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Duke rides a 4-game losing streak into Saturday's matchup with UVA in Charlottesville

Duke looks to make it 4 in a row against Virginia

Duke rides a 4-game losing streak into Saturday's matchup with UVA in Charlottesville

Duke (3-6, 1-4 ACC) will look to make it four in a row against the Virginia Cavaliers (6-3, 3-2 ACC) on Saturday. Heading into the 3PM kickoff in Charlottesville, the Blue Devils are riding a 4-game losing streak while the surprising Wahoos have won 4 out of 5. Virginia ranks 3rd in the ACC in both total offense and total defense, and will present a significant challenge for Duke on both sides of the ball. After a disappointing performance on the road in Miami a week ago, the Blue Devils will need to put together a much better effort in Charlottesville if they hope to secure a tough ACC road win.

GAME INFO

Duke at Virginia

3:00 PM ET, Saturday, November 12

Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network; Sirius XM Radio (Channels 92 & 190)
TV: RSN – Rich Waltz (Play-by-play), Keith Jones (Analyst) and Jenn Hildreth (Sideline)
Internet: GoDuke.com; theACC.com

KEYS FOR DUKE

Duke's Desmond Scott dove for the game-winning TD last year against UVA -Lance Images

1. Winning attitude: Duke is in the midst of a 4-game losing streak, and it shows. The Blue Devils have lost tough games to Wake Forest and Virginia Tech and are in danger of taking a turn to Negative Town. Defensive leaders Matt Daniels and Charlie Hatcher will have to keep their unit focused and confident after they were picked apart by a speedy Miami offense last Saturday. Sean Renfree must take control of the offense, and Kyle Hill must do a better job keeping the offensive line in sync. In short, Duke must play hungry for a win for a full 60 minutes on Saturday.

2. Win the line of scrimmage: Football is won and lost in the trenches, and UVA’s offensive line has helped to power them to their 6-3 start after a dismal 2010 season. The Cavaliers rank 3rd in the ACC with 190 rushing yards per game and are 2nd in the ACC with just 8 sacks allowed all season. If the Blue Devils are to win this game, their young defensive linemen will have to play up to their potential. First and foremost, Duke cannot allow UVA to open holes for RB Perry Jones, who enters the game averaging 5.3 yards per carry. If the Blue Devils can put first-year QB Michael Rocco under pressure, he will make bad throws, as evidenced by his 9 INTs on the season. Virginia as a team ranks last in the ACC with 13 interceptions thrown, a number which the Blue Devil secondary will have to add to on Saturday.

3. 60 Minutes: Coach-speak, cliché, call it whatever you want. Virginia is a good football team and it will take a complete effort for the Blue Devils to pull off an upset on the road. Perhaps most important will be the offensive effort, as Duke’s offense has been wildly inconsistent of late. Sean Renfree will have to be wary of Chase Minnifield lurking in the Virginia secondary, but should be able to find mismatches in the Blue Devils’ favor down the field. Senior Cam Johnson will present a challenge for the Duke offensive line, but the duo of Desmond Scott and Juwan Thompson should still find room to run. Duke has 3 straight wins against Virginia, and they will have to play with confidence and consistency to keep their streak intact.

WHAT TO WATCH

1. Blue Devil Streaks: Duke has a few players closing in on several school records.

  • Senior WR Donovan Varner needs just two more catches to tie Clarkston Hines’ all-time receptions record at Duke. Varner ranks second with 187 grabs. Junior teammate WR Conner Vernon is right behind Varner with 184 catches.
  • Redshirt senior K Will Snyderwine compiled two points last week and ranks fourth on Duke’s all-time scoring chart with 209 points … Randy Gardner is third on the list with 221 points.
  • Donovan Varner has at least one catch in 34 straight games to match the third-longest streak in Duke history … The school record of 35 is held by Scottie Montgomery.

2. Red zone offense: It’s no secret Duke has struggled to score points at times this season. Duke ranks next to last in the ACC in red zone efficiency, scoring on just 72% of their opportunities. If the Blue Devils come away empty-handed in the red zone on Saturday, it will be an ominous sign.

3. Duke seniors: In particular, Matt Daniels and Donovan Varner, two great representatives of the Duke program, who always seem to come up with a play when their number is called. Duke fans have just three games left to watch these two All-ACC seniors and their classmates take the field. This senior class has never lost to Virginia, and would like to keep it that way on Saturday.

PREDICTION

Matt Daniels has never lost to UVA. Sean Renfree has never lost to UVA. Coach Cutcliffe is 3-0 against UVA since arriving in Durham. Coming off one of their most disappointing performances of the Cutcliffe era, Duke needs a win in the worst way. Expect the Blue Devils to put together a much improved effort against a bowl-bound Virginia team. At 6-3, the Wahoos have been one of the biggest surprises in the ACC this season, and they’ll certainly be gunning for the Blue Devils after 3 straight losses in the rivalry. There are few instances where history and karma seem to be on the Blue Devils’ side, but this may be one of them. Duke seems to have the Cavaliers’ number, and they come into this game with nothing to lose, in desperate need of a win. Duke 24, UVA 20

A Blue Devil Nation Update With New Hampton’s Noah Vonleh

New Hampton's Noah Vonleh, Photo by Andrew Slater/BDN

Noah Vonleh, who has developed a reputation as a tireless worker, enrolled as a student at the New Hampton School in New Hampshire last month as a 2014 student. Vonlehwas looking to challenge himself in arguably the toughest high school league in the country, the NEPSAC, and in the smaller classrooms, while enjoying the accessibility of his new coaches, teachers, and facilities. As a result of his success during the AAU season with the Mass Rivals, he caught the eyes of college coaches and evaluators. This fall, they’ve traveled en masse to observe the Haverhill, Massachusetts native in “open gyms” alongside his New Hampton teammates. Vonleh added that this was a marked change from the open gyms held last year at his local public high school.

Noah noted the hard work that he and Coach Pete Hutchins put in to refine the mechanics of his perimeter shot. They’ve tried to improve his accuracy by working to shoot straight up off of his right hand, as opposed to gaining leverage by crossing the body on the long-distance jumper. With three years to fine-tune it, it’s a worthwhile “work in progress” that will enable him to gain more consistency and a quicker shot release, enabling the 6’8″ sophomore forward to enjoy the versatility of being able to play the small forward position on the next level or be a potent face-up four. He also has embraced the classroom attention and increased workload that the smaller teacher-to-student ratio provides at New Hampton.

This past weekend, Vonleh spent the Columbus Day weekend in New London, CT on the campus of Connecticut College. He was teamed with his high school teammate and close friend Zach Auguste, a Notre Dame commitment, on the Mass Rivals, as they competed in the BasketBull Columbus Day Challenge.

Noah Vonleh, Photo by Andrew Slater/BDN

On the opening night, Vonleh was hit with an unusually high amount of foul calls ( three in less than five minutes of playing time) against the smaller frontline of the Raritan Roundballers and Coach Vin Pastore was forced to sit his sophomore star more than he would have liked. Noah came out more focused in the second half. He scored all eight of his points from close range, rebounded the ball with ferocity (11 rebounds), and tied up the shorter, opposing three. In the nightcap (literally beginning at 10 PM), Vonleh used his combination of soft hands, tenacity, and 7’2″+ wingspan to dominate the glass and cause hesitation in low-post shooters. He finished with six blocked shots, four steals, and fourteen rebounds.

Between the games, Noah mentioned that he has been working consistently with Coach Hutchins on improving his ball-handling. Three times during the final game, Vonleh was able to grab a defensive rebound, navigate traffic and ultimately go coast-to-coast for a finger roll, twice getting fouled as he made the transition basket.

The following is a quick update from Noah Vonleh, New Hampton forward and Duke recruit:

How has the transition to New Hampton gone for you so far?

The transition’s been pretty good. It’s way different from high school. The classes are harder. You’ve got less kids in the classes. The teachers are very close to the students.
You live with some of them.
Yeah, exactly, dorm parents.

Right, what are the facilities like? Maybe touch on that.
Yeah, the gym is open. The area for lifting is open and the coaches are always there to help you.
[private]

That’s great for you, I remember that you said you worked out like crazy and now you have access all of the time.
Yeah, it’s great. We get to work out and work on lifting all of the time.

Has you body changed at all or not really?
Not yet, but it will be by the time I’m done.
I guarantee it will be.
Yeah, we’re lifting all the time.

How has your training changed? Have you done things differently in terms of things you want to work on?
In terms of training, I’ve been doing different ball-handling drills.
Yeah, I saw you working on that before this game.
Yeah.
Is that so you can play more on the perimeter?
Yeah.

Can you talk about the open gym experience? I’m sure plenty of coaches came to see you. What was that like?
It was great. We had Roy Williams, we had all types of coaches, we had Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, other schools. A lot of different schools.

Was that a major difference in terms of the open gym this year versus last year or, rather, last year to this year?
Yeah, last year, we didn’t really have any.
So, that’s great for you.
Yeah, it was a great experience.

What were some of the schools that came?
Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Syracuse, and Georgetown.

How has role and position changed from last year to this year ?
It was different last year because I was the tallest guy and they were focused on trying to stop me and so you had to fight for position. That’s why I did most of the ball-handling, too. I’d be at the top of the key and teams would be able to set up their defense and they could focus on me, but now they can’t do that.
With Zach (Auguste)
Yeah, there are so many guys that they can’t key on me or any one of us.
Oh, that’s gotta be great and it’ll be a good experience for in college.

What’s it like living with Zach?
Oh, it’s been cool. He’s been showing me around. We go everywhere together.
Have you guys been driving each other in practice?
Yeah, we’ve been pushing each other.

Have you taken any visits since August? Do you have any plans?

No, I haven’t, but I think I’m going to go out to Arizona in a few weeks with Coach Hutchins.

Oh, okay. Are you going to any midnight madness? I know some people go to those.

I think I’m going to go to UConn for theirs.

What would you say you’ve tried to work on most since the summer?
My jumper. I’ve been trying to work on that.

Well, I saw you, before the game, working on your three-point shot. Are you trying to work on your three-pointer or are you trying to concentrate on your mid-range and beyond?
Yeah, my three-point shot and my pull-up.

How’s it going? Are you seeing an improvement?
I am trying. I’ve been working with Coach Hutchins trying to change my shot. (motioning) He’s trying to work with me on taking my shot from this side (pointing to the left) and instead on going straight up.

Is it sort of a work in progress?
Yeah, it’s coming.

That’s good to hear and I’m sure it will. When does your season begin for fans that want to catch you play?
We start practicing on November 1st and then our first tournament will probably be around Thanksgiving.

Right, I thought I was going to catch you next month at one of the tournaments that they’re having in New Haven.

Oh, yeah, yeah, definitely.

What does your coach expect out of you in terms of production and your role on the team?

AAU or high school?
Both, actually, is probably best.

In AAU, to be a better leader on the team, be our primary rebounder.
You did a pretty good job at rebounding in very limited time in this game.

Yeah, it was frustrating with all of the early foul calls. It was kind of frustrating.
Yeah, tell me about it.
(laughs)

Okay, and now, what about the prep school level?
In prep school, I’m just trying to get into the system or the things that Coach Hutchins asks. Coach wants me to be able to knock down shots.
I didn’t know if they expected more scoring out of you on one team or the other.
Yeah, now I’ve got to step up and try to do it on both teams.

Thanks, Noah, and good luck to you.
Thanks a lot and good to see you again.
[/private]

Chris McCullough: New York’s Future On A Connecticut Court

Forward Chris McCullough, Photo by Andrew Slater/BDN

If deployed properly, basketball can be used as a passport to take one beyond the station that one is born into. It can open up doors to a young person unlike few things in life. Adults will fly you around the country, give you meals in restaurants, help you with your school work, and offer you advice, among other things. At a lot of camps and clinics, a speaker will say the aphorism, “Use basketball. Don’t let basketball use you.”

Chris McCullough is a nearly 6’9″ driven young man from the Bronx, who played for Team Scan 15 U this AAU season. He’s currently using basketball to attend Salisbury School, a $47,000 boarding school in Southwestern Connecticut that seeks to educate three hundred well-rounded young men. Salisbury, which is located in a bucolic town of the same name that is roughly a little over two hours away from the Bronx, offers state-of-the-art facilities and a very competitive basketball league, NEPSAC. Chris has used this opportunity to develop his game (erupted onto the national scene after an ever improving freshman season), his mind (currently taking Latin as a foreign language), and his body (hitting the expansive weight room and playing WR/FS on the school’s 2-0 football team). This upcoming season, they will return a good portion of the talent from last year’s squad [McCullough, 6'1" Ryan Frazier (Bucknell) and 6'6" Samuel Dingba] and add in several solid players, including Myles Jones, a three-sport athlete and an All-American lacrosse player from New York who’s completing a postgraduate year at Salisbury before heading to Duke, Glenn Baral from Northern California, and a 2013 transfer from Proctor, Michael Geanellis.

McCullough came to Salisbury through his play with the Boys Club of New York, when he was a standout in their tryouts. Since then, Chris has blossomed into a 6’8″ hybrid forward with a wingspan of over seven feet. Last season, as a freshman, he earned third-team Class A All-NEPSAC and helped lead Salisbury to the Class A Final, where, on a team with multiple Division I players, he stepped up with a team-high fourteen points against Choate.

This summer, while playing for Team SCAN 15U, McCullough was a force on both ends, using his athleticism and fluidity to attack lumbering bigs, while leveraging his length, size, and improving perimeter shot against smaller wings. His length helped cause havoc in the passing lanes and in blocking shots near the basket. Chris helped SCAN win the Hall of Fame Invitational in Massachusetts and finish as the runner up in both the Providence Jam Fest and the Fab 48 in the desert of Las Vegas.

SCAN, which began in the late 1970s, operates as an outreach program for families in the South Bronx and East Harlem, providing a wide variety of services including after-school help, camps, educational and vocational training, and counseling to nearly four hundred families in order to achieve long-term success and development. Chris’ AAU coach, Coach “Munch” Williams, was part of the SCAN program, eventually attended Wesleyan University, one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country, and now helps run the Mullaly Academy in the Bronx.

Although he’s got several more years to decide on a college, McCullough has visited several schools including St. John’s, Seton Hall, Arizona, UConn, and Syracuse. The sophomore already holds offers from most of the Big East, Florida, Arizona, Iowa State, and Temple, amongst others.

Chris McCullough Freshman Year Salisbury Highlights

Hoop Group Elite Video

The ambitious young man, Chris McCullough, spoke briefly with Blue Devil Nation.

Can you touch on your decision to go to Salisbury? What have you gotten out of the experience so far? Also, what are the facilities and competition like?
Salisbury’s been great as far as providing academics and basketball. We’ve got some new players coming in and we should be a really good team. We should be able to win a Championship this year and next year. That needs to be our goal.

How will your role change from last year to this year?
I think it’ll be bigger because I’ve tried to work on my skills a lot since last season ended. I’ve been just trying to grind.

[private]
What do you think that your strengths and weaknesses are right now?
My weakness is my outside shot… a little bit.

And what do you feel is the strength of your game right now?
Oh, I don’t really have one.

Obviously, your versatility is a factor. What position do you think that you’ll end up playing long-term?
I think I’ll play the three.

Will distance be a factor for you, whenever you do decide?
Oh, no. Not at all.

What are some things that you’re ideally looking for in a program?
In college?
Yeah, I’m sorry. I know it’s so far away.
No, no, that’s alright. It’s a gotta be a good school with a feeling that we’re gonna be a part of something bigger and I’d like a chance to start.
So playing time will be a factor?
Oh, yes.

Can you talk about the rise of New England basketball and some of the competition that you face on a regular basis?
Oh, yeah, I play against good schools and players. The point guard at Hotchkiss is heading to Marquette
Derrick Wilson.
Yeah.

What are your goals for this high school season, collectively and individually?
Just one goal. Win a championship.

In terms of AAU ball this year, how would you assess your play?
I feel I’ve grown a lot and faced a lot of great players.
You feel that you’ve had a good run though?
Oh, yeah, yeah.

How do you feel when you play in front of college coaches? What do you feel inside?
Excited. I feel excited.

What schools are after you and what offers do your have?
My offers are Syracuse, Saint John’s, Providence, Rutgers, Iowa State, Temple, and a few others. Those are the ones that I definitely know of.

Now, in asking around, there was a belief that St. John’s is your “dream school.” Is that accurate?
Oh, no, not at all. I’m wide open.

Is there a player that you try to model your game after?
Just Kevin Durant.

Who will you seek guidance from whenever you do decide on a college?
I’m not sure.

Who’s the toughest player that you’ve gone against so far?
Wayne Selden. The little guard…he’s tough.

You do both, but do you feel more comfortable with your back to the basket or facing up?
Definitely facing up.

What’s your favorite part of the court to catch the ball?
The free throw line.

Academically, I assume you’re totally fine. Is that correct?
Oh, yeah, yeah. That’s been no problem.

What would you like the audience to know about you away from the court?
That I’m a good kid.

Are any ACC schools recruiting you at this time?
Virginia. Virginia’s the only one so far.

Just out of curiosity, what do you know about the Duke program or university?
Not much, I just know they’re a great program and I like to watch them play when they’re on TV.

Alright, Chris and Coach, thank you very much for your time and good luck in the future.
Definitely, thanks. Any time.[/private]

Duke takes on the Tulane Green Wave on Saturday at 3:30 PM ET on ESPN3

BDN previews Duke’s Homecoming Game with Tulane

Duke takes on the Tulane Green Wave on Saturday at 3:30 PM ET on ESPN3

Fresh off a hard-fought ACC road win at Boston College, Duke welcomes the Tulane Green Wave to Wallace Wade Stadium on Saturday. Historically one of the weaker BCS programs, Tulane enters the game off to a 2-1 start to their season after a 49-10 blowout of UAB last Saturday. As we mentioned last week, the Blue Devils have embarked on a crucial three-game stretch heading into their off week October 8. Duke was able to do enough to win against BC, and will now have to put together another strong effort to knock off a much-improved Tulane team.

Duke QB Sean Renfree will have to continue his strong play against Tulane

KEYS FOR DUKE

  1. B-E A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E!: Duke’s redshirt-junior quarterback silenced his critics last week with a record-setting performance against a physical Boston College defense. Despite taking numerous hits, Renfree dominated the game, spreading the ball around to Duke’s receivers and finishing 41/53 for a career-high 368 yards. The Duke offense is difficult to defend when Renfree is given time to spread the ball around the field and be aggressive throwing the football. Tulane’s defense is headlined by former Blue Devil LB Trent Mackey and Iowa transfer DE Dezman Moses, but has allowed over 340 yards of total offense to opponents. Much like they did last week against BC, Duke will need to spread the ball around the field and minimize Mackey’s impact on the game. Expect another aggressive passing offense and big days for Renfree, Donovan Varner, Conner Vernon, Brandon Braxton, Jamison Crowder, and Cooper Helfet.

    Former Blue Devil LB Trent Mackey anchors the Tulane defense
  2. Dominate along the defensive line: Tulane’s offense is potent and incredibly balanced, having picked up 27 rushing 1st downs and 28 passing 1st downs through three games. The Green Wave average33 points per game and are led by sophomore RB Orleans Darkwa (47 carries, 151 yards, 3 touchdowns) and redshirt-junior QB Ryan Griffin (54/79, 718 yards, 6 touchdowns). Griffin’s favorite target has been redshirt-senior WR Joe Kemp, who averages over 4 receptions per game, but redshirt-sophomore WR Wilson Van Hooser and freshman WR Justin Shackelford are also dangerous weapons with big-play potential. For the Blue Devils, the key to disrupting the Tulane offense will be the play along the line of scrimmage. Duke must continue to do a good job stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback, and should build off of last week’s performance at BC (shutting out the Eagles in the 2ndhalf). Redshirt-junior DE Kenny Anunike has managed to stay healthy and has been an important contributor early this season, leading the team with 5 tackles for loss, including 4 sacks. Senior safety Matt Daniels and sophomore LB Kelby Brown have been very effective against the run, and will have to continue to play at an extremely high level against a talented Tulane offense. With the Blue Devils’ secondary a little banged up this Saturday, the defensive line will have to bring pressure to slow the balanced Green Wave offense.

    Duke is still looking for its first FG of 2011. -BDN Photo
  3. Minimize costly mistakes: The Blue Devils committed 9 penalties for a total of 79 yards last Saturday against Boston College. In addition, they had a punt blocked, missed a field goal, and sent a kickoff out of bounds. Duke has to sort out its kicking woes if it hopes to continue to win football games, and continued mistakes could cost them this week against a hungry, confident Tulane team. With Will Snyderwine again questionable to play on Saturday, the Duke coaching staff may have a difficult decision to make regarding freshman Will Monday if Jeff Ijjas and Paul Asack continue to struggle. Against a team like Tulane, Duke should be able to win the special teams battle, with freshman Jamison Crowder and senior Lee Butler both capable of big plays in the return game. The Blue Devils may not have to play flawless football to win Saturday, but their margin for error is still very small; minimizing drive-killing penalties and kicking miscues has to be a primary area of improvement for this team.

GAME ANALYSIS

Turnovers

Tulane +3, Duke -2

The Green Wave have forced a total of 6 turnovers through 3 games, including 5 interceptions, led by redshirt-sophomore CB Derrick Strozier with 2 and LB Trent Mackey with a 39-yard pick-6. Offensively, Tulane has fumbled the football 7 times, but lost only 2; Duke has fumbled the football 4 times and lost 3.

Sacks

Tulane 10, Duke 4

Tulane has done an excellent job of getting after the opposing QB through their first three games, led by sophomore DT Julius Warmsley with 3 and junior DE Austen Jacks with 2.5. Duke’s pass rush has been a one-man show thus far, with DE Kenny Anunike picking up 4 sacks on the year. The Blue Devils’ offensive line has allowed 8 sacks on the year, while the Green Wave have given up just 4.

3rd Down

Duke 40%, Tulane 35%

The Blue Devils were impressive on 3rd down last Saturday against Boston College, converting 53% of their opportunities. The Green Wave have converted just 15 of 43 3rd down opportunities. Both teams allow opponents to be successful on 38% of 3rd downs.

Explosives

As we say every week, explosive plays come down to playmakers making plays. Last week, the Blue Devils’ offense came up with 3 explosive plays of >20 yards, including 2 touchdown strikes to WR Conner Vernon. The Duke offense should continue to be aggressive and find the end zone on Saturday.

Rushing TDs

Duke 5, Tulane 5

This is a dead heat. Both teams have scored 5 TDs on the ground and allowed 5 TDs on the ground. Duke has to run the ball more effectively in the red zone to avoid settling for field goals.

Field Goals

Tulane 2/4, Duke 0/6

Speaking of field goals, will this be the week that Duke makes its first field goal of the 2011 season? In what may be a high-scoring game, the Blue Devils will have to put points on the board and cannot afford more empty trips to the red zone (6 empty trips already this season). Tulane’s Cairo Santos has made both FG attempts from within 40 yards, but is 0/2 from beyond 40 yards on the season.

Penalties

Duke 16-131 yards, Tulane 18-159 yards

Duke has typically been a disciplined football team under Head Coach David Cutcliffe, but their few penalties this year have been particularly costly. The Blue Devils will have to play smarter football on Saturday to avoid putting themselves in a hole against the Green Wave.

PREDICTION

The Blue Devils are 10 points favorites for Homecoming this year, but this game is likely to be closer than that. The Green Wave are a balanced and talented football team that will challenge Duke in all phases of the game. Duke will have to put together another dominant offensive effort to emerge victorious Saturday, and Sean Renfree seems up to the task. Tulane will put up some points on the Duke defense, but will be unable to keep up with the potent Blue Devil passing game.

Duke 35, Tulane 31

All-American LB Luke Kuechly dominated the Blue Devils in 2010

BDN’s Q&A preview of Duke’s ACC opener against Boston College

Duke travels to Chestnut Hill to take on All-American LB Luke Kuechly and BC

Duke (0-2) travels to Boston College (0-2) this Saturday for their 2011 ACC opener. The two winless teams are off to disappointing starts, but have a golden opportunity to begin to turn things around this week. The Eagles fell to Northwestern 24-17 in their season opener and then traveled to UCF for a 30-3 defeat. Similarly, the Blue Devils suffered a close loss to Richmond in week one and then a humbling defeat at the hands of Stanford last week. The two teams’ struggles are predominantly on the offensive side of the ball. QBs Chase Rettig and Sean Renfree are both still looking for their first TD pass of the season. Early season injuries have plagued both teams at various positions, most notably at running back, where BC has been without the ACC’s leading rusher in Montel Harris, while the Blue Devils have had two of their top three running backs sidelined.

There were high hopes for the Eagles this season, with a new offensive coordinator, a 2nd-year starting QB, an All-ACC running back, and one of the league’s toughest defenses led by All-American Luke Kuechly. What has gone wrong? To help us preview the Blue Devils’ ACC opener, BDN welcomes back BC insider A.J. Black from BC Interruption.

BDN: Duke and Boston College both have stumbled out of the gate this season. Duke has been plagued by offensive red zone struggles, while the defense has performed better than expected at times.  What has gone wrong for the Eagles? What is the mood within and around the program?

What has gone wrong? Basically everything has gone wrong for BC already this season in the span of two games. Injuries, bad coaching, issues with the kicking game, issues with the offense, and a non existent defense have all shown their ugly heads. The game against Northwestern was plagued with terrible defense, and the UCF game was marred by bad football all over. The mood is ugly around here especially after that abysmal showing against UCF on Saturday. Fans are already calling for Frank Spaziani’s head, which usually doesn’t happen until conference play starts. 

BDN: We certainly wish OC Kevin Rogers well during his medical leave of absence. How will his absence affect the struggling BC offense? Interim OC Dave Brock has experience coordinating the offense at Kansas State; do you expect him to stay the course or make changes to jump-start the offense?

Boston College is fortunate to have an internal candidate with experience to jump right in and take over the offense. Dave Brock was the guy who recruited Chase Rettig here, so he has some repore with the young quarterback. Will there be major changes? I doubt it. I’m pretty certain that Dave Brock will continue with the current gameplan that BC has run, probably more on the line of what you might have seen when the Eagles played Northwestern.  

Duke hopes to continue the success teams have had running the ball against BC this season

BDN: The typically stingy BC defense ranks last in the ACC against the run and 2nd to last in total defense. Injuries in the secondary certainly haven’t helped, but with All-American LB Luke Kuechly alongside freshman All-American LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, expectations were higher. What has led to the success of opposing offenses against the Eagles in the first two games?

I don’t think the problem is Luke Kuechly. Other than the one play where UCF QB Jeff Godfrey absolutely trucked him last week, he has been the same old tackling machine as he has in the past. The issue is the defensive line. Last year BC had Alex Albright and Damik Scafe who provided just enough pressure to highlight the talent of the BC linebackers. This year Kaleb Ramsey has been out, and the rest of the line is getting blown off the ball. If Ramsey can come back, I expect BC’s defense to improve.

BDN: In his Sunday conference call, Head Coach Frank Spaziani emphasized the need for the BC coaching staff to do a better job with helping the team manage its weaknesses. What adjustments would you like to see the coaching staff make on the field?

Better play calling. One of the biggest critique’s of the Frank Spaziani era is the vanilla play calling on the offensive side of the ball. If I can watch the game at home and guess what play they are going to call, I’m guessing trained defensive coordinators must have a field day game planning. He needs to mix it up. Try more screen passes, passes to the tight ends, and different looks from the wide receivers. 

QB Sean Renfree should have a big day against the depleted BC secondary

BDN: The ACC’s bottom two scoring offenses will meet on Saturday in Chestnut Hill on the ACC network. The Eagles opened as 7.5-point home favorites. How do you think the two teams match up and who will emerge with their first win of the 2011 season?

I am very worried about this game. As a BC apologist I of course will pick BC to win but I think it will be a close one just like the game last year. Sean Renfree probably will pass at will against BC’s defense, and it is going to be up to the Eagles offense to start to click. I expect a sloppy game on both ends of the ball for both teams, and BC will sneak away with a 24-20 win. 

BDN: While we respectfully disagree with your pick, we’re always glad to have you stop by!

TE Dan Beilinson hopes to make his decision soon between three finalists

Duke Football prospects visit for the Stanford game

The Blue Devils hosted several high school prospects on campus this weekend for the Duke Athletics Hall of Fame ceremony and Saturday’s game against Stanford. BDN Premium caught up with several of the prospects after their visit and got their thoughts on the game and the trip. [private]

TE Dan Beilinson visited for Duke's game against Stanford

TE Dan Beilinson, 6’5″ 220 pounds
Panther Creek HS, Cary, NC

It was very good! I’m solidifying my relationship with the coaches and staff even more…they can bounce back!

Dan helped Panther Creek to a thrilling 23-20 victory over Athens Drive on September 2, finishing with 4 catches for 67 yards. The Catamounts are 3-1 on the season after last week’s 42-21 win over Holly Springs. They will square off with Apex at home on Friday, September 16.

WR Max McCaffrey was Duke's 5th verbal commit in the class of 2012

 

WR Max McCaffrey, 6’3″ 190 pounds

Valor Christian HS, Highlands Ranch, CO

Great trip. Very impressed with Coach Cutcliffe and the rest of the staff.

Max is off to a great start to his senior year, leading 2-0 Valor Christian with 7 receptions for 89 yards. They will travel to Rampart on Friday, September 16.

A.J. Wolf was back in Durham to see Duke take on Stanford

 

DE A.J. Wolf, 6’4″ 245 pounds
The Hackley School, Tarrytown, NY

It went great. I really enjoyed seeing the coaches again. But it was too bad Duke couldn’t pull off the upset.

A.J. kicks off his senior season at Hackley this Saturday at home against Riverdale Country. Good luck!

 

Duke’s top priority in the class of 2012 remains Mallard Creek RB Jela Duncan. Duncan was in Durham for the opener against Richmond, but was not able to make the trip for the Stanford game. Duke remains his leader, with South Carolina not far behind. He has also stated a desire to visit Pitt and Purdue this fall. As for the class of 2013, the Blue Devils have begun to extend verbal scholarship offers, the first going out to Charlotte Christian DB Desmond Lawrence. Lawrence visited Durham in August and is a former teammate of Duke’s Kelby and Kyler Brown.

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