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Football Friday summoned the psychic world to assist with 2011 ACC Football predictions

BDN’s Football Friday Prognosticates

So, how are you beating the heat? Well, here’s a suggestion. Find yourself a cold beverage and sit down for some Football Friday here at BDN. If you aren’t a BDN Premium Member yet, you’re really missing out. Go ahead and join now to get the best coverage of Duke, year-round. All the cool kids are doing it.

The Duke secondary suffered a blow this week with the loss of Issac Blakeney for 2011

Issac Blakeney out for 2011

Head Coach David Cutcliffe announced on Thursday that safety Issac Blakeney has been suspended from the university for failure to meet continuing academic eligibility requirements and will miss the 2011 season. “Issac is a valuable member of the Duke Football family and I look forward to him returning to full eligibility in January of 2012,” said Cutcliffe.

Obviously, this is a huge blow to the Blue Devils’ depth at safety. Those who saw Blakeney in the spring game got a glimpse of his potential in the Duke secondary. In order for the new 4-2-5 scheme to be successful, players like August Campbell, Jordon Byas, and maybe even true freshman Chris Tavarez will have to step up alongside seniors Matt Daniels and Lee Butler. BDN wishes Issac the best of luck as he gets himself back on track; we’re pulling for him.

Football Friday summoned the psychic world to assist with 2011 ACC Football predictions

2011 ACC Predictions

In anticipation of the ACC’s Football Kickoff, Football Friday would like to share some of our completely unqualified predictions for the 2011 ACC football season. We figured that by next Friday, you will have heard enough media predictions, but this week, you’ll read every word. Here is the most important prediction we’ll make: none of these predictions will matter by December. In fact, most will be thrown out the window by September 3. In a year where only THREE teams will return their unquestioned starting quarterback from 2010, our second prediction is that the ACC will be pure chaos in 2011. Please keep these first two predictions in mind as we prognosticate.

The road to Charlotte will have to go through the defending ACC Champs in Blacksburg

ACC Coastal Division

The last four ACC Champions have come from the Coastal Division, and for that reason, we start here.

  1. Virginia Tech: the road to Charlotte still has to go through defending ACC Champion Virginia Tech, who lose ACC POY Tyrod Taylor, along with tailbacks Ryan Williams and Darren Evans. Overall, the Hokies return just 11 starters, 6 on offense and 5 on defense (including just one defensive lineman). All accounts suggest that redshirt-sophomore QB Logan Thomas and junior TB David Wilson are poised for breakout seasons for the Hokies. Head Coach Frank Beamer seems to have the annual luxury of reloading his roster, rather than rebuilding it, and the Hokies should put together another top-25 season and hold the top spot in the ACC Coastal Division.
  2. Miami: I’m probably buying the Hurricanes a little early in their first year under Al Golden, but by all accounts, the new Head Coach knows how to recruit and knows how to win. Miami has always had talent, and with better discipline and execution, I think this will be a much improved team over recent editions. Road contests at Maryland, Virginia Tech, UNC, and Florida State will pose a significant challenge, but the Hurricanes have some of the best athletes in the conference.
  3. Georgia Tech: I always underestimate Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jackets, so they’ll probably finish higher ( I didn’t want to break from tradition). There are several unproven new faces on offense and Al Groh’s defense needs to take a big step forward, but mostly, I think GT has one of the more favorable schedules, with their only ACC road contests at NC State, Virginia, Miami, and Duke.
  4. North Carolina: I’m selling the 2011 Tar Heels, and I realize I have them lower than most pundits. There are too many unsettled off-field issues, a first-year starting quarterback, the loss of a bunch of NFL draft picks, and a schedule that includes road games at Georgia Tech, Clemson, NC State, and Virginia Tech. Reading between the lines, it seems that even embattled Head Coach Butch Davis has been attempting to lower expectations, calling this a “transition year” for the program.
  5. Duke: As you can see by my underwhelming review of the Coastal Division teams in front of them, if things go right in Durham, there’s no reason Duke couldn’t end up with their highest finish in several years. Realistically, the young defensive line will have to mature ahead of schedule and the offense will have to prove it can run the ball consistently for Duke to become a serious threat in the division.
  6. Virginia: Many will probably place UVA ahead of Duke, but I’m not sold on the 2011 Wahoos, especially given their quarterback controversy. I interpreted the reports out of Charlottesville to indicate that none of their inexperienced QBs performed well enough to earn the starting job, which is an ominous sign for a team that also loses its leading rusher. Sure, Chase Minnifield and the defense should be solid, but road tests at UNC, Miami, Maryland, and FSU will be a stiff challenge.

    The Seminoles appear ready to challenge for an ACC Championship in 2011

ACC Atlantic Division

Though the Coastal Division has produced the last four ACC Champions, the Atlantic Division Champion should challenge for an Orange Bowl berth in 2011. I’m not sure there will be significant improvement elsewhere in the division, however.

  1. Florida State: Florida State claimed the Atlantic Division title in 2010 in Jimbo Fisher’s first season as Head Coach, and the Seminoles show no sign of slowing down. FSU will return a veteran group in all three phases in 2011 with 18 starters returning overall. Of all the ACC’s new full-time starting QBs, junior EJ Manuel has the most experience, having filled in for the injury-plagued Christian Ponder in each of the last two seasons. The expectation is that the 2011 Seminoles will be the class of the ACC, and should they win on September 17th against Oklahoma, they could vault towards the top of the national computer rankings.
  2. Clemson: With the recruiting classes Head Coach Dabo Swinney is bringing in, they have to be better than 6-7, right? That’s pretty much my basis for placing them here. They do draw FSU at home, but are stuck with facing the two Techs from the Coastal Division, both on the road. I’ve heard good reports about new QB Tajh Boyd and new OC Chad Morris’ offense, but maybe the Clemson folks have just been drinking too much orange Gatorade.
  3. Boston College: I really like the 2011 Eagles team and think they have the potential to make a lot of noise in the ACC, but have one of the toughest schedules. Their defense can be dominant at times and their offense should be improved if Chase Rettig can develop consistency and chemistry with his receivers. Montel Harris and Andre Williams should be one of the top tailback duos in the conference, if not the country. Division games at Clemson and a nationally-televised Thursday night home game against FSU will likely determine whether the Eagles will be serious contenders for the Atlantic division title.
  4. NC State: new QB Mike Glennon better be good, and he better be good from his first snap. With the transfer of Russell Wilson, all eyes will be on Glennon and fans will be quick to turn on Head Coach Tom O’Brien and the Wolfpack if things don’t go swimmingly. The Wolfpack probably have one of the lightest schedules in the ACC and will also probably finish higher than I have them picked as a result, but I don’t know if Glennon can live up to expectations, and I don’t know if he knows who he’s going to throw the ball to.
  5. Maryland: The surprise team of 2010 earned Ralph Friedgen ACC Coach of the Year honors and a pink slip. New Head Coach Randy Edsall will have a veteran team to work with, but even with ACC Freshman of the Year Danny O’Brien back under center, the offense will not be nearly as explosive with the loss of WR Torrey Smith and RB Da’Rell Scott. The Terps will face a tough ACC road schedule and the offense will experience growing pains without its top two weapons from 2010.
  6. Wake Forest: Of all the picks, this one may be the easiest. I don’t see a ton of reason for optimism in Winston-Salem, though the Deacs will return 17 starters from last year’s squad that finished with a 1-7 ACC record (yes, the 1 win was against Duke). We say it every year, but this is a must-win game on the schedule for Duke (and every other ACC team).

ACC Champion: Florida State

ACC Player of the Year: EJ Manuel, Florida State

ACC Coach of the Year:  Al Golden, Miami

Ok, now that all of that conventional stuff is out of the way, let’s look at some fun categories.

Coaches on the Hot Seat

I think there are four, at varying levels.

Butch Davis: how he still has a job is a mystery to most objective observers.

Dabo Swinney: we know he can recruit, but how long does he have to prove he can coach?

Jim Grobe: almost unthinkable just a few years ago, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of optimism in Winston-Salem these days and another finish in the cellar would have to put him on shaky ground.

Tom O’Brien: he must enjoy working without job security in Raleigh. After winning support with an impressive 2010 season, the questionable handling of the Russell Wilson situation has placed the Wolfpack Head Coach back under scrutiny.

ACC Game of the Year

October 8, Miami at Virginia Tech

ACC Bust of the Year

I think this is a neck and neck race with the UNC and NC State quarterbacks. I’m not suggesting they’re not ultimately going to be good players, but there’s a ton of pressure on them in their first season as starters. Bryn Renner at least has a good group of receivers returning, so I’ll say that Glennon will struggle to live up to the unrealistic expectations placed on him by Russell Wilson’s departure.

ACC Surprise of the Year

Maybe I’m a year or two ahead of myself here, but I really think Al Golden is going to put the Miami Hurricanes back on the map. He’ll have to figure out his quarterback situation, but he’s got an All-ACC caliber running back in Lamar Miller and a ton of high-level athletes across the depth chart. I think the rest of the conference has forgotten just how good “The U” can be.

Can the Blue Devils upset the Tar Heels and re-claim the Victory Bell this year?

ACC Upset of the Year

For the sake of the conference, let’s all hope that we don’t see another FCS team upset an ACC opponent as we have in recent years. But within the conference, let’s say that the Blue Devils travel to Chapel Hill on November 26 with a 5-6 record. The Tar Heels have been mired in controversy all season and the public outcry against Head Coach Butch Davis continues to mount. Behind huge performances from seniors Donovan Varner and Cooper Helfet, the Blue Devils emerge with the Victory Bell and secure bowl eligibility for the first time since the 1994 season.

Hey, I figured I’d end on that note to leave you feeling good about the upcoming season. With regards to all these predictions, as they say, that’s why they play the games. BDN will have full coverage from next week’s ACC Football Kickoff in Pinehurst and of course,  we’ll follow the Blue Devils all season long. WE ARE DUKE.

QB Thomas Sirk committed to David Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils on Wednesday morning

Baker County (FL) athlete Thomas Sirk earns a coveted Duke QB scholarship offer

Baker County athlete Thomas Sirk is attracting interest from top programs this summer

Though he admittedly dislikes the label, Duke Head Coach David Cutcliffe is known in football circles as a quarterback guru. Having mentored both Peyton and Eli Manning (who worked out at Duke on Wednesday), along with several other top collegiate signal-callers, Coach Cut’s reputation is well-deserved. At Duke, he has continued to develop outstanding quarterbacks, starting with two record-setting years for Thaddeus Lewis and an impressive sophomore year for Sean Renfree, along with freshman Brandon Connette. When it comes to quarterback recruiting, Coach Cutcliffe is understandably selective, carefully evaluating hundreds of high school quarterbacks each year, but only offering a scholarship to a select few. Thomas Sirk, a 6’6” 212 pound athlete from Baker County HS in Florida, is one of those select few. Remarkably, Sirk has never played a full year at quarterback in high school, but impressed the Duke coaching staff in person last Saturday in Durham. With interest from schools like Florida, Florida State, and Tennessee, Sirk’s recruitment has officially taken off this summer. His highlight film, which has piqued the interest of several college coaches, can be viewed here. [private]

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

I guess I’d say I’m versatile, I play all over the field, and quarterback. I’m a big guy, I guess, I’m 6’5” 212 right now and I move pretty good for my size.

BDN: You mentioned playing quarterback, is that the position you want to play in college?

That’s what I want to play in college, I’ve been offered by Duke at quarterback.

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

Right now I’m in conditioning. I’ve been working with my receivers on throwing, working on my steps a lot this summer. This is my first year at quarterback really, coming into my senior season, I’m not an original quarterback, last year I played wide receiver, so I just need to work on timing with my receivers and trying to get in touch with them.

BDN: What are your goals for your senior year and your first year under center?

I’m looking to take our team to be the first team to be undefeated in our county. I want to pass for over 1500-2000 yards this season, that’s definitely one of my goals to have high passing yards and I want to have a completion percentage above 65% this year, too.

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

Right now I’m looking at what’s the best place for me, where I‘m going to start earlier, going in, looking at their depth chart. I want to be somewhere where I’m going to get a chance to play for the most years.

BDN: Which schools have been recruiting you this summer?

I’ve been offered by Iowa State as well as Duke. I’ve been recruited by Florida, Florida State, Tennessee, University of Miami, Georgia Tech, Troy, and Vanderbilt.

BDN: Have you had a chance to visit any schools, and what schools are you planning to visit this summer?

I’ve visited Florida State, Florida, Duke, Vanderbilt, I visited Vanderbilt last year during the season. I have Tennessee and Vanderbilt coming up the 17th and 18th of July for camps. I’ve got Florida State coming up again, it’ll be my second time visiting Florida State, July 23rd.

BDN: Are you planning to work out at quarterback at those camps?

Yeah, yeah, I’m planning to work out at quarterback at all those schools. I’ve been in contact with Tennessee’s quarterback coach, we talked on the phone last Friday morning, I’ve been recruited by Tennessee but that’s the first time I actually got to talk to their quarterback coach. I recently made a film at quarterback and it’s on YouTube now, and if you get a chance you can look at that, but it’s on YouTube and some of these coaches are starting to see that and that’s where I’m getting contacts from schools at, by seeing that video. I work with a quarterback coach in Alabama named David Morris.

BDN: Sure, he played in college, didn’t he?

Yeah, yeah, he played at Ole Miss, he played behind Eli Manning.

BDN: Well that’s definitely a great mentor to have.

Yeah, definitely.

QB Thomas Sirk says that Duke definitely stands out as a great opportunity for him

BDN: Do any schools stand out to you, that you have a good relationship with and you feel like there’s a good opportunity for you to play early?

Well Tennessee and Duke. I mean definitely Duke, when I went up to Duke and visited them this past weekend, their coaching staff, I came in there and they treated me very good, worked me out at the camp. I got to sit down in person and talk to Coach Cutcliffe and that’s when he offered me. I’ve been in touch with them all week after the camp. And Tennessee, I’m liking Tennessee right now, they’ve got a new facility going up and I like the town of Knoxville, too.

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

Well I’m not making any decisions right now, I’m just kind of taking it all in right now. It will probably be the middle of my season before I make my decision. Right now I’m just trying to take it all in, like I said. Not trying to rush into anything, I’m seeing what’s further to come, what offers I get, what opportunities I have.

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

Ok, I appreciate it.

[/private]

 

BDN takes an early look at ACC Football

Summer is a time when ACC fans start to think of their teams college football prospects for the upcoming season.  Back in the day, fans would anxiously await the many college football preview magazines which hit newsstands in early June.  Now, we have the web to keep us company as well.  BDN takes an early look ahead and shares some early thoughts.

ACC partners with ESPN, ACC Network, ABC

Several early season listings were made today and  ESPN will air five Thursday night games during the season featuring ACC teams, all with 8 pm kickoffs,  beginning with NC State at Cincinnati (Sept. 22) and including Virginia at Miami (Oct.; 22), Florida State at Boston College (Nov. 3), Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech (Nov. 10) and North Carolina at Virginia Tech (Nov. 17).  The ESPN schedule features a minimum of 16 televised games in the first three weeks of the season.  The ACC will have two syndicated packages produced by the ACC Network this fall. As in the past, the ACC Network will produce a game of the week which will actually expand to the opening week of the season, debuting with Appalachian State at Virginia Tech on Sept. 3.New to this year will be the addition of a second ACC Network production which will air on the Regional Sports Networks throughout the ACC footprint. This package will debut with James Madison at North Carolina on Sept. 3 and features a doubleheader on Sept. 17 beginning with Kansas at Georgia Tech (12:30 pm), and concluding with Arkansas State at Virginia Tech (4 pm). Additionally, ESPNU, which is available in 73 million homes nationwide, will televise four ACC games in the first three weeks of the season, including Northwestern at Boston College (Sept. 3, Noon); Louisiana Monroe at Florida State (Sept. 3, 3:30 pm); Stanford at Duke (Sept. 10, 3:30 pm); and Virginia at North Carolina (Sept. 17, 3:30 pm). Finally, nine ACC games will be video streamed over ESPN’s web-streaming platform of ESPN3.com which is now available in 70 million homes, making telecasts of all of the Conference’s home games in the first three weeks of the season available to a national audience.

Seminoles return to the top

It’s already clear that Florida State appears to be the ACC’s best, at lease on paper where they return a good 16 starters from a team that showed signs of the glory years.  The Noles must replace departed quarterback Christian Ponder, but EJ Manuel should be able to step into the role.  The once proud program will rank in the pre season national top ten but bare in mind that they have won 10 or more games just one time since 2001.

Hokie rebuilding aided by easier schedule

With 14 starters back, the word rebuilding may seem odd, but the Hokies must replace several key starters.  Virginia Tech has been the ACC’s most consistent program where they average 10 wins this decade.  Appalachian State, East Carolina, Arkansas State and Marshall make up their out of league schedule and it is manageable and designed for a quick start while they seek replacements at said key positions.

But no out of conference schedule is easier than that of the Wolfpack

Talk about a feast of so-so football teams, the Pack opens with Liberty, then face South Alabama, Central Michigan.  Their tough one is at Cincinnati.  It must be nice to have three wins before the ball is even kicked off for the 2012 season.

Mark your calendar for September 17th — ACC redemption?

The Atlantic Coast Conference has been down in football in recent years where teams have all been just outside the national spotlight.  On September 17th, that could all change with some timely wins.  Expect Clemson to defeat the defending national champions the Auburn Tigers that weekend.  The southern most Tigers are rebuilding and the norther Tigers are primed to pull off a win at home.

The big game of the weekend will be Oklahoma at Florida State.  The pre season ACC pick will take on the likely number one ranked team in the country.  If that game is 1-A, then 1-B is Ohio State at Miami in another game where the ACC could reap the rewards of an upset.  The Sooners are loaded and the popular pick early amongst prognosticators while Miami breaks in a new coach and system?

Two early conference games the same weekend feature Virginia travelling to North Carolina and Duke to Boston College.  Both games will provde an early gauge as to the teams strength.  So, grab your favorite beverage, make sure the lawn is mowed and turn the ringer off the phone that day and enjoy the best weekend of football of the season.

Other big name teams on the slate

If Oklahoma is the best out of conference opponent, then Stanford is next and they visit Duke the second weekend of the season.  Fans get a chance to watch Andre Luck and the Blue Devils will need more than luck to knock off a top five team.  Notre Dame plays both Boston College and Maryland.

Puffs

There are plenty of powder puffs coming into play your ACC teams as well.  Bethune-Cookman, Lousiana-Monroe, Wofford, Towson, Liberty, Arkansas State, Garner Webb are but a few of the pre calculated sacrificial lambs.

As always, ACC is hard to forecast

Florida State is the pick in the Atlantic Division, but the picture muddles from there.  Boston College returns 11 starters and they always finish better than most think.  They have some decent offensive weapons returning but must replace key defenders.  Maryland is going in a new direction under coach Randy Edsall but they do so with 13 starters.  Clemson is in need of a signal caller, but they have 16 starters to work with and a lot back on the offensive side of the ball.  N.C. State is a popular early pick for the second spot, along with Clemson.  The Pack must replace Russell Wilson but the cupboard is not bare with 15 starters returning.  Wake Forest hopes to bounce back from a down season with the majority of their team back.

The Coastal Division still has the Hokies at the top but they are not a clear cut choice by any means.  UNC faces some major retooling but has talent per their spring reports, while Virginia welcomes back 19 starters for the London era.  Georgia Tech generally does well when flying under the radar and that is the case going into the season.  Miami is ready to springboard to the top but it may not come in year one under Al Golden but with Jacoby Harris back, who knows for sure.  Duke is looking fo some defense in Durham, but the offense looks poised to be the best in the Cutcliffe era.

As summer rolls in, we’ll take a more in depth look at ACC Football but until then, ponder your teams schedule and gear up with hope for every team is undefeated until September the 1st.

Duke has offered top Miami CB Larry Hope

Miami CB Larry Hope plans to visit all schools that have offered this summer

Duke has offered top Miami CB Larry Hope

While Duke worked hard to improve their defense on the field this spring, the coaching staff is also working hard to upgrade the defense with a talented group of prospects in the class of 2012. The Duke staff has targeted an elite group of defensive backs who already have received verbal scholarship offers from the Blue Devils, among several other top programs. The Blue Devils added a quality cornerback from Florida in the class of 2011 in Tim Burton, and hope to do the same in the class of 2012. One of the most recent prospects to pick up a verbal scholarship offer is Larry Hope, a 5’11” 167 pound prospect from Miami, Florida.

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

Well, I think, college coaches say they like about me is that I’m the best man-to-man coverage player that they’ve seen. I’m good for my height, I’m a very big player, strong and physical, and very fast. When it comes down to shutting down a receiver, I think I’m the guy. But I like my actions to speak for themselves.

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

I’m working on getting stronger. I’m in the weight room every single day, even on weekdays, weekends I’m outside trying to get faster. We’re trying to get faster and stronger.

BDN: What are some of your goals for yourself and your team in your senior season?

As a team, I want to come together and bond so we can have a better year than last year and hopefully make it to the playoffs. Me, I just want to do what I’ve been doing, come out there and play my role as I’ve been doing.

BDN: As you look at your college decision, what are the most important factors you are looking for in a school?

I’m looking for a family bond and someone that can help me become a better player for the next level, because that’s what everybody wants to do. But I’m looking for a family bond, someone that’s like a father figure at college, and most of the colleges that I’ve been talking to that have offered me, has been that. They call me, I call them, and we talk on a daily basis, get that family bond. They mostly are defensive back coaches, and mostly played DB at the next level, so that’s what I’m looking for.

BDN: Which schools have you in contact with the most, and which schools have extended verbal offers?

I have seven offers from Wisconsin, Buffalo, Nebraska, USF, Louisville, Duke, and Kansas. West Virginia and Miami, Florida State, and Florida, they all want to come to my spring practice – Ole Miss and North Carolina are all coming to my spring practice, sometime around the first of May or the first week in May.

BDN: Have you had a chance to take any visits this spring?

In the summer I plan on visiting all the colleges that have offered me. When it comes to visits, so far I’ve visited Miami, Florida State, and Florida, and USF and UCF, and that’s it.

BDN: Have any schools impressed you or surprised you at this point in the process, either on your visits or your contact with coaches?

Well, no, all the colleges that have offered me are trying to impress me, so not yet.

BDN: Do you have an idea for how or when you would like to narrow your list of schools down and ultimately make a decision?

Me and my dad are weighing my options and just sitting back and relaxing. We’re trying to gain that bond, if I feel like I’m comfortable with a school, there’s no time limit on when I’ll decide.

BDN: Is there anything else you think is important for college football fans to know about you?

I feel like I’m more loyal to football now. Everything revolves around football and I’m working harder than I’ve ever been working, and I like what I’ve been seeing and I’m going to keep putting more into my craft.

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

Alright, thanks a lot.

 

Duke safety Matt Daniels is poised for an All-ACC senior season

BDN’s Football Friday!

It’s Friday afternoon, which can only mean one thing – Football Friday! This week, we take a look at Duke’s 2011 ACC opponents spring practices along with some recruiting updates. [private]

It’s a long one this week, so I won’t distract you with any witty opening filler. Let’s get right to it.

Matt Daniels named to Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List

Duke DB Matt Daniels strikes a pose for BDN Photo

That’s a mouthful of an accomplishment. Interestingly, there were 11 candidates from the ACC, more than any other conference. Daniels is a player that I’ve enjoyed watching develop over his four years in Durham, and I always feel like he has another level we still haven’t seen. Hopefully, this will be the year that he reaches that level and helps to turn around the Duke defensive unit. As one of the most versatile players on defense, his playmaking ability will be key to the Blue Devils’ success in 2011.

Scouting the ACC spring practices

With lots of transitions occurring on the sidelines and under center around the ACC this year, it may be a good opportunity for the Blue Devils to pull off a few upsets. Several teams will wrap up their 2011 spring practice this weekend with their spring games, so be sure to tune in to the ESPN family of networks to scout out some of Duke’s 2011 opponents (ESPN – you can email me for the address to mail my endorsement check). So sit back and enjoy a cold one while we take a whirlwind tour around the ACC. Oh wait, you’re still at work, so grab a cup of coffee instead? Anyway, here are some of the headlines from Duke’s 2011 ACC opponents this spring:

Boston College: the Eagles will be Duke’s first ACC opponent this fall, which may be a good thing for the Blue Devils. BC will return nearly all of their offensive starters, who will be operating under a new coordinator in Kevin Rogers. The emphasis so far this spring appears to be on the passing game, which has been inconsistent so far this spring. In the first scrimmage of the spring, Chase Rettig was on the same page with his receivers, and the BC offense finished with 5 touchdowns. In their second scrimmage, however, the defense had their way with the new offense, finishing with 4 interceptions and 4 sacks. BC will be a tough opponent, as we saw last year in Wallace Wade Stadium, mostly due to Montel Harris on the ground, and Luke Kuechly on defense. If Rettig and his receivers can develop consistency, BC will be a dangerous team for the entire ACC.

Florida State: most expect the Seminoles to be at the top of the ACC in 2011, and you can see for yourself on Saturday at 4PM on ESPN3. This team will go as far as QB E.J. Manuel can take them, and the indications this spring are pretty good. Manuel is the athletic signal-caller that has given the Blue Devils trouble in recent years. Perhaps the biggest question for the Seminoles will be their offensive line, where they will have to replace 2 starters and had 4 players out for spring practice. Overall, the Seminoles lost only 3 starters each on offense and defense, and the expectations are high in Tallahassee.

Wake Forest: the Deacs’ will hold their spring game on Saturday at 1 PM. After a disappointing 2010, Wake Forest loses 8 starters. Tanner Price is the unquestioned starter on offense and will be backed up by Ted Stachitas. Both players gave the Blue Devils trouble last year in a  54-48 loss in Winston-Salem. Much like the Blue Devils, the Deacs struggled mightily on defense last year, and Coach Jim Grobe has been pleased with the defensive intensity this spring. The running game will be led by Josh Harris and Brandon Pendergrass, but questions remain in the kicking game for Wake Forest. The expectation is for this team to be improved from a season ago, but in order for that to happen, they will have to show more consistency this fall than they have this spring.

Virginia Tech: the Hokies lose perhaps the most of any Duke opponent in 2011, but in Blacksburg, they reload, not rebuild. The defending ACC champs lose QB Tyrod Taylor along with RB Ryan Williams and RB Darren Evans to the NFL, leaving the Hokies’ offense in the hands of redshirt-sophomore Logan Thomas and junior tailback David Wilson. There have been rave reviews this spring for Wilson (even though he’s missed several practices due to track), who is working under first year running back coach Shane Beamer (yes, Frank’s son), after long-time assistant Billy Hite retired. The VT defense also has questions as they replace 5 starters from 2010, but the Blue Devils will have to keep the ball away from returning CB Jayron Hosley, who led the country with 9 interceptions and 17 defended passes in 2010.

Miami: lots of changes in Coral Gables this spring under new head coach Al Golden. The Hurricanes will hold their spring game on Saturday at 3 PM, and questions still remain heading into the fall. The coaching staff has been openly disappointed in the intensity and conditioning of many of the Miami players this spring, and Golden has left the depth chart up for grabs this spring. That includes quarterback, where Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris are battling for the starting job, though Spencer Whippel was the starter heading into the spring. We’ll get to see lots more from the Hurricanes, as they’ve struck a deal with ESPNU to air a series of All-Access shows this spring.

Virginia: the Wahoos wrapped up spring practice last week with nearly as many questions as answers. It’s a complete toss-up at quarterback, where the updated depth chart lists Michael Rocco and Ross Matheney in the “first group” and Michael Strauss and David Watford in the “second group.” In short, no one has established themselves as the leader of this offense this spring, and that has to be a concern for a team that loses 19 lettermen, including 5 starters. After a shootout in Wallace Wade Stadium last year, the Blue Devils will be glad to hear that QB Marc Verica and RB Keith Payne are among the starters lost. The Cavaliers’ defense should be improved from a year ago as they enter their second year in the 4-3 scheme, and will be anchored in the secondary by CB Chase Minnifield, who finished 2010 with 6 interceptions. Offensively, it’s tough to evaluate a team with 4 inexperienced potential starters at QB.

Georgia Tech: the Yellow Jackets are yet another ACC team who will be breaking in a new QB in 2011, as Tevin Washington takes over for Josh Nesbitt. The Blue Devils saw plenty of Washington in 2010 in their 30-20 loss in Atlanta. This spring, head coach Paul Johnson has been disappointed in the play of his offensive line, which returns three starters from a year ago. In addition to Nesbitt, the Jackets’ triple-option offense will have to replace Anthony Allen at B-back, but return Roddy Jones and Orwin Smith at A-back. Defensively, GT will have to replace 6 starters, but they do return all 3 starters up front in Al Groh’s 3-4 scheme. The front three will have to be the strength of this defense, and it has impressed the coaching staff this spring.

North Carolina: if you thought Bieber fever was annoying, wait until you meet the Tar Heels with Renner fever. Bryn Renner inherits the starting job at quarterback, and impressed the Tar Heel faithful with a 9/13, 123 yard performance in their spring game. The highlight was a 43-yard pass to Erik Highsmith, something UNC saw far less often during the T.J. Yates era. After a tumultuous 2010 and an ongoing NCAA investigation, the Tar Heels will have several new faces on both sides of the ball in 2011. Five starters depart on both offense and defense, which means that the few returning starters, such as senior DE Quinton Coples and senior TB Ryan Houston will have to shoulder (no pun intended) much of the load on defense and offense, respectively. Despite suffering a broken scapula in the spring game, head coach Butch Davis expects Houston to be an every-down back for the Tar Heels this fall.

 

Spring evaluation period starts today

Ok, I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted after that tour of the ACC. That took some serious work, and I didn’t even talk about NC State, Clemson, or Maryland. Anyway, recruiting gets back into full gear today, as the spring evaluation period opens up. So what does that actually mean? The Duke staff has 168 evaluation days to use between now and May 31. An evaluation day is a day spent in evaluation of a prospect’s athletic and/or academic ability. The staff is limited to 1 athletic evaluation and 1 academic evaluation per prospect during this time. So whom will the staff be visiting? Let’s take a look at the offers out there by position.

Bilal Marshall is the first 2012 QB with a Duke offer

Quarterbacks: we’ll start with the glamour position, and one that Duke has built into a strength for 2011 with Sean Renfree, Brandon Connette, and Anthony Boone. Miami’s Bilal Marshall remains the only quarterback prospect with a Duke offer, and we’ll check back in with him soon to get an update on his recruitment. There are 19 other QBs on the board, highlighted by names like Bart Houston, Casey Cochran, and Matt Johnson.

Running backs: Duke remains committed to taking at least one or two running backs in the class of 2012, and they’ve extended 7 offers with 17 other prospects under evaluation. Keith Marshall is at the top of every school’s list, but he’s joined by Todd Gurley, Dami Ayoola, Dondre Brown, Dontonio Jordan, Jay Jay McCullough, and Nick Tompkins as prospects with verbal offers.

Wide receivers: with Donovan Varner and Conner Vernon now upperclassmen, the Blue Devils will look to reload at receiver in the class of 2012. Seven receivers have verbal offers, which include Nelson Agholor, Jared Crump, Desmond Frye, P.J. Harris, Justin Johnson, Max McCaffrey, and Darius Powe. Twelve other receivers are on the Blue Devils’ list of 2012 prospects.

Tight ends: the Blue Devils’ got on the board early with a commitment from Erich Schneider, but remain in pursuit of top TEs Dan Beilinson, Kent Taylor, and Evan Baylis.

Linemen: as would be expected, linemen make up the majority of verbal scholarship offers to date. On the offensive line, Duke is looking to add a few top prospects and has extended 11 offers to players like Patrick DeStefano, Mark Harrell, D.J. Humphries, Andrew Jelks, Eric Olson, and Max Tuerk. The emphasis, however, is the defensive line, where Duke has extended 17 verbal offers to players like Allen Jackson (committed), Korren Kirven, D.J. Reader, Jordan Watkins, and Carlos Wray. In addition to the prospects with offers, Duke has over 40 other linemen on their recruiting board.

Linebackers: Duke is going hard after two linebackers in particular early in Keilin Rayner and Deion Williams. There are several others under evaluation, but the Blue Devils remain in good shape with those two players.

Secondary: the defensive secondary is another position of emphasis in the class of 2012, and the Blue Devils have extended offers to 13 prospects at cornerback and safety. In addition to players like Michael Summers, Albert Reid, Ron Geohaghan, and Dwayne Norman, the staff is evaluating another 15 prospects.

We’ll be back

Lots of recruiting coverage coming this week as the staff hits the recruiting trail and we tag along for the ride. No idea what we’ll talk about next week, so you’ll just have to come back to find out. As always, feel free to join in the discussion on our message board if you need a football fix before next Friday. WE ARE DUKE.

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ACC Tournament Thoughts Day Two (Updated game by game)

North Carolina 61 Miami 59
The Tar Heels won on a buzzer beater where Kendall Marshall found Tyler Zeller wide open for an easy lay in.  Oddly, that was the only time UNC led in the entire contest.  The Tar Heel guards didn’t score in the first half from the field, but they warmed up int he second, especially from the three point stripe.  Both Leslie McDonald and Marshall hit big threes and when is the last time UNC hit 10 three pointers in a half?  The Hurricanes defense stymied the Heels early in that they played a tight zone.  That zone loosened up dramatically when Reggie Johnson got his fourth foul.  Anytime a team wins a game like this one, it generally gives them confidence in the next contest and more importantly momentum.  I feel UNC will have little problem in advancing to the title game, especially since they dominated the afternoon session crowd, making the Coliseum Dean Dome West.  After shooting 30.4% in the first half and 55.6% in the second from the field.  Miami got a total of two points from their bench.