The Duke Football class of 2012 is up to 14 verbal commitments now, and with only a handful of scholarships remaining, the Blue Devils’ coaching staff is looking to add a few impact players. One such prospect is a highly-coveted offensive lineman from the talent-rich state of Florida. Duke recently hosted 6’5” 275 pound junior Robert Conyers on an unofficial visit in Durham. Conyers is one of the top remaining uncommitted offensive linemen in the class of 2012, with 20 scholarship offers from programs throughout the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, and SEC. As a junior, Conyers helped lead Braddock HS to an 8-2 overall record and the state playoffs. His performance earned 1st Team All-County and 2nd Team All-State honors. Duke Offensive Line Coach Matt Luke is developing a talented group of linemen in Durham, and a potential star like Conyers would be a great late addition to Duke’s class of 2012. [private]
BDN: Can you tell us a little bit about your high school career and your strengths on the field?
Well, I only started playing offensive line at the end of my sophomore year. I went to a bunch of camps, and this past year I made the All-County Team and the 2nd Team All-State. Some of my strengths are just my footwork and my aggression.
BDN: You mentioned that you’ve been able to attend a few camps this year; what are some of the things you’re working on as you head into your senior season?
Just my strength and my pad level.
BDN: I know you have a pretty long offer list, so I won’t ask you to name all of the schools that are interested in you, but where do you currently stand with scholarship offers?
I have about 20 scholarship offers right now. And some of the bigger ones are Michigan State, Duke, USF, Wake Forest, Illinois, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, UCF, and a couple other ones.
BDN: That’s an impressive total. Where would you say you are in your recruiting process right now?
Right now I’m looking to narrow it down. I’m going to visit Michigan State and Illinois and then I’ll have like a top 5 probably after I make that trip.
BDN: Obviously, it will be tough to narrow things down to five schools, but what are the most important things that you are looking for as you evaluate a program?
Just the school’s atmosphere, the coaching staff, and the way I feel when I’m around them and around the other players that are playing there currently.
BDN: Which schools have you had a chance to visit so far and have any stood out to you?
I’ve visited Wake Forest, Duke, Vanderbilt, Georgia, LSU, Florida, Miami…I visited UCF, USF, and some of the schools that are standing out to me are USF, Wake Forest, Duke, just because of their coaching staffs and the total package of the school.
BDN: You mentioned that you’d like to have a top 5 after these next couple of visits. What are your plans for narrowing things down and making a decision from there?
Probably going to take like 2 or 3 official visits, but most likely the middle of my season is when I’m going to make my decision.
BDN: Are there any schools that you think you definitely want to take an official visit to at this point?
I’m still kind of narrowing all that down.
BDN: Is there anything else you want college football fans to know about you?
That I’m only 16.
BDN: Thanks a lot, Robert, and best of luck to you.
One of the areas of greatest improvement within the Duke football program since the arrival of Head Coach David Cutcliffe has been the offensive line. This fall, Duke is expected to feature one of the strongest and deepest groups in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Offensive Line Coach Matt Luke has worked hard to build the position group with Duke’s current players, while also working tirelessly on the recruiting trail. On Wednesday, his efforts resulted in the addition of another talented offensive lineman to the Duke program. Tanner Stone, a 6’6” 260 pound prospect from Highland Park HS in Dallas, Texas, has committed to the Blue Devils. As a junior, Stone helped lead the Scots to a 12-1 overall record and the Texas 4A state playoffs.
Tanner spoke with BDN shortly after his decision today.
BDN: What are your strengths as a player?
I think they say I’m a good pass-blocker, I have good feet, and I’m quick enough to catch someone off the edge and I work hard and all that jazz.
BDN: What are you working on this summer as you prepare for your senior year?
I think the main thing is gaining weight, because I’m at about 250 right now and I know for a college offensive lineman, I need to be near the 300s.
BDN: How did you arrive at your decision to commit to Duke?
Yeah, I actually was up there last weekend for their football camps and met all the coaches, and all the coaches were really cool and they just have a really good program. They’re on the rise because all of their coaches are from really good schools and I think they’re going to do a lot for the program. Also, it’s just outstanding academic-wise and it’s overall just a good fit for me.
BDN: Is there anything else you want Duke fans to know about you?
I’m going to try my best to do whatever I can for the team and just try to win and work hard.
The Duke coaching staff has been scouting the country in search of players to help improve the Blue Devil defense, but they have been focused on an in-state linebacker for several months now. Keilin Rayner is a 6’3” 220 pound linebacker prospect from Leland, North Carolina. As a junior, Keilin played primarily defensive end, helping North Brunswick HS to the state playoffs and a 5-7 overall record. The Duke coaching staff would love to add Rayner to the class of 2012 at linebacker, where he could make an early impact for the Blue Devils. Highlights from Keilin's junior year can be viewed here. Duke and ECU were the first two programs to offer a scholarship to Rayner, whose recruitment has taken off this spring. When BDN last spoke with Keilin, Duke was a program that had impressed him, but with over half a dozen offers now, where do the Blue Devils stand?
BDN: What coaches have stopped by to see you this spring?
Pretty much all of them, Clemson, Maryland, Virginia Tech, [NC] State, [North] Carolina, ECU, and Wake Forest came by.
BDN: When we last spoke Duke and ECU were the first two schools to offer you; what other schools have offered you this spring?
[North] Carolina, [NC] State, Duke, ECU, Wake, Clemson, South Carolina, Florida International, I think that’s about it.
BDN: Which schools have you visited so far?
I didn’t get to visit any this spring, but previously I visited ECU, [NC] State, and Duke. I’m hoping to visit [North] Carolina maybe next week.
BDN: Do you have plans for any other visits this summer?
Maybe some camps, but other than that I don’t know yet.
BDN: With recruiting picking up for you, what are your thoughts for when you want to narrow things down and make your decision?
I would like to visit all the schools that have offered me and some other schools that haven’t, probably make my decision later after I’ve visited.
BDN: Which schools or coaches do you feel like you have the best relationship with?
Coach Cutcliffe and Coach Luke from Duke.
BDN: What are your plans for the summer?
Just work out, pretty much.
BDN: That’s great, I know you mentioned you would be playing more linebacker this fall, what kind of things have you been working on?
A lot of coaches said to work on my hip flexibility and getting off the ball, working on that.
You still haven’t joined BDN Premium? Man, you’re missing out!
…collapsing the distinction between the exasperatingly silly and the charmingly naughty...
...delivers plenty of wit, verve and surreal mayhem to entice…
A piece of fluff as artificially sweetened as a fuchsia Peep…
Thanks to its fondness for smushing together seemingly incongruous elements…is just demented enough to deliver a fleeting sugar rush... [private]
Surprisingly, those were the reviews for the movie Hop, not Football Friday, but I sure would have been honored. Oh well, I don’t let the critics read my column, anyway. We start on two down notes today, but we'll rally down the home stretch.
Deadly storms in the South
Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected by the strong storms and tornadoes that tore through the South on Wednesday, claiming nearly 300 lives. Neighborhoods and communities have been severely damaged and destroyed. It will take many months to piece back together the lives of the families affected, and there are many noble organizations that have quickly mobilized relief efforts. Please consider donating your time, money, goods, blood - whatever you can - to help those in need: American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Samaritan’s Purse, among many other deserving national and local groups. Head Coach David Cutcliffe, an Alabama native, will assist with a Time Warner Cable Recovery Drive today at 4 PM.
Anita Caldwell passes at age 103
There are only a select few who could honestly lay claim to the title "Duke Football's Greatest Fan," and Mrs. Caldwell would make the short list. The widow of former Duke Assistant Coach Herschel Caldwell, who came to Duke as an assistant one year before Wallace Wade, Mrs. Caldwell passed away this week on her 103rd birthday. A remarkable woman, Mrs. Caldwell missed only two Duke football home games in the past 77 years. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to The Good Samaritan Fund, c/o Duke Memorial United Methodist Church, 504 W. Chapel Hill Street, Durham, N.C., 27701 or to The Discretionary Fund, c/o Father Bert Eaton, St. Peters by the Sea, P.O. Box 337 Swansboro, N.C., 28584.
Recent visitors on campus
In today’s recruiting, it’s a rarity for a prospect to commit to a school sight unseen. Thus, getting a prospect on campus for an unofficial visit, whether it’s for a game, a junior day, a summer camp or just a campus tour, is an important component of the recruiting process. In the world of emails, texting, and Facebook, there’s still no substitute for seeing coaches, players, and facilities in person. Even though spring practices are well behind us and the spring evaluation period is underway, three key prospects have been on campus over the past week.
Max McCaffrey: the 6’2” 180 pound wide receiver prospect from Highlands Ranch, Colorado made the trip to Duke with his mother recently. The son of former NFL and Stanford WR Ed McCaffrey, Max is also the nephew of former Duke men’s basketball player Billy McCaffrey, who transferred to Vanderbilt after the 1991 National Championship. Max and his younger brother, Christian (a rising sophomore running back) will look to lead Valor Christian to their third state championship this fall. Max currently has scholarship offers from Duke, Wake Forest, and Arizona State.
Eric Olson: Coach Luke would love to continue his success in recruiting talented offensive linemen, and Olson would certainly fit the bill. An athletic 6’6” 265 pound prospect from Cambridge, Massachusetts, Olson also played basketball briefly for Buckingham Browne & Nichols (per BDN’s Andrew Slater). Olson was on campus last weekend for an overnight visit, just a month after visiting for Duke’s spring game. Olson grew up a Duke basketball fan and the Blue Devils remain a major player in Olson’s recruitment, even though he is now up to 8 offers, including Boston College, Connecticut, Virginia, and Wake Forest, with interest from Northwestern and Stanford.
Dan Beilinson: If it’s good to get a prospect on campus for a visit, then it has to be very good to get a prospect on campus frequently. There are a handful of North Carolina prospects who have been frequent visitors to Wallace Wade Stadium, and the 6’5” 220 pound tight end Beilinson is one of them. Out of nearby Panther Creek in Cary, Beilinson has focused his visits so far on the three Triangle schools, and has developed a close relationship with the Duke staff. With some added weight, Beilinson has the tools to be a complete tight end that could thrive alongside current 2012 commit Erich Schneider in the Blue Devils’ prolific passing offense. The talented athlete already has five scholarship offers, including Duke, NC State, and Vanderbilt, with interest from Auburn, Florida, North Carolina, and Wake Forest.
Deconstructing some myths about Duke Football
Have you ever seen that show “Myth Busters?” I haven’t. I don’t even know what channel it’s on. If it’s any good, let me know. Anyway, most of us here at BDN, myself included, like to keep our fingers on the pulse of all things Duke athletics. Though happily entrenched here at BDN, I will admit that I occasionally do lurk on other free message boards to try to obtain some insight into the hearts and minds of Duke fans, especially when it comes to Duke football. As a self-admitted eternal optimist when it comes to Duke, it can be tough to read some of the unfounded criticism that is out there. That’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of room for criticism – when your last bowl game was in 1994, there’s obviously a lot of things wrong with the program. However, it’s important to keep in mind that Rome wasn’t built in a day. For those who have followed the program through the bad times, it’s hard not to see that things are heading in the right direction. I apologize in advance for my ranting, but I have to vent about some of the things I’ve heard and read recently about Duke football. Let’s take a look at some of the less-than-factual criticism from some of the more impatient Duke football fans:
1. Coach Cutcliffe always speaks in hyperbole, creating unrealistic expectations.
First of all, what college head coach doesn’t? It’s basically in the job description. In Coach Cutcliffe’s case, he inherited a program defined by its culture of losing. Before you can succeed, you have to believe you can succeed, and that mentality has to be embraced throughout the program – from the administration to the coaching staff to the players to the fans. There’s no question that Coach Cutcliffe has done a remarkable job of changing the culture at Duke, to the point that coaches, players, and fans expect Duke to win games. Perhaps the best indicator of this is the incoming recruiting class of 2011 – several players have told BDN that they’re coming to Duke not just for the education or the chance to play football, but they plan on winning an ACC Championship. As for this year’s squad, when asked about the Blue Devils’ 2011 bowl chances, Cutcliffe said, “I don’t think there’s any question we’re at that level. We don’t have a huge margin of error just yet, but not anybody does, for the most part.” With a potent, veteran offense and a young, athletic defense, that sounds like a pretty fair assessment.
2. Duke has not been recruiting 4- and 5-star talent.
The correct criticism here is that Duke has not been bringing in 4- and 5-star talent, but it isn’t from a lack of effort. In the class of 2010, the Blue Devils offered at least 3 5-star prospects and 38 4-star prospects (and secured an initial commitment from LB Aramide Olaniyan). In 2011, Duke offered at least 4 5-star prospects and 51 4-star prospects (and nearly landed TE Cam Clear). While the class of 2012 rankings have yet to be released, Duke is going up against national powers for some of the top recruits and appears to be holding their own in at least a few cases so far. There’s no question that Duke needs to land some of these commits, and winning games will go a long way to helping that cause.
3. Duke has focused too much on regional recruiting.
There are two things wrong with this presumption. First, focusing on regional recruiting is probably the right thing to do. The majority of football players don’t go to school far from home, so it makes sense to spend a significant amount of time building relationships and recruiting within a home region. Let’s look at the number of in-state players on the rosters of four private schools that many love to compare Duke to:
Wake Forest: 29%
If you expand those percentages to within a region (Midwest, Southeast, West Coast), they grow even larger, but it’s clear that Duke is not over-emphasizing in-state players relative to other schools. The in-state numbers are also similar when comparing the incoming class of 2011:
Wake Forest 19%
The second problem with the presumption is that it’s simply wrong. Less than one-third of the roster is from in-state, and with regards to recruiting, let’s look at the top states represented on the recruiting board, which contains only the players Duke actively recruited, from the past two years:
2011: AL (10), FL (37), GA (19), NC (50), NJ (7), OH (20), PA (8), SC (11), TN (11), TX (15), VA (14)
2012: CA (11), CO (5), FL (22), GA (16), MA (5), MD (10), NC (39), OH (23), PA (5), SC (12), TN (12), TX (6), VA (6)
Those numbers indicate to me that Duke is recruiting where the talent is, but by all means, please check my math.
4. It’s still the same old Duke.
Bottom line, the talk of rebuilding our football program is getting tiresome to many fans, but progress is being made. The university has invested in the football program (check out our new indoor practice facility – sah-weet!) and fans are trickling back in to Wallace Wade Stadium, as season ticket sales have steadily increased. Even with a 3-win season in 2010, the Blue Devils have won more games under Coach Cutcliffe than they did in the previous 8 seasons (12 wins 2008-2010, 10 wins 2000-2007). No one is more tired of the talk than the players and coaches, who are ready to produce results on the field. Behind a strong offensive line, a solid stable of running backs, an All-ACC receiving corps, and arguably the best returning QB in the conference, this Blue Devil team has high hopes for the fall. There’s no question that the next step is to put together a winning season, and I can’t wait to find out if this Blue Devil team is tough enough to do it.
In their three-plus years in Durham, Head Coach David Cutcliffe and Offensive Line Coach Matt Luke have built the Duke offensive line into a position of strength. The past two recruiting classes have brought in a very good group of offensive linemen, and the Blue Devils hope to continue that trend with the class of 2012. Max Tuerk is a 6’6” 275 pound offensive lineman from Santa Margarita, California. Though he’s early in the recruiting process, the junior already holds offers from Duke, Washington, and SMU. Highlights from his junior year, which earned him 1st Team All State and Trinity Lineman of the Year honors, can be viewed here.
BDN: Can you start off by describing your strengths for fans who haven’t had a chance to see you play?
My strengths as a player are I work really hard, I’m always trying to get better in the weight room and practice. Right now, I’ve been gaining a lot of weight and that was probably my biggest problem last year, I weighed like 250 only, and now I’m up to 275, and I’m pretty fast for an offensive lineman, so that’s probably my biggest strength.
BDN: What are some of the things you have been working on this offseason?
Gaining weight, and gaining strength, definitely.
BDN: What are some of your goals for your senior year?
For the team I’ve love if we can win our division, we went to the playoffs last year and we lost in the second round. And I’m hoping that this year we can win CIF, and that’d be awesome for me.
BDN: As you look at your college decision, what are the most important factors you are looking for in a school?
In a college, most important thing is probably just to get to know all the coaches, get to know some of the members that are gonna be in my team. Know the school, if it’s a good school, good academics. Good campus, just – kind of get to know everything about the school.
BDN: Have you had a chance to visit any schools so far?
Not yet. I have visited Washington 2 years ago, for like a football tournament, for passing tournament, I went as a tight end, and it was a cool campus, so that’s the only school I’ve visited.
BDN: Do you have any other visits planned for this spring or summer?
Yeah, I’m hoping I can go to Duke. I’m hoping to check out Washington and maybe SMU even, and I’m hoping to go to USC, check out USC, just the schools around my house kind of.
BDN: Are there any schools that you feel like you’ve developed a good relationship with at this point in the process?
Yeah, definitely. I’ve talked to Duke’s offensive line coach this week for a while, actually, and we’re steadily starting to get a relationship. I emailed a lot of the coaches, the coaches at SMU, and I talk to a lot of the coaches on almost a daily basis, and we’re definitely developing relationships.
BDN: Is there anything else you think is important for college football fans to know about you?
I’m a good kid and I work really hard, and I’m hoping to – I love football, and I’m just hoping it’ll take me to college.
In their three-plus years in Durham, Head Coach David Cutcliffe and Offensive Line Coach Matt Luke have built the Duke offensive line into a position of strength. The past two recruiting classes have brought in a very good group of offensive linemen, and the Blue Devils hope to continue that trend with the class of 2012. One of the top offensive lineman in the country is D.J. Humphries, a 6’6” 265 pound offensive lineman from Charlotte, North Carolina. As a junior at Mallard Creek, D.J. has attracted schools from all across the country, already receiving scholarship offers from over 20 schools, including Duke. Highlights from his junior year can be viewed here.
BDN: Can you start off by describing some of your strengths for fans who haven’t had a chance to see you play?
I think one of my main strengths is me being athletic. Most coaches love my feet, they love my feel, so no one’s really told me too much that they want me to work on as far as on the field, but I’ve put a lot of work into run blocking over the summer and that definitely paid off, I had over 100 pancakes for the season. I’m a natural pass blocker, so that really was never too hard to pick up.
BDN: What are some of your goals for your senior year?
As far as my team, state championship. But other than that, for myself, I just want to continue doing what I do, playing well, try to be All-American again, first team All-American again.
BDN: Growing up in the Carolinas, is there a particular school you grew up following?
I’m from the east side of Carolina originally, so growing up I followed South Carolina and Clemson, but I started to like LSU and Florida, ‘cause I mean, I was raised around SEC football, but that’s pretty much – that’s the attitude I take to the field is SEC football, but I mean, I’m still interested in ACC as well, but I’ll watch Florida and LSU and everything else.
BDN: Who was the first school to offer you?
Clemson was the first school to offer me.
BDN: Have you been able to narrow things down at this point in the process?
I mean, Florida’s probably my number one right now, and then maybe LSU, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee.
BDN: Do you have any plans for visits this spring or summer?
I’m probably gonna try to get down to – Florida probably my first visit, coming up in March, that’ll be my first stop and I begin making all my visits in March.
BDN: Do you have an idea for when you would like to make your college decision?