Tag Archives: Jela Duncan

Jela Duncan Photo - Mark Watson, Blue Devil Nation

BDN Quick Hitter – Jela Duncan talks Duke Football

Duke Football practice will be underway this afternoon and Blue Devil Nation was on hand for the opening media day where we talked with several players.  Duke is hoping to build off it’s bowl season a year ago and return to one during the 2013-14 season and if they do so Jela Duncan will be a huge factor.  We caught up to the promising Duke running back -

 

Duke Football will supposedly run the ball more this year. That has to be music to your ears.

Yeah, very excited. As a running back I am very excited. It gives us a chance to do better than we did last year and we’re hungry to get after it. Our coach, Requan (Boyette) had us in a meeting this morning, so we are just fired up being in camp.

You guys had a lot of success running the ball against a pretty good Cincinnati defense in the bowl game last season …

I mean the game has it’s ups and downs and the bowl game didn’t go as we wanted it to go, so we just try and get better from the experience as a team.

Many consider you to be a physical downfield runner.  Is that a fair assessment?

Yeah, I consider that to be fair. I’m not so much a lateral guy, so it’s fair. I’m going to mix it up this year.

How big of an impact is it for the running backs to have an experienced offensive line in front of them?

It makes a big impact to have a very experienced offensive line and we trust them as running backs which brings confidence in them to open up running lanes. We have one goal and that’s the ACC Championship.

Big Things Happening for Duke Football

Anthony Boone had a 4 passing TD dream debut for Duke. Photo Mark Watson

News Alert! Duke Football is 5-1 and one win shy of being bowl eligible! Normally this time of year Blue Devil Nation is talking about the juggernaut of a program Mike Krzyzewski has built at Duke, but Coach David Cutcliffe and his troops have been winning, and every game is a big game from here on out, because a win puts Duke in contention for a much-coveted bowl game.

There is a lot going on around the football program these days, including  unveiling exciting upgrades to Wallace Wade Stadium and the reality of more prospects showing interest in the resurgent Blue Devils. I break it all down to lead off the week.

A quick look back at the UVA win

After a pedestrian first half effort, Duke rolled the Cavaliers, and in the process pushed their season record to 5-1, including 2-0 in the ACC. When is the last time Duke outscored an ACC or any other opponent 28-0 after halftime? As you ponder the answer to that question going to the way-back machine, it will make you realize the second half of the UVA game was Duke’s best half of football in the Cutcliffe era. The Blue Devils had 7 pre-season defensive starters out and yet they still pitched a second half shutout. Impressive. And then there was the play of QB Anthony Boone, which I will discuss in a bit.

The Perfect Storm

In the pre-season I alluded to what I called the Perfect Storm for Duke Football. What did I mean?  A look at the schedule showed winnable games for Duke on the front end of the schedule, if all fell into place. That Perfect Storm looked like a pipe dream after the road loss to Stanford, even though that game had been penciled in as a likely loss. At that point, considering all the injuries Duke had sustained, it seemed that rebounding to a 5-1 mark going into the Virginia Tech game was unlikely at best. But these Blue Devils have achieved that “Perfect Storm” by taking care of business against every other opponent – and that is the sign of a well-coached football team. Despite the injuries, the Blue Devils have swept their games at home and have the one key road win at Wake Forest. With Coach David Cutcliffe in his fifth season in Durham, the hard work and sacrifices that have gone into building a program are finally paying dividends.

The dreaded back end of the schedule is upon us

How fortunate would it have been for Duke to have Boston College and Maryland from the Atlantic Division on the schedule? Instead, they have ACC powers Florida State and Clemson. First, Duke travels to Blacksburg — a place few escape with a win —  this weekend to take on the Hokies, who boast one of the nation’s top quarterbacks. They then come home to face North Carolina and finish the season at Tallahassee against FSU, then at home with Clemson, a trip to Georgia Tech, and the home finale versus Miami. In case you haven’t noticed, if the games were played today, Duke would be an underdog in each one. In short, Duke will have to make their own fortune beating solid football teams.

BDN Photo Mark Watson

Handling the hype

We’re in rarefied air here when talking about hype surrounding Duke Football, but a 5-1 start to the season finally has the Blue Devils getting some exposure. Yes, they got some votes for the Top 25, but are they truly ready to handle that kind of talk? This is the next challenge the staff faces —  to keep the team believing in themselves but at the same time to ground expectations. What I am saying is that every team Duke faces from here on out will be big and physical and Duke can no longer sneak up on anybody. All of the teams left, save North Carolina — who is ineligible from a cheating scandal – will be fighting for a bowl berth, and this means they’ll hit the Blue Devils square in the mouth. How the Blue Devils respond will be key, meaning they won’t be able to simply rest on their laurels.

On the other hand …

The Duke football players should have a bit of swagger, given their accomplishments thus far. After the wins over NCCU and Memphis at home, I thought to myself that these guys are capable of being better, and that they had to believe in themselves. This is happening before our very eyes. Duke has some talent on this roster, as evidenced by how many backup players are playing key roles.  At 5-1, Duke will get more media exposure, and the players need to find that elusive balance between managing the aforementioned expectations while remaining confident that they have what it takes as a team to get the job done.

Enter Anthony Boone – Keeping the Vultures at Bay

During the ACC pre-season media conference a News and Observer columnist asked Coach Cutcliffe is he was going to “Vulture” Sean Renfree this season. On the outside looking in, it was a fair question in that Duke had played several QB’s in previous games and many felt momentum was lost when substitutions were made. However, Cutcliffe took obvious pride in pointing out in the post-Virginia press conference that people now know why he played these guys. What he meant was that because Boone had some seasoning, he was ready for the golden opportunity he had to lead the team against Virginia. Few thought Duke could pull off a win without the senior Renfree, but the sophomore QB made their worries go away with four passing touchdowns. Don’t look now, but this bodes well for next season as well, when Boone is likely to take over as the starter. In the meantime, you are sure to see him on the field alongside Renfree as the season progresses.

Take a moment to appreciate Conner Vernon

Many Duke fans have become spoiled by watching Conner Vernon catch pass after pass, which he’s done at Duke from day one. Vernon is now the all-time leader in receptions in ACC football history, and he’s doing that against sagging zone defenses and double coverage, and he’s also taking a lot of the pressure off other wideouts with his play. His catch in traffic against Virginia was one of his best.  Vernon needs 287 yards receiving to catch Florida State record holder Peter Warrick in that department. He’s caught a pass in 41 straight contests. You’ll miss him when he’s gone, so enjoy the All-American hopeful the rest of the way.

Players stepping up

I don’t know where to begin this discussion, because so many Blue Devils have stepped up their games this season. It has been the play of seniors and juniors who have not played a lot while at Duke that has been most impressive, and it signifies that the staff is truly developing players and developing depth.  For instance, teams have tried to pick on Tony Foster, a senior forced into action due to injuries, but so far he’s answered the bell and had some key breakups.  And then there are freshmen coming into their own and playing key roles. Jela Duncan is as good a freshman back as Duke has had to carry the ball in some time, and his is emergence makes for a a deep backfield. And how about Desmond Scott? He’s made a position switch and is a leader on the team. Like I said, too many guys to mention individually here, which itself is a great sign.

And in the FWIW Department …

Did you know that the 227 points scored by Duke to date is the most in team history? Duke has now recorded three come-from-behind victories after the 42-17 win over the Cavs. Starting the year 5-1 is the best mark since they went 6-0 in 1994. The UNC vs Duke game in two weeks will kickoff at 7:00 prime time on either ESPN 2 or ESPN-U. Walt Canty, who is the perfect example of a player completely blossoming in his senior season at Duke, was named ACC DB of the Week for his performance against Virginia.

Heads up!

Tickets are still available for the UNC at Duke football game, but the Tar Heel fans have been known to try to take over Wallace Wade Stadium.  There is no reason for any Duke fan that can attend this game in two weeks not to do so. It is also the same weekend as Countdown to Craziness, which kicks off the basketball season, so make it a Duke Blue Weekend and attend both events.

Next up, the Hokies

You can bet that Virginia Tech will have their ears pinned back when Duke visits this weekend, especially after allowing North Carolina to run up 48 points against them last Saturday.  The Hokies open up as just under a 10 point favorite, and winning in Blacksburg is a difficult thing no matter what.  Win or lose, Duke Football has turned its fortunes around, and it’s time fans take notice, turn out, and support the team.

Duke-football

BDN Football Friday: Spring Game Preview

 

Coach Cutcliffe and the team will kickoff the festivities with the Blue Devil Walk at 11AM Saturday- BDN Photo

Are you ready for some football, Blue Devil Nation? Saturday afternoon will be your last chance until September 1st to see some Duke Football, so get your fill. The Blue Devils will take to the field on Saturday at 1PM in Wallace Wade Stadium for their annual spring game. BDN’s Football Friday is here for your preview.

 

Logistics

First of all, highs in the upper 70s, with a slight chance of isolated thunderstorms. Should be a perfect spring day for some football if the rains miss the Methodist Flats. That also means a perfect day for some tailgating. Get there early, as the team will conduct the Blue Devil Walk at 11:00 AM. Team BDN will be there in full force, so be sure to say hi. Here’s the information on the parking situation. Bring your wallets, even though admission is free (stadium gates open at 11:15), as there will be plenty of opportunities to get your Blue Devil gear, as well as stuff your face with Chick-fil-a, Domino’s, and Blue Devil Concessions. Oh, and the most important reason to bring your wallet is to purchase your 2012 season tickets. Ticket office reps will be on hand and help you pick your exact seats. Try before you buy. The game kicks off at 1PM and Coach Cutcliffe will address the crowd during halftime of the scrimmage. Spring practice awards will also be announced at halftime.

TE Issac Blakeney has had a big spring for the Blue Devils

Scouting the Blue Devil Offense

The Duke offense will feature a number of familiar faces, but it’s likely to be the unfamiliar ones who will make an impression on Saturday. We all know what Conner Vernon is capable of at wide receiver, but as he’s been limited due to injury this spring, expect to see a lot of Blair Holliday and Jamison Crowder, both of whom have had very strong spring performances. Nick Hill is another young face who appears ready to contribute, and Corey Gattis and Tyree Watkins add a veteran presence to the receiving corps. With Jack Farrell and Braxton Deaver sidelined with injuries, the Blue Devils had concerns at wide receiver heading into spring practice. Coming out of spring practice, tight end is no longer a concern, and you’ll likely see why as Issac Blakeney and David Reeves are sure to impress.

Up front, the Duke offensive line returns all but graduating senior Kyle Hill, and that continuity should benefit the Blue Devil offense. This group has improved each year under Coach Cutcliffe, and they’re looking to take a big step forward this fall under new OL Coach John Latina. Expect to see a few holes opened for the likes of the now healthy Josh Snead and last year’s leading rusher Juwan Thompson, who have seen the majority of carries with senior Desmond Scott nursing injury. If that trio isn’t impressive enough for you, the Blue Devils will add two more big-time running backs in just a few months, as Jela Duncan and Shaquille Powell will push for early playing time.

Am I forgetting something? Ah, yes, quarterback. While Peyton Manning had been a fixture in the Duke practice facilities this offseason, he will not be taking snaps under center for the Blue Devils on Saturday. Sean Renfree remains entrenched as the starter, and he’s had yet another good spring running the Duke offense. While much of spring practice is situational, Renfree has shown the ability to get the ball downfield, averaging 15.7 yards per completion in the last scrimmage. But Renfree’s old news, right? Coach Cutcliffe and the Duke staff have been looking at ways to get guys like Brandon Connette and Anthony Boone more involved in the offense, and they’ve done well with running the ball and catching the ball in some unique schemes. But don’t get too excited. Knowing the Duke coaching staff, the Blue Devils are unlikely to show off anything particularly new or exciting on Saturday, so we’ll all just have to wait until the fall. Expect to see Connette, Boone, and freshman Thomas Sirk take several snaps under center in relief of Renfree; all have taken big steps forward in their command of the offense this spring.

Ross Cockrell has developed into a shutdown corner for the Blue Devils

Scouting the Blue Devil Defense

Somehow, it seems that Duke has had a perpetually young defense the past few years, and that remain the case this spring, though they are overall more experienced. The losses of Matt Daniels and Charlie Hatcher will be the biggest voids to fill, and there are a number of candidates looking to contribute. Up front, Duke will be without their top pass-rushers Saturday in Kenny Anunike and Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo, but will feature much of the same group of athletic ends we saw a year ago, led by Justin Foxx, Dezmond Johnson, and Jamal Wallace. Sydney Sarmiento, Jamal Bruce, and Nick Sink are likely to see the majority of time on the inside up front. The defensive line continues to improve under Coach Petri and has the benefit of going up against a big and experienced offensive line in practice.

At linebacker, the Blue Devils will be without Kelby Brown for the foreseeable future, but expect sophomore David Helton to continue to impress. The redshirt is off for Kelby’s younger, but bigger, brother Kyler, and it appears that a nose for the football is in their genes. Austin Gamble is the lone upperclassman, though sophomores C.J. France and Jon Woodruff have some experience. And before you get down on the Blue Devil linebackers, keep in mind that stud recruits Keilin Rayner and Deion Williams will be on campus in just a few months.

Coach Knowles’ 4-2-5 scheme relies heavily on the secondary, and the emergence of Ross Cockrell as a shutdown corner is key. He’ll be joined by senior Lee Butler at cornerback, though youngsters Jared Boyd and Tim Burton will see time. The leader of the secondary this year is most likely to be leading returning tackler Walt Canty, though hard-hitting Jordon Byas has also turned some heads with August Campbell sidelined this spring. Newcomers to look for at safety include the hard-working Chris Tavarez, Britton Grier, transfer Jeremy Cash, and former WR Brandon Braxton. All should see snaps on Saturday and overall, this group has some of the best playmakers on the defensive side.

Scouting the Blue Devil Special Teams

Will Monday. That’s about all you need to know. With Will Snyderwine and Alex King now graduated, Monday has handled all of the punting and kicking duties this spring, and handled them well. By the fall, incoming freshman Ross Martin may challenge him for the placekicking duties, but expect to see Monday handle the punting for the next four years in Durham. On the return side, Jamison Crowder remains the Blue Devils’ top threat, but he’ll be joined by incoming freshman DeVon Edwards this fall, who took more than a few kicks to the house during his high school career. In all likelihood, getting to see Monday punt and kick should be a refreshing sight for Blue Devil fans and the only real highlight on special teams Saturday.

Recruiting still sizzling

Who are all those people with lanyards and nametags? That would be the dozens of high school prospects and their families who will be on campus this weekend to take in the Blue Devil program. Several members of the Duke class of 2012 will be on hand Saturday, and they’ll be joined by a huge group of future prospects. With 3 commitments already on board in 2013, the coaching staff is flying high on the trail and will have in some of their top targets in this class, including a handful considered among the nation’s elite. Coach Cutcliffe and his staff work on recruiting every single day, and this weekend will be no exception. And just like the staff, we follow the recruiting trail here at BDN, so be sure to check out some of our recent interviews with the likes of TE Nathan Marcus, and OL Sterling Korona, and of course lots more to come. Don’t be surprised if the Blue Devils hear more good news by the end of this weekend.

In case you haven’t figured it out already, Blue Devil Nation is the place to be for Duke Football fans. We cover the team year-round, and would love to have you join our growing BDN Premium community. We can’t wait to see you all in Wallace Wade Stadium this Saturday. WE ARE DUKE.

Duke would love for Keilin Rayner to join Deion Williams at LB in the class of 2012

Duke is a finalist for 2 top uncommitted North Carolina prospects

Historically, National Signing Day has been a lackluster affair for Blue Devil fans, as Coach Cutcliffe and his staff typically work hard to secure verbal commitments during the summer and fall recruiting seasons. Last year, Duke fans were pleasantly surprised by the Signing Day commitment of Alabama TE David Reeves. This year, however, Duke Football fans will finally get to experience some authentic Signing Day drama. Duke is a finalist for two of the top uncommitted prospects in North Carolina, Jela Duncan and Keilin Rayner. [private]

 

Mallard Creek RB Jela Duncan will choose between Duke, ECU, and Wake Forest

RB Jela Duncan

Height: 5’9”

Weight: 190 pounds

High School: Mallard Creek

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

 

BDN Scouting Report:  With Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley heading to UGA, Duncan will be the top running back to remain in the state of North Carolina. After an outstanding high school season at Mallard Creek, Duncan capped off his career with 112 yards on only 7 carries in the 75th Annual Shrine Bowl. Duncan is an outstanding runner; he’s physical for his size, has great hands and good vision. There is no question that he has the tools to be successful at the college level and the ability to make an immediate impact for a program like Duke.

BDN Analysis:

Duke: Ever since he blew away the Duke coaching staff with his performance at camp last June, Duncan has been at the top of the Blue Devils’ recruiting board. Duke was the early leader, but seemed to fade slightly as other schools became involved. To those who have followed his recruitment and spoken with Jela throughout the process, it has always seemed like there’s something missing at Duke for him. The Blue Devils were fortunate to be able to take a commitment from Shaquille Powell in December, and a backfield of Powell and Duncan could become one of the ACC’s best. That being said, relative to their competition, Duke does have a crowded backfield, and Duncan will have to earn early playing time. Duke put forth their best on his official visit to Durham, and Duncan remains closest with Coach Cutcliffe, who followed up with an in-home visit last week.

ECU: Seemingly on the outside looking in for much of his recruitment, ECU has surged of late. After an official visit to in early January, Duncan seemed to find what he was looking for, and declared ECU his new leader. The Pirates offer a great social scene, immediate playing time, and perhaps most importantly, an NFL RB legacy. Football is king as ECU, and a star RB could quickly find himself crowned BMOC. With the upcoming conference realignments, ECU will face a relatively weak C-USA schedule and their national exposure may not match that of their ACC brethren. ECU, however, does not have a current RB commitment in the class of 2012.

Wake Forest: For those handicapping this recruitment, Wake Forest was a natural dark horse candidate: closest to home, recent success in the ACC, a run-heavy offense, and a solid academic reputation. It should be no surprise, then, that the Demon Deacons’ hit a home run with their recent official visit and have become a major player in Duncan’s decision. The Deacs’ already have an under-the-radar RB committed in the class of 2012 in Texan Joshua Wilhite. Still, Coach Grobe likely was able to sell Duncan on being the understudy and heir apparent to breakout star Josh Harris.

Summary: First and foremost, whichever school ends up with a commitment from Jela on National Signing day, they’re getting a good kid and a great running back. When recruiting battles get heated, players often are vilified, and that shouldn’t happen here. Duncan has been polite and conscientious throughout this process. He took his time, focused on his senior season, and then evaluated all of his options. This is not a decision he nor his family takes lightly, and in the end, he will select the school he feels offers him the best opportunity of fulfilling his dreams.

 

Duke would love for Keilin Rayner to join Deion Williams at LB in the class of 2012

Keilin Rayner

Height: 6’3”

Weight: 215 pounds

High School: North Brunswick

Hometown: Leland, North Carolina

 

BDN Scouting Report: Rayner is a prolific run-stopper from either the LB or DE position. His size and speed likely translate best as an outside linebacker at the college level, but his versatility is one of his strengths. A tackling-machine, Rayner has a great nose for the football and the strength to wrap up ball-carriers. He has the instincts and athleticism to be a playmaker in the ACC, but must improve his coverage skills to earn early playing time on defense. His tackling ability and motor make him an excellent candidate to see early action on special teams.

BDN Analysis:

Duke: Duke was also an early leader for Rayner, as the Blue Devils were among the first to offer the in-state defensive star. By the fall, however, it appeared that Duke has fallen back to the pack, though the staff continued to communicate with Keilin. From Duke’s perspective, Rayner is the prototypical linebacker for their 4-2-5 defensive scheme. He has the tackling ability and frame that is reminiscent of current Bengals’ LB Vincent Rey, a former Duke star. Rayner would have the ability to earn immediate playing time, while also setting himself up for life after football, something important to his family.

ECU: The Pirates are the hometown school for Rayner, and that proximity to home is always tough to beat. Rayner shared his official visit to Greenville with Duncan, and all reports are that the staff hit a home run that weekend. ECU offers the same things as above: social scene, passion for football, and immediate playing time.

Summary: Rayner has played things incredibly close to the vest over the past week, making this a tough one to call. Reports are that the Blue Devils’ are the favorite among his family, but that the official visit to ECU is still looming large in Keilin’s mind. As with Duncan, it’s important to note that Rayner will be an excellent representative of whichever program he chooses. He’s been great to interview and will be a great addition to any football program.

 

While it’s seemingly easy for fans to make these decisions, each prospect has his own priorities, pressures, likes, and dislikes. Duke has done a good job in recruiting both players and has remained in both recruitments from day 1. The Blue Devils have earned a hat on each table and we’ll all have our fingers crossed on Signing Day. The addition of either Duncan or Rayner would be a perfect ending to what appears to be one of Duke’s strongest recruiting classes in recent years. The addition of both could just be the turning point this program has been looking for.

Be sure to check in with BDN for all the latest Duke Signing Day coverage. [/private]

Mallard Creek RB Jela Duncan will choose between Duke, ECU, and Wake Forest

Mallard Creek RB Jela Duncan recaps his Duke official visit for BDN Premium

Mallard Creek RB Jela Duncan is Duke's top remaining priority in the class of 2012

It’s no secret that Jela Duncan has been the Duke coaching staff’s top priority in the class of 2012 for the past several months. The Mallard Creek star RB is viewed as the type of elite athlete that will help the Blue Devils’ program get to the next level. As signing day approaches, Duncan is making his final visits and has narrowed his choices to Duke, ECU, Wake Forest, and North Carolina. Coach Cutcliffe has developed a strong relationship with the elite prospect throughout his recruitment and welcomed him to Durham on an official visit this weekend. Duncan checked in with BDN shortly after returning home from his Duke official visit. [private]

BDN: How was your visit to Duke?

IT went pretty good, it went pretty good. I like it up there, I like it.

BDN: You’ve been to Durham a few times before. What were you able to see on this visit that was different?

Well I got to see more this time. They showed me the academic buildings, got to see the indoor facility since it’s been put up, and I got to sit down and meet with the coaches a little bit more than I had before.

BDN: Did you get to spend some time with the Duke players and who was your host?

Yes, I did. Jamison Crowder. That was my first time actually meeting him.

BDN: Can you talk a little about your relationship with the Duke coaches?

First off, I have a great relationship with Coach Cut. We talk on the phone probably every other day. He calls sometimes just to check up on me and see how I’m doing. My relationship with the running back coach, Coach Roper, that’s a pretty good relationship. We sat down and watched film. He showed me some of the offense that they’re running and it’s basically some of the things we run at Mallard Creek. It was pretty simple.

BDN: What other visits do you have scheduled and when do you think you’ll make your final decision?

I’ll probably make my final decision after I come back from Wake Forest next weekend.

BDN: Is that your last visit remaining?

Yes sir it is. I probably might go on an unofficial visit to UNC this week but I don’t have the date yet.

BDN: You’ve also been able to visit ECU. Do you have a ranking of schools in your head at this point?

It’s basically between ECU, Duke, and UNC and Wake Forest.

BDN: What will be the one or two things that are most important as you make your final decision?

If I feel like I’m at home. Am I comfortable? Am I going to be able to be there for four years without football, looking at life outside of football?

BDN: Thanks a lot, Jela. Best of luck.

Ok, thank you sir.

[/private]

BDN’s Football Friday fills in for Duke’s off week

We missed you too! Just because it’s an off week for Duke Football, doesn’t mean it’s an off week at Blue Devil Nation. BDN brings you first hand coverage of Duke Football all year long, where we cover the team live. While #dukegang enjoys some well-deserved R&R, we bring you back a special in-season edition of BDN’s Football Friday. This edition is open to all fans to give you an idea of what BDN Premium brings to the table with our recruiting and team coverage. BDN has become the place to be for inside info on the football team, so spread the word and by all means join BDN Premium and discuss the latest happenings with fellow members.

#TeamNoDaysOff

Whenever Football Friday goes to a concert, a part of us always wishes that the band would just get to the hits right off the bat. Blow the audience away from the first drumbeat instead of the usual slow crescendo. Maybe that’s just us. Anyway, let’s hit the ground running with recruiting updates. You do remember recruiting, don’t you? It’s the stuff we obsess over when Duke isn’t playing football games. It’s also the stuff that keeps the coaches busy when the team isn’t playing games, and this week is no exception.

Jela Duncan remains priority number one, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Running back remains the one glaring hole in the Duke class of 2012, and the Blue Devils have had their sights set on the Mallard Creek star for quite some time now. The interest is mutual, as Duncan has repeatedly put Duke at the top of his list, primarily based on his close relationship with Head Coach David Cutcliffe. Speaking of the HC, he hit the road after Duke’s Thursday practice to visit with Duncan. Cut will also take in Mallard Creek’s game against North Mecklenburg. Duncan has been lighting up opponents so far this year, leading Mallard Creek to a perfect 6-0 record, while running behind big Florida-bound OL D.J. Humphries. Jela has an official visit planned to Purdue this weekend, and has already visited Duke several times, but is finalizing his other official visit plans.

Traveon Henry is another top running back prospect that the Blue Devil staff is enamored with, and the Fort Lauderdale native was in Durham to take in Duke’s big win against Tulane. That visit was Henry’s first official and sources say the visit went very well. Henry is playing his recruitment close to the vest, but they do plan to visit Florida State, Northwestern, and Yale later this fall. A star on both offense and defense, Henry as earned over a dozen scholarship offers. He also plays on the basketball team at Pine Crest and is a former teammate of Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Knight.

Jamie Gilmore is another Florida prospect that the Blue Devils are looking at as a potential running back in the class of 2012. The North Marion HS star plans to visit Durham in December, and is also eyeing visits to Maryland and Utah.

Duke will keep in touch with several other prospects, but would be unlikely to take a commitment until they’ve heard a decision from these three players.

So what about the rest of the class of 2012? Did you already forget the 14 newest Blue Devils-to-be? The Duke coaching staff hasn’t, and they will be hitting the road this weekend to check in with most of Duke’s verbal commitments. Just to refresh your memory:

TE Dan Beilinson 6’5” 225 pounds

OT Casey Blaser 6’5” 255 pounds

DE Allen Jackson 6’5” 225 pounds

WR Max McCaffrey 6’2” 185 pounds

K Ross Martin 5’10” 185 pounds

WR Anthony Nash 6’4″ 180 pounds

S Dwayne Norman 6’0” 182 pounds

TE Erich Schneider 6’5” 200 pounds

QB Thomas Sirk 6’4” 210 pounds

OG Tanner Stone 6’6” 255 pounds

S Michael Westray 6’1” 195 pounds

LB Deion Williams 5’11” 210 pounds

DE A.J. Wolf 6’4” 245 pounds

DE/DT Carlos Wray 6’2” 245 pounds

Looking at the list, Duke could use another LB and another lineman and the staff will have to crunch the numbers with regards to available scholarships for this class. A few of the remaining targets who are contemplating official visits to Duke are LB Keilin Rayner, LB Jeremiah Allison, DT D.J. Reader, OL Bryce Kennedy, and OL Robert Conyers. The coaching staff is also looking at a few hybrid athletes who could potentially fill an offensive or defensive position, depending on how things play out. Two such players would be Tysean Holloway from Asheville and Lakeith Walls from Ohio. And if you’re wondering whether Duke is searching far and wide for talent, Coach Lubick will be on the west coast this weekend, visiting Deion Williams, among other prospects.

3 in a row, Tic-tac-toe

A-B-C, 1-2-3, etc, etc. Duke can win football games. And they can do it in a variety of ways. Duke is playing much better football heading into their bye week than they were in week one, and that really should be no surprise. The Blue Devils have an experienced coaching staff and a young roster, with 67% underclassmen. There is plenty of reason to believe that the best is yet to come for the 2011 Blue Devils, but let’s recap what we’ve seen so far.

Duke has won three straight games, which is newsworthy in itself, but it’s even more notable when you look at how they won those three football games. After a disappointing 0-2 start, Duke traveled to Chestnut Hill with their confidence shaken and another dismal season staring them down. But, as BDN’s Terry Rains pointed out earlier, the Blue Devils were able to rally together and, behind a record-setting performance by Sean Renfree, were able to win ugly. Duke played a game that was far from perfect, but even with many costly mistakes, they emerged with the W. We always talk about how slim Duke’s margin for error is, but maybe that margin is widening just a little bit.

With the weight of the world off their shoulders, the Blue Devils returned home to a steamy Wallace Wade Stadium, where they dominated the Tulane Green Wave. The Duke offense faced little resistance from the Green Wave, and for the first time in a long time, the Blue Devils were clearly the better football team in all phases of the game. Duke was able to jump out to a 48-13 lead, which allowed a group of young players to take some meaningful snaps against a FBS opponent. It was a rare, but welcome, blowout win for the Blue Devils.

A week later, those late 4th quarter snaps proved invaluable, as the Blue Devils traveled to Miami to take on an impressive FIU team. BDN was on the scene to take in an entertaining game from “The Cage,” played in front of the largest crowd in FIU history. After Duke fell behind 10 points in the 4th quarter, instead of a sense of defeat, there was an air of quiet determination on the Duke sideline. The team was waiting for a spark to turn the momentum, and it came from an unlikely pair of Blue Devils. Two redshirt-freshmen, the all-hyphen team, DE Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo and SAF Anthony Young-Wiseman, both of whom were filling in for injured Blue Devils, came up with the decisive sack and fumble recovery that turned the game around for Duke. Against a quality opponent on the road, the Blue Devils played good, fundamental football. They did not commit a turnover and were whistled for just 2 penalties all night. It was an impressive performance for a program that has been haunted by miscues and misfortune.

For a good summary of Duke’s strengths and weaknesses thus far, be sure to check out Bob Green’s analysis of the Blue Devils first five games.

Where do we go from here?

Strap yourselves in, for it might be a bumpy ride, wherever we’re headed. The Blue Devils have a difficult road in front of them, with upcoming trips to Miami, Virginia, and North Carolina in November. Immediately after the bye, Duke starts a crucial three game homestand against Florida State, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech. There will be no easy wins in ACC play, but the Blue Devils are playing good football and are capable of competing with every team left on the schedule. That’s not just coach speak.  For those interested in some unpaid, unofficial advanced scouting work, tune in to the ACC network at 12:30 PM ET to watch the Seminoles travel to Winston-Salem, a free preview of Duke’s next two opponents.

At 3-2 heading into the off week, Duke has managed to keep their bowl hopes alive, but they will need to play their best football down the stretch if they hope to extend their season into December. Of course, while Football Friday may not be here in writing, we’ll be around in spirit every step of the way. This young Duke team still has a lot in store for us. WE ARE DUKE.