Tag Archives: Sean Renfree

Belk Bowl Notebook – Duke faces the Bearcats

18The Duke Blue Devils will face Cincinnati for the first time in the two schools' history tomorrow evening in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina. Duke comes into the contest 6-6 while the Bearcats sport a 9-3 record, so the Blue Devils need a victory to secure their first winning season since 1994.

Cutcliffe has Bowl Experience

While bowling may be new to many around the Duke program, not so for Head Football Coach David Cutcliffe. Coach Cut carries a 4-1 bowl record into this game, and he's 11-6 as an assistant coach. He knows what it takes to focus in on big games, and this should help a young Blue Devils squad.

Blue Devils are the Underdog

Had this game been played in the regular season, the Blue Devils would have been double digit underdogs, but the Bearcats lost not only their Head Coach but their coordinators as well. That has dropped the line to just 7 in the Bearcats' favor.  Before any of you go betting the bank on Duke, figuring that Cincy is reeling, think back to a Richmond game where the Spiders had lost their Head Coach weeks before the season started, and yet they still handled Duke.  The bottom line is for Duke to win, it'll take a maximum effort. Cincinnati is solid on both sides of the ball, and they match up well with Duke.  They have played well defensively in particular, having permitted more than 30 points in but a single game this season.

The Here and Now and the Future

Bowl games reward teams' success over the course of the entire season.  Let's be honest: before the season started, not many picked Duke to get to a bowl game.  It's a terrific accomplishment, one that rightfully earned Coach David Cutcliffe ACC Coach of the Year honors. But it was a contingent of focused seniors that really put the Devils over the hump. This will be the last opportunity for fans to see the Sean Renfree-to-Conner Vernon connection, and the success of that duo will be a major key to the game.

But the other reward stemming from a bowl bid is the opportunity for the team to benefit from all the extra practices in preparation for the game.  The Blue Devils have gotten a jump-start on next season by changing some player positions and grooming future starters. Being in a bowl also shows that the program is moving upwards, and that is the key to recruiting better players and getting their signatures on the dotted line.  Duke will lose 13 seniors this season, with approximately 10 of them having played key roles over the years. There will be a lot of holes to fill for the 2013 Blue Devils.

Duke needs three TD's

The Blue Devils have scored 46 touchdowns thus far this year, and therefore need three more against a stingy Cincinnati defense to set a new all-time record of 49. The 1989 team coached by Steve Spurrier holds the Duke record with 48 touchdown scored.

The keys to a win for Duke

I was asked by a radio station what the keys to a win were for Duke. The first thing is simply to get off to a good start. Duke has not played well from behind this season, and needs to set the tone early.  A quick start would also bode well against a Cincinnati team that has been wracked by coaching defections.

Another key is to slow down Cincinnati's running QB and two solid running backs -- and that's an area Duke has struggled in this season. The third item on the to-do list is to protect QB Sean Renfree and allow him time to pass, as Duke must find a way to get into the end zone against a stout Bearcat defense.  Duke has not fared well when Renfree has not had time to throw.  The fourth key is to establish the run, for balance is a must against a Bearcats defense that will pin their ears back and go after the passer if the opponent struggles rushing the ball.

If I had to pick one crucial item, though, it would be get off to a good start and therefore not have to play from behind early on.

Final Take

When I first learned, a week or so ahead of the official announcement, that Duke would face Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl, I thought it would be a difficult matchup for the Blue Devils. On paper, the Bearcats are the better team, with solid personnel at every position. Their defense has been physical and hard to score on for most of the year, and they can run two quarterbacks at you. Since that time, the Bearcats have lost some coaches, but it remains to be seen if this will rally their troops or cause some disruption. Personally, I think it is unlikely that the Bearcats will simply roll over, as adversity tends to bring teams together more often than not.

But the Blue Devils more than anything else needed some time off.  They've gotten it.  That has enabled them to regain their health and to add some new wrinkles to the game plan. I feel it will come down to turnovers and ball control. Duke needs to keep its defense off the field as much as possible, and they need to find a way to get to the quarterback, something that has been difficult for Bearcats opponents. I am expecting a solid and spirited performance from Duke, and hope for a victory.  If they get it, it would provide tremendous momentum going into an important off-season. See you at the game.

BDN Monday Musings – Are you ready for some football?

It's time to kickoff the 2012 Duke Football season this week, and Monday Musings hopes to see you in the stands at Wallace Wade on Saturday.

Injury-plagued Blue Devils face test up front in opener

The Duke Blue Devils will kickoff the 2012 football season this Saturday when they take on a very solid Florida International Panthers team in Wallace Wade Stadium. While the team has improved in many areas under Coach David Cutcliffe, injuries leading up to the game have been unsettling. As of today, the Blue Devils will be without several key projected starters, including receiver Blair Holliday, linebacker Kelby Brown, tight end Braxton Deaver, safety Jordan Byas and defensive lineman Jamal Bruce. They may also be without linebacker David Helton, who is listed as day-to-day. What this all adds up to for Duke is a serious lack of depth on the defensive side of the ball.  This could really matter in this game as the Devils go up against a team that will push the tempo under new offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey.  Cramsey's "pedal to the metal" approach will force Duke to go to many unseasoned backups as the game progresses and the front line guys start to wear down.

While the defense will have its hands full preventing big plays, an area that Duke clearly needs to improve upon over last season's performance, the offense faces a stiff challenge as well. The Panthers' defensive front is solid and very deep, so all eyes will be on an improved Duke offensive front, and whether it can give senior quarterback Sean Renfree enough time to work with a bevy of new and unproven wideouts.  Duke did move senior Desmond Scott from running back to wide receiver, and he is capable of making big plays once he gets the ball in his hands.  But until a strong second receiving option steps up, you can bet  that All-ACC wideout Conner Vernon will see nothing but double teams, and it will be tough to get him the ball.

The Scott move may seem odd, as he is the last Duke player to rush for 100 yards in a game.  But this could be indicative of Duke's depth and talent at the running back position, where the Blue Devils have two veterans in Juwon Thompson and Josh Snead and two talented newcomers in Jela Duncan and Sheldon Bell.

So when the ball kicks off around 7:00 this Saturday night to open the season, watch the battle in the trenches where the game could be won.  Click here for more on FIU depth on their Defensive Front.

Interviews with Duke Prospects on the way

We'll start to roll out interviews from the Under Armor Elite 24 this afternoon, starting with Duke Basketball recruiting prospect Austin Nichols followed by 2014 stud PG Tyus Jones.  There are lots of happenings with hoops recruiting, so join BDN Premium for full site access and don't miss any of it.

Bowling ...

Let's face it, we all want to see the Duke football team bowl eligible and ESPN's Heather Dinich has the Blue Devils playing in the Military Bowl.  The Blue Devils face a very tough schedule this season, so that is some serious optimism for Coach Cut and company.  So are any of you  starting to realize how much pressure there is for Duke to win its opener?

Good turnout needed for Duke

It's Duke Employee Day at Duke for the home opener against Florida International and the Blue Devils will need solid fan support to defeat a team coming off two straight bowl seasons.  Let's have a great turnout where the home crowd helps lift the team to victory.  It has all the makings of being a very tense and competitive game, so don't miss it.


BDN Football Friday kicks off the 2012 season preview – September 1 vs. FIU

More beer, Blue Devil Nation!

So, how was National Beer Day? Yeah, I bet. If only we could have that every weekend...oh wait, it's Beerfest in Raleigh this weekend. Sweet. It's also time for Football Friday.

Since the Blue Devils managed to go an entire week without a commitment, there's not much new on the recruiting front to talk about. The Spring Evaluation period kicks off this weekend, and with several top prospects coming off the board over the past few weeks, the coaching staff will be out in full force to check in on prospects and extend new scholarship offers. BDN Premium Members will be the first to know about the latest on Duke's recruiting efforts. You see what I just did there?

Spring practice is officially in the books, but the team continues to work to improve on an individual level. The spring semester is winding down and we wish the best to all our departing seniors, and a strong finish to the academic year to all our student-athletes. In just a few short weeks, the newest members of #dukegang will move into campus, and the preparations for the 2012 season will begin in earnest. With that in mind, it's time to kickoff our look at 2012 Duke Football schedule. The scheduling gods didn't do Duke any favors, as the Blue Devils will face one of the toughest schedules in the ACC and the country. It all starts with the home opener against a tough FIU team on September 1st in Durham. 

Let's get this season started!

September 1: FIU at Duke

Under Head Coach David Cutcliffe, the Blue Devils are 2-2 in their season openers, pulling out victories against James Madison and Elon, while losing twice to pesky Richmond. This fall, Duke opens their season with a FBS opponent for the first time since a 2007 defeat to Connecticut.  In 2011, the Blue Devils traveled to South Florida in week 5 and pulled out a thrilling 31-27 victory against T.Y. Hilton and the Golden Panthers. FIU went on to finish the season 8-5, earning the program's second ever bowl game. For the second offseason in a row, Head Coach Mario Cristobal turned down multiple BCS coaching opportunities to remain at FIU. In 2012, the Golden Panthers remain a program on the rise, despite the losses of Hilton and QB Wes Carroll; with a favorable schedule, they should be expected to compete for another Sun Belt Championship.

Offensively, FIU may not be as explosive as a year ago, but return enough starters to remain a formidable threat to score points. The Golden Panthers return their top rusher in Kedrick Rhodes, and four starters along the offensive line. Two young QBs, sophomore Jake Medlock and redshirt-freshman Laranzo Hammonds, are the frontrunners to take over for Carroll, and Hammonds may even see time in an occasional Wildcat scheme. Moreso than a year ago, the Golden Panthers will look to have a lot of success on the ground, making them an excellent early season test for the Blue Devils' defensive line. Other than Hilton, the Golden Panthers return all of their top receivers, led by senior Wayne Times. A year ago, the Blue Devils allowed 568 total yards to this offense, and if it weren't for a late fumble forced by Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo, may have come home with a loss. This year, the Duke defense will have to be more effective than last season's "bend but not break" effort against a very deep and experienced Golden Panther offense. 

Thankfully, T.Y. Hilton will be long gone for the NFL by September, but FIU will be just as tough.

When Duke traveled to FIU a year ago, the Blue Devils' coaches were concerned about the tremendous speed of the Golden Panthers' defense. Sean Renfree and the Duke offense were up to the challenge, putting up 31 points and 384 yards of total offense. Most encouraging, however, was that the Blue Devils finished the game without giving up a sack or a turnover. As they prepare for their 2012 season opener, the Duke coaches will have many of the same fears, as the Golden Panthers return 10 of 11 starters on defense. Overall, FIU's defense was inconsistent in 2011, but did finish the season by holding their final 6 opponents to no more than 20 points. With another year's experience, this defense will be a stout challenge for the new up-tempo Duke offense. In particular, the Blue Devils will have to contain a speedy pass rush led by senior DE Tourek Williams. The secondary is just as formidable, highlighted by senior safety Jonathan Cyprien. In all, the Golden Panthers should have 16 upperclassmen on their defensive 2-deep entering the fall.

This isn't a pretty picture we're painting, here, is it? Much like a year ago, the Blue Devils will have to come out of the gates ready to play if they expect to start the season with a win. A year ago, a less talented but confident Richmond team was able to steal a win in Wallace Wade Stadium. Coming off two straight bowl appearances, the Golden Panthers will be just as confident, and seeking revenge for last season's loss in Miami. Over the past few seasons, we've seen how crucial a good start can be for this improving, but still fragile, Duke program. This season will be no different, and if the Blue Devils have any hope of improving upon their 3-win total of the past two seasons, they will have to play at a high level on September 1. It should be a great atmosphere in Wallace Wade Stadium, filled with the hope and optimism of a new season, and it should also be a highly competitive game on the field. We can't wait for kickoff. WE ARE DUKE.