Tag Archives: Thomas Sirk

More beer, Blue Devil Nation!

Happy New Beer’s Eve from BDN Football Friday

Happy New Beer's Eve, Blue Devil Nation!

Two weeks of Football Friday in a row? For what do we deserve such fortune, you ask? I guess it just seemed like the right thing to do. Or maybe because it’s New Beer’s Eve, one of America’s terrific obscure holidays. In all seriousness, though, thanks for reading and please spread the word that Blue Devil Nation is home of the best Duke Football coverage around.

Spring Game Recap

One - okay, three – important points to remember about last Saturday’s scrimmage.

1. It’s a spring game. The team is a work in progress; September 1st is still nearly five months away.
2. It’s a spring game. Several starters did not play; players with injuries have plenty of time to heal.
3. It’s a spring game. Duke played against Duke; who knows how they’ll look against another opponent.

All that being said, there was plenty to be excited about and a number of things to be concerned about based on Saturday’s performances. If you haven’t checked them out already, be sure to watch our video interviews with Coach Cutcliffe, Sean Renfree, Ross Cockrell, and David Reeves to get their thoughts on Duke’s spring.

Ross Cockrell is developing into a shutdown corner for the Blue Devils -BDN Photo

The Good

Honestly, I don’t think it was a fluke that the starting defense outplayed the starting offense. Even without Kelby Brown, August Campbell, Kenny Anunike, and Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo, the white team defense took it to the blue team offense. And it was a balanced effort. The secondary, crucial to Duke’s 4-2-5 scheme, was particularly encouraging. Brandon Braxton looked comfortable at safety and led the way with 5 tackles, a number that was matched by his replacement, redshirt-freshman Chris Tavarez, who also forced and recovered a fumble late in the game. Jordon Byas and Walt Canty, two veterans at safety, also had strong efforts, each adding 3 tacklesincluding a tackle for a loss by Byas. Cornerbacks Ross Cockrell, Lee Butler, Anthony Young-Wiseman and Tony Foster held the blue team’s top receivers, Blair Holliday and Jamison Crowder, without a touchdown and to just 4 total catches on the day. Of course, it was Cockrell’s forced fumble on Josh Snead that was the play of the day and earned him defensive MVP honors. Kyler Brown and David Helton added strong performances from the linebacker position, and the Blue Devils will need them to continue to matuer ahead of schedule this fall. Duke was able to pressure the blue QBs from a number of positions, as DE Jamal Wallace registered a sack, while Braxton, Cockrell, and LB David Helton all were credited with a QB pressure. As with all things, it’s far from perfect, but the overall defensive effort appeared to be a big step in the right direction heading to the fall.

On the opposite side of the ball, there were plenty of flashes from individual players, but the blue team offense never seemed to be clicking on all cylinders – yet. Brandon Connette, the offensive MVP, certainly had a strong performance, highlighted by two powerful runs through the teeth of the defense to put the blue team on the scoreboard for the first time all afternoon, halfway through the 2nd quarter. Of note, he was also an efficient 4/7 through the air for 83 yards, including a 27-yard TD strike to Josh Snead. Speaking of Josh Snead, it was great to see him healthy and focused. His burst and speed was something that was lacking in Duke’s running game a year ago. All indications are that with the return of Snead alongside last year’s leading rusher Juwan Thompson and senior Desmond Scott, this should be Duke’s strongest running game under Coach Cutcliffe. We certainly saw flashes from some other players, such as David Reeves and Will Monday, all of which were encouraging. Perhaps most encouraging, however, was a glimpse at the increased tempo and diverse schemes utilized by the blue offense. It’s all still a work in progress, with much more to be added in terms of personnel and plays, but opposing defenses should have a lot to prepare for against this year’s Duke offense.

And finally, a look at the future. With the way the teams were divided, it was hard to take much of anything away from the matchup of the white offense against the blue defense, as both units were comprised primarily of walk-ons. Several walk-ons did have strong efforts, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see guys like Chris Hoover, Brandon Watkins and Eric Adams eventually play a few snaps in limited situations. Their blue-collar efforts are to be commended, and it was great for them to receive recognition. The scholarship players on those units, however, provide a nice glimpse into the future of the Blue Devil program. Obviously, freshman Thomas Sirk is the most notable, and he played well on Saturday. But before we crown him the starting QB, remember that most of his snaps came against an inexperienced defense and he still only played one year of quarterback in high school. All that being said, Sirk has the tools to compete for snaps in 2013, and given the depth issues at wide receiver, it’s too early to rule out lining him up out wide at some point this fall. Another strong performance was put in by redshirt-freshman WR Nick Hill, who has an excellent opportunity with the recent loss of senior WR Tyree Watkins. Defensively, Tim Burton, Britton Grier, and Sam Marshall all piled up tackles; they will push the starters on the depth chart for sure this fall, but realistically may be a year away from significantly contributing.

Sean Renfree had a forgettable spring game -BDN Photo

The Bad

Ok, let’s get it out of the way. Sean Renfree had a forgettable spring game. He finished 10/23 for 104 yards with 2 interceptions. His first interception was a poor throw that shouldn’t be made by a redshirt-senior QB; the second was slightly more forgivable, as the ball appeared to be tipped into the waiting arms of Kyler Brown. Most concerning, however, was the apparent lack of rhythm with the new offense, and the lack of chemistry with some of the younger wide receivers. Fortunately, Renfree is his own biggest critic, and one of the hardest workers on this team; fully expect for him to put in the work to be ready for a strong senior campaign. After a big spring, WR Blair Holliday didn’t have the breakout performance many expected, and he and Jamison Crowder will have to emerge as consistent threats if Duke is to have any success moving the ball this fall.

The other biggest concern of the day was the play along the line of scrimmage. Neither the offensive nor defensive line was able to control the game, and I think there’s still a lot of work to be done along both units. The offensive line needs to get Brian Moore back at center, and the hope is that this group will be able to stay healthy and consistent this fall. They will have to be a stabilizing force for a potentially dynamic and at times unconventional offense. The defensive line remains the big weakness of this team, overall. Brandon Connette exposed the weakness up the middle on two big runs in the 2nd quarter. Hopefully, the return of Kenny Anunike and Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo, along with another year under Coach Petri, will allow this group to take a big step forward this fall.

Duke hosted QB Chavas Rawlins on an unofficial visit Thursday

The Awesome

Come on, you didn’t really think I was going to end on a down note, did you? I thought it might be more fun to discuss recruiting than to argue over whether or not to renew your season tickets, debate the temperature of the leather chair in Coach Cutcliffe’s office, or complain about play-calling. Just my opinion. I’m sure you can find a place to discuss those things.

As for recruiting, Duke locked up two more verbal commitments over the weekend, solidifying the defensive backfield in the class of 2013. Safety prospect Jake Kite is receiving rave reviews for a highlight video that has basically gone viral throughout the Duke Football fanbase. At 6’1,” the junior from Roanoke packs a heavy punch, and Duke fans should be very excited to watch this young man bring down opponents in Wallace Wade Stadium. About a month ago, BDN spoke with a little-known sleeper prospect from Nash County in Dequavais Mann. At 5’9″ and playing multiple positions for a Northern Nash team that finished 2-8 last year, Mann’s recruitment got off to a slow start. That changed quickly when the junior athlete posted a 4.42 second 40-yard dash at a recent combine, and showcased his abilities as a lockdown defender. Mann started lining up visits, starting with a return trip to Durham for the Duke Spring Game. The Blue Devils extended a scholarship and it took just two days for Mann to offer his commitment to Coach Cutcliffe. And the staff is keeping the pedal to the metal, hosting top Pennsylvania QB Chavas Rawlins on an unofficial visit in Durham yesterday.

Don’t expect things to slow down anytime soon; we’re just getting started. The spring evaluation period kicks off on April 14th and lasts through the end of May, nicely coinciding with most high school spring football schedules. With their own spring practice behind them, the Duke staff will be out in full force, evaluating dozens of prospects and checking up on others. We’ll then reach the height of the recruting season in June, as Duke hosts their annual football camps, an opportunity for serious evaluation for both the prospects and coaches. So in other words, if you want to keep up with the latest in Duke Football, now would be an excellent time to try out a BDN Premium Membership. Ok, that’s my pitch for the day.

I know, these columns get wordier and wordier. Though in person I’m known for brevity, my writing clearly is not. Check back next week for another helping of Football Friday, provided I am able to purchase a new ribbon for my typewriter. In the meantime, enjoy the Masters for you golf fans, Happy Easter to the Christians, and regardless of your interests or beliefs, I hope you all enjoy National Beer Day on Saturday. WE ARE DUKE.

TE Issac Blakeney has had a big spring for the Blue Devils

Renfree’s Three Touchdowns Pace Blue Devils

TE Issac Blakeney hauled in a 71-yard TD from Sean Renfree on Saturday.

DURHAM, N.C. – Quarterback Sean Renfree completed 14-of-17 passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns to highlight Duke’s 80-play gridiron scrimmage on Saturday morning in the Pascal Field House.

Renfree’s first two scoring strikes of the day went to tight ends David Reeves (30 yards) and Issac Blakeney (71 yards) before he found wideout Blair Holliday for a nine-yard touchdown.  Five of Renfree’s completions went for 15 or more yards as the rising redshirt senior averaged 15.7 yards per completion.

Wideout Corey Gattis led all receivers with six catches for 81 yards including a 42-yard touchdown from quarterback Thomas Sirk.  Holliday finished with five receptions for 65 yards while Reeves had three grabs for 51 yards.  Sirk enjoyed the morning by completing five-of-nine throws for 75 yards, rushing four times for 54 yards and catching a pair of passes for 25 yards.

Quarterback Sean Schroeder hit on five-of-nine passes for 46 yards while rushing three times for 41 yards.  Running back Josh Snead carried the ball seven times for 27 yards while Juwan Thompson contributed a three-yard touchdown run.

Safety Jordon Byas paced the Blue Devil defense with one quarterback sack and one pass break-up.  Nose guard Jamal Bruce, safety Walt Canty and linebacker Austin Gamble each registered one tackle for loss while cornerback Garett Patterson logged two pass break-ups.

Duke will host the program’s annual Spring Game presented by PNC Bank on Saturday, March 31 at Wallace Wade Stadium.  Kick-off is set for 1 p.m., and admission is free of charge.

Duke-football

Duke Football Signing Day 2012

 

It’s Signing Day for Duke Football! Coach Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils officially will welcome the class of 2012 into the Duke family today. BDN has all the coverage, including Mark Watson live at Coach Cutcliffe’s afternoon press conference.

National Letters of Intent Received

TE Erich Schneider
Height: 6’7″
Weight: 220 pounds
High School: Episcopal
Hometown: Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #151 WR

TE Dan Beilinson
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 240 pounds
High School: Panther Creek
Hometown: Cary, North Carolina
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #22 TE

OL Casey Blaser
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 255 pounds
High School: South Mecklenburg
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #105 OT

K Ross Martin
Height: 5’9″
Weight: 190 pounds
High School: Walsh Jesuit
Hometown: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #2 K

DL A.J. Wolf
Height: 6’4″
Weight: 245 pounds
High School: Hackley
Hometown: Tarrytown, New York
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #167 DE

DL Allen Jackson
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 235 pounds
High School: McDonough
Hometown: Owings Mills, Maryland
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #86 DE

DL Carlos Wray
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 280 pounds
High School: Shelby
Hometown: Shelby, North Carolina
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #94 DE

WR Anthony Nash
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 180 pounds
High School: Bayard Rustin
Hometown: West Chester, Pennsylvania
ESPN ranking: 2 stars, #187 WR

ATH DeVon Edwards
Height: 5’9″
Weight: 170 pounds
High School: Alcovy
Hometown: Covington, Georgia
ESPN ranking: Not Available

OL Tanner Stone
Height: 6’6″
Weight: 280 pounds
High School: Highland Park
Hometown: Dallas, Texas
ESPN ranking: 2 stars, #163 OG

SAF Michael Westray
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 195 pounds
High School: Westlake
Hometown: Waldorf, Maryland
ESPN ranking: 2 stars, #168 SAF

WR Max McCaffrey
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 190 pounds
High School: Valor Christian
Hometown: Highlands Ranch, Colorado
ESPN ranking: 2 stars, #232 WR

DL Michael Mann
Height: 6’4″
Weight: 220 pounds
High School: Valor Christian
Hometown: Highlands Ranch, Colorado
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #122 DE

SAF Dwayne Norman
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 195 pounds
High School: University Christian
Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #50 SAF

RB Jela Duncan
Height: 5’9″
Weight: 190 pounds
High School: Mallard Creek
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #40 RB

SAF Corbin McCarthy
Height: 5’10″
Weight: 200 pounds
High School: Norco
Hometown: Norco, California
ESPN ranking: 2 stars, #143 SAF

LB Deion Williams
Height: 6’0″
Weight: 225 pounds
High School: Lutheran
Hometown: Orange, California
ESPN ranking: 2 stars, #7 FB

LB Keilin Rayner
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 215 pounds
High School: North Brunswick
Hometown: Leland, North Carolina
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #74 OLB

RB Shaquille Powell
Height: 5’9″
Weight: 196 pounds
High School: Bishop Gorman
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #56 RB

Dwayne Norman signs his NLI

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jela Duncan picks Duke on National Signing Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Casey Blaser signs his NLI
Let's get this season started!

It’s always football season at BDN’s Football Friday

Happy Independence Day, Blue Devil Nation!

Even on a holiday weekend, it’s still time for BDN’s Football Friday, a weekly look inside the world of Duke Football. If you enjoy this weekly column, please consider becoming a BDN Premium Member and joining our growing community of Duke Football fans. As we say goodbye to the month of June, it’s time to look back at an eventful month in Duke Football, and look ahead to the 2011 season, which kicks off in just 63 days!!! Of course, it’s always football season at Football Friday.

It’s finally here!

Next week kicks off the release of college football’s preseason award lists. What, you thought I was talking about Harry Potter? Oh, please. Starting on Tuesday, the College Football Awards Association will release their preseason award watch lists. While Duke still has a long way to go in regards to earning the respect of the national college football community, there are a few Duke players who should be nominated. On Wednesday, the Biletnikoff (top WR) and Mackey Award (top TE) watch lists will be announced, and Duke’s Conner Vernon, Donovan Varner, and Cooper Helfet are certainly deserving of consideration. As a 2010 semi-finalist, Duke’s Will Snyderwine should be named to the Lou Groza Award watch list on Thursday. Of course, the awards will ultimately be earned on the field, but it’s important for Duke players to receive the preseason recognition they deserve.

Changing of the guard

Head Coach David Cutcliffe announced a few changes to his football staff today. “We are very excited with our recent hires and adjustments to the staff,” Cutcliffe stated.  “I have either coached or fostered long term relationships with each of these young people and their families.  It is great to surround yourself with people you deeply care for and know are winners on and off the field.  We approach the 2011 season with great enthusiasm.” Among the changes, the staff welcomes back former Blue Devil All-American defensive lineman Vince Oghobaase as a staff assistant. John Russell, a former NFL and Wake Forest linebacker, joins the staff as a graduate assistant, and current recruiting assistant Ben Loebner has been promoted to a graduate assistant. Former Duke All-ACC cornerback Leon Wright has been named a Defensive Operations assistant and Jomar Wright switches his title from graduate assistant to recruiting assistant. Marcus Johnson, a former NFL and All-SEC offensive lineman, joins the Duke strength and conditioning staff. Welcome to all the new coaches, and good luck this fall!

Welcome to Duke, Thomas!

Boy, that escalated quickly…

Duke entered the month of June with four verbal commitments in the class of 2012: TE Erich Schneider, DE Allen Jackson, SAF Dwayne Norman, and LB Deion Williams. We now leave the month of June with twelve verbal commitments, capped off by a big week, in which the Blue Devils added their QB of the future in Thomas Sirk and one of the top TEs in the state in Dan Beilinson. BDN members were the first to hear about these commitments, and we’ll continue to bring you the best Duke Football recruiting coverage around.

Duke was the first to offer Tarboro RB Todd Gurley, and he remains their top target

 

 

Get ‘em while they’re hot…

With only a handful of scholarships remaining in the class of 2012, Duke is hoping to land a few impact players over the next several weeks. As we’ve mentioned earlier, the Blue Devils will need to add a RB in this class, and Tarboro’s Todd Gurley, along with Charlotte’s Jela Duncan, remain the coaching staff’s top two priorities. Gurley recently won a national championship in track and will represent the US in France later this summer. The Duke staff continues to work hard on the recruiting trail, hoping to cap off the class of 2012 with a program-changer or two like WR Drae Bowles or DT Korren Kirven. A quick look at the 2011 Duke roster shows that Duke will graduate 18 players this season. Duke is certainly hopeful that the group of redshirt-juniors will stay with the program for their final year of eligibility in 2012, meaning that scholarships are getting tight in the class of 2012. For those remaining prospects considering Duke offers, the smart move would be to act quickly.

Rams' QB Thad Lewis has high expectations for the 2011 Blue Devils

“I’m going to go out on a limb and say they’ll go bowling…”

With the NFL lockout dragging on, Duke has been fortunate to have former QB Thad Lewis around campus for most of the summer. BDN caught up with the Blue Devil record-holder earlier this summer, and GoDuke featured an interview earlier this week. Thad has big expectations for Sean Renfree and the Blue Devils in 2011, and after leading Duke to 5 wins in his senior year, he knows what it takes to win in the ACC.

Reasons for optimism

Overall, there is tremendous optimism around the Duke Football program, and many fans (with a few outspoken exceptions) have high hopes for the 2011 season. Starting next week, BDN will take an in-depth look at each of Duke’s 2011 opponents, beginning with the Richmond Spiders. We’re fortunate to have been able to team up with some great writers from other schools to give us an inside look at Duke’s competition. In general, though, we know Duke faces a tough schedule this fall, and after a 3-win season in 2010, why all the optimism? Before we start analyzing Duke’s opponents, let’s take a brief look at some 2010 statistics, and a 2011 position group assessment.

  • In 2010, Duke lost 4 games by 6 points or less.
  • Duke had 43 trips to the redzone in 2010, but found the end zone only 22 times, barely 50% of the time. Luckily, pre-season All-ACC kicker Will Snyderwine was able to add 16 field goals to help keep the Blue Devils in games.
  • The 3rd quarter was unkind to the 2010 Blue Devils. Duke either had a lead, or were within 1 score at halftime in 8 of their 12 games, but only won 3 games.
  • Finishing games was also difficult for the 2010 Duke team, as they had a lead or were within 1 score entering the 4th quarter in 6 of their 12 games, but again, only won 3 games.
  • Turnover margin may have been the key statistic to Duke’s 2010 season, but there is reason for optimism. Over the first 7 games, Duke had a turnover margin of -12 (21 to 9), but a turnover margin of +1 in their final 5 games (7 to 8).
  • The much-maligned Duke defense had difficult pressuring the quarterback all season, but again, there was subtle improvement. With just 4 sacks through their first 6 games, Duke finished with 8 sacks in their final 6 games. Five of Duke’s final six opponents were bowl teams.

It's no secret that Duke's 2011 hopes rest on the shoulders of QB Sean Renfree

 

 

QB: Duke returns their top two quarterbacks in 2011 in starting redshirt-junior Sean Renfree and sophomore backup Brandon Connette. With a year of starting experience under his belt, the expectations are sky-high for Renfree, who Coach Cutcliffe described as having a “great” spring. Anthony Boone will add depth to the position after redshirting in 2010.

RB: Duke returns all five of their running backs from 2010, led by junior Desmond Scott, who has paced the Blue Devils in rushing as both a freshman and a sophomore. Duke improved their rushing yards by 46.5 yards per game from 2009 to 2010, and scored 13 more touchdowns on the ground. With all of their top rushers and blockers returning, there is no reason not to expect similar improvement in 2011.

WR: Duke loses Austin Kelly, who had been a solid receiver for the program in his four years in Durham, but brings back All-ACC receivers Donovan Varner and Conner Vernon. Sophomore Brandon Braxton, after catching 14 passes in 2010, is expected to see an increased role as he fills in for Kelly. Tyree Watkins and Corey Gattis are two more underclassmen expected to fill out the depth chart at receiver in 2011.

TE: By the end of the 2011 season, junior college transfer Cooper Helfet established himself as one of Renfree’s favorite targets, and one of the top tight ends in the ACC. After a slow start and a nagging ankle injury, Helfet finished with at least 4 catches in his final 5 games, including a 122-yard game against Virginia. Redshirt-senior Danny Parker rejoins the tight end corps after the graduation of Brett Huffman and Brandon King. Redshirt-freshman Braxton Deaver is expected to compete for a starting spot this fall, and true freshman David Reeves is one of the top prospects in Duke’s class of 2011.

OL: Duke will return four of five starters in 2011, the lone loss being center Bryan Morgan. With Brian Moore sliding over to center from right guard, Duke’s entire offensive line should weigh in at 275 pounds or greater; redshirt-freshman Takoby Cofield and Laken Tomlinson both eclipse 300 pounds and are expected to compete for snaps.

DL: This position is the big question mark on the 2011 Duke team, but there are plenty of reasons to expect improvement over 2010. Despite losing starters Patrick Egboh and Wes Oglesby, Duke will add seven (7!) redshirt-freshmen to the depth chart along the defensive line in 2011. The Blue Devils return redshirt-senior Charlie Hatcher, along with redshirt-junior Kenny Anunike, redshirt-sophomore Justin Foxx, and redshirt-sophomore Sydney Sarmiento. This spring, however, it was the redshirt-freshmen who earned the highest accolades from the Duke coaching staff, led by DE Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo and DT Jamal Bruce. With the coaching of Rick Petri, athleticism of the young redshirt-freshmen, and overall increased depth, this is a unit that should improve week-to-week in 2011 and give the Blue Devils a chance to win ball games.

LB: While most fans are concerned about the Blue Devils’ defensive line, the linebackers are another area that needs to improve from 2010, but has significant losses. Leading tackler Abraham Kromah has graduated along with Damian Thornton and Adam Banks. Standout freshman Kelby Brown returns after knee surgery, but is expected to be a full participant in fall camp. Duke has to hope that junior Austin Gamble and redshirt-sophomore Kevin Rojas, who have shown flashes of potential in the past, are ready for a breakout season in 2011. Coach Jim Collins has developed some great linebackers at Duke, and he will need to work his magic this year, as outside of those top three, the depth chart will be filled with first-year players in redshirt-freshman C.J. France, freshman Kyler Brown, freshman Britton Grier, freshman David Helton, and freshman Jon Woodruff.

CB: The loss of senior Chris Rwabukamba will be sorely missed within the Duke secondary, but the coaching staff believes the Blue Devils have several athletes ready to step up at cornerback, led by redshirt-sophomore Ross Cockrell. Despite an inconsistent freshman year as a starter, Cockrell finished 6th on the team with 60 tackles, and led the Blue Devils with 3 interceptions and was 2nd with 7 pass break-ups. Cockrell should take a step forward, as will senior Johnny Williams, in his second full year at cornerback. Zach Greene, Tony Foster, and Lex Butler will fill out the depth chart, but they may be pushed by freshmen Jared Boyd and Tim Burton.

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

SAF: The strongest positon group on Duke’s defense is safety, and the new 4-2-5 defense is designed to exploit that strength. Senior Matt Daniels should be poised for an All-ACC caliber year alongside fellow senior Lee Butler. The Duke staff has high expectations for redshirt-sophomore August Campbell and redshirt-freshman Issac Blakeney.

ST: Duke’s special teams has developed into a strength in recent years, and with Will Snyderwine handling the placekicking, it should remain a strength in 2011. Freshman Will Monday is expected to come in and compete with senior Alex King for the starting punter job, and it should be a good competition to watch in August.

Next week

Man, I thought it was going to be a short column this week. That never works out. If you’ve missed any of our recruiting coverage over the past month, be sure to catch up, as it is sure to be a sprint to the finish here in July. The entire class of 2011 will be on campus starting this weekend, and on behalf of all of us in the Blue Devil Nation, welcome to Duke! We have big expectations for this class, and we know they’ll have great success in Durham.

Some upcoming highlights to note – we will kickoff our 2011 previews next week with Richmond and Stanford, so be sure to check back for those. We’ll also run an in-depth interview with one of Duke’s top running back prospects this weekend, so check back in between fireworks shows. Be sure to join our Facebook group and follow us on Twitter. Have a great holiday weekend! Until next week, WE ARE DUKE.

 

Questions? Comments? Let us know!

 

QB Thomas Sirk committed to David Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils on Wednesday morning

Coach Cut gets his man: QB Thomas Sirk commits to Duke

QB Thomas Sirk committed to David Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils on Wednesday morning

Head Coach David Cutcliffe received a pleasant surprise on his family vacation this morning, as Baker County (FL) QB Thomas Sirk committed to the Blue Devils. At 6’6” and 212 pounds, Sirk impressed the Duke coaching staff at camp earlier this month with his arm and athleticism, earning himself a coveted Duke offer. Remarkably, the Blue Devils’ newest commitment has never played a full season at quarterback, but has been working with former Ole Miss and NFL QB David Morris this summer, and his recruitment has taken off. His recent highlight video has impressed coaches throughout the country, and Sirk was planning on camping at several ACC and SEC schools, but ultimately decided the opportunity at Duke was too good to pass up. The Duke coaching staff is thrilled to have a commitment from a player they believe will soon be leading the Blue Devils’ offense in Wallace Wade Stadium. After watching the development of Thad Lewis and Sean Renfree, Duke fans have high expectations for Coach Cut’s newest protégé. Welcome to Duke, Thomas!

BDN spoke with the new Blue Devil QB shortly after his commitment Wednesday.

BDN: How did you come to your decision to commit to Duke today?

Well, I have been talking with my family about it a lot, over the week since the camp, and I’ve been looking forward to going to some other camps and things like that, but I got to thinking about the opportunity I have to play at Duke, and the scholarship that I’m going to receive, the degree from Duke, is going to top everywhere. Duke’s program is rising, it’s a rising program and there’s a lot of great opportunities that are going to come for the program. They’re having a great recruiting class this year, they’ve got two guys committed out of my area in Jacksonville, Florida, and I just didn’t want to let this opportunity to pass me at quarterback, it’s the biggest offer I have so far.

BDN: How did you let the coaches know about your decision and what did they say to you?

I called Coach Cut today, he’s on vacation with his family right now. I called him and talked to him a little bit, I asked him some questions about other quarterback recruits, who they’ve offered and do they have anybody committed, and he told me the answers that I wanted to hear. We just talked about the opportunity that I have at Duke and where I stand as far as getting a chance to start after I redshirt. All those answers…he was talking about he wanted me to make my decision soon, and that’s when I said to him, I think I’m ready to make my decision and I want to verbally commit to Duke.

BDN: You mentioned plans to take some other visits; who were the other schools you were considering before you decided on Duke?

I was going to get up to Tennessee, Florida State, Florida, Georgia Tech, and I was going to go to those schools, but unfortunately the way it worked out, I decided to commit to Duke.

BDN: I’m sure those schools are sorry they weren’t able to get you in camp. What are your plans for the rest of your summer now that you’ve ended your recruitment?

Well, I just continue to work on my football team here in high school, obviously I got a lot off my shoulders committing to Duke, so I don’t have to worry about the recruiting process as much anymore, so I don’t really have to think about it as much. Now I can just think about me and my team and where we have to go. Do 7-on-7 camps with my team, continue to work out everyday over the summer and get ready for camp in August and get ready for our first game, so that’s where I stand now.

BDN: Best of luck with your preparation for this fall, and welcome to Duke!

Yep, I appreciate everything, Patrick.

 

 

NFL stars Eli Manning and Hakeem Nicks have been working out at Duke this week.

BDN’s Football Friday

NFL stars Eli Manning and Hakeem Nicks have been working out at Duke this week.

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.

Duke solidified their special teams for the future with Thursday's commitment from Ross Martin

 

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.

Camp All-Stars

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.

Duke was the first to offer Tarboro RB Todd Gurley, and he remains their top target

 

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.)

WR Drae Bowles could become a program-changer for the Blue Devils, on and off the field

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.

Give us back the Victory Bell, cheaters

 

Closing thoughts

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.

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