosive Plays

The game features a trio of All-Conference wide receivers, all capable of opening the game up with an explosive play. Tre Gray will be a challenge for the Duke secondary, and his matchup with Duke’s Ross Cockrell will be one to watch. The “Killer V’s” will be up to their usual tricks, but Richmond will have to pick their poison as senior Cooper Helfet and sophomore Brandon Braxton also have big-play ability. On the ground, the Spiders will utilize a committee approach, while Duke will feature a heavy dose of Desmond Scott and Juwan Thompson, two players who have dominated training camp with big plays. Duke has too many weapons on offense; they will win the explosive play battle.

Rushing TDs

Richmond will look to establish their running game early, and if they are able to control the line of scrimmage, it could be another long season opener for the Blue Devils. Duke will be able to counter with a veteran offensive line and three talented runners of their own in Desmond Scott, Juwan Thompson, and Brandon Connette. With a deep offensive line, Duke should be able to run the ball into the end zone when needed. The Duke defense will have their hands full with trying to keep Richmond’s Kendall Gaskins out of the end zone, but Duke has a deeper stable of proven runners. Duke will punch a few in on the ground.

Field Goals

Both teams feature outstanding All-Conference kickers. Duke’s Will Snyderwine has connected on 86.4% of his career field goal opportunities. Richmond’s Will Kamin has hit 90.9% of his career field goal opportunities. This matchup is a push.

Penalties

Since the arrival of David Cutcliffe in Durham, the Blue Devils have been one of the most disciplined teams in the ACC. In 2010, Duke committed just 55 penalties for an average of 40.6 yards per game. The Spiders were even better, committing just 50 penalties for an average of 35.5 yards per game. That trend should continue under new Head Coach Wayne Lineburg. This matchup is a push.

Let's get this season started!

PREDICTION

Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us. Fool us three times, not going to happen. Duke is ready for Richmond. There are sure to be some first-game jitters, but Duke won’t get tangled in the Spiders’ web. Sean Renfree has emerged as a leader on this Blue Devil team, and he will guide the Duke offense to a big night. The game will be won (or lost) along the line of scrimmage, and Duke’s linemen are bigger and stronger than they were two years ago. Desmond Scott and Juwan Thompson will have big days on the ground. Playing from behind, Richmond will be unable to establish a consistent power running game, forcing Corp to make plays through the air against the deep Duke secondary.  The Blue Devils should come away from this game with a lot of positives to build on and a lot to learn from, while Duke fans will leave Wallace Wade Stadium thinking, “this year will be better!”

Duke 34

Richmond 17

BDN chats with Ross Cockrell pre Richmond game

Ross Cockrell, BDN Photo

When Coach David Cutcliffe first came to Duke, there was a serious lack of playmakers on the football team.  That has since changed, but last year’s Blue Devils defense simply didn’t create enough turnovers to allow the team to win close games.  BDN chatted with defensive back Ross Cockrell yesterday about this year’s new defense and the importance of making big plays on defense.

What does the 2011 Duke defense need to do to win?

One of the things we struggled with last year was creating turnovers and my goal this year and for the secondary in general is to get it done whether it’s an interception or knocking the ball loose for fumbles.  We want to be people who create sudden change and not only do I want to be a playmaker but Johnny Williams, Matt Daniels and Walt Canty all want to be difference makers.

Duke got off to a slow 1-3 start last season.  How important is it to start off the season with a win?

It’s very important because it’s not only our first game, but one where we can show our new defense since Coach Knowles took over as coordinator.  We have to prove to fans and ourselves and the doubters that we’re here to stay and we’re going to play.

The players seem to have a good deal of confidence right now.  Can you speak to that?

Our confidence is very high right now,  We have a lot of athletes on the field with the 4-2-5 and are much more physical on the DL and in the defensive backfield and Kelby Brown is playing very well from the linebacker position.

How does Duke beat Richmond this Saturday?

To beat Richmond we have to be set and ready for every play.  Where we got into trouble last year is where we were running around making changes and people would quick snap us and we would be caught off guard.  So that is the thing we really need to focus on for this game, to be set and ready on every play.

Brandon Connette will have an expanded role in 2011

Duke Football will run two different packages this season when on offense and Brandon Connette is looking forward to showing off his improved passing skills.  Connette, of course, is known as a runner and he is not afraid of contact and perhaps even invites it.  Connette recently took a vicious hit from Matt Daniels  in practice and many on lookers wondered if he’d been knocked out for the season.  Not Connette.  He’s doing just fine and looking forward to suiting up against Richmond in the Blue Devils home opener this Saturday.

You took a brutal shot from Matt Daniels in a recent scrimmage.  It looked concerning at the time.  How are you feeling now?

It feels fine now and I have been going full speed and through the contact drills, so it is not an issue.

You have a very aggressive style of play and love running the football. As a quarterback, how do you compensate to protect your body?

Yeah, I mean, I am not looking to save my body and when I am in the game it is sometimes like third and short and you just have to lower your shoulder and get that first down.  As far as my body, I will never shy away from a hit and just take it on.

Coach Cutcliffe has said he’ll run two packages on offense.  What can we expect when Brandon Connette is on the field this season?

I think you can expect more than you could from last season.  Last year, I for the most part just ran the ball and we were successful with it, but not as much so if I were ready to throw the ball,  This year, I am a lot farther ahead as a passing quarterback so it will definitely expand the package.

Duke has dropped their last two outings at home against Richmond, is that something that gets the team up for the game?

The last  two games against Richmond?  We’re not looking at that.  We are looking at the team we’ll play this Saturday.  They have a good ball club, no doubt about it.  There is a reason they are at the top of their league every year.  If we can execute the way we want to, we’ll come out ahead.

 

 

The Blue Devils will open the 2011 football season at home against Richmond September 3

BDN takes an in-depth look at the Duke Football opener vs. Richmond

The Blue Devils will open the 2011 football season at home against Richmond September 3

Is it September 3rd yet? Well, not quite, Duke Football faithful, but we know the feeling. With 60 days until kickoff, it’s no longer too early to take an in-depth look at Duke’s 2011 opponents. Over the next several weeks, BDN will team up with other college football insiders to preview the 2011 Duke schedule. Season tickets are on sale now at GoDuke.com, or through the Duke Ticket Office at (919) 681-BLUE.

For the Blue Devils, there is no game more important than the first one, which is a September 3rd matchup with the Richmond Spiders under the lights in Wallace Wade Stadium. Duke has opened with home games against the Spiders twice in recent years, and Richmond has emerged victorious in both contests. The last meeting occurred in 2009; the Spiders were the aggressors from the start, spoiling the opening to Duke QB Thad Lewis’ record-setting senior year with a 24-16 victory. Though the Blue Devils outgained the Spiders overall, Richmond was able to control the line of scrimmage, stifling the Duke running game and scoring two touchdowns on the ground. Mike London has since left the program for Charlottesville, and in 2010, the Spiders finished 6-5 under first year Head Coach Latrell Scott. Though many of the coaches and players have changed, the Spiders are still expected to be among the top programs in the FCS in 2011, and their strengths continue to be along the line of scrimmage. In 2010, Duke struggled to consistently run the ball effectively and was among the worst FBS defenses against the run, making the 2011 opener with Richmond an intriguing early season test for the Blue Devils.

To get an inside look at the 2011 Spiders, BDN was fortunate enough to have the help of David Weissman, Online Sports Editor for The Collegian at the University of Richmond.

Latrell Scott became the youngest HC in Division I football when he replaced Mike London after the 2009 season. Photo Credit-RichmondSpiders.com
BDN: What have been the biggest changes within the Richmond program since Latrell Scott replaced former Head Coach Mike London?
The changes are few and far between as Richmond understandably didn’t want a huge change with Coach London having as much success here as he had. Coach Scott actually coached under London for a few years and I think he realizes that he didn’t need to mix too many things up in the program to have success. I’d say the biggest change I’ve noticed is in offensive philosophy. Coach Scott’s offense proved much more run-oriented than in years prior and he seems to keep trying to establish the run throughout the game no matter how much success it is having. It’s tough to tell if the offense will continue that trend this year or if the high amount of run plays called last year was an anomaly due to the quarterback injuries Richmond had last season.

BDN: The Spiders started four different quarterbacks in 2010 due to injuries. How has USC transfer Aaron Corp recovered from midseason ACL surgery, and what are the expectations for the Spiders’ offense in 2011?
Based on all that I’ve heard coming from camp is that Corp is fully recovered and ready to go, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll carry the entire load at the quarterback position. Junior John Laub, who also got injured last season, was getting snaps even when Corp was completely healthy last year and London seems to like to put him in the game to run quarterback draws on third and short situations. As for the rest of the offense, the running game should be the strength with the offensive line looking stronger than last year and a number of backs that have shown the ability to have breakout games, led by Garrett Wilkins and Kendall Gaskins. The wide receivers are also looking good, but suffered last year without a consistent starter throwing them the ball. Senior Tre Gray is the most consistent of the bunch, with sophomore speedster Ben Edwards looking like he might have a breakout season.  

BDN: Richmond will have to replace several starters from last year’s defense, including CAA Defensive Player of the Year Eric McBride. Which players are expected to step up this fall, and which positions still have question marks?

The defense as a whole will definitely determine how many games the Spiders win this year. They were really inconsistent last season, at times looking unmovable and others, like they didn’t start trying until the opponent was in the redzone. Martin Parker, Eric McBride, and Justin Rogers (who was drafted by the Bills) are going to be tough to replace as they anchored all three lines of defense for Richmond for as long as I can remember, but there is definitely no lack of talent to fill in. The major buzz coming out of camp is around safety Cooper Taylor who just transferred to Richmond from Georgia Tech. Some other guys the Spiders expect to step up are cornerback Tremayne Graham, linebacker Darius McMillan, and defensive lineman Corey Jackson. The biggest question marks look to be the linebacking corps, as the Spiders will need a couple young guys to step up into starting roles without much experience.
The Richmond Spiders have emerged victorious in their last two trips to Durham. Photo credit-The Collegian

BDN: Richmond has won both of their last two trips to Durham. Why do you think the Spiders have had success against the Blue Devils?

It’s hard to say why Richmond has been successful against Duke specifically, but I do know that as a whole, Richmond has a history of stepping up their level of play against the bigger, more well-known schools in all sports. The coaches do a good job of not letting the name on the opponent’s jersey affect the way their players prepare and play, and I think maybe sometimes schools like Duke underestimate the ability of Richmond’s athletics. A lot of the players here at Richmond were on the radar of ACC or SEC-type schools, but end up here and I think these guys like to be given the chance to show opposing coaches of these schools what they missed out on.

BDN: If you were an opposing coach, how would you plan to attack the Richmond defense and slow the Spiders’ offense?

My gameplan would be dependent on my two lines. I’d say the keys to defeating Richmond are running the ball and stopping the run. The experience that Richmond does have on defense is mostly on the back end and I think the young guys on the line and in the linebacking corps could lead to a few big plays on the ground if you keep at it. As for defensively, London loves to run the ball as I mentioned before and the quarterbacks for Richmond did throw a good number of interceptions last year when they got put in third and long situations.

BDN: Thanks again for your help and insight, David!

Next Week: September 10, Stanford at Duke.

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