DURHAM, N.C. - As Durham prepares for an invasion of Crimson clad Alabama fans, the Duke Football team met with the media today. BDN caught up to defensive back Matt Daniels and he discussed the opportunity that playing the countries top rated team afforded the Blue Devils.
DURHAM - Defensive back Matt Daniels took time to talk with the media as they gathered for the annual media day event on the campus of Duke University. Here are his thoughts on several key issues going into the 2010 season.
Matt Daniels will likely be the starting right safety for the Duke Blue Devils in just his second season. Daniels took the time to talk with Blue Devil Nation and we'd like to share his thoughts with you.
What is different when preparing for the 2009 football season?
This year I will be more of a leader because last season we had more seniors. So, I feel like I have to step up and be a leader. I'm just going to bring a lot of effort and energy and keep everybody on the field hyped and ready to play.
With the losses in the secondary, do you have people ready to step up?
Oh yeah, big time. We have Jordan Bias coming in, a redshirt freshman. He's been making a lot of plays in practice and the spring game. We look for a lot of big things out of him. Then there's Catron Gainey, he's doing good. We are a little weak at cornerback, Leon [Wright], he's hurt. Since we had so many people hurt, a lot of guys are starting to step up.
You've seen the offense this spring and you saw last season's. What are your thoughts on the differences?
Last year we lost a lot of key players, we lost Eron Riley, but Austin Kelly was playing slot last year and he's really making strides. And we have Donovan Varner coming in and, oh, man, with those two it's something serious. And we have Brandon King coming back. He's a key component that we missed last year and Huff.
... and the toughest guy to tackle is?
Aw man, Patrick Kurunwune ... man, he runs hard with those big thighs and keeps his feet churning. I really like the way he runs and he keeps his path low.
... the toughest to cover?
Aw man, it's between Johnny [Williams] and Varner [Donovan]. Don is like real quick, bam, bam, bam, he'll give you a head fake. Johnny, on the other hand, he'll beat you off the line and then there is AK [Austin Kelly], he's real smooth, so it's hard to tell which one is the hardest to cover.
You guys are really young. You are really young and already playing. Do you see this as a positive down the road?
I definitely think it's a positive because the more young people we have, the more it's going to be like a group and we'll keep things going. At the same time, we have some key seniors like Vinnie Rey who we really look up to, but the young bucks are really starting to come along and the coaches are showing us what it means to be a part of Duke Football.
[private]I asked Coach Cutcliffe which freshman looked as if they were ready to contribute right away this season. The following is the list he gave BDN.
DB Matt Daniels #40 (6-1, 195)- "Matt Daniels looks like he will be able to contribute on defense," sad Coach Cutcliffe after a recent practice. Daniels will compete for time in the secondary. Set a single game rushing record of 348 yards while at Fayette County HS in Georgia. Tallied 268 tackles in his career and pulled in 7 interceptions.
DB Lee Butler #36 (5-10, 180)- Coach Cutcliffe also mentioned Butler as a player who could step in right away. Butler most recently had 4 tackles and cause a late fumble to seal a South Carolina victory over North Carolina in the annual Shrine Bowl which is an all star game. Had 1263 all purpose yards and 11 touchdowns last season for Westside High in Anderson, S.C.
ST, LB Trent Mackey #20 (5-10, 220)- "I expect to see Trent Mackey get some time on special teams and eventually make it at the linebacker," said Coach Cutcliffe. There has been a buzz around Mackey during early practices. Had 103 tackles, 13 for losses as a senior at Carnecro HS in Louisiana.
WR Johnny Williams #37 (5-10, 190)- "Johnny Williams has certainly set a strong pace at receiver. He's been one of our leading receivers in every scrimmage we've had," said Coach Cutcliffe. Williams is a very talented youngster capable of making big plays. He ran first team more often than not in many drills. Was a do all athlete at St. Stephens HS in Alabama. One of the true gems in the class of 2008.
RB Jay Hollingsworth #27 (5-10, 185)- With injuries to tailbacks, Hollingsworth will be depended upon to carry an early load. Looks like a pure running back in practices. Was rated the number three running back in the state by RIvals. Played his ball locally at Lee County H.S. in Sanford, North Carolina. "Hollingsworth is getting a lot of snaps at running back. We have major concerns in that area. I think that Jay continues to get himself ready to play," said Cutcliffe.
There are a handful of others who could make this list. It'll be interesting to watch the 08 guys develop as the season moves along.[/private]