I'm ready for some football? Trust me, there will be a lot of newness tomorrow. New Coach, new hope, new attitude, new uniforms, new cheerleaders in new uniforms, new Devil (you'll see), new entrance, new traditions born, new closed end scoreboard, new sounds, new promotions, new student section, new programs ... you get the picture yet? Folks, this is the dawn of a new era, so be there early to greet the team during the Blue Devil Walk and soak in the new traditions. As always the Blue Devil Nation is on the scene and here are a few pictures that may just get you riled up. That said, be loud, be proud and wear DUKE BLUE!
[private]1- Wear Blue! -The word is out and the word is blue! Coach Cutcliffe spent the summer doing all he could to promote Duke Football. The latest, if you haven't already hear is to show up for the game wearing your Duke Blue. "I expect to see a sea of blue," said Coach Cutcliffe during his most recent press conference. What to watch for- The students have been moved back to the home side and will be behind the players for the first time in years. It will be interesting to see if the cheers are coordinated in the sea of blue.
2- Get there early! Duke is expecting a big crowd and more traffic than usual. Duke will have a team walk from the Chapel to Wallace Wade, where fans are invited to get involved. Duke will also have kid activities and music. It's always fun to walk about the multiple tailgates too. It's a new season and a new tradition and it starts with you, the Duke fan! What to watch for- Coach Cutcliffe has promised a new game day experience. This includes a secretive new way of the team entering the stadium. Stay late for fireworks and at halftime Coach K and Duke Olympians will be honored. Also, the students are notoriously late in years past. Will this change?
3- Concessions- Sounds odd? Well, Duke has not been prepared for large crowds in the past and this year studies have been made to keep this from happening. What to watch for - Will they run out of H20 before halftime in what might prove to be a humid evening?
4 - Atmosphere and Emotion- It's clear that Duke wants the typical game day atmosphere you get at some other schools. Much work has gone into the planning and you can bet there will be changes, perhaps even a little noise to elicit cheers. This is not an opera folks! So, don't worry about the polite claps and feel free to let out a scream or two. Bring your yahoo in and leave your worries of what others might think at the gate. Crowd emotion drives the players, player emotion drives the crowd. Let's get emotional! What to watch for - When it's third and one on offense or defense, will the crowd be passive or a little amped up?
5 - James Madison- JMU has been known to hit a team square in the mouth from the outset. They possess quickness and confidence and desperately want this win. The Dukes are ranked no lower than 3rd in the country in any Division I-A poll and 1st in two. Last years edition was one of the youngest under Coach Mickey Matthews and they all return. This team lost by one point to Appalachian State in last seasons Championships and had it won if not for a late turnover. What to watch for- Will JMU come into the game with a swagger? More importantly, will they leave with one?
6 - James Madison on offense- Expect to see an offense that spreads the ball around a lot. Their backfield runs a lot of motion and fakes and is as hard to prepare for as the option. Quarterback Rodeny Landers will run and run and run. He's big and hard to tackle and will be the center of attention at all times. JMU has several players capable of making big plays with their speed. What to watch for -If Duke shows the ability to contain the run, how accurate can Landers be in the air? He completed 63% of his passes last season and threw for 12 scores. Will Eugene TB Holloman run roughshod over the Duke defense?
7- James Madison on defense -These guys like to stack the box and try and shut down the run. In last seasons loss to UNC, JMU effectively shut down the run, ultimately losing the game to turnovers. This team will play a lot more physical than many expect. What to watch for -JMU feels their secondary is a strength. Can they shut down a Duke team that will likely pass more this season?
8 - Duke on offense -There is a new sheriff in town and he his own deputies in tow. Duke will spread the ball around tmore this season and go to Eron Riley often. Thaddeus Lewis has shown the ability to be a leader and the offensive line has improved. Al eyes will be on the running game where there are depth issues and freshman or newcomers slated to get reps. What to watch for -Coach Cutcliffe wants to see a crisp offense ran to precision. Can Duke run the ball enough to take pressure off Thaddeus Lewis in the pocket and will the offensive line hold up?
9- Duke on defense- Duke has a pretty good starting lineup, but will be breaking in a new safety which is a critical position. Depth as always is an issue. Tackling has been better than I remember in the pre season and a slimmed down unit should be quicker to the ball. During the pre season, Coach told the players to treat the ground like a hot stove. "You can't make a play if you are on your back," said Cutcliffe. The defense will be the most interesting said that it was not the attention of the media in the pre season. What to watch for -Coach Cutcliffe knows there is little depth on the front and in the linebacker positions. Will this unit hold up for an entire game?
10 - Special Teams -It got to the point last season where I would close my eyes on field goals and extra points. Nick Maggio has proved to be consistent in practice and will get the call. Punting has been a pleasant surprise in the pre season. As for coverage, it will make or break a team in close contests. What to watch for - Will Coach call upon Maggio in short yardage situations or elect to go for it. This is one area that needs consistency for the teams confidence and to win close games. How improved will this unit be under Coach Middleton? A good kickoff or punt return could prove to be a huge spark. As important, will they allow JMU good field position or the big play on the other end.
11- The fourth quarter - Much has been made about off season conditioning and Coach has alluded to having enough in the tank to be able to win a game in the fourth quarter and or finish. What to watch for -A score. Fourth quarter points were as scarce as sell outs for the past several seasons. Can Duke take a game from beginning to end?
12- Intangibles -This category is perhaps the most important. (A) Turnovers - This might decide the game on Saturday evening. Duke must protect and value the ball. (B) Clock Management - This always applies, but the NCAA has a new rule and Duke must get up to the ball in a timely manner (C) Penalties - Face it, Duke has not been disciplined in the past and shot themselves in the foot on many occasions. Precision and attention will be important all season long. (D) The sidelines - All too often in the past, the Duke sideline looked emotionless with many players hanging around talking about classes and after game affairs. (E) Resilience - This is a key to being a winner. Can Duke bounce back after being down? Can they drive the nail into the coffin when they are up? What to watch for - All of the above![/private]
[private]The Blue Devil Nation was once again on hand after this mornings practice and we chatted briefly with Coach Cutcliffe. This was the last time the media could talk to him during opening game week. All of the question were asked by Brian Strickland of the Herald Sun and myself.
It's just over fifty hours before kickoff on Saturday. What are your feelings at this time?
I feel like we're prepared. Today's practice looked that way. I thought defensively, offensively and the kicking game had people where they were supposed to be and knew what to do and were pretty crisp and focused. This is your dress rehearsal every week on Thursday and you find out a lot about your team. It's the first time they've seen the way we do things, so I was pleased with it for the most part.
Do you get nervous before the games?
Not really. I get butterflies like anybody does on occasion from the excitement. I wouldn't call it nervousness. There's too many things to do to be nervous with last minute things going on. I enjoy game day and try to enjoy that experience and I want the players to enjoy it. We're pretty intense as you guys know that are around here during the week. On game day, I am going to be intense, but if they're not ready after this, it's not their fault, it's mine.
Absolutely! I think we'll see that Saturday night. I think we'll see more than a full house. I don't say that to keep people from coming, but to encourage them to come for I think it's going to be mpore fun than they've had in Wallace Wade Stadium in a long time.
Coach K had some nice things to say about the program during his press conference yesterday. Can you give me a brief comment about that?
Certainly! I appreciate his support from the start, the very beginning. Here's a guy bringing home the Gold and he sets his press conference on Wednesday. I know he's still tired and just to make the comment that he want's the press conference out of the way and everything to be focused on the football team is just unbelievable. It doesn't surprise because of who he is. I sat and kind of measured him up during the press conference ... here's a guy who is a graduate of West Point who played for the winningest coach of all time. He's won over 800 games himself, three national titles and now Olympic Gold. I'm just kind of looking at him saying, "whats next?"
Can you talk about OL Kyle Hill and what he's done?
He's done a really nice job to come out and start in his first game as an offensive lineman. He takes a lot of pride and he is athletic. I think it gives us one of the most athletic sides of the line with him and Cameron Goldberg. I like athletes, you guys know that. Neither one of them have an ounce on them. I look forward to seeing Kyle compete. I'm sure he'll make some mistakes, but if you are going to make them, do it is full speed which is one of my motto's.
You will be back on the field as a head coach this weekend which is something you wanted to get back to ...
I'm not going to be arrogant, but I will tell you that I feel very natural doing that. It's what I prefer. When I have coached as an offensive coordinator, I'm the head coach of that offensive team and I'm focused. From a competing (as an OC) standpoint, we had a plan from the get go. I mean no disrespect to the coaches I've coached for, but (being in charge) is my nature and I'm very, very comfortable around this staff. I look forward to really going out and competing with them.
We've had quite a bit of rain of late. How might that paly into field conditions?
The field will drain. It's a sand based field and I think it'll be fine. I'm not sure what's coming up, but we might have a couple of thunder busters between now and the game. We all surfed in here yesterday. It was the largest amount of water I've ever dealt with in a practice situation. I really don't care what the fields like. If we play well and take care of the football and do the things we've got to do I will like watching our team compete.
An aside, the field was being painted as I left and the North Carolina sunshine started to burst between the clouds. The field looked to be in good shape. It's been a crazy week of coverage where this site has been burning the candle at both ends. Next week should allow us to get back to more writing, instead of the interview formats we've adopted for times sake. Lastly, wear blue and turnout foe the game on Saturday evening. I've been tipped off about some new experiences that should please Duke fans. You will want to get into the stadium early to catch the full effect.[/private]