Tag Archives: North Carolina

Duke would love to add top pass-rusher Jaylen Miller to their class of 2013

Gaffney DE Jaylen Miller plans to hit the road this summer

Duke would love to add top pass-rusher Jaylen Miller to their class of 2013

Duke is looking to build their defensive line on the recruiting trail, and have targeted a number of top prospects across the country. One of the first prospects to receive a scholarship offer from the Blue Devils is DE Jaylen Miller, a 6’2″ 263 pound prospect from Gaffney, South Carolina. One of the top pass-rushers in the class of 2013, Miller is attracting interest from a number of ACC and SEC schools, and plans to hit the road hard this summer to evaluate his many suitors. BDN caught up with Jaylen earlier this week to get an update on his offseason and his recruitment. [private]

BDN: How would you describe your strengths as a player?

I would say some of my strengths are pass-rushing. My pass-rushing has to be the best strength that I do have, and my quickness.

BDN: What are you working on this offseason as you prepare for your senior year?

For my senior year, I’ve got to work on my motor. I’ve got to stay 100% every play, that’s a problem that I’ve been having. I can’t take any plays off. My senior year, I want to have no regrets. My senior year, I want to be able to say I left it all out on the field.

BDN: As you approach your college decision, what are the most important things you are looking for in a school?

The most important thing I would say is the feeling I get. I mean, the education and everything, the football program, but the feeling I get, the atmosphere about the school. That’s somewhere I’ve got to spend four years of my life, in college, so I’ve got to be comfortable going there for four years, so the feeling that I get when I go to the school, the campus, the people, and everything around it, that will play a major role in it.

BDN: Where do you stand with offers and interest from schools now?

I’ve been in contact with plenty of schools, but I’ve got offers from Wake Forest, Duke, North Carolina, and I got one from Florida just yesterday. I think some schools locally around here have offered me, I have one from Alabama State, I have one from Wofford and Furman.

BDN: Which schools are you planning to visit this spring or summer?

This summer I’m going to visit as many schools as possible, just to make sure I get the right idea about the school. That’s basically my plan for the summer, to make sure I get the right idea about the school. I don’t want to misjudge a school or anything like that. I’m going to try and get to some camps also this summer.

BDN: It’s still early in the process, but are there any schools that have stood out to you at this point, either on a visit or your relationship with the coaching staff?

I’ve been to Clemson a few times, like Junior Day. I went to South Carolina’s Junior Day and North Carolina’s Junior Day. I know most of the coaches pretty well, except for [South] Carolina, I don’t know their coaches very well. As far as Clemson, I know the coaches very well and North Carolina, I know the coaches pretty well.

BDN: Do you have a timeline in mind for when you plan to narrow things down or make your final decision?

Right after the end of my senior football season, I don’t know if I’m going to narrow it down then, or what. It all depends on who offers and the feeling that I get. They say you’ll know what school is best for you when the time comes.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Jaylen, and best of luck.

Okay, I appreciate it.

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Here's to you, Cameron Crazies!

Football Friday enters fashionably late

Here's to you, Cameron Crazies!

Football Friday comes to you fashionably late this week, and in abbreviated form so that you can get in line for Harry Potter early. Has anyone camped out for three months for seats to Harry Potter? I didn’t think so. That takes real dedication. Here’s to you, Cameron Crazies – and here’s hoping to see all of you in Wallace Wade Stadium this fall.

Duke WR Clarkston Hines will be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame Saturday

Clarkston Hines HOF 2011

Congratulations to Duke alumnus Clarkston Hines, who will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Indiana. The ceremonies will kick off at 9:30 AM and conclude with a dinner and ceremony at 7:30 PM. The “Frequent Flyer” holds Duke records in receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, and 100-yard receiving games. He also holds ACC records in touchdown receptions and 100-yard receiving games. The 1989 ACC Player of the Year, Hines led the Blue Devils to a share of the ACC Championship and was named a first team All-American.

To put some of Hines’ accomplishments in perspective, consider how his career compares to current Duke stars Donovan Varner and Conner Vernon.

Clarkston Hines (1986-1989): 189 receptions, 3319 yards, 38 touchdowns, 17 100-yard receiving games

Donovan Varner (2008-2010): 146 receptions, 1947 yards, 10 touchdowns, 7 100-yard receiving games

Conner Vernon (2009-2010): 128 receptions, 1719 yards, 7 touchdowns, 7 100-yard receiving games

While Varner and Vernon may have a chance to approach Hines’ reception total, they would have to put up some impressive seasons to approach his yardage, touchdown, or 100-yard game records. It’s clear that Hines is more than deserving of his enshrinement. Congratulations!

Duke QB Sean Renfree was named to the Davey O'Brien Award Watch List Friday

More preseason accolades

It wasn’t that long ago when Duke was being shut out of most national preseason Award Watch Lists. Well, the times, they are a’changin. This year, it might be hard for you to keep track, so let us recap for you:

SAF Matt Daniels: Athlon Sports 3rd Team All-ACC

TE Cooper Helfet: Mackey Award Watch List, CFPA TE Watch List, Athlon Sports 3rd Team All-ACC, Lindy’s Sports 2nd Team All-ACC

OT Kyle Hill: Athlon Sports 3rd Team All-ACC

C Brian Moore: Rimington Trophy Watch List

QB Sean Renfree: Davey O’Brien Award Watch List, CFPA QB Watch List, Athlon Sports 3rd Team All-ACC, Lindy’s Sports ACC “Strongest Arm”

K Will Snyderwine: Groza Award Watch List, CFPA K Watch List, Athlon Sports 1st Team All-ACC, Lindy’s Sports 1st Team All-ACC, Sporting News 2nd Team All-American, Sporting News 1st Team All-ACC

WR Donovan Varner: Biletnikoff Award Watch List, Athlon Sports 3rd Team All-ACC

WR Conner Vernon: Biletnikoff Award Watch List, CFPA WR Watch List, Athlon Sports 1st Team All-ACC, Lindy’s Sports 1st Team All-ACC, Sporting News 1st Team All-ACC, Sporting News ACC “Best Hands”

Got it now? There’s going to be a quiz at the end. Congratulations to the Blue Devils for their well-deserved recognition, but we know that it’s the post-season awards that they’re working to earn.

The Dondo Files

Speaking of Donovan Varner, don’t miss episode three of The Dondo Files. “Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records.” – William Arthur Ward

Duke hosts Heisman favorite Andrew Luck and Stanford in week 2

2011 Opponent Previews

In case you missed them, be sure to check out our previews of Richmond and Stanford. They’re great reads and we are fortunate to have had the help of David Weissman and Hank Waddles to give us an inside look at Duke’s first two opponents. As you might expect, we’ll have a preview of Boston College, as well as Florida International, up this week, so be sure to check them out and spread the word that BDN has the best Duke Football coverage year-round.

2011 Bowl Games

Make no mistake, the goal for the Duke program is to play in Charlotte in December and the Orange Bowl in January. However, a lot will have to go right for that to happen, with maybe even some help from Harry Potter and friends. Coming off a 3-win 2010 in which the Duke defense struggled mightily and the offense was inconsistent, it might be more realistic to look at some other potential bowl destinations for the Blue Devils. If Duke is able to put together 6 wins or better in 2011, where might they end up playing in December or January?

The three best fits for Duke, at least geographically and a potential high-profile opponent, would be the Belk Bowl, the Music City Bowl, or the Military Bowl. The 2011 Belk Bowl will be held down I-85 in Charlotte on December 27th, and feature the #5 ACC team against a Big East opponent. The 2011 Music City Bowl will be held down I-40 in Nashville on December 7th, pitting the #6 ACC bowl team against an SEC opponent (with a sweet $3.675MM payout). If the Blue Devils were to be selected for the Military Bowl, they would likely face a familiar opponent in Navy on December 28th in Washington, DC.

The ACC also has a conditional agreement with the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, which will be played on New Year’s Eve in San Francisco, but let’s hope we won’t have to travel that far. Another option would be the Independence Bowl on December 26th against a MWC team in Shreveport, Louisiana. Of course, Duke fans would welcome the opportunity to travel to any of these games to support the Blue Devils, so you may want to start saving up those frequent flyer miles and hotel points for December!

Mallard Creek's Jela Duncan could be an impact player in Durham

Class of 2012 holds steady

Wow, we made it through an entire week without a Duke football commitment. It’s been awhile since we could say that. Duke has 13 solid verbal commitments in the class of 2012 and will hold their final few scholarships for potential impact players at RB, DL, LB, and WR. We’ve discussed the targets at length in previous weeks and on our Premium Message Board, but just to recap:

RB: Todd Gurley confirmed to BDN this week that he has dropped Duke from the schools he is considering. I gave my reaction to this news earlier this week on the message boards, but to summarize, Gurley is a tremendous talent, but may not have been the best fit at Duke University. Mallard Creek’s Jela Duncan, who posted a sub-4.3 40 time in Durham earlier this summer and boasts a 3.5 GPA, would certainly look good in Duke blue.

LB: We heard from Marcus Allen earlier this week, another great athlete out of the state of Florida. His recruitment will be competitive, but he’s exactly the type of student-athlete that could thrive in Durham. Keilin Rayner is a player who has been high on the Blue Devils throughout the process and with his interest in Sports Medicine, would be another great fit at Duke.

DL: The targets at this position have changed significantly in the past week, as the Virginia schools have locked up several verbal commitments. Woody Baron and Nigel Williams committed to Virginia Tech, giving the Hokies five defensive linemen in the class of 2012. Virginia added Courtnye Wynn, their third defensive line commitment in this class (they brought in seven DLs in the class of 2010). With a logjam on the defensive lines at UVA and VPI, could that help the Blue Devils with their recruitment of DT Korren Kirven? It certainly can’t hurt, but Duke will have to battle things out with over a dozen other top programs for the elite Lynchburg lineman. Outside of Kirven, Duke is still recruiting Torey Agee out of Alabama and in-state standout David Reader. Agee is on a visit to Vanderbilt this weekend, and Reader has recently decided to pursue both football and baseball at the collegiate level. At 6’3” and 300+ pounds with a 95 MPH fastball, Reader could certainly help the Blue Devils on the gridiron and the diamond.

WR: The Blue Devils are hoping to add a new element to their receiving corps with one more commitment in the class of 2012, and that could come in the form of elite Tennessee prospect Drae Bowles, or the lengthy Anthony Nash out of Pennsylvania.

ACC following in the SEC’s footsteps?

Except without the national championships. With the NCAA having investigated North Carolina and Georgia Tech for violations in their football programs, the ACC appears to be trending down a slippery slope. Fortunately, the majority of ACC programs continue to do things the right way, and Duke remains one of them. The Duke coaching staff, along with a top-notch compliance department, are sure to keep the program on track. With regards to Georgia Tech, though the NCAA noted a lack of cooperation with their investigation, the penalties ultimately should not have a great affect on the program. A fine, vacating wins, and probation hardly hurt the program where it counts going forward. In my opinion, the only NCAA penalties that have any noticeable effect involve the loss of scholarships or post-season participation. With many more violations having occurred in Chapel Hill, we’ll have to see if the NCAA chooses to enforce more significant penalties.

Tweet, tweet

They say this internet is going to be a big deal. You can keep up with all things Duke Football through us here at BDN, of course, or you can follow Duke Football on Twitter. We’re also on Facebook, as is Duke Football. Of course, the best way to stay informed about all things Duke athletics is to join BDN Premium. And if you need an invite to this new Google+ thing, shoot me an email.

We’re gaining steam now

We’ve been saying that football season is fast approaching for awhile now, and some of that might just be wishful thinking. Come next week, however, and it can no longer be denied. The ACC will host its Football Kickoff in Pinehurst on July 24-25, and the Blue Devils will be represented by Head Coach David Cutcliffe, along with QB Sean Renfree and SAF Matt Daniels. Just two weeks after the ACC Football Kickoff, the Blue Devils will take the field for fall training camp. As always, you can rely on BDN to have the best coverage of all things Duke Football. After all, WE ARE DUKE.

Valor Christian's Alex Kozan is one of the top OL prospects in the class of 2012

Valor Christian OL Alex Kozan has a plan

Valor Christian's Alex Kozan is one of the top OL prospects in the class of 2012

In their three-plus years in Durham, Head Coach David Cutcliffe and Offensive Line Coach Matt Luke have built the Duke offensive line into what is expected to be a position of strength in 2011. The past two recruiting classes have brought in a very good group of young offensive linemen, and the Blue Devils hope to continue that trend with the class of 2012. Alex Kozan, a 6’4” 295 pound prospect from Valor Christian in Colorado, is one of the most highly recruited offensive linemen in the country, and the Blue Devils are among the long list of schools he is considering.

BDN: Can you start off by describing your strengths for fans who haven’t had a chance to see you play?

As a player, I’m smart, I never forget my assignments, I’ve got good quick feet that allows me to stay in good position. Explosiveness off the ball, hand contact, hip movement, that kind of stuff, that’d be my strength.

BDN: What are some of the things you have been working on this spring?

Pretty much everything, you know, you just work on technique, you’ve always got to work on technique when you’ve been off the game for six months, so you just work on pass technique, run technique, that kind of stuff.

BDN: Coming off back-to-back state championships, is a three-peat your goal for your senior year?

Definitely, you know we’ve got a strong senior class, we’ve got probably 25 seniors this year. A lot of us have been with the program since our freshman year, our first varsity year when we went 4-6 that year and then won two back-to-back championships, so we’re just trying to get it done for a three-peat this year.

BDN: As you look at your college decision, what are the most important factors you are looking for in a school?

Five things. Number one, business program, that’s going to be my major in college, so a good business program. Number two would be coaching staff that I get along with and is going to develop me as a player, send guys to the NFL and send guys to be All-Conference players. Number three is going to be the strength and conditioning program of the team, does it have a good strength and conditioning program? Will they develop me physically, get me bigger, faster, stronger? Number four is whether it’s a place where I can compete, both as a player to start earlier and where I can compete as a team for conference championships, BCS bowl games and national titles. Number five is that I have a strong faith in God, so a place where I can grow that faith and they’re going to be supportive of that.

BDN: What schools have you been in contact with the most?

On the East Coast, for your region, I’d say North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest, South Carolina, would kind of be in that area. Up more Northeast would be Pitt, Syracuse and Connecticut.

BDN: Have any schools stopped by your practices this spring?

We’ve had Syracuse, UConn, I don’t think Duke came out, Wake came out, North Carolina is supposed to come out, I don’t know if they’re still coming. Those are the schools that have come out from the East Coast.

BDN: Do you have any visits planned for this spring or summer?

I’m still looking at it. I’m going to narrow it down to 7 or 5 by July or August and I’m going to try to visit as many of those schools as I can unofficially, and then a couple of them on official visits if they’re farther away, like schools on the East Coast, to get a better feel for the program.

BDN: It sounds like you have a good idea for when you want to narrow things down; do you have an idea for when you would like to make your final decision?

I want to take a couple officials, so I’d probably say October.

BDN: Is there anything else you think is important for college football fans to know about you?

You know, just off the field, I’m going to be a great person, a strong character for the team, I’m going to help the team off the field, I’m not a guy who will get in trouble or anything like that. On the field, I’ll give 110% and people will see that in my game.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Alex, and best of luck to you.

Alright, thanks.

 

Duke has offered top Miami CB Larry Hope

Miami CB Larry Hope plans to visit all schools that have offered this summer

Duke has offered top Miami CB Larry Hope

While Duke worked hard to improve their defense on the field this spring, the coaching staff is also working hard to upgrade the defense with a talented group of prospects in the class of 2012. The Duke staff has targeted an elite group of defensive backs who already have received verbal scholarship offers from the Blue Devils, among several other top programs. The Blue Devils added a quality cornerback from Florida in the class of 2011 in Tim Burton, and hope to do the same in the class of 2012. One of the most recent prospects to pick up a verbal scholarship offer is Larry Hope, a 5’11” 167 pound prospect from Miami, Florida.

BDN: Can you start off by describing your strengths for fans who haven’t had a chance to see you play?

Well, I think, college coaches say they like about me is that I’m the best man-to-man coverage player that they’ve seen. I’m good for my height, I’m a very big player, strong and physical, and very fast. When it comes down to shutting down a receiver, I think I’m the guy. But I like my actions to speak for themselves.

BDN: What are some of the things you have been working on this offseason?

I’m working on getting stronger. I’m in the weight room every single day, even on weekdays, weekends I’m outside trying to get faster. We’re trying to get faster and stronger.

BDN: What are some of your goals for yourself and your team in your senior season?

As a team, I want to come together and bond so we can have a better year than last year and hopefully make it to the playoffs. Me, I just want to do what I’ve been doing, come out there and play my role as I’ve been doing.

BDN: As you look at your college decision, what are the most important factors you are looking for in a school?

I’m looking for a family bond and someone that can help me become a better player for the next level, because that’s what everybody wants to do. But I’m looking for a family bond, someone that’s like a father figure at college, and most of the colleges that I’ve been talking to that have offered me, has been that. They call me, I call them, and we talk on a daily basis, get that family bond. They mostly are defensive back coaches, and mostly played DB at the next level, so that’s what I’m looking for.

BDN: Which schools have you in contact with the most, and which schools have extended verbal offers?

I have seven offers from Wisconsin, Buffalo, Nebraska, USF, Louisville, Duke, and Kansas. West Virginia and Miami, Florida State, and Florida, they all want to come to my spring practice – Ole Miss and North Carolina are all coming to my spring practice, sometime around the first of May or the first week in May.

BDN: Have you had a chance to take any visits this spring?

In the summer I plan on visiting all the colleges that have offered me. When it comes to visits, so far I’ve visited Miami, Florida State, and Florida, and USF and UCF, and that’s it.

BDN: Have any schools impressed you or surprised you at this point in the process, either on your visits or your contact with coaches?

Well, no, all the colleges that have offered me are trying to impress me, so not yet.

BDN: Do you have an idea for how or when you would like to narrow your list of schools down and ultimately make a decision?

Me and my dad are weighing my options and just sitting back and relaxing. We’re trying to gain that bond, if I feel like I’m comfortable with a school, there’s no time limit on when I’ll decide.

BDN: Is there anything else you think is important for college football fans to know about you?

I feel like I’m more loyal to football now. Everything revolves around football and I’m working harder than I’ve ever been working, and I like what I’ve been seeing and I’m going to keep putting more into my craft.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Larry, and best of luck to you.

Alright, thanks a lot.

 

Duke safety Matt Daniels is poised for an All-ACC senior season

BDN’s Football Friday!

It’s Friday afternoon, which can only mean one thing – Football Friday! This week, we take a look at Duke’s 2011 ACC opponents spring practices along with some recruiting updates. [private]

It’s a long one this week, so I won’t distract you with any witty opening filler. Let’s get right to it.

Matt Daniels named to Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List

Duke DB Matt Daniels strikes a pose for BDN Photo

That’s a mouthful of an accomplishment. Interestingly, there were 11 candidates from the ACC, more than any other conference. Daniels is a player that I’ve enjoyed watching develop over his four years in Durham, and I always feel like he has another level we still haven’t seen. Hopefully, this will be the year that he reaches that level and helps to turn around the Duke defensive unit. As one of the most versatile players on defense, his playmaking ability will be key to the Blue Devils’ success in 2011.

Scouting the ACC spring practices

With lots of transitions occurring on the sidelines and under center around the ACC this year, it may be a good opportunity for the Blue Devils to pull off a few upsets. Several teams will wrap up their 2011 spring practice this weekend with their spring games, so be sure to tune in to the ESPN family of networks to scout out some of Duke’s 2011 opponents (ESPN – you can email me for the address to mail my endorsement check). So sit back and enjoy a cold one while we take a whirlwind tour around the ACC. Oh wait, you’re still at work, so grab a cup of coffee instead? Anyway, here are some of the headlines from Duke’s 2011 ACC opponents this spring:

Boston College: the Eagles will be Duke’s first ACC opponent this fall, which may be a good thing for the Blue Devils. BC will return nearly all of their offensive starters, who will be operating under a new coordinator in Kevin Rogers. The emphasis so far this spring appears to be on the passing game, which has been inconsistent so far this spring. In the first scrimmage of the spring, Chase Rettig was on the same page with his receivers, and the BC offense finished with 5 touchdowns. In their second scrimmage, however, the defense had their way with the new offense, finishing with 4 interceptions and 4 sacks. BC will be a tough opponent, as we saw last year in Wallace Wade Stadium, mostly due to Montel Harris on the ground, and Luke Kuechly on defense. If Rettig and his receivers can develop consistency, BC will be a dangerous team for the entire ACC.

Florida State: most expect the Seminoles to be at the top of the ACC in 2011, and you can see for yourself on Saturday at 4PM on ESPN3. This team will go as far as QB E.J. Manuel can take them, and the indications this spring are pretty good. Manuel is the athletic signal-caller that has given the Blue Devils trouble in recent years. Perhaps the biggest question for the Seminoles will be their offensive line, where they will have to replace 2 starters and had 4 players out for spring practice. Overall, the Seminoles lost only 3 starters each on offense and defense, and the expectations are high in Tallahassee.

Wake Forest: the Deacs’ will hold their spring game on Saturday at 1 PM. After a disappointing 2010, Wake Forest loses 8 starters. Tanner Price is the unquestioned starter on offense and will be backed up by Ted Stachitas. Both players gave the Blue Devils trouble last year in a  54-48 loss in Winston-Salem. Much like the Blue Devils, the Deacs struggled mightily on defense last year, and Coach Jim Grobe has been pleased with the defensive intensity this spring. The running game will be led by Josh Harris and Brandon Pendergrass, but questions remain in the kicking game for Wake Forest. The expectation is for this team to be improved from a season ago, but in order for that to happen, they will have to show more consistency this fall than they have this spring.

Virginia Tech: the Hokies lose perhaps the most of any Duke opponent in 2011, but in Blacksburg, they reload, not rebuild. The defending ACC champs lose QB Tyrod Taylor along with RB Ryan Williams and RB Darren Evans to the NFL, leaving the Hokies’ offense in the hands of redshirt-sophomore Logan Thomas and junior tailback David Wilson. There have been rave reviews this spring for Wilson (even though he’s missed several practices due to track), who is working under first year running back coach Shane Beamer (yes, Frank’s son), after long-time assistant Billy Hite retired. The VT defense also has questions as they replace 5 starters from 2010, but the Blue Devils will have to keep the ball away from returning CB Jayron Hosley, who led the country with 9 interceptions and 17 defended passes in 2010.

Miami: lots of changes in Coral Gables this spring under new head coach Al Golden. The Hurricanes will hold their spring game on Saturday at 3 PM, and questions still remain heading into the fall. The coaching staff has been openly disappointed in the intensity and conditioning of many of the Miami players this spring, and Golden has left the depth chart up for grabs this spring. That includes quarterback, where Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris are battling for the starting job, though Spencer Whippel was the starter heading into the spring. We’ll get to see lots more from the Hurricanes, as they’ve struck a deal with ESPNU to air a series of All-Access shows this spring.

Virginia: the Wahoos wrapped up spring practice last week with nearly as many questions as answers. It’s a complete toss-up at quarterback, where the updated depth chart lists Michael Rocco and Ross Matheney in the “first group” and Michael Strauss and David Watford in the “second group.” In short, no one has established themselves as the leader of this offense this spring, and that has to be a concern for a team that loses 19 lettermen, including 5 starters. After a shootout in Wallace Wade Stadium last year, the Blue Devils will be glad to hear that QB Marc Verica and RB Keith Payne are among the starters lost. The Cavaliers’ defense should be improved from a year ago as they enter their second year in the 4-3 scheme, and will be anchored in the secondary by CB Chase Minnifield, who finished 2010 with 6 interceptions. Offensively, it’s tough to evaluate a team with 4 inexperienced potential starters at QB.

Georgia Tech: the Yellow Jackets are yet another ACC team who will be breaking in a new QB in 2011, as Tevin Washington takes over for Josh Nesbitt. The Blue Devils saw plenty of Washington in 2010 in their 30-20 loss in Atlanta. This spring, head coach Paul Johnson has been disappointed in the play of his offensive line, which returns three starters from a year ago. In addition to Nesbitt, the Jackets’ triple-option offense will have to replace Anthony Allen at B-back, but return Roddy Jones and Orwin Smith at A-back. Defensively, GT will have to replace 6 starters, but they do return all 3 starters up front in Al Groh’s 3-4 scheme. The front three will have to be the strength of this defense, and it has impressed the coaching staff this spring.

North Carolina: if you thought Bieber fever was annoying, wait until you meet the Tar Heels with Renner fever. Bryn Renner inherits the starting job at quarterback, and impressed the Tar Heel faithful with a 9/13, 123 yard performance in their spring game. The highlight was a 43-yard pass to Erik Highsmith, something UNC saw far less often during the T.J. Yates era. After a tumultuous 2010 and an ongoing NCAA investigation, the Tar Heels will have several new faces on both sides of the ball in 2011. Five starters depart on both offense and defense, which means that the few returning starters, such as senior DE Quinton Coples and senior TB Ryan Houston will have to shoulder (no pun intended) much of the load on defense and offense, respectively. Despite suffering a broken scapula in the spring game, head coach Butch Davis expects Houston to be an every-down back for the Tar Heels this fall.

 

Spring evaluation period starts today

Ok, I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted after that tour of the ACC. That took some serious work, and I didn’t even talk about NC State, Clemson, or Maryland. Anyway, recruiting gets back into full gear today, as the spring evaluation period opens up. So what does that actually mean? The Duke staff has 168 evaluation days to use between now and May 31. An evaluation day is a day spent in evaluation of a prospect’s athletic and/or academic ability. The staff is limited to 1 athletic evaluation and 1 academic evaluation per prospect during this time. So whom will the staff be visiting? Let’s take a look at the offers out there by position.

Bilal Marshall is the first 2012 QB with a Duke offer

Quarterbacks: we’ll start with the glamour position, and one that Duke has built into a strength for 2011 with Sean Renfree, Brandon Connette, and Anthony Boone. Miami’s Bilal Marshall remains the only quarterback prospect with a Duke offer, and we’ll check back in with him soon to get an update on his recruitment. There are 19 other QBs on the board, highlighted by names like Bart Houston, Casey Cochran, and Matt Johnson.

Running backs: Duke remains committed to taking at least one or two running backs in the class of 2012, and they’ve extended 7 offers with 17 other prospects under evaluation. Keith Marshall is at the top of every school’s list, but he’s joined by Todd Gurley, Dami Ayoola, Dondre Brown, Dontonio Jordan, Jay Jay McCullough, and Nick Tompkins as prospects with verbal offers.

Wide receivers: with Donovan Varner and Conner Vernon now upperclassmen, the Blue Devils will look to reload at receiver in the class of 2012. Seven receivers have verbal offers, which include Nelson Agholor, Jared Crump, Desmond Frye, P.J. Harris, Justin Johnson, Max McCaffrey, and Darius Powe. Twelve other receivers are on the Blue Devils’ list of 2012 prospects.

Tight ends: the Blue Devils’ got on the board early with a commitment from Erich Schneider, but remain in pursuit of top TEs Dan Beilinson, Kent Taylor, and Evan Baylis.

Linemen: as would be expected, linemen make up the majority of verbal scholarship offers to date. On the offensive line, Duke is looking to add a few top prospects and has extended 11 offers to players like Patrick DeStefano, Mark Harrell, D.J. Humphries, Andrew Jelks, Eric Olson, and Max Tuerk. The emphasis, however, is the defensive line, where Duke has extended 17 verbal offers to players like Allen Jackson (committed), Korren Kirven, D.J. Reader, Jordan Watkins, and Carlos Wray. In addition to the prospects with offers, Duke has over 40 other linemen on their recruiting board.

Linebackers: Duke is going hard after two linebackers in particular early in Keilin Rayner and Deion Williams. There are several others under evaluation, but the Blue Devils remain in good shape with those two players.

Secondary: the defensive secondary is another position of emphasis in the class of 2012, and the Blue Devils have extended offers to 13 prospects at cornerback and safety. In addition to players like Michael Summers, Albert Reid, Ron Geohaghan, and Dwayne Norman, the staff is evaluating another 15 prospects.

We’ll be back

Lots of recruiting coverage coming this week as the staff hits the recruiting trail and we tag along for the ride. No idea what we’ll talk about next week, so you’ll just have to come back to find out. As always, feel free to join in the discussion on our message board if you need a football fix before next Friday. WE ARE DUKE.

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ACC Tournament Preview

ACC Player of the Year Nolan Smith
The Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament has arrived once again so it is time to preview the action. Conventional wisdom indicates the ACC is having a down year but no one will be focused upon anything other than winning when the teams take to the court in Greensboro starting on Thursday afternoon, which means it will be an exciting weekend of ACC basketball.

Since the tournament expanded to include 11 teams in 2005 and then 12 teams in 2006, the #1 seed has won four times and the #3 seed has won twice. All six years the tournament has been won by either Duke or North Carolina with Duke winning four times and Carolina twice. Duke won in 2009 and 2010 so they will be seeking a three-peat in 2011.

Duke will be looking to be the first #2 seed to win the tournament since expansion. Duke and Carolina could be destined to meet for a third time in the Championship Game after having split the regular season with each team winning at home. The ACC Championship Game would be the rubber match for the season series. Duke and Carolina have not faced each other in the ACC Tournament since 2003. However, there is a lot of basketball to be played before that match-up can be realized.

Carolina (1), Duke (2), Florida State (3) and Clemson (4) have earned the first round byes and will see action on Friday in the quarterfinals. History and the odds favor one of these four teams winning the championship. One of these teams can win the championship by stringing together three good games, while seeds five through 12 must win four games.

Carolina (24-6, 14-2) has all the pieces and must be considered the favorite to win their 18th ACC Championship this week. The Tar Heels enter the tournament riding a seven game winning streak and have won 12 of 13 games since suffering an embarrassing 20 point defeat at Georgia Tech on January 16. Even though Carolina has looked vulnerable at times such as during an ugly 48-46 win over Boston College, they continue to win ball games. And in the end, winning is what matters most.

Freshman Kendall Marshall has developed into the solid point guard every team needs to distribute the basketball and earned 3rd Team All ACC honors. He leads the ACC in assists averaging 5.6 per game and is second in assists to turnover ratio at 2.5. Add in 5.9 points per game and Marshall’s statistics show that he has all the tools required to be a successful point guard in the ACC.

The second piece is inside strength and Carolina has it with Tyler Zeller and John Henson. Both Carolina big men can finish on offense and rebound the ball. Zeller averages 14.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, which is number 8 and number 9 in the ACC respectively. Moreover, he leads the conference in field goal percentage at .541. Henson is third in the conference in rebounding at 9.7 per game, while contributing 11.3 points per game. Additionally, Henson is an intimidating shot blocker.

The third piece is perimeter shooting. Carolina has struggled with this aspect of the game for significant parts of the season and is viewed as a team better suited to get out in transition and finish at the rim. While they remain a strong transition team, their outside shooting has been improving. Against Duke, in the regular season finale, they went 4 for 9 on 3-point attempts. They went 6 for 12 in their previous game against Florida State. By comparison, the Tar Heels were 2 for 14 in their loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium and 2 for 12 when they lost at Georgia Tech. Outside shooting remains a concern for the Tar Heels but it is an area showing improvement.

Carolina will play the winner of the Virginia (8) vs. Miami (9) game on Friday at 12 pm.

During the early part of the season, Duke (27-4, 13-3) looked like a team destined to dominate the ACC this season. However, that all changed on December 4 at the Izod Center in NJ when freshman phenom Kyrie Irving was injured late in a game against Butler. Without the elite point guard, Duke has become a jump shooting team who looks stagnant on offense and struggles to score when the 3-point field goal is not dropping.

The Blue Devils are led by seniors Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler. Smith is the ACC Player-of-the-Year and Singler is 1st Team All ACC. Smith averaged 23.4 points and 4.94 assists per game in 16 ACC contests this season, while Singler averaged 15.8 points and 7.8 rebounds. However, Singler shot an uncharacteristic 29.2% (26/89) on 3-point field goals in ACC action. Duke needs both players playing their best if the Blue Devils are going to challenge to win their 19th ACC Championship this week.

Smith and Singler cannot carry the scoring load by themselves so it is vital for a third or fourth player to step up and provide consistent scoring for the Blue Devils. Seth Curry is the most likely candidate as he averaged 10.9 points per game in conference action. Ryan Kelly (6.8 ppg), Mason Plumlee (6.4 ppg) and Andre Dawkins (5.2 ppg) are other candidates. Dawkins is a fantastic shooter who has made 53 3-point field goals this season including eight in a game back on December 8 against Bradley. If Dawkins can reemerge as an offensive option in March, his presence will provide Duke’s offense with enormous firepower.

It will be important for Duke to control the boards to improve their opportunity to win games. Mason Plumlee is #5 in the conference with 8.7 rebounds per game. Looking at ACC games only, Mason Plumlee pulled down rebounds at a rate of 9.7 per game. Kyle Singler is Duke’s second best with 7.8 rebounds per game in conference action, while Miles Plumlee contributes 4.9 per game. The Blue Devils need to limit their opponents second chance opportunities while simultaneously capitalizing on offensive rebounds. Strong games on the glass from Mason and Miles Plumlee could be vital to the Blue Devils achieving success in March and April.

Duke will play the winner of the Maryland (7) vs. NC State (10) game on Friday at 7 pm.

Florida State (21-9, 11-5) is another team which was bitten by the injury bug this season. The Seminoles lost leading scorer Chris Singleton in February to a broken foot. He may return to action this weekend. Early in the season, Xavier Gibson broke his hand and missed nine games. The Seminoles have size and athleticism, play physical defense and, if Singleton does return to action, have the talent to win this tournament.

Florida State is number one in the nation in field goal percentage defense and in the top 25 in blocked shots and rebounding margin. Bernard James has developed into an excellent inside presence over the course of the season averaging 2.3 blocks along with 8.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. He plays a little over 20 minutes per contest. Seven footer Jon Kreft provides inside depth by playing 10 minutes per game.

On the perimeter, Derwin Kitchen, Michael Snaer, Deividas Dulkys and Luke Loucks combine to contribute 29.5 points per game. Kitchen is the primary ball handler and averages 3.6 assists per game.

Florida State will play the winner of the Virginia Tech (6) vs. Georgia Tech (11) game on Friday at 9 pm.

First year Coach Brad Brownell has Clemson (20-10, 9-7) playing consistent basketball in March. The Tigers won three of their last four games to earn a first round bye and stay in contention for an NCAA Tournament bid. Their loss came against the Blue Devils in Durham. The Tigers play a deliberate conservative brand of basketball under Brownell, in direct contrast to the pressing high risk high reward style which was prevalent in years past.

Seniors Jerai Grant and Demontez Stitt are the leaders of this team. Grant was named to the ACC All Defensive Team, while Stitt was named 3rd Team All ACC. Talented sophomores Devin Booker and Milton Jennings along with juniors Andre Young, Tanner Smith, Bryan Narcisse and freshman Cory Stanton all average double digit minutes per game.

While Coach Brownell is in his first season at Clemson, he has post season coaching experience. He has led UNC-Wilmington and Wright State to NCAA Tournament berths.

Clemson will play the winner of the Boston College (5) vs. Wake Forest (12) game on Friday at 2 pm.

While this tournament preview will not make predictions on which teams will advance to play in Saturday’s semi-final games and Sunday’s championship, it will point out in 2010 three of the four top seeds lost on Friday, and since the league expanded in 2005, 2008 is the only year all four top seeds have advanced to the semi-finals. So when you kick back with your beverage of choice and a bowl of popcorn to enjoy the games, be ready for multiple upsets as it is the ACC Tournament and upsets are the norm.