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!
Head Coach David Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils have added their 5th verbal commitment to the class of 2012 today from the state of Colorado. Max McCaffrey informed the Duke coaching staff of his decision on Wednesday afternoon. McCaffrey is a 6’3” 190 pound wide receiver prospect from Highlands Ranch, Colorado. As a receiver and defensive back, Max helped lead Valor Christian to back-to-back 4A State Championship in his sophomore and junior seasons. The athletic junior, who also plays basketball and track, had received scholarship offers from Arizona State, Connecticut, and Wake Forest. Max is the son of former NFL WR Ed McCaffrey and the nephew of former Duke men’s basketball player Billy McCaffrey.
Check back with BDN for more on the newest Blue Devil.
In case you haven’t noticed, things tend to come in waves here at BDN Premium. With AAU coverage in full swing, we’re also entering the heat of the college football recruiting season. The Blue Devils have added another verbal commitment this week, and they’re just getting started. [private]
Class of 2012 up to 4
California LB Deion Williams joined TE Erich Schneider, DE Allen Jackson, and SAF Dwayne Norman as the first four verbal commitments in the class of 2012 this week. As a junior, Williams earned 2nd Team All-Trinity League honors, playing on both sides of the ball. Though Duke was his only offer to date, the coaching staff targeted Williams early on in the recruiting season and there’s reason to believe that they expect him to develop into a solid college player.
Back to the board
During the recent spring evaluation period, the Duke coaching staff was out in full force, scouting the country for players who will make an impact for their program. At the start of the evaluation period, Duke had extended around 50-60 offers. That number has now swelled to nearly 100, so let’s take another look at the recruiting board by position.
Let’s start with one of the positions of greatest need in 2012, after not bringing in a running back in 2011. Duke is up to 12 offers at running back, a good indication that they hope to take more than one in this class. Eleven of those prospects are still undecided, with J.C. Coleman, a Virginia Tech commit, being the lone exception. Dontonio Jordan is expected to announce his decision today, with most expecting his pick to be Kansas or Stanford. We’ve already heard from several of the remaining prospects, so we have some idea of where Duke stands with them: Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall, l’Tavius Mathers and Nick Tompkins. Interviews with some of the new names will be posted this week.
The offensive linemen are widely considered to be the strength of the class of 2011, and Duke hopes that success continues in the class of 2012. So far, Coach Luke and the staff have come up empty, losing six offensive line prospects to other schools; most recently, Patrick DeStefano to Clemson and Max Tuerk to USC. There are eleven uncommitted offensive line prospects remaining on Duke’s board, and we will focus on this position in interviews next week.
It’s no secret that Duke needs to improve on defense, and recruiting well along the defensive front would go a long way towards that cause. With an athletic defensive end prospect in Allen Jackson already on board, Duke is looking at 8 additional defensive end prospects and 12 defensive tackle prospects. Of those offered, only two have committed elsewhere: Brent Wilkerson to Penn State and Matt Godin to Michigan. Again, a lot of these prospects aren’t new to us: Torey Agee, Korren Kirven, David Reader, Jordan Watkins, and Carlos Wray.
The Blue Devils added Deion Williams to the class of 2012 this week, and will look to add at least one additional linebacker in this class. Keilin Rayner remains at the top of the list, but Jeremiah Allison is a new west coast prospect that has entered the mix. We’ll hear from him this week as well.
After losing out on Ronald Darby to Notre Dame, Duke remains focused on a group of five cornerbacks, led by Larry Hope and Albert Reid.
Duke views Erich Schneider, the first commitment of the class of 2012, as a tight end prospect, but will need to add at least one more to build depth at the position with the graduation of Cooper Helfet and Danny Parker. While they lost out on Evan Baylis to Oregon, Duke remains aggressive with a group of elite tight ends, headlined by Dan Beilinson, Justin Meredith, Kent Taylor, and Colin Thompson.
The Duke offense remains attractive to elite wide receivers, and with All-ACC receivers Donovan Varner and Conner Vernon now upperclassmen, the Blue Devils will need to reload at the position in the class of 2012. Micheal Summers is an athlete we recently heard from who could fit nicely as a slot receiver, and Duke continues to pursue Jared Crump, Justin Johnson, and Max McCaffrey.
So now you’re asking, did he really mean quarterbacks? I thought Bilal Marshall was the only one with an offer. Well, here’s your reward for reading this far. Duke has extended an offer to Georgia QB Chris Moody, another dual-threat prospect in the class of 2012. Moody has offers from other ACC programs such as Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech, along with an offer from Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks. Here’s a highlight clip for those who want to see more.
For most of you, this is a holiday weekend, and we wish you a safe and happy Memorial Day. For those of us here at BDN Premium, it will be a busy weekend, and we hope you’ll come back for the best AAU and Duke football recruiting coverage around. WE ARE DUKE.
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.