The Blue Devils are officially on a roll in the class of 2013, picking up their 4th commitment over the past two weeks in safety Jake Kite. Kite is a 6’1″ 180 pound hard-hitter out of Roanoke, Virginia. The Blue Devils beat out in-state ACC rival NC State for Jake, the son of Chris Kite, a former UVA defensive back. Duke was the first school to extend a scholarship offer and made a strong impression on a visit earlier this spring. Kite was on hand for Duke’s Spring Game this weekend, and decided to make his pledge to Coach Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils. After his junior season at Hidden Valley HS in which he totaled 149 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and 5 interceptions, Kite was named Regional Player of the Year and 1st Team All-State. He runs a 4.5 second 40-yard dash and the Blue Devils hope he’ll become a star in Coach Knowles 4-2-5 defense.
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Issac Blakeney out for 2011
Head Coach David Cutcliffe announced on Thursday that safety Issac Blakeney has been suspended from the university for failure to meet continuing academic eligibility requirements and will miss the 2011 season. “Issac is a valuable member of the Duke Football family and I look forward to him returning to full eligibility in January of 2012,” said Cutcliffe.
Obviously, this is a huge blow to the Blue Devils’ depth at safety. Those who saw Blakeney in the spring game got a glimpse of his potential in the Duke secondary. In order for the new 4-2-5 scheme to be successful, players like August Campbell, Jordon Byas, and maybe even true freshman Chris Tavarez will have to step up alongside seniors Matt Daniels and Lee Butler. BDN wishes Issac the best of luck as he gets himself back on track; we’re pulling for him.
2011 ACC Predictions
In anticipation of the ACC’s Football Kickoff, Football Friday would like to share some of our completely unqualified predictions for the 2011 ACC football season. We figured that by next Friday, you will have heard enough media predictions, but this week, you’ll read every word. Here is the most important prediction we’ll make: none of these predictions will matter by December. In fact, most will be thrown out the window by September 3. In a year where only THREE teams will return their unquestioned starting quarterback from 2010, our second prediction is that the ACC will be pure chaos in 2011. Please keep these first two predictions in mind as we prognosticate.
ACC Coastal Division
The last four ACC Champions have come from the Coastal Division, and for that reason, we start here.
Virginia Tech: the road to Charlotte still has to go through defending ACC Champion Virginia Tech, who lose ACC POY Tyrod Taylor, along with tailbacks Ryan Williams and Darren Evans. Overall, the Hokies return just 11 starters, 6 on offense and 5 on defense (including just one defensive lineman). All accounts suggest that redshirt-sophomore QB Logan Thomas and junior TB David Wilson are poised for breakout seasons for the Hokies. Head Coach Frank Beamer seems to have the annual luxury of reloading his roster, rather than rebuilding it, and the Hokies should put together another top-25 season and hold the top spot in the ACC Coastal Division.
Miami: I’m probably buying the Hurricanes a little early in their first year under Al Golden, but by all accounts, the new Head Coach knows how to recruit and knows how to win. Miami has always had talent, and with better discipline and execution, I think this will be a much improved team over recent editions. Road contests at Maryland, Virginia Tech, UNC, and Florida State will pose a significant challenge, but the Hurricanes have some of the best athletes in the conference.
Georgia Tech: I always underestimate Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jackets, so they’ll probably finish higher ( I didn’t want to break from tradition). There are several unproven new faces on offense and Al Groh’s defense needs to take a big step forward, but mostly, I think GT has one of the more favorable schedules, with their only ACC road contests at NC State, Virginia, Miami, and Duke.
North Carolina: I’m selling the 2011 Tar Heels, and I realize I have them lower than most pundits. There are too many unsettled off-field issues, a first-year starting quarterback, the loss of a bunch of NFL draft picks, and a schedule that includes road games at Georgia Tech, Clemson, NC State, and Virginia Tech. Reading between the lines, it seems that even embattled Head Coach Butch Davis has been attempting to lower expectations, calling this a “transition year” for the program.
Duke: As you can see by my underwhelming review of the Coastal Division teams in front of them, if things go right in Durham, there’s no reason Duke couldn’t end up with their highest finish in several years. Realistically, the young defensive line will have to mature ahead of schedule and the offense will have to prove it can run the ball consistently for Duke to become a serious threat in the division.
Virginia: Many will probably place UVA ahead of Duke, but I’m not sold on the 2011 Wahoos, especially given their quarterback controversy. I interpreted the reports out of Charlottesville to indicate that none of their inexperienced QBs performed well enough to earn the starting job, which is an ominous sign for a team that also loses its leading rusher. Sure, Chase Minnifield and the defense should be solid, but road tests at UNC, Miami, Maryland, and FSU will be a stiff challenge.
ACC Atlantic Division
Though the Coastal Division has produced the last four ACC Champions, the Atlantic Division Champion should challenge for an Orange Bowl berth in 2011. I’m not sure there will be significant improvement elsewhere in the division, however.
Florida State: Florida State claimed the Atlantic Division title in 2010 in Jimbo Fisher’s first season as Head Coach, and the Seminoles show no sign of slowing down. FSU will return a veteran group in all three phases in 2011 with 18 starters returning overall. Of all the ACC’s new full-time starting QBs, junior EJ Manuel has the most experience, having filled in for the injury-plagued Christian Ponder in each of the last two seasons. The expectation is that the 2011 Seminoles will be the class of the ACC, and should they win on September 17th against Oklahoma, they could vault towards the top of the national computer rankings.
Clemson: With the recruiting classes Head Coach Dabo Swinney is bringing in, they have to be better than 6-7, right? That’s pretty much my basis for placing them here. They do draw FSU at home, but are stuck with facing the two Techs from the Coastal Division, both on the road. I’ve heard good reports about new QB Tajh Boyd and new OC Chad Morris’ offense, but maybe the Clemson folks have just been drinking too much orange Gatorade.
Boston College: I really like the 2011 Eagles team and think they have the potential to make a lot of noise in the ACC, but have one of the toughest schedules. Their defense can be dominant at times and their offense should be improved if Chase Rettig can develop consistency and chemistry with his receivers. Montel Harris and Andre Williams should be one of the top tailback duos in the conference, if not the country. Division games at Clemson and a nationally-televised Thursday night home game against FSU will likely determine whether the Eagles will be serious contenders for the Atlantic division title.
NC State: new QB Mike Glennon better be good, and he better be good from his first snap. With the transfer of Russell Wilson, all eyes will be on Glennon and fans will be quick to turn on Head Coach Tom O’Brien and the Wolfpack if things don’t go swimmingly. The Wolfpack probably have one of the lightest schedules in the ACC and will also probably finish higher than I have them picked as a result, but I don’t know if Glennon can live up to expectations, and I don’t know if he knows who he’s going to throw the ball to.
Maryland: The surprise team of 2010 earned Ralph Friedgen ACC Coach of the Year honors and a pink slip. New Head Coach Randy Edsall will have a veteran team to work with, but even with ACC Freshman of the Year Danny O’Brien back under center, the offense will not be nearly as explosive with the loss of WR Torrey Smith and RB Da’Rell Scott. The Terps will face a tough ACC road schedule and the offense will experience growing pains without its top two weapons from 2010.
Wake Forest: Of all the picks, this one may be the easiest. I don’t see a ton of reason for optimism in Winston-Salem, though the Deacs will return 17 starters from last year’s squad that finished with a 1-7 ACC record (yes, the 1 win was against Duke). We say it every year, but this is a must-win game on the schedule for Duke (and every other ACC team).
ACC Champion: Florida State
ACC Player of the Year: EJ Manuel, Florida State
ACC Coach of the Year: Al Golden, Miami
Ok, now that all of that conventional stuff is out of the way, let’s look at some fun categories.
Coaches on the Hot Seat
I think there are four, at varying levels.
Butch Davis: how he still has a job is a mystery to most objective observers.
Dabo Swinney: we know he can recruit, but how long does he have to prove he can coach?
Jim Grobe: almost unthinkable just a few years ago, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of optimism in Winston-Salem these days and another finish in the cellar would have to put him on shaky ground.
Tom O’Brien: he must enjoy working without job security in Raleigh. After winning support with an impressive 2010 season, the questionable handling of the Russell Wilson situation has placed the Wolfpack Head Coach back under scrutiny.
ACC Game of the Year
October 8, Miami at Virginia Tech
ACC Bust of the Year
I think this is a neck and neck race with the UNC and NC State quarterbacks. I’m not suggesting they’re not ultimately going to be good players, but there’s a ton of pressure on them in their first season as starters. Bryn Renner at least has a good group of receivers returning, so I’ll say that Glennon will struggle to live up to the unrealistic expectations placed on him by Russell Wilson’s departure.
ACC Surprise of the Year
Maybe I’m a year or two ahead of myself here, but I really think Al Golden is going to put the Miami Hurricanes back on the map. He’ll have to figure out his quarterback situation, but he’s got an All-ACC caliber running back in Lamar Miller and a ton of high-level athletes across the depth chart. I think the rest of the conference has forgotten just how good “The U” can be.
ACC Upset of the Year
For the sake of the conference, let’s all hope that we don’t see another FCS team upset an ACC opponent as we have in recent years. But within the conference, let’s say that the Blue Devils travel to Chapel Hill on November 26 with a 5-6 record. The Tar Heels have been mired in controversy all season and the public outcry against Head Coach Butch Davis continues to mount. Behind huge performances from seniors Donovan Varner and Cooper Helfet, the Blue Devils emerge with the Victory Bell and secure bowl eligibility for the first time since the 1994 season.
Hey, I figured I’d end on that note to leave you feeling good about the upcoming season. With regards to all these predictions, as they say, that’s why they play the games. BDN will have full coverage from next week’s ACC Football Kickoff in Pinehurst and of course, we’ll follow the Blue Devils all season long. WE ARE DUKE.
With the impending graduation of Cooper Helfet and Danny Parker, Duke is looking to reload at the tight end position in the class of 2012. On Saturday, the Blue Devils did that, securing a commitment from top in-state TE Dan Beilinson. Beilinson is a 6’5” 220 pound prospect from Panther Creek HS in Cary. As a junior, Beilinson caught 37 passes for over 500 yards, helping Panther Creek to a conference title and the state regional playoffs. His performance earned him 1st Team Tri-Nine All-Conference, among many other accolades. Highlights from Dan’s junior year can be viewed here. Beilinson chose the Blue Devils over offers from NC State, Wake Forest, Miami, Vanderbilt, Arizona State, Indiana, and ECU. Along with another verbal commitment, Erich Schneider, Beilinson has helped Duke successfully reload at tight end in 2012.
Welcome to Duke, Dan!
BDN caught up with Dan shortly after his commitment on Saturday.
BDN: How did you come to your decision to commit to Duke today?
Ok, yeah I guess I just decided to commit today, it was just kind of a gut feeling. I asked myself where I wanted to go and I said Duke and it just felt right.
BDN: How did you let the coaches know and what did they have to say to you?
I gave Coach Cutcliffe and Coach Middleton a phone call and they were both really excited, and I’m really excited right now as well and hopefully we’ll have a good time working together.
BDN: Now that you’ve got your decision out of the way, what are your plans for the rest of your summer?
I don’t really have any plans, just going to go to school workouts and focus on my senior year now.
BDN: Well best of luck with your senior year and I know Duke fans are excited to have you part of the Blue Devil family. Thanks a lot and congratulations on your commitment.
With the impending graduation of Cooper Helfet and Danny Parker, Duke will be looking to reload at the tight end position in the class of 2012. After an early verbal commitment from Florida prospect Erich Schneider, the Blue Devils have remained focused on a local prospect to fill their remaining spot at tight end. Dan Beilinson is a 6’5” 220 pound tight end from Cary, North Carolina. As a junior, Beilinson caught 37 passes for over 500 yards, helping Panther Creek HS to a conference title and the state regional playoffs. One of the top tight end prospects in the state, his performance earned him 1st Team Tri-Nine All-Conference, among many other accolades. Highlights from Dan’s junior year can be viewed here. With eight scholarship offers in hand and interest from several other schools, Beilinson has narrowed his college choices to three finalists. [private]
BDN: Where are you in your recruiting process?
I’d say I’ve basically narrowed the schools down basically to NC State, Duke, and Wake Forest, and I’m just trying to figure out which of those schools is the best fit for me. I’m not really looking at this point for anything else, I’m just trying to decide between those three schools.
BDN: Have you had a chance to visit your finalists recently?
Yes, last weekend I actually visited all three of them.
BDN: You’ve obviously had a chance to visit these schools a few times now; what are the specific things you have been evaluating on your more recent visits?
I’m just trying to see the best relationship with a coach that I can establish, how they coach and how that relates to me. Just try to see what they’re doing and just try to evaluate based on that.
BDN: It sounds like the relationship you are developing with the coaches is important; which coaches are you closest with?
At NC State, Coach Archer would be the recruiter for my area so I’ve got to know him pretty well. And then the former tight end coach, Coach Bridge, I know him very well and I’m establishing with the new tight end coach, Coach Horton, so I’m developing a relationship there. At Duke, mainly I know Coach Middleton and Coach Cutcliffe very well, and some of the other coaches I’ve established contact with. And then at Wake Forest, Coach Russ and Coach Tereshinski have been the two main people that I’ve talked to.
BDN: What stood out to you about each of your three finalists?
They’re all very good educational schools. If I choose to got to [NC] State or Duke, I’d probably do engineering and then if I go to Wake Forest, I’d probably do more of a science field. So in all aspects the education is really good and that’s really appealing to me. And then in football, all the programs are either rising or already good, so that adds more to the effect.
BDN: When do you expect to make your final decision?
I hope, in my head it just kind of happens, but it could be soon, or it could go past the season, I really don’t know, but it might be soon, I’m not sure.
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.
Led by elite running back Todd Gurley, Tarboro High School successfully defended their 2009 State Championship and finished 16-0 in 2010. Gurley, a 6’1” 195 pound athlete, finished the season with 30 touchdowns and was named to the 2A All-State team. Highlights of his junior year can be viewed here. Duke is looking to add an elite running back in the class of 2012 and was the first school to offer Gurley a scholarship. BDN last spoke with Todd early this spring as he was planning his spring visits. After his spring visits, [private] it sounds like Todd is still focused on in-state schools.
BDN: Which schools have you had a chance to visit this spring and how have your visits been going?
I’ve been to all three in-state schools. Spring games, I went to Duke, UNC, and NC State yesterday. I’ve visited NC State the most this spring, but I’ve been to every school.
BDN: What have you been looking for on your visits to the three in-state schools? Have you learned anything new at the spring practices or games?
Just, you know, the offensive system that they run, their coaches, and just the fan base, the support – what I would be playing in front of if I was playing for them.
BDN: Are there any new schools that you have been hearing from?
Just Auburn, and I’m considering and getting interest from Clemson, Tennessee, and South Carolina, so I’m looking into those schools.
BDN: Where are you in your process right now? Do you have an idea for when you want to make a decision?
Probably not anytime soon, but just to get the feel for the coach and then the running back coach, because that’s the position that I want to play. Just keep developing the relationship and whichever place that I feel the best and feel comfortable with the coach or the coaches and if I like the environment and the city, but no time soon that I’ll be making a decision.
BDN: You mentioned the relationship being important. Which coaches do you have the best relationship with so far?
I probably would say, just like the coach from UNC, the running back coach, because he’s the coach that recruits me – Coach Browning, so I just have a real good relationship with him, probably the best relationship with him. Then I talk to Duke a lot, I have a good relationship with their coaches, I just like their whole coaching staff overall. And then NC State, I like their coaches, but I just have to get to know them more.
BDN: What are your plans for your spring and summer?
I’m in track right now, and just working in the weight room right now. Just trying to get to the North Carolina, South Carolina game, Shrine Bowl combine. Maybe go to a school that hasn’t offered me yet, like Florida, just go down there and see if they’re interested in me. Also the Under Armour Combine to try and get into the Under Armour All American game. And then there’s a Nike Combine that has sent me an invitation so I’ll go there.
BDN: Thanks a lot, Todd, and we look forward to hearing from you again soon.