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Duke travels to Atlanta to face the Ramblin' Wreck this Saturday.

Blue Devils will host Georgia Tech for Senior Day

Duke will host the Ramblin' Wreck on Senior Day this Saturday.

Duke (3-7, 1-5 ACC) will look to turn their season around on Senior Day this Saturday when they host Georgia Tech (7-3, 4-3 ACC) in Wallace Wade Stadium. While many Duke fans may be tempted to look ahead to basketball season, there are two final chances to watch the Duke senior class with the most wins since 1995 take to the gridiron. This Duke senior class is headlined by All-ACC stars Matt Daniels and Donovan Varner, but also includes 18 other tremendous student-athletes who will leave the Blue Devil Football Program in a much better place than they found it four years ago. Thank you, seniors!

GAME INFO

Georgia Tech at Duke

12:30 PM ET, Saturday, November 19

Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network; Sirius XM Radio (Channels 94 & 193)
TV: ACC Network – Tim Brant (Play-by-play), Dave Archer (Analyst) and Mike Hogewood (Sideline)
Internet: GoDuke.com; theACC.com

KEYS FOR DUKE

1. Win the line of scrimmage: Broken record time, but seriously. Football is won and lost in the trenches, especially against the Georgia Tech option offense. The Yellow Jackets bring in the top rushing offense in the ACC, averaging just under 320 yards per game. It’s a five-headed monster for Georgia Tech on the ground, led by Tevin Washington, who averages over 70 yards per game, along with 4 other players who average over 30 yards per game in David Sims, Orwin Smith, Embry Peeples, and Roddy Jones. While fans can argue the merits of the Georgia Tech offense, the bottom line is it is effective and will challenge the Duke defense for 60 minutes. If the Yellow Jackets’ big, physical linemen are able to control this game, it will be a long afternoon for the Blue Devils. Conversely, with an offense that is difficult to get off the field, the key for Duke will be getting into the backfield and forcing fumbles. With the number of pitches in the option offense, the Yellow Jackets are prone to putting the ball on the ground (GT has 23 fumbles on the year) and Duke will have to capitalize (GT has lost just 8 fumbles overall).

Tevin Washington leads an explosive Georgia Tech offense

2. Explosive plays: Georgia Tech brings in one of the most explosive offensive units in the conference, averaging over 36 points per game and nearly 6 yards per carry on the ground. WR Stephen Hill is the top threat through the air, though his production has dropped off in ACC play. Still, the Yellow Jackets’ offense leads the ACC in yards per play both on the ground (5.8) and through the air (11.6). Those are scary numbers for a Duke defense that is banged up across the board. With key injuries to the defensive line and in the secondary, and the potential absence of both starting linebackers, Duke will need to find several unsung heroes on defense. Expect Matt Daniels to be used heavily against the run, as the Blue Devils will have to gamble and hope that Ross Cockrell can handle Hill in single coverage.

3. Duke on offense: Which Duke offense will we see on Saturday? Will they put together a full 60 minute effort? Georgia Tech is allowing nearly 25 points and over 360 yards of total offense on the season, so opportunities will be there for the Blue Devils to score points. The Blue Devils had the Yellow Jackets on the ropes a year ago in Atlanta, but a costly turnover killed their upset hopes. If Duke can take care of the football and put together 60 minutes of offense, they could find some redemption on Saturday.

Thank you, seniors! -BDN Photo

WHAT TO WATCH

1. Special seniors: It was alluded to in the opening, but bears repeating. This will be the last home game for a Duke senior class that has won 15 games over the past four years. Kyle Hill will watch his Senior Day from the sidelines, ending an impressive streak of 46 straight starts on the Duke offensive line. The remaining seniors will put forth an inspired performance as they look to end their careers with a big upset win in Wallace Wade Stadium. The Blue Devils will graduate 20 student-athletes from the program on Saturday: Paul Asack, Matt Daniels, Jeff Faris, Guillermo Freile, Ryan Hall, Charlie Hatcher, Cooper Helfet, Kyle Hill, Jay Hollingsworth, Jeffrey Ijjas, Alex King, Jon Needham, Danny Parker, George Pearkes, Kevin Rojas, Preston Scott, Will Snyderwine, Josh Trezvant, Donovan Varner, and Johnny Williams. Thank you, Seniors!

2. More records: Last week, Duke fans watched as senior WR Donovan Varner became the all-time school receptions leader. Varner will look to add to that record over his final two games, but will also look to set a new school record with a catch on Saturday. Last Saturday, Varner caught a pass in his 35th consecutive game, tying Scottie Montgomery for the all-time Duke record. Also on Saturday, Varner and Vernon will look to become Duke’s top all-time receiving duo if the pair haul in 5 catches.

3. All-American: Senior Matt Daniels has put together an impressive career at Duke, topped off with an outstanding senior campaign. The quarterback of the Duke defense, Daniels is 2nd in the country in pass break-ups, passes defended, and tackles by a defensive back. Throughout his career, whenever the Blue Devils have needed a stop, it seems that Matt Daniels is there. He has been a tremendous leader for this program and will almost certainly be playing on Sundays next year.

PREDICTION

A year ago, the Blue Devils faced three option offenses, but this season, just one. The option offense is difficult to prepare for and with a plethora of injuries on both sides of the ball, Georgia Tech will represent a significant challenge for Duke. Duke should have success moving the ball against Georgia Tech if they stick to an aggressive gameplan; expect another big day for Duke’s “Killer V’s.” An emotional pair of seniors in Matt Daniels and Charlie Hatcher will try to will the Blue Devils’ defense to an upset victory, but the explosive Yellow Jacket offense will still find its way into the end zone.

Georgia Tech 35, Duke 24

All-American Will Snyderwine will anchor Duke's kicking game again in 2011 -Duke Photography

BDN previews Duke’s 2011 special teams units

Prior to the arrival of Head Coach David Cutcliffe, Duke fans remember all too well the days of missed field goals (and extra points!!), botched snaps, muffed punts, and missed tackles. Duke’s special teams is now light years ahead of where it was just a few seasons ago, and should continue to improve and become a strength for the 2011 Blue Devils.

 

All-American Will Snyderwine will anchor Duke's kicking game again in 2011 -Duke Photography

Kicking

Losses: Nick Maggio

Key returners: Will Snyderwine (R-Sr.), Paul Asack (R-Jr.)

Newcomers: none

2010 Review: Lou Groza semifinalist Will Snyderwine handled the kicking duties for the second straight season in 2010. After taking over for the injured Maggio in 2009, the former walk-on has now hit 38 of 44 (86.4%) field goal attempts in the past two seasons for the Blue Devils, with a career long of 52 yards at Georgia Tech in 2010. Snyderwine converted 32 extra points in 2010, extending his perfect career streak to 56/56. The combined field goal and extra point totals placed second all-time at Duke, with 95 points, and earned him All-American honors by the American Football Coaches Association, making him the first Blue Devil All-American kicker in school history. His value to the Duke team extended beyond field goals and extra points, as he increased his touchback numbers from 2/47 in 2009 to 11/60 in 2010.  Charged to work on on-side kicks last offseason by Coach Cutcliffe, Snyderwine delivered, as the Blue Devils were able to recover 4 of 6 on-side kicks in 2010. Overall, the Duke kickoff unit ranked 3rd in the ACC and 18th in the country, allowing just 19.71 yards per return, with opponents average start at the 24 yard line.

2011 Outlook: Snyderwine returns to anchor the kicking game again in 2011, and has already garnered several preseason accolades, including the Lou Groza Award Watch List and several preseason All-American honors. The former walk-on has developed into a potent weapon for the Duke offense and special teams units. Snyderwine appears ready to cap off a historic career at Duke with a big senior season. With increased depth throughout the roster, the kick coverage should continue to improve and become a strength for the Blue Devils. Big plays occasionally haunted the Duke coverage unit, and they did give up one touchdown return on the season against Alabama. The only concern with the Duke kicking game in 2011 might be depth at kicker, where an injury to Snyderwine could significantly weaken the Blue Devils.

Highly-touted freshman punter Will Monday will challenge senior Alex King

Punting

Losses: Kevin Jones

Key returners: Alex King (Sr.)

Newcomers: Will Monday (Fr.)

2010 Review: Jones lost the starting job to King after a botched punt against Wake Forest in 2010. King was mostly dependable for the Duke punting game, averaging 41.1 yards per punt, finishing 7th in the ACC. Of 55 punts on the year, King was able to pin opponents within the 20 yards line 21 times, with 6 touchbacks. The Blue Devils’ punters achieved a net of 33.6 yards per punt, which ranked 9th in the conference and 106th in the nation. The punt coverage, however, faired worse, allowing 14.4 yards per return, which ranked last in the conference and 117th in the nation. The Blue Devils were only able to force 7 fair catches on the season and allowed a punt return touchdown against Maryland.

2011 Outlook: Punting appeared to be the biggest weakness among Duke’s special teams unit in 2010, and stands to be an area of significant improvement in 2011. The hope is that with better depth, speed, and athleticism, the punt coverage unit will do a better job of limiting opponent returns. Punting should improve as well, as King now has nearly a full year of starting under his belt, and will be pushed by highly-touted freshman Will Monday.  The competition between King and Monday will definitely be one to watch this month.

 

Josh Snead led the Blue Devils' kick returners in 2010

Kick Return

Losses: none

Key returners: Patrick Kurunuwe (R-Jr.), Desmond Scott (Jr.), Conner Vernon (Jr.), Josh Snead (So.), Juwan Thompson (So.)

Newcomers: TBD

2010 Review: Scott, Snead, and Thompson were the leading return men for the Blue Devils in 2010, and Duke ended the season 4th in the ACC with an average of 20.9 yards per return. As true freshmen, Snead and Thompson ranked 7th and 8th individually with averages of 22.0 and 21.7 yards, respectively. The Duke return game provided the offense with an average starting position of the 27 yard line.

2011 Outlook: Duke has yet to return a kickoff for a touchdown under Coach Cutcliffe. Will 2011 be the year? With the three primary return men all back, Duke seems poised to continue to use kick returns as a strength. Scott, Snead, and Thompson will continue to share carries in the Duke backfield, and will also split the kick return duties. With their combination of size, vision, and speed, it may be difficult for any newcomers to break into the rotation, but the Duke staff has shown a desire to rotate multiple return men in an effort to keep players fresh throughout the season. The kick return job is another key competition to watch during training camp.

Senior Lee Butler is Duke's leading punt returner in 2011

Punt return

Losses: none

Key returners: Lee Butler (Sr.), Johnny Williams (Sr.)

Newcomers: ?Jared Boyd (Fr.), ?Tim Burton (Fr.), ?Jamison Crowder (Fr.)

2010 Review: Butler handled the vast majority of punt return duties in 2010, finishing with a respectable 8.6 yards per return, which ranked 5th in the ACC and 31st in the nation. With a season long of 33 yards, Butler was able to consistently advance the ball, but rarely broke out for big returns. Williams showed some explosiveness as a punt returner in 2009, but due to injuries and a position change, only returned 2 punts in 2010.

2011 Outlook: With both Butler and Williams back, along with a group of speedy youngsters headed by Jamison Crowder, Duke appears ready to develop the punt return game into a significant weapon. There is likely to be significant competition for the starting job, and with some improved blocking, 2011 might be the year that fans see an explosive punt return game from the Blue Devils. Coach Cutcliffe has historically emphasized the kicking game in past training camps, and the punt return unit is likely to see significant reps this August.

BDN Duke Football 2011 Offense Preview

BDN Duke Football 2011 Defense Preview

Bookmark Blue Devil Nation for in-depth coverage of Duke Football all season long, from training camp through the 2011-2012 bowl season.

Coach Cutcliffe has senior Donovan Varner and the Blue Devils expecting to win in 2011-GoDuke, Duke Photography

T.G.I. Football Friday

Happy Friday, Blue Devil Nation! A nice, shortened week should make you feel good but if not, Football Friday is here to satisfy your weekly football craving. As you know, there’s never an offseason here at BDN, and Mark Watson and Andrew Slater have been burning the midnight oil all week with great basketball coverage. Be sure to check it out, and invite your friends to join our growing community of Duke fans. If you tell two people, and they tell two people, well, then that’s some kind of crazy math that I don’t remember how to do. Before my brain stops working, we better get going…

Blue Devils feeling the love

Coach Cutcliffe has senior Donovan Varner and the Blue Devils expecting to win in 2011-GoDuke, Duke Photography

Four Duke players were named to preseason Award Watch Lists this week, while a few others may have been overlooked. Coming off a three win season, it’s only natural that Duke might have a few players fly under the radar on the national level, but that should all change this fall, as the Blue Devils pursue bowl eligibility. In any case, it’s a nice honor for the Duke players who were recognized this week, and we congratulate them, but look forward to an even better 2011.

Cooper Helfet – John Mackey Award Watch List

Will Snyderwine – Lou Groza Award Watch List

Donovan Varner – Biletnikoff Award Watch List

Conner Vernon – Biletnikoff Award Watch List

The Dondo Files

Part of our job here at BDN is to help give fans an inside look at the Duke players and coaches. Sometimes, however, the players and coaches do the job for us. This week, Duke’s star senior WR Donovan Varner created the first entry in his self-produced video blog, The Dondo Files. Varner is poised for a big senior year, and we hope his video blog will be a good inside look into his season, and the Blue Devils’ first bowl game in over a decade.

Sir Nolan Smith models a Middle Child shirt

Middle Child

Another interesting venture by two Blue Devils is Middle Child, a clothing line created by Johnny Williams and marketed by Matt Daniels. For those who missed Johnny’s cartoon series for GoDuke last year, take a look at his clothing designs, which show off the Duke cornerback’s impressive artistic ability. And if ndotsmitty is wearing it, you know it’s hot!

Doing work in the classroom

While we’re applauding the Blue Devils’ off the field efforts, it’s important to point out that last year’s team had a cumulative GPA of 3.1, which included 13 ACC All-Academic selections, more than twice any other school. As we’ve said before, it’s great to see that as Duke builds the program on the field, they continue to uphold the university’s strong academic reputation. The Duke players are setting themselves up for a great future and truly embody the concept of the student-athlete.

Come on, come on…

Kickoff on September 3 is just 57 days away, with training camp opening in just a few short weeks, so be sure to get your season tickets now. With spring practice having wrapped up in March, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen the Blue Devils on the field in Wallace Wade Stadium. For the Duke Football faithful, we share your pain, and hope that these last few weeks fly by. We’ve kicked off our opponent preview series this week to help speed things up for you. Be sure to check out the Richmond preview, and check back on Sunday for our Stanford preview. In the meantime, if anyone happens to see me camped outside of Wallace Wade like Eric Cartman waiting for the Nintendo Wii, can you bring me a sandwich?

Duke and Richmond will kickoff the 2011 under the lights in Wallace Wade Stadium on September 3

Please make sure you have all your belongings…

…as you exit Football Friday. While we love to share with the whole class, we also like to reward our Premium Members. We have the latest recruiting information for Duke’s class of 2012, and well, you’ll just have to join to find out…[private]

A slow recruiting week!

We’re all for the fast-paced summer recruiting season, but it is nice to be able to catch your breath every once in awhile. While it’s impossible to predict things in recruiting, it seems like things may slow down a little bit as we head into training camp. Duke has 13 commitments in the class of 2012, with an absolute maximum of 18 scholarships available. The coaching staff would like to add 4 more players to this class, and will hold a spot for a potential program-changer, should he decide to be a Blue Devil late in the recruiting season. Here are the staff’s remaining targets.:

Running backs

Jela Duncan 5’10” 190 pounds, Charlotte, NC

Todd Gurley 6’1” 195 pounds, Tarboro, NC

Linebackers

Marcus Allen 6’2” 210 pounds, Hilliard, FL

Keilin Rayner 6’3” 220 pounds, Leland, NC

Wide Receivers

Drae Bowles 6’1” 198 pounds, Jackson, TN

Anthony Nash 6’5” 185 pounds, West Chester, PA

Defensive linemen

Torey Agee 6’3” 250 pounds, Opelika, AL

Woody Baron 6’3” 252 pounds, Brentwood, TN

Korren Kirven 6’4” 272 pounds, Lynchburg, VA

David Reader 6’2” 340 pounds, Greensboro, NC

Nigel Williams 6’3” 260 pounds, Richmond, VA

Courtnye Wynn 6’6” 240 pounds, Norfolk, VA

A couple notes on this group: Todd Gurley has been in France, running track for Team USA, which has led him to miss “The Opening” in Oregon this week. Korren Kirven is the only member of this group that is in Oregon, and while Duke has made a good impression, the reality is that he may be a long-shot for the Blue Devils. Woody Baron, as we reported awhile ago, appears to be down to Virginia Tech and Vanderbilt, but if Duke could get a visit, you never know.

Do you like surprises? Well, I actually am not a big fan, so I’ll just give you the update. Once the dust settles on the LBJ and Adidas coverage, we’ll have new interviews with Marcus Allen, Keilin Rayner, Anthony Nash, and David Reader. We’ll be getting in touch with the other remaining targets, too, but we have to pace ourselves!

Thanks for being a member and a loyal Football Friday patron. We hope you enjoy our coverage and always would love to hear more from you on the message boards.

[/private]

WE ARE DUKE.

 

BDN Spring Football Report – Duke’s Johnny Williams talks position change

Johnny Williams Duke Spring Football
Johnny Williams now in the secondary for Duke - BDN Photo

Durham, N.C. – If you follow Duke Football, yo know by now that  Johnny Williams will move to the Duke secondary  after playing wideout his first two seasons.  He’s learning on the fly and we got his thoughts coming off the field after Saturday’s scrimmage.

How is the spring going so far?

Pretty good, pretty good.  I’m catching on real fast and will go up and meet with coach, so it’s going well.

How did you respond to switch positions from wideout to defensive back?

I responded by putting 100% into it and make sure that when I go on the field, I know what I’m doing.

When did you and Cut first talk about changing positions?

Before the Christmas break, me and Coach Cut talked.  I wasn’t sure if I really, really wanted to but thought it might be a good move, so I made a decision to go over there,  If it’s good for the team, it’s good for me.

Do you like it on defense?

Yeah [smiling]  It’s really intense.

You get to hit people …

Yeah, it’s fun to hit people.

What is the biggest adjustment?

Reading keys from one to two and conditioning.

Now that you are on the other side, who is the toughest receiver to cover?

Everyone of them is tough [smiling]I just try my best to listen to coach and keep what he said in my head.

Do you guys trash talk a bit?

Yeah, a lot, a lot.  I trash talk a lot.

Anyone in particular today?

Probably Austin.  He brought a little bit today, so I shot it back at him

Your goal the rest of the spring is?

To be the best I can and put everything I have got into this and help my team.  Football is my love, you know.

Are the workouts different  for you now?

No difference.  I still catch balls and everything to keep my hands right.  I probably get a little extra running in because on defense you have pursuit angles and stuff like that which need conditioning.

Thanks for your time.

Thanks

Duke looking for a playmaker at wide reciever

Johnny Williams has yet to find the end zone, but will be a go to guy for Duke this season.
Johnny Williams has yet to find the end zone in his career, but will be a go to guy for Duke this season.

The Duke Blue Devils kick off their second season under Coach David Cutcliffe when Richmond visits Wallace Wade Stadium this Saturday evening at 7:00.  Duke will look to build on last season’s four wins, but to do so will require that playmakers step up at the wide out positions.  Last season the Blue Devils leaned on Eron Riley’s steady hands, but his departure opens up a huge void.

One of the players that is expected to fill the void is sophomore Johnny Williams [30 receptions, 327 yards], a speedy wideout .  Williams got his chance last season starting as a true freshman, but despite decent numbers, he didn’t taste the end zone a single time.

Williams has been lauded by senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis and is the odds on favorite to become the go to guy, but Duke’s offense will most certainly spread the ball around to a solid group of tight ends and running backs.

He will be flanked by another speedster in undersized Donovan Varner.

Varner stands just under 5-9 but he has shown the ability to get open.  Varner caught 22 passes for 164 yards in his first season and he is slated to be the starter on Saturday.

The veteran of the group is junior Austin Kelly [11.7 yards per catch for career] who at 6-2 offers a solid target.  Kelly could be a guy Duke looks to as a possession reciever, which best suits his skill set.

Two true freshman have earned the backup spots to Williams and Varner but there is a good chance one of these kids will make their way into the starting line up by mid season.

Conner Vernon [6-0, 185 freshman] has shined in pre season practices showing that he has consistent hands on the team.  Vernon, a teammate of Varner’s at Gulliver Prep in Miami, FL looks like he’ll get a lot of time right out of the gate.  Vernon has earned the praise of Cutcliffe for good reason and he’ll have a bright future in Durham.

Another freshman, Tyree Watkins [6-1, 195] will see his share of time alongside Vernon.  Watkins is a speedy four year letterman from Camden, New Jersey where he earned the ranking of the 15th best prospect in the Garden State from Rivals.  Like Vernon, Watkins has had his moments in the pre season.

There are other wide outs that’ll get some looks, but the aforementioned players will get an opportunity to feel the large gap left by Eron Riley.  So, come Saturday, a lot of eyes will be on Scottie Mongomery’s [Duke WR Coach] young men.  With the top four players on the depth chart being true freshman and sophomores there will be a lot of growing up to do on the field, but maybe there is a playmaker in the bunch ready to break out.

Stay tuned to BDN for game week and game day coverage.

Cutcliffe pleased with Saturday Scrimmage

Hollingsworth and Boyette chat before Saturday's scrimmage - BDN Photo
Hollingsworth and Boyette chat before Saturday's scrimmage - BDN Photo

DURHAM, N.C. – Quarterbacks Thaddeus Lewis, Sean Renfree and Sean Schroeder combined to complete 23-of-39 passes for 231 yards to highlight Duke’s 60-play scrimmage on Saturday morning at the Brooks Practice Field on campus.

“We did a lot of good things out there today,” Blue Devil head coach David Cutcliffe said following the session.  “Of course I am anxious to see the tape, but I thought we had some guys make plays on both sides of the ball.  We were able to get the young players a lot of work as we continue to evaluate their status.”
Lewis, a three-year starter and second team All-ACC choice a year ago, hit on nine-of-18 throws for 96 yards while Renfree, a redshirt freshman, was 11-of-18 through the air for 120 yards including a 17-yard touchdown strike to freshman wide receiver Conner Vernon.
Vernon and fellow rookie Tyree Watkins led the receiving unit with four receptions apiece for 44 and 43 yards, respectively.

Renfree finds Vernon
Renfree finds Vernon

Sophomore Johnny Williams added three grabs for 30 yards.  On the ground, redshirt freshman Patrick Kurunwune had five attempts for 24 yards while freshman Desmond Scott carried the ball eight times for 20 yards.

Redshirt senior Re’quan Boyette, Duke’s leading rusher in both 2006 and 2007 who missed last year due to injury, had five rushes for 15 yards including a one-yard touchdown.
Defensively, redshirt junior defensive end Jeremy Ringfield posted one interception and one quarterback sack while senior linebacker Vincent Rey and sophomore safety Matt Daniels each registered one tackle for loss.
Duke opens the 2009 season at home against Richmond on September 5.  Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Wallace Wade Stadium.  Tickets may be purchased online at www.GoDuke.com or by calling the Duke Athletic Ticket Office at 1-877-375-DUKE.
SCRIMMAGE STATISTICAL LEADERS
Rushing: Patrick Kurunwune 5-24; Desmond Scott 8-20; Re’quan Boyette 5-15
Passing: Sean Renfree 11-18, 120 yards, 1 TD; Thaddeus Lewis 9-18, 96 yards, 1 INT
Receiving: Conner Vernon 4-44; Tyree Watkins 4-43; Johnny Williams 3-30; Danny Parker 2-52; Austin Kelly 2-11; Desmond Scott 2-11
SCORING SUMMARY
Re’quan Boyette 1 run (Will Snyderwine kick)
Paul Asack 41 FG
Conner Vernon 17 pass from Sean Renfree (Will Snyderwine kick)