Tag Archives: Vinnie Rey

Duke Football Coach David Cutcliffe talks of spring practice and the coming season

Coach David Cutcliffe and the football program has the support of Duke Athletic Director Kevin White.  Coach Cutcliffe encourages fans to turn out for the annual spring football game on April the 18th.
Coach David Cutcliffe and the football program has the support of Duke Athletic Director Kevin White. Coach Cutcliffe encourages fans to turn out for the annual spring football game on April the 18th.

Coach David Cutcliffe has made his way out through the dew-covered turf at Wallace Wade Stadium to spring practice several times in the past couple of weeks.  As he makes that stroll each crisp spring morning, signs of change are in the backdrop.  Construction workers are going at it early on both ends of Wade and, just behind the practice field itself, a visitors locker room is being erected.

But the construction doesn’t stop there for it is happening on the field as well.  Cutcliffe is now in his second year as coach of the Blue Devils and, like the construction crews, he has to tear down and build.

When Cutcliffe arrived in Durham, it was his job to demolish the old way of thinking around Duke Football.  He assembled the best support staff in Duke Football history and then they immediately hit the road recruiting.  After that, he led the win-thirsty Blue Devil Football program to four victories, but he didn’t stop there.

To this day, Cutcliffe has demanded a work ethic from his players and he’s been unafraid to challenge the fan base and those who can get the ball rolling on much needed changes to Wallace Wade Stadium and the football program in general.

“We’re continuing to work on changing the atmosphere around the football program and we will not stop until that task is finished,” stated Cutcliffe before last season began.

Cutcliffe has held to his promise thus far and he is making strides to build a program, not just a winning season.  That kind of change takes time, but there is little doubt that Duke is finally on the right track and that football is once again exciting.

The Blue Devils suffered some key senior losses and must break in a lot of young players this spring.  A quick look up and down the roster and then adding the incoming players clearly shows that Duke is one of the youngest, if not the youngest, teams in the  ACC.

“We’re so much further ahead than where we were last year,  it’s like night and day.  Not a lot of numbers (players), but sometimes that’s a good thing with a lot of young guys getting reps.  It’s been one of the more energetic springs I have been around.  We are a faster football team on both sides of the ball.  That’s one of the things we felt like was key.  Our conditioning level is excellent, which has allowed us to work hard,” said Cutcliffe when questioned as to how spring practice had been going.

Coach Cutcliffe had also mentioned earlier this spring that, despite the losses and the youth replacing them, this looked like a football team.  Perhaps he was referring to what the team looked like when he came in last year, for he more or less said they were fat and lazy — or perhaps out of shape is a kinder term.  I asked Cutcliffe if he could elaborate on what he meant when he said we looked like a football team and he replied -

“Just the overall fitness, bending our legs, playing lower, using our hands better – things that a football coach would look for.  I don’t want to confuse that statement with we are ready to take on the world, but it’s starting to really look like football and when you can compete and the energy level is as high as it is it has that feel and sound at football.”

Cutcliffe is still well aware that his team must replace some key components, especially on the offensive line.

“We have a lot of work to do, obviously, in replacing three starters in the offensive line.  That’s obviously a work in progress, as is replacing Eron Riley.”

Despite those areas of concern, Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis recently told the Blue Devil Nation that the receivers had made good strides.  That is good to hear from the senior who will lead the offense.  But it was a player on the defensive side of the ball who said good things about the offensive line.

“Those guys are working really hard,” said Duke linebacker Vinnie Rey.  He continued, “Sometimes they get a pancake on us and sometimes we knock them back, but they are coming along.”

When Cutcliffe was asked about Vinnie Rey and what he meant to this years team he stated -

“Vinnie Rey has had a great spring – Vinnie is our leader.  He is our passionate and vocal and work leader and not just with our defense but with our football team.”

Another concern is the secondary where Duke has some bodies but needs players to step up and claim the position with their play.

“We are still trying to deal with the secondary.  I see some growth but, unfortunately, Leon [Wright] has been out with his hamstring again.  That’s allowed Zach Greene, Lee Butler, Colin Jones and Chris Rawakamba to get some work in.  At safety, Matt Daniels is an extremely talented youngster and we’ve just got to take our execution to another level.  We also have Byas and, of course, Catron Gainey is in there as well.  The experiment with Greene has been slowed due to his injured ankle, so it’s hard to evaluate there.  But this does let us evaluate where we are and, hopefully, we will find some freshman help when we get here in the Fall, but we are not counting on that.  Instead, we are trying to get with the squad we have here currently,” said Cutcliffe

Last season the tight end position had little depth due to injury, but this season the position could prove to be a strength and may be the most improved unit.

“Seeing Brandon King and Huff back healthy and Danny Parker who has had back problems all fall is healthy is positive for the position.  Getting Ryan Hall in early has been a big plus, so it is a position that could be a strength for us and I think it will be.”

The Blue Devils have a few more practices before they go to the summer break and that means the spring game which will kick off on April 18th is just around the corner.  BDN asked Cutcliffe about that game.

“I’m looking forward to the spring game but I am kind of wondering what the format is that I want to use.  With the squad as small as it is, we may not be able to have a standard spring game, but I am still thinking about that and we’ll send a release out to our fans soon.  We had a great crowd last year and I am expecting a good crowd this year with alumni weekend being the same weekend.  I am really anxious to get a huge crowd out here.  We are going to make it fun and I can promise you it will look like football.”

You can find out more information on this game by going to GoDuke.com and it would be nice to see a big turnout for the affair.  In closing our chat, I asked Coach Cutcliffe if he had a message for the Blue Devil Nation [Duke fans] and the coach said without hesitation -

“I would tell the Duke fans the same thing I would tell our players in that this is year two.  Anything we did including our fan support was awesome for year one, but isn’t good enough for year two.  Everybody needs to step up.  This football program needs to step up and we will, but our fans need to step up.  We need to break season ticket sales, we need to have a full stadium from the corners all the way to the bottom.  It’s time to go … what are we waiting on?  This is good football here and we’re really excited and ready to start this thing.”

Duke Spring Football Practice – Vinnie Rey is ready to bring it

2009 Season Ticket Packages are on sale at GoDuke.com
2009 Season Ticket Packages are on sale at GoDuke.com

When you are talking about the Duke defense in 2009, you can start with Vinnie Rey.  The senior linebacker is ready to bring it to the field this season and will be counted on to ease the loss of All ACC teammate Michael Tauiliili.  Rey was a defensive star last season for the Blue Devils and at times is a tackling machine.  Blue Devil Nation took in spring practice and was able to talk with Rey and get his thoughts on the linebacking unit and more -

Coach Cutcliffe just said that he sees you stepping up on this team and being a leader.  What are your thoughts on that?

In terms of being a vocal leader, that just comes with confidence.  It means watching film and listening to what Coach wants and carry that to the field.  We have other linebackers that are leaders like Damian Thornton, Abraham Kromah and Adam Banks.   We watch a lot of film and we are working a lot and that brings confidence that allows us to play fast and be vocal on the field.  That’s from Coach Mac [Macintyre], he teaches us to do these things.  Personally, I feel a lot more confident on the field.

This is your second year or spring under Coach Cut.

I feel that the difference from last year is there  is another step we have to take.  coaches are demanding a lot from us be it conditioning, playing fast, mental toughness on the field.  Even if you might be tired or hurt not to show that which is something I have to work on.  Just to be able to take the extra step and get better and better.

Some of the pundits are already saying the line backers could be a weak spot on defense.  What do you think of the guys you have been working with this spring?

Well, to tell you the truth, we feel we can be one of the best units in the ACC.  Our goal is to be the best bar none and it’s all about bringing it every day which we continue to try and do.  Every day we bring the intensity to the field – we make some mistakes, but as long as the intensity is there you can build off that.  I don’t see any reason why we can’t be one of the best units on this team if not the best.

In the back of your mind are you already thinking about Richmond (home opener)?

(smiling) I do sometimes!  One of our quotes is we prepare for Saturday today … Saturday in 2009.  We are thinking about them a little bit, but we are also thinking about stopping the guys on our offensive side in practice.  We have to think about going up against the offensive line and beating them every play.  How are we going to beat Richmond if we don’t practice winning in practice?

Speaking of the offensive line, there were some major losses there.  What has it been like going up against those guys so far this spring?

We have had some battles with them.  I don’t know that much about the trenches but toughness is a big issue.  They’ve knocked us on the ground sometimes getting pancakes on us, but we’ve knocked them back sometimes.  There has been some battles.  All this stuff about linebackers or the offensive line being a weakness – we don’t even care, we just go out and work hard every day.  We’ll see what happens when all is said and done.

Talk a little bit about your coaches …

Coach Cu [Cutcliffe] t gives us several fundamental quotes and statements and we just go about it.  Coach [Mike] Macintyre?  He preaches hawking the ball.  We have a board in our meeting room which shows how many times you hawked the ball and if your numbers are bad on the board it’s kind of embarrassing, so you want to get those numbers high.  That’s an incentive to go out and hawk the ball every day.

And the bottom line is …

We know how to work better.  We know how to bring it.  So, we bring it every day.  One thing Coach Cut always says is you are either going to get better or you are going to get worse and I feel that we are getting better every day.

Struggling Miami up next for Duke

[private]The Duke Blue Devils play host to the struggling Miami Hurricanes on October 18th. Perennial powerhouse Miami enters the game at 3-3 and coming off a sloppy 20-14 victory over Central Florida. The Hurricanes turned the ball over three times and managed just 216 yards of offense in the victory. Miami is 11th in the ACC in total offense at 289.2 yards per game. Prior to the victory over Central Florida, the Canes suffered back-to-back home losses to North Carolina and Florida State.

The Blue Devils are coming off a bye week after losing at Georgia Tech 27-0 on October 4th. The 3-2 Blue Devils are averaging 24.6 points and 324.4 yards of offense per game. Duke’s offense is spearheaded by Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis who has thrown seven touchdown passes against three interceptions this season. Six of those touchdown passes have gone to wide receiver Eron Riley who is third in the ACC with 5.4 receptions per game. After the Navy game, in which Lewis connected with Riley for three touchdowns, Coach David Cutcliffe stated, “They are pretty special friends. Eron – he is kind of climbing the ladder…If we can get him healthy, he could have a pretty special senior season.”

At 0-2 in the ACC and with upcoming conference games against #21 Wake Forest and #18 Virginia Tech, the Duke game has developed into a must win game for the Canes. The pressure will be on Miami and they could come into the game tight. If Duke can force a turnover or execute a big play early, they could set the tone for the game and exert pressure on Miami.

Duke has struggled establishing a running game thus far this season. The Blue Devils are managing just 118.8 yards per game on the ground, and in the loss to Georgia Tech were held to 35 yards rushing. In discussing the running game, Coach Cutcliffe stated, “It’s got to be fixed and get fixed quick.” Miami is second in the ACC in Rushing Defense giving up just 95.7 yards per game, so Duke will need to figure out the adjustments that need to be made and execute them in order to establish a running game against the Canes.

The passing game has been the strength of Duke’s offense this season. Duke is third in the ACC in Pass Offense at 205.6 yards per game. Miami’s defense has yielded nine passing touchdowns this season including two in the fourth quarter against North Carolina. Look for Duke to attempt to exploit Miami’s secondary in order to move the ball and establish offensive rhythm. Miami is last in the ACC with just three interceptions on the season. Thaddeus Lewis has completed passes to 14 different players this season with four receivers having double-digit receptions. The offensive line must give Lewis time to throw the ball as Miami is fifth in the ACC with 14 sacks for 123 yards.

On defense, Duke has played solid recording six interceptions and seven sacks. Linebackers Michael Tauiliiu and Vinnie Rey are number one and two in the ACC in tackles per game at 11.4 and 9.4 respectively. The Blue Devils are sixth in Scoring Defense and eigth in Total Defense in the ACC. Duke is third in the ACC, behind Virginia Tech and Florida State, in Time of Possession at 31:50 per game.

October 18th will be an exciting day in Durham. It is Homecoming Weekend and the basketball Blue-White Game will be held at 1:00 pm prior to the football game that is set to start at 3:30 pm and be televised by ESPNU. This year finds the situation in Durham a bit different as Duke fans are still excited about football even though basketball season is set to start. This coming Saturday, the Blue Devils have a legitimate opportunity to secure their second ACC victory of the season against the Hurricanes. Duke needs to execute the fundamentals: take care of the football, win the battle at the line of scrimmage, avoid penalties, and execute on special teams. If they can take care of those fundamentals, there is a very good chance Duke will send Miami back to Coral Gables with an 0-3 ACC record.[/private]