One of the key things to watch this pre-season is which wideouts step up to fill the void left by the departed Conner Vernon. Blue Devil Nation spoke with Max McCaffrey about that earlier today as Duke Football opens practice for the coming season.
A lot of pre season buzz suggests you will have to step into Conner Vernon’s role from a season ago. Are you prepared for that?
I feel prepared for it and there is no pressure. Conner was a good role model and he helped prepare me and I have been able to ease in having played last season.
How is your game different from Conner?
I think we are a lot different actually. Conner was a great player but I am just excited to go out and play. He was good at the deep ball and where he would use his speed to break off of the defenders, I use more of my body to do so.
You’ve had family members attend or that are familiar with Duke …
I have had a lot of family members come to Duke and they’ve all been happy with my decision. My younger brother was a recruit here too, and my Dad and all are real supportive.
Do you deal with mental pressure in trying to fill roles open from a season ago?
I don’t necessarily feel pressure but it is definitely another role and I feel like I need to produce now. So I need to imprint the guys below me and try to start becoming a leader for this years team.
You have caught balls from Sean Renfree and Boone. How do the two differ?
Boone and Renfree are definitely two different quarterbacks. I think Boone can make plays that aren’t necessarily there in the running game. I am used to passing with him in that he’s the player I was paired with in practice a lot last season, so I am looking forward to see what will happen this year.
It’s Signing Day for Duke Football! Coach Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils officially will welcome the class of 2012 into the Duke family today. BDN has all the coverage, including Mark Watson live at Coach Cutcliffe’s afternoon press conference.
National Letters of Intent Received
TE Erich Schneider
Weight: 220 pounds
High School: Episcopal
Hometown: Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #151 WR
TE Dan Beilinson
Weight: 240 pounds
High School: Panther Creek
Hometown: Cary, North Carolina
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #22 TE
OL Casey Blaser
Weight: 255 pounds
High School: South Mecklenburg
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #105 OT
K Ross Martin
Weight: 190 pounds
High School: Walsh Jesuit
Hometown: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #2 K
DL A.J. Wolf
Weight: 245 pounds
High School: Hackley
Hometown: Tarrytown, New York
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #167 DE
DL Allen Jackson
Weight: 235 pounds
High School: McDonough
Hometown: Owings Mills, Maryland
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #86 DE
DL Carlos Wray
Weight: 280 pounds
High School: Shelby
Hometown: Shelby, North Carolina
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #94 DE
WR Anthony Nash
Weight: 180 pounds
High School: Bayard Rustin
Hometown: West Chester, Pennsylvania
ESPN ranking: 2 stars, #187 WR
ATH DeVon Edwards
Weight: 170 pounds
High School: Alcovy
Hometown: Covington, Georgia
ESPN ranking: Not Available
OL Tanner Stone
Weight: 280 pounds
High School: Highland Park
Hometown: Dallas, Texas
ESPN ranking: 2 stars, #163 OG
SAF Michael Westray
Weight: 195 pounds
High School: Westlake
Hometown: Waldorf, Maryland
ESPN ranking: 2 stars, #168 SAF
WR Max McCaffrey
Weight: 190 pounds
High School: Valor Christian
Hometown: Highlands Ranch, Colorado
ESPN ranking: 2 stars, #232 WR
DL Michael Mann
Weight: 220 pounds
High School: Valor Christian
Hometown: Highlands Ranch, Colorado
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #122 DE
SAF Dwayne Norman
Weight: 195 pounds
High School: University Christian
Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #50 SAF
RB Jela Duncan Height: 5’9″
Weight: 190 pounds
High School: Mallard Creek
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #40 RB
SAF Corbin McCarthy
Weight: 200 pounds
High School: Norco
Hometown: Norco, California
ESPN ranking: 2 stars, #143 SAF
LB Deion Williams
Weight: 225 pounds
High School: Lutheran
Hometown: Orange, California
ESPN ranking: 2 stars, #7 FB
LB Keilin Rayner Height: 6’3″
Weight: 215 pounds
High School: North Brunswick
Hometown: Leland, North Carolina
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #74 OLB
With the recent decision by Terrell Jackson to re-open his recruitment, the Blue Devils find themselves looking to bulk up their defensive line in the class of 2012. With that in mind, Duke hosted Valor Christian DE Michael Mann on an official visit over the weekend. Originally committed to Arizona State, Mann opted to re-open his own recruitment after the coaching staff change in Tempe. A teammate and close friend of Duke WR commit Max McCaffrey, the Blue Devils have had Mann on their radar for awhile. The 6’4” 220 pound DE prospect is coming off his third straight Colorado HS Championship and spoke with BDN shortly after his visit to Durham. [private]
BDN: How did your official visit to Duke go?
I’m at the airport right now; I just got done with my visit. It was a fun weekend. It was a lot of fun. They did a great job of hosting it. Definitely the high points were the basketball game, getting to walk around and see the campus for the first time, and just hanging out with the coaches, they are some great guys, they’re funny, and we got along really well.
BDN: You had originally committed to Arizona State. Can you talk a little about how Duke entered your recruitment and when you first heard from them?
Definitely. I committed to Arizona State in the summer and I was all set and ready to go, but due to the coaching changes and all that stuff, it really opened up things for me. I re-opened my recruitment. It turns out that my best friend, I think you know him, Max McCaffrey, he goes to my school and he lives right next door. He committed to Duke as well. He’s a great kid and it would be really fun to come with him. But that’s how I got introduced to Coach Lubick. He was out here and was able to see me play and he liked me and that’s kind of how Duke got a hold of me.
BDN: What other schools are you considering at this point?
I took an official visit to Colorado State last weekend. It’s definitely CSU, Duke, and UCLA. I can still go to Arizona State but I don’t really want to because of the new coaching staff, they want me to gray shirt and all this weird stuff.
BDN: It’s obviously always a tough situation when there’s a coaching change. What will be the most important factors as you sit down and make your final decision?
Yeah. After being at Duke, my priority is definitely to get an education first. I’m going to college to get an education. AS much as I’d like to play in the league, I’m going to put forth my best effort, but I want to be realistic and know that I’m probably going to rely on my degree one day. That’s very important to me. I want to go into business, so I want a good business school and a good education. Next for me would be the football aspect. And last would be socially and the location. Those are the factors that will definitely come into play when I make this big decision.
BDN: Do you have an idea when you would like to make that final decision?
I’d like to make it definitely soon. Duke is going to call me, they’re going to keep in touch with me. I’m anxious to hear something from them in the next few days, it could be as early as tonight, it could be by Tuesday, to know officially what I’ve got going on with Duke.
BDN: Thanks a lot, Michael, and best of luck.
I appreciate that, sir, thank you so much. [/private]
The Blue Devils hosted several high school prospects on campus this weekend for the Duke Athletics Hall of Fame ceremony and Saturday’s game against Stanford. BDN Premium caught up with several of the prospects after their visit and got their thoughts on the game and the trip. [private]
TE Dan Beilinson, 6’5″ 220 pounds
Panther Creek HS, Cary, NC
It was very good! I’m solidifying my relationship with the coaches and staff even more…they can bounce back!
Dan helped Panther Creek to a thrilling 23-20 victory over Athens Drive on September 2, finishing with 4 catches for 67 yards. The Catamounts are 3-1 on the season after last week’s 42-21 win over Holly Springs. They will square off with Apex at home on Friday, September 16.
WR Max McCaffrey, 6’3″ 190 pounds
Valor Christian HS, Highlands Ranch, CO
Great trip. Very impressed with Coach Cutcliffe and the rest of the staff.
Max is off to a great start to his senior year, leading 2-0 Valor Christian with 7 receptions for 89 yards. They will travel to Rampart on Friday, September 16.
DE A.J. Wolf, 6’4″ 245 pounds
The Hackley School, Tarrytown, NY
It went great. I really enjoyed seeing the coaches again. But it was too bad Duke couldn’t pull off the upset.
A.J. kicks off his senior season at Hackley this Saturday at home against Riverdale Country. Good luck!
Duke’s top priority in the class of 2012 remains Mallard Creek RB Jela Duncan. Duncan was in Durham for the opener against Richmond, but was not able to make the trip for the Stanford game. Duke remains his leader, with South Carolina not far behind. He has also stated a desire to visit Pitt and Purdue this fall. As for the class of 2013, the Blue Devils have begun to extend verbal scholarship offers, the first going out to Charlotte Christian DB Desmond Lawrence. Lawrence visited Durham in August and is a former teammate of Duke’s Kelby and Kyler Brown.
Fear not, loyal fans, Football Friday returns! If you’ve been under a rock for the past week, please be sure to check out all of our great interviews and reports from the NBPA Top 100 Camp. BDN was on the scene as always and has the best content with Duke’s prospects in 2012 and beyond. After a week hiatus here at Football Friday, we have a lot to discuss this week, so…lesssgo.
Congratulations to Kyrie, Nolan, and Kyle
All of us at Blue Devil Nation wish the best to Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith, and Kyle Singler, as they begin their NBA journey. To hear their names called last night was certainly a dream come true for each of them and their families. We’ll be pulling for them and we know they will continue to make Duke fans proud in all that they do.
NFL stars invade Duke Football Facilities
With the NFL lockout continuing to drag on, former Duke QB Thad Lewis has become a fixture around campus this summer, but the Duke players were in for a surprise this week as they hit the weight room and the practice field. New York Giants Super Bowl XLII MVP QB Eli Manning has been working out at Duke this week with his receivers, including former UNC star Hakeem Nicks. The NFL players’ presence created a buzz on campus and among the Duke players, generating some excitement around Duke Football during the dog days of summer. It’s a great testament to the investment Duke has made in their football facilities that NFL players are working out on campus. As the program continues to build, Duke’s presence in the NFL should continue to improve.
Nine in Class of 2012
Duke is up to nine verbal commitments in the class of 2012 with the addition of kicker Ross Martin and offensive linemen Casey Blaser and Tanner Stone in the past week. All three were on campus recently for Duke’s football camps and outworked the competition to earn scholarship offers. At 6’5” and 6’6”, Casey and Tanner have solid frames to grow into with some work in the weight room, and appear poised to help anchor the Blue Devil line in 2012 and beyond. Martin is ranked as one of the top placekickers in the country by kicking guru Chris Sailer, and will join 2011 punter Will Monday to solidify Duke’s special teams for years to come.
Duke hosted hundreds of young football players over the past two weeks, all of whom were looking to make a name for themselves in the eyes of the Duke coaching staff. Overall, the competition was outstanding and the Duke staff was thrilled with the turnout from not only the class of 2012, but future classes as well. Several of the camp standouts are already members of the Duke class of 2012, validating the staff’s previous scouting and evaluation. Jacksonville stars Dwayne Norman and Erich Schneider were impressive at safety and tight end; both remain solid verbal commitments to the Blue Devils. Along the offensive line, the two newest Blue Devils, Blaser and Stone, were among the best blockers on the field. The two big linemen have great athletic ability, work ethic, and football mentality.
Three 2012 quarterbacks stood out among the dozens of signal-callers who attended the various Duke camps and the David Cutcliffe QB College. The Blue Devils first offered Miami’s Bilal Marshall back in January, and they remain impressed with his dual-threat ability, hoping he will choose to become an impact player for the Blue Devil program. Highly-coveted lefty Tyler Cameron also showed great dual-threat ability, while 6’5” sleeper Thomas Sirk simply blew the staff away with his arm, ultimately earning himself a scholarship offer from Coach Cutcliffe. At the other skill positions, two receivers from the class of 2013 also earned themselves early scholarship offers. Jacksonville’s Ahmad Fulwood, at 6’4,” seemed to haul in everything thrown his way, while Ohio’s Shelton Gibson showcased his tremendous speed. Charlotte’s Jela Duncan posted a blazing fast 40 time, and he remains at the top of Duke’s RB wish list, along with Tarboro star Todd Gurley and bruising SC back Dondre Brown.
Rubber, meet road
With Duke’s camps now complete and fall training camp still over a month away, the focus over the next several weeks will almost exclusively be on filling out the class of 2012. With the advent of the internet, everyone is now able to become a self-proclaimed expert when it comes to recruiting. But unlike basketball, where one recruit can truly make or break a class, it’s essential to see the big picture in football recruiting. Let’s try to take a look at the forest, instead of the trees.
The best place to start is probably with a rough sketch of the Duke 2012 roster, barring any early defections or injuries, to give us a sense of the Blue Devils’ scholarship situation, depth, and needs:
QB (4): Sean Renfree (R-Sr.), Sean Schroeder (R-Jr.), Brandon Connette (Jr.), Anthony Boone (R-So.)
RB (4): Patrick Kurunuwe (R-Sr.), Desmond Scott (Sr.), Josh Snead (Jr.), Juwan Thompson (Jr.)
WR (8): Conner Vernon (Sr.), Corey Gattis (R-Jr.), Tyree Watkins (R-Jr.), Brandon Braxton (Jr.), Jamison Crowder (?So.), Blair Holliday (R-Fr.), Nick Hill (R-Fr.), Max McCaffrey (Fr.)
TE (5): Jack Farrell (R-Jr.), Ryan Hall (R-Jr.), Braxton Deaver (R-So.), David Reeves (?So.), Erich Schneider (Fr.)
OT (5): Perry Simmons (R-Jr.), Takoby Cofield (R-So.), Marcus Aprahamian (R-Fr.), Casey Blaser (Fr.), Tanner Stone (Fr.)
OG (6): Dave Harding (R-Jr.), Joey Finison (R-Jr.), John Coleman (R-Jr.), Laken Tomlinson (R-So.), Lucas Patrick (R-Fr.), Cody Robinson (R-Fr.)
C (3): Brian Moore (R-Sr.), Conor Irwin (R-Sr.), Matt Skura (R-Fr.)
DE (10): Kenny Anunike (R-Sr.), Justin Foxx (R-Jr.), Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo (R-So.), Dezmond Johnson (R-So.), Nick Sink (R-So.), Jamal Wallace (R-So.), Sam Marshall (R-Fr.), Mario Sanders (R-Fr.), Allen Jackson (Fr.), Carlos Wray (Fr.)
DT (7): Curtis Hazelton (R-Sr.), Sydney Sarmiento (R-Jr.), Will Bryant (R-So.), Steven Ingram (R-So.), Jamal Bruce (R-So.), Lucas Fisher (R-Fr.), Carson Ginn (R-Fr.)
LB (9): Austin Gamble (Sr.), Kevin Rojas (R-Jr.), Kelby Brown (Jr.), C.J. France (R-So.), Kyler Brown (?So.), David Helton (?So.), Britton Grier (R-Fr.), Jon Woodruff (R-Fr.), Deion Williams (Fr.)
CB (8): Tony Foster (R-Sr.), Zach Greene (Sr.), Ross Cockrell (R-Jr.), Lex Butler (R-Jr.), Garrett Patterson (R-Jr.), Quan Stevenson (R-So.), Jared Boyd (?So.), Tim Burton (R-Fr.)
SAF (8): Jordon Byas (R-Sr.), Walt Canty (Sr.), Taylor Sowell (R-Jr.), August Campbell (R-Jr.), Anthony Young-Wiseman (R-Jr.), Issac Blakeney (R-So.), Chris Tavarez (R-Fr.), Dwayne Norman (Fr.)
K (2): Paul Asack (R-Sr.), Ross Martin (Fr.)
P (1): Will Monday (So.)
With only a handful of scholarships remaining (if my math is right, please don’t check me), Duke has a glaring need at RB, where they will only have four scholarship players and no underclassmen. The expectation is that Duke will look to add at least one, but probably two running back prospects with their remaining scholarships. We also think that the staff would love to add a top QB to follow behind Boone, with Bilal Marshall and Thomas Sirk at the top of the list. At receiver, Duke could look to add someone alongside McCaffrey, and Drae Bowles is the number one priority; those around the program call the highly-coveted Bowles a potential program-changing recruit for the Blue Devils.
Duke probably needs to add another tight end in 2012 to join Erich Schneider, and the top two targets are currently Dan Beilinson and Ryan Morris. Elsewhere along the offensive line, Duke has a great amount of depth, which will allow Blaser and Stone to develop during their first years in Durham. There could be room for at least one more lineman in this class, and Duke remains hopeful that Alex Kozan or Andrew Jelks (who will not be announcing his decision soon, contrary to reports) will make their pledge to the Blue Devils.
Defensively, Duke has to be thrilled with the first three members of the class of 2012; both Wray and Jackson should develop into top ACC pass-rushing ends, and Norman is the prototypical hard-hitting safety the coaching staff loves. The biggest remaining need defensively is probably at defensive tackle, where Duke would love to add a potential program-changer in Korren Kirven (although another option could be to move Wray to DT and add an elite DE). A top prospect like Keilin Rayner or Jeremiah Allison to join under-the-radar commit Deion Williams would solidify the linebacking corps, and there’s room for at least one more defensive back at corner or safety.
With the graduation of pre-season All-ACC and All-American selection Will Snyderwine, there will be big shoes to fill at placekicker, and Duke hopes that Ross Martin, one of the top five kickers in the country, will be up to the task. Alongside Will Monday, Martin should carry the Duke kicking game for the next several years.
With so many moving pieces, it’s hard to keep a finger on the pulse of football recruiting, and even harder to objectively evaluate individual commitments. Duke has done a nice job so far of adding solid athletes at positions of need (DE, SAF), while also bringing in a few prospects with high potential at positions of depth (OL, WR). Scholarships remain available for potential program-changers like Drae Bowles or Korren Kirven, and the best way to secure those commitments will be to win games this fall.
Well, that was quite the whirlwind of name-dropping. If we still haven’t satisfied your craving for Duke football, be sure to check out our recent previews featured on College Football Zealots and BC Interruption. And of course follow us on Twitter for up to the minute updates on Duke Football recruiting and team news. We’re on Facebook, too, by the way. And if you clicked on all the links in this article and are wondering why you can’t read the interviews, then it’s time for you to join BDN Premium. If you want to discuss Duke Football, correct my earlier math, or simply just want to become the most well-informed Duke fan on the planet, then you should also join BDN Premium. And current members, be sure to check out our new-look Football Message Boards today.
I guess that’s it for this week. Seriously? You were going to let me get away with that? Yeah, something kind of big happened in Chapel Hill this week. But see, there isn’t much to say, really, the NCAA took care of that for me. And so did Stewart Mandel. And Brett McMurphy. Good luck with all that, Butch. And give us back the Victory Bell.
Until next week, WE ARE DUKE.
This is a sample of the weekly Duke Football updates you’ll have access to as a BDN Premium member. Join today and get inside access to happenings around the athletic programs where you’ll have a front row seat on the recruiting front.
Free Football Friday! We’re having so much fun building our football coverage here at BDN, we thought we’d share with the whole class this week. In case you have been living under a rock, BDN is quickly becoming the place for the best Duke Football coverage around. We follow recruiting all offseason with prospect interviews, commitment stories (yeah, we broke the last three commitments, but who’s counting?), and we’re the only site that’s with the team all season long. Football Friday is our weekly look inside the world of Duke Football, so let’s get after it.
One for the thumb
The Duke class of 2012 is up to five, after the commitment of WR Max McCaffrey earlier this week. Needless to say, the Duke staff is thrilled to add McCaffrey to the Blue Devil family. Max is the son of former NFL Pro Bowl receiver Ed McCaffrey, the nephew of former Duke men’s basketball player Billy McCaffrey, and the grandson of former Duke great Dave Sime. Max’s younger brother, Christian, is also a star at Valor Christian, defending back-to-back Colorado State Champions.
It’s the time of year when everyone gets to be an expert in college football. The 2011 preview publications are hitting newsstands and dozens of websites are publicizing their own predictions. Coming off a 3-win season, most of the prognosticators are not predicting a bowl for the Blue Devils in 2011, with many picking Duke to finish last in the ACC Coastal Division. Duke has a tough schedule in front of them this year, but a young and hungry team that is more than capable of winning ball games. We’ll have our full predictions in the coming weeks as the season approaches.
Kelby Brown preparing to lead Duke defense
Most of the aforementioned prognosticators have pointed to the ACC-worst Duke defense as the biggest concern for the 2011 Blue Devils, and it’s no secret. Duke has question marks on the defensive side of the ball, especially up front, where only a handful of upperclassmen return. The Duke linebackers should be led by a healthy Kelby Brown in 2011, who will be joined by his younger brother Kyler Brown. ESPN’s Heather Dinich caught up with Kelby this week, who sounds ready to bring some swagger back to the Duke defense.
Football camp kicks off next week
Duke will host dozens of high school prospects next week for the first of two one-day summer football camps. One-day camps have historically been a great chance for prospects to impress coaches and earn additional offers, and you can bet that BDN will bring you the best coverage possible from Duke’s camps this year.
You know we always save the best for last here at Football Friday, even when it’s free. Duke hosted California WR Justin Johnson on an unofficial visit today, and he had the following to say to the Blue Devil Nation:
The visit was great. I loved the campus, I love the way they have their academics set up to assit the football players. I just think it’s an all-around great school. I got a chance to check out all the facilities from the weight room to the locker room to the field and got a chance to see the new indoor practice field in the making. I met Coach Cutcliffe and I think he’s an awesome coach and I love his passion for the game. At the end I got a chance to check out the Duke annual sale and bought a lot of gear. Commitment is on my mind and may be done soon.
Needless to say, check back with BDN over the weekend for the latest from Justin on his visit and his decision. Have a great week – WE ARE DUKE!