Duke defensive standouts Kelby Brown and Jeremy Cash talk about the Duke win over NCCU, which was the program’s first shutout since 1989. The Blue Devils’ defense held the Eagles to 184 yards of total offense.
Duke defensive standouts Kelby Brown and Jeremy Cash talk about the Duke win over NCCU, which was the program’s first shutout since 1989. The Blue Devils’ defense held the Eagles to 184 yards of total offense.
Duke Assistant Coach Jim Collins is quietly building a tradition of quality linebackers in Durham. The Blue Devil linebacker alumni are headlined by recent standouts such as Mike Tauiliili (All-ACC), Vincent Rey of the Cincinnati Bengals, and Abraham Kromah of the CFL. Over the past two seasons, the Blue Devil linebackers have been led by standout freshmen in Freshman All-American Kelby Brown in 2010 and All-ACC Academic selection David Helton in 2011. With the recent signing day addition of talented in-state LB Keilin Rayner, the Blue Devils hope that trend will continue in 2012 and beyond. In the class of 2013, one elite LB has quickly risen to the top of Duke’s wish list. Peter Kalambayi is a 6’2″ 230 pound prospect from Butler High School in Matthews, NC. A member of the ESPNU150 Watch List, Kalambayi has already amassed over 20 scholarship offers. With 80 tackles and 6 sacks as a junior, Kalambayi has established himself as one of the top players in the class of 2013 in the state, and with a 4.3 GPA, he’s also the star student that could excel in Durham. BDN caught up with the elite student-athlete after his visit to Duke for the UNC basketball game on March 4. [private]
BDN: How would you describe your strengths as a player?
I have really good speed and pass-rushing ability.
BDN: What are you working on this offseason as you prepare for your senior year?
My hands and my quickness, overall quickness.
BDN: As you approach your college decision, what are the most important things you are looking for in a school?
A school with a consistently good football program and a great academic school as well.
BDN: Do you have any ideas for what you might want to study in college?
No, not yet.
BDN: Where do you stand with offers and which schools are you hearing from the most?
I think I have 21 [offers]. Clemson, UNC, Stanford, Duke, UVA, they’re recruiting me pretty hard right now.
BDN: Which schools have you had a chance to visit recently?
Duke, UNC, and UVA.
BDN: What stood out to you on your visits to those schools?
All 3 are good schools. UVA, I only went once. UNC, I went multiple times. Duke, I went multiple times. They’re all just great schools. Duke’s football program is developing, but UVA and UNC have great football programs and I like them all.
BDN: Are there any coaches you have started to develop a close relationship with?
Coach Brown from UVA, Coach Brewer from UNC, and Coach Cutcliffe from Duke.
BDN: Are there any other schools you plan to visit or would like to hear from?
I have no plans, but I want to visit Clemson and Stanford sometime before next year.
BDN: Do you have a timeline in mind for when you plan to narrow things down or make your final decision?
Probably after football season. I don’t know, I guess I’ll start narrowing it down before my season.
BDN: Thanks a lot, Peter, and best of luck.
It has been suggested that writing a spring update on Duke Football might help make the nightmares about mountain hawks go away, so here it is. In fact, there’s actually a lot to be excited about with regards to Duke Football. Yeah, yeah, we always say that and then we’re all disappointed come the fall. But you’ve got to see the forest instead of the trees, people!
Recruiting off to a hot start
Ok, show of hands. How many of you just went and checked the Duke 2013 commitment list when you read that sub-headline? Or, another way of asking the same question, how many of you have been following Duke Football recruiting during basketball season? Well, either way, you’ve probably figured out that Duke has yet to secure a verbal commitment in the class of 2013. (Saturday afternoon edit: Duke landed a commitment from QB Quay Chambers and OL Austin Davis this morning)
So, how can recruiting be off to a hot start? Generally speaking, you’ve got to get a prospect on campus if you have any hope of landing a commitment, and Coach Cutcliffe and his staff have hosted an impressive list of visitors already this spring. In fact, Duke has already had more than 10 members of the ESPNU150 Watch List (an unofficial list of the top 300 HS rising seniors in the country) on campus in Durham. Most recently, the Blue Devils had 9 top targets in the class of 2013 on campus for the North Carolina basketball game, including Watch List members WR Marquez North, LB Peter Kalambayi, OL Mike McGlinchey, and OL Tyrone Crowder. The coaching staff has been in contact early and often with a number of other Watch List members, including several on the West Coast, and hope to host several more visitors later this spring and summer. As you know, we’ll continue to bring you the best coverage of Duke Football and Duke Football Recruiting around.
Spring practice highly competitive
The Blue Devils returned to the field this past week to start the second half of their spring practice, and the competition level has been at its highest in the Cutcliffe era. We checked in with WR Conner Vernon earlier this week, and he confirmed that across the board, Duke is a deeper and more competitive team. The Blue Devils return 17 starters this fall, but each of those players will be pushed by younger players on the depth chart. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
The Duke defense loses two of its leaders to graduation in S Matt Daniels and NG Charlie Hatcher, but there is real competition to fill their starting job. At safety, Walt Canty, Jordon Byas, and August Campbell will be projected to start heading into the fall, but they are being pushed everyday in practice by newcomer Jeremy Cash, former WR Brandon Braxton, and youngsters such as Chris Tavarez and Britton Grier. Also, it can’t be ruled out that Issac Blakeney won’t see some time on defense, as he has established himself as one of the team’s best pass-rushers last spring from the safety position. To fill Hatcher’s void up front, the Blue Devils have Jamal Bruce, along with two 300-pound players in Will Bryant (recently returned from injury) and Steven Ingram. To put it in March Madness terms, I wouldn’t “go Sharpie” on anyone’s starting job quite yet.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Blue Devils have struggled in the red zone in recent years. The coaching staff has utilized an option style attack with Brandon Connette or Anthony Boone under center. Fans and media alike have questioned the success of this approach, as it seemed to lack creativity and often stalled drives. This year, however, it appears that won’t be the case. Coach Cutcliffe has used the “best 22 players” mantra as a focus for this offseason, and the quarterback position has been one of the most impacted. With three players with significant game experience under center in Sean Renfree, Connette, and Boone, Duke is looking at ways to put all of their weapons on the field, especially in red zone situations. Based on early returns from this spring, both Boone and Connette will not only be used under center, but also at tailback and tight end. As two of the better athletes on the roster, these alignments, if nothing else, should have fans excited for the fall.
Kenny Anunike granted 6th year of eligibility
This is big-time news. Duke defensive end Kenny Anunike has been granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Based on the ruling, he is eligible to participate in the 2012 and 2013 football seasons.
A 6-5, 250-pound native Galena, Ohio, Anunike appeared in four games last fall before suffering a season-ending knee injury against Tulane. Prior to the injury, he was leading the ACC in quarterback sacks (4.0) and was credited with 13 total tackles including five for loss on the year. Anunike has not participated in spring drills while recovering from knee surgery performed last fall.
Anunike also missed the 2008 season while recovering from knee surgery. He played in all 12 games in 2009 as a reserve tight end before shifting to the defensive line, where he registered 23 tackles in 12 games during the 2010 campaign.
Kelby Brown undergoes 2nd ACL repair
Duke rising junior Kelby Brown underwent his 2nd ACL repair on February 22, putting his health for the 2012 season into question. The revision surgery was performed on Wednesday by Dr. Claude T. Moorman III, Duke’s head team physician and the director of Duke Sports Medicine. Brown originally injured the knee on November 20, 2010 against Georgia Tech, and underwent surgery weeks later. He re-injured the knee earlier in February 2012.
A 6-2, 220-pound native of Matthews, N.C., Brown has played in 19 games with 17 starting assignments over the past two years. Last year, he led Duke in tackles for loss (7.0) while posting 65 total stops and received the program’s Mike Curtis Award as Duke’s most outstanding linebacker.
Brown’s career totals include 128 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, four fumble recoveries, one caused fumble, three pass breakups and seven quarterback pressures. In addition, he is a two-time selection to the Academic All-ACC squad.
Should Kelby not be available to play this fall, he does have a redshirt year available, and would therefore still have two years of eligibility remaining. It should also be noted that WR Conner Vernon pointed to Kelby’s younger (but bigger) brother, Kyler, as one of the young Blue Devils who has been most impressive this spring.
Ok, so I don’t leave you in Negative Town, let’s talk about another bright spot for the Duke Football program. Since Coach Cutcliffe’s arrival, he has built the walk-on program at Duke into an asset for Duke Football. First, allow me to give you some perspective.
A 5’10” 165 pound, slow-footed freshman from upstate New York enrolled at Duke a few (I mean several – ok, fine, it was over a decade) years ago, and within his welcome packet to the university, he received a letter inviting him to walk on to the football team. While I did not elect to subject my body to the punishment of collegiate football, I imagine several other equally qualified freshmen received similar letters back then, and some probably did. Flash forward to 2012, and Duke Football secures a commitment from one of the top 10 long snappers in the nation…as a preferred walk-on.
Slightly different use of the walk-on program, eh? Last week’s commitment from Thomas Hennessy was just the latest among several preferred walk-ons for the program. When Coach Cutcliffe arrived in Durham, he had one quarterback to get through spring practice. This year, he has seven, including two preferred walk-ons. That’s seven QBs to practice snaps under center, seven QBs to practice handoffs to RBs, seven QBs to practice routes with WRs, and seven QBs for defenders to pass rush. Across the board, the walk-ons that Coach Cutcliffe have brought in have improved the program by allowing for more reps and more productive practices. While many of these preferred walk-ons may not make a significant individual contribution to the box score, they make their teammates better everyday in practice.
Sweet, I knew I could make it through an article without mentioning Peyton Manning (he’s been working out at Duke, in case you’ve been living under a rock). So, I haven’t forgotten about Football Friday, but my schedule simply doesn’t allow me to commit the time needed to it. But I’ll make a deal with you, since we’re all feeling down today. This won’t be the last football update you read this spring. We’ll keep it coming, as time allows. And also, we’ll have lots of prospect interviews and several updates from current players and coaches as we head towards the spring game – March 31, Wallace Wade Stadium, 1:00 PM ET. Be there. I’ll be looking for you.
WE ARE DUKE.
BDN was on hand for today’s weekly football press conference and we caught up to Duke LB Kelby Brown who relishes the role of a leader on defense.
Now that you have a couple of wins, does this create a hunger for more?
Having two straight wins, we’re trying to take advantage and build on that. I think the more we win the hungrier we’ll get so it’s a great feeling and it’s awesome finally getting a home win. The campus was alive and everybody was excited and people were coming up saying great game and that’s something that we love. So, the hunger is building and building.
The defense played well against Tulane and only let up a touchdown in the 4th quarter. Can elaborate about the comfort level with the 4-2-5 defense?
Each week we’ve gained a little more confidence in our defensive scheme. Obviously last week was a great chance to say, hey look, were going to stop this team and they’re not going to do anything against us and for most of the game that is pretty much how it went.
You are just a sophomore but already a leader on this team. Can you speak to that?
It’s something that I am kind of used to in that I was a leader in high school. Even last year I had to kind of step up and lead as a freshman because I am a real vocal person, so I did to try and keep the energy up on the field. It’s something that I love to do. Being a leader is just natural for me.
How tough was it to lose Kenny Anunike for the season?
Hard hit! He was playing so well and made big play after big play. He is such a great person to so it is a huge loss. We have to move forward and have great guys behind him but a tough loss such a good guy.
Duke notched their first win of the season on Saturday with a 20-19 victory over the Boston College Eagles to improve to 1-2 on the season. The victory was Coach David Cutcliffe’s third conference road victory and 13th overall win at the helm of the Blue Devils.
With three games in the books, season statistics start to have meaning by showing trends so here is a look at where Duke is shining and where they are in need of improvement. Even though this article is titled The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, there is no more relevant starting point than the ugly.
Duke’s performance in the Red Zone has been abysmal! In fact, Duke is ranked 120 out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams having ventured into the Red Zone 10 times with a success rate of 40 percent. Duke has missed three field goals, thrown an interception, turned the ball over on downs, and had time expire to end the 1st half on the six unsuccessful possessions.
The need to solve the Red Zone woes cannot be overstated. The Blue Devils must capitalize and come away with points at a much, much higher percentage on future trips into the Red Zone.
Equally troubling is Duke’s 0-6 performance on Field Goal attempts. A healthy Will Snyderwine back on the field should solve this problem. However, until Snyderwine is able to resume the kicking duties, Duke could be looking to try to convert fourth down into first down when in field goal range.
Enough discussion on the ugly stuff…
Defensive End Kenny Anunike leads the ACC in Sacks with four and is third in Tackles for Loss with five. An inability to pressure the quarterback has been a concern for the Blue Devils’ defense so Anunike’s performance the past two games is an exciting development and a statistic worth watching closely the next couple of weeks.
Staying on the defensive side of the ball, Matt Daniels is fifth in the ACC in Tackles averaging 10.3 per game and Kelby Brown is 17th with 6.7.
A known strength of the Blue Devils offense is talent and depth at the wide receiver position. All three of Duke’s starting wide outs are ranked in the ACC Top 10 in Receptions per Game. Conner Vernon is tied for third with 6.7, Donovan Varner is number six with 6, and Brandon Braxton is number seven with 5.7. Additionally, Vernon is tied for fifth in Receiving Yards per Game averaging 97.3.
Combining the Blue Devils’ wide receiver talent with quarterback Sean Renfree, results in Duke being ranked 25 of 120 nationally, and five of 12 in the ACC, in Passing Offense averaging 296.67 yards through the air per game.
Renfree set Duke’s single game completions record in the game against Boston College. His 41 completions this past Saturday surpassed Thaddeus Lewis’ previous mark of 40 completions set in 2009 against N.C. State.
Another noteworthy performer is true freshman Jamison Crowder who is ranked fourth in the ACC in Kick Returns averaging 21.2 yards per kick. Crowder has displayed good speed and looked good running the ball so fans should keep an eye on him because he has a good chance to break off a couple of long returns before this season is over.
Lee Butler is fourth in the ACC in Punt Returns averaging 7.7 yards per return.
At 18.3 points per game, Duke is 11th in the ACC in Scoring Offense. With the arsenal of weapons available on offense, this is a statistic which must improve and a statistic everyone associated with the program expects to improve. Simply stated, Duke is too talented on the offensive side of the ball to continue to struggle scoring points.
Finally, the Blue Devils have failed to consistently run the ball in their first three games and are currently rank tied for 10th in the ACC at 96.3 yards per game. The struggles can be partially attributed to injuries sustained by Desmond Scott in the first game of the season and Josh Snead during preseason, but Duke needs to show improvement in the running game as the season progresses.
Juwan Thompson has been impressive averaging 5.4 yards per carry on the season but he needs help sharing the running responsibilities. The pending return to action of Desmond Scott in the next week or two will certainly provide Thompson the support he requires as Scott has been Duke’s leading rusher the past two seasons.
The next two weeks will be critical as Duke faces non-conference foe Tulane (2-1), in Wallace Wade Stadium, followed by a trip to Miami to face the Florida International Golden Panthers (3-0). The expectation is Duke will build off the road victory over Boston College and play inspired football against the last two non-conference opponents this season. The objective is to reach Bye Week with a 3-2 record and then focus upon the tough ACC schedule in October and November.
Blue Devil Nation will be all over the action providing Duke Fans complete football coverage including an updated look at the statistics after the trip to play FIU.
BDN Rapid Reaction
The Blue Devils fell to Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinal, 44-14 in Wallace Wade Stadium on Saturday. The game played out much like we expected, with Duke competing with the Cardinal early, but unable to sustain their intensity for four quarters. Here’s our rapid reaction, along with our postgame interviews:
Duke scored just 1 of 3 trips to the red zone, missed three FGs, and recovered an onside kick but did nothing with the possession. In contrast, Stanford scored on all 4 of their trips to the red zone. That was essentially the difference in the game, as the Blue Devils failed to capitalize on their scoring opportunities. The Duke offense was able to move the football well, racking up 335 total yards of offense, but couldn’t find the end zone until late in the 4th quarter on Anthony Boone’s 2-yard TD run. The turning point in the game was on the opening drive of the 2nd half, when Duke drove the ball into the red zone, but again came up empty. Stanford would score on the next possession to go up 24-7 and essentially put the game away. Too many missed opportunities to knock off the #6 team in the country; Duke will have to sort out their red zone struggles next week against a tough BC defense.
Defense challenges the Heisman favorite
It’s been a long time since the Blue Devil defense made a Heisman candidate look uncomfortable under center. In fact, the Duke defense has historically made average college QBs look like Heisman contenders. Today was a different story, as the Blue Devils were able to pressure Andrew Luck, knocking him down on several plays, including 2 sacks, and forcing a rare interception. In the 1st half, the Duke defense played well enough to keep the Blue Devils in the game, but without any help from the offense, they were unable to sustain their momentum. Senior safety Matt Daniels had another outstanding game with 13 tackles and likely caught the eye of several of the NFL scouts in attendance.
Great crowd at Wallace Wade Stadium
It takes more than a dismal opening week loss to Richmond to dim the spirits of the Duke Football faithful. While there were certainly several sections of empty seats, particularly in the hot sun, but the nearly 25,000 fans who were there were loud and intense. In particular, the much maligned Duke student section in Wallace Wade Stadium was as good as it has been in years. Well done! This Duke team has shown flashes of putting the pieces together, and their best football is still ahead of them this season. An excellent road test awaits in Chestnut Hill next Saturday, followed by a very winnable Homecoming matchup against Tulane. Let’s Go Duke!
Matt Daniels Interview
Kelby Brown Interview
Juwan Thompson Interview
Coach Cutcliffe Press Conference