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Duke-football

BDN Football Friday: Spring Game Preview

 

Coach Cutcliffe and the team will kickoff the festivities with the Blue Devil Walk at 11AM Saturday- BDN Photo

Are you ready for some football, Blue Devil Nation? Saturday afternoon will be your last chance until September 1st to see some Duke Football, so get your fill. The Blue Devils will take to the field on Saturday at 1PM in Wallace Wade Stadium for their annual spring game. BDN’s Football Friday is here for your preview.

 

Logistics

First of all, highs in the upper 70s, with a slight chance of isolated thunderstorms. Should be a perfect spring day for some football if the rains miss the Methodist Flats. That also means a perfect day for some tailgating. Get there early, as the team will conduct the Blue Devil Walk at 11:00 AM. Team BDN will be there in full force, so be sure to say hi. Here’s the information on the parking situation. Bring your wallets, even though admission is free (stadium gates open at 11:15), as there will be plenty of opportunities to get your Blue Devil gear, as well as stuff your face with Chick-fil-a, Domino’s, and Blue Devil Concessions. Oh, and the most important reason to bring your wallet is to purchase your 2012 season tickets. Ticket office reps will be on hand and help you pick your exact seats. Try before you buy. The game kicks off at 1PM and Coach Cutcliffe will address the crowd during halftime of the scrimmage. Spring practice awards will also be announced at halftime.

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

Scouting the Blue Devil Offense

The Duke offense will feature a number of familiar faces, but it’s likely to be the unfamiliar ones who will make an impression on Saturday. We all know what Conner Vernon is capable of at wide receiver, but as he’s been limited due to injury this spring, expect to see a lot of Blair Holliday and Jamison Crowder, both of whom have had very strong spring performances. Nick Hill is another young face who appears ready to contribute, and Corey Gattis and Tyree Watkins add a veteran presence to the receiving corps. With Jack Farrell and Braxton Deaver sidelined with injuries, the Blue Devils had concerns at wide receiver heading into spring practice. Coming out of spring practice, tight end is no longer a concern, and you’ll likely see why as Issac Blakeney and David Reeves are sure to impress.

Up front, the Duke offensive line returns all but graduating senior Kyle Hill, and that continuity should benefit the Blue Devil offense. This group has improved each year under Coach Cutcliffe, and they’re looking to take a big step forward this fall under new OL Coach John Latina. Expect to see a few holes opened for the likes of the now healthy Josh Snead and last year’s leading rusher Juwan Thompson, who have seen the majority of carries with senior Desmond Scott nursing injury. If that trio isn’t impressive enough for you, the Blue Devils will add two more big-time running backs in just a few months, as Jela Duncan and Shaquille Powell will push for early playing time.

Am I forgetting something? Ah, yes, quarterback. While Peyton Manning had been a fixture in the Duke practice facilities this offseason, he will not be taking snaps under center for the Blue Devils on Saturday. Sean Renfree remains entrenched as the starter, and he’s had yet another good spring running the Duke offense. While much of spring practice is situational, Renfree has shown the ability to get the ball downfield, averaging 15.7 yards per completion in the last scrimmage. But Renfree’s old news, right? Coach Cutcliffe and the Duke staff have been looking at ways to get guys like Brandon Connette and Anthony Boone more involved in the offense, and they’ve done well with running the ball and catching the ball in some unique schemes. But don’t get too excited. Knowing the Duke coaching staff, the Blue Devils are unlikely to show off anything particularly new or exciting on Saturday, so we’ll all just have to wait until the fall. Expect to see Connette, Boone, and freshman Thomas Sirk take several snaps under center in relief of Renfree; all have taken big steps forward in their command of the offense this spring.

Ross Cockrell has developed into a shutdown corner for the Blue Devils

Scouting the Blue Devil Defense

Somehow, it seems that Duke has had a perpetually young defense the past few years, and that remain the case this spring, though they are overall more experienced. The losses of Matt Daniels and Charlie Hatcher will be the biggest voids to fill, and there are a number of candidates looking to contribute. Up front, Duke will be without their top pass-rushers Saturday in Kenny Anunike and Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo, but will feature much of the same group of athletic ends we saw a year ago, led by Justin Foxx, Dezmond Johnson, and Jamal Wallace. Sydney Sarmiento, Jamal Bruce, and Nick Sink are likely to see the majority of time on the inside up front. The defensive line continues to improve under Coach Petri and has the benefit of going up against a big and experienced offensive line in practice.

At linebacker, the Blue Devils will be without Kelby Brown for the foreseeable future, but expect sophomore David Helton to continue to impress. The redshirt is off for Kelby’s younger, but bigger, brother Kyler, and it appears that a nose for the football is in their genes. Austin Gamble is the lone upperclassman, though sophomores C.J. France and Jon Woodruff have some experience. And before you get down on the Blue Devil linebackers, keep in mind that stud recruits Keilin Rayner and Deion Williams will be on campus in just a few months.

Coach Knowles’ 4-2-5 scheme relies heavily on the secondary, and the emergence of Ross Cockrell as a shutdown corner is key. He’ll be joined by senior Lee Butler at cornerback, though youngsters Jared Boyd and Tim Burton will see time. The leader of the secondary this year is most likely to be leading returning tackler Walt Canty, though hard-hitting Jordon Byas has also turned some heads with August Campbell sidelined this spring. Newcomers to look for at safety include the hard-working Chris Tavarez, Britton Grier, transfer Jeremy Cash, and former WR Brandon Braxton. All should see snaps on Saturday and overall, this group has some of the best playmakers on the defensive side.

Scouting the Blue Devil Special Teams

Will Monday. That’s about all you need to know. With Will Snyderwine and Alex King now graduated, Monday has handled all of the punting and kicking duties this spring, and handled them well. By the fall, incoming freshman Ross Martin may challenge him for the placekicking duties, but expect to see Monday handle the punting for the next four years in Durham. On the return side, Jamison Crowder remains the Blue Devils’ top threat, but he’ll be joined by incoming freshman DeVon Edwards this fall, who took more than a few kicks to the house during his high school career. In all likelihood, getting to see Monday punt and kick should be a refreshing sight for Blue Devil fans and the only real highlight on special teams Saturday.

Recruiting still sizzling

Who are all those people with lanyards and nametags? That would be the dozens of high school prospects and their families who will be on campus this weekend to take in the Blue Devil program. Several members of the Duke class of 2012 will be on hand Saturday, and they’ll be joined by a huge group of future prospects. With 3 commitments already on board in 2013, the coaching staff is flying high on the trail and will have in some of their top targets in this class, including a handful considered among the nation’s elite. Coach Cutcliffe and his staff work on recruiting every single day, and this weekend will be no exception. And just like the staff, we follow the recruiting trail here at BDN, so be sure to check out some of our recent interviews with the likes of TE Nathan Marcus, and OL Sterling Korona, and of course lots more to come. Don’t be surprised if the Blue Devils hear more good news by the end of this weekend.

In case you haven’t figured it out already, Blue Devil Nation is the place to be for Duke Football fans. We cover the team year-round, and would love to have you join our growing BDN Premium community. We can’t wait to see you all in Wallace Wade Stadium this Saturday. WE ARE DUKE.

Duke QB Sean Renfree threw for 2 TDs in Saturday's scrimmage

Holliday, Renfree Highlight Duke Football Scrimmage

Duke QB Sean Renfree threw for 2 TDs in Saturday's scrimmage

DURHAM, N.C. – Quarterback Sean Renfree completed 15-of-19 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns while wideout Blair Holliday caught eight passes for 84 yards to highlight Duke’s 60-play scrimmage Saturday morning at Wallace Wade Stadium.

“We really got what we wanted out of it,” said Duke head coach David Cutcliffe.  “We wanted to extend play. We’ve done a lot of fundamental work. This is practice nine. Probably more fundamental work and less team work than we’ve had in any time since we’ve been here. But we’ve worked on some of the ‘how’ before we were doing the ‘what’. I think it’s paid off. It’s paid off with players like Blair Holliday, who you can just see has jumped leaps and bounds from where he was. It’s paid off in a lot of our offensive and defensive linemen – first team and second team.”

Renfree’s two scoring throws covered eight and 15 yards, respectively, to Jamison Crowder and Holliday.  Crowder finished the day with six grabs for 67 yards.  Running back Josh Snead spearheaded the ground attack with 61 yards on eight attempts, including a one-yard touchdown plunge, while quarterback Brandon Connette rushed five times for 29 yards with a nine-yard touchdown.

“The coaches have shown great trust in all our receivers,” Holliday said. “We changed our offense around a bit where every receiver needs to know the positions; every receiver needs to come up and make big plays. It really just shows how much trust they have in us to put us out there and make plays.”

The final scoring play of the morning came on a 40-yard strike from Connette to tight end Issac Blakeney.

“Issac Blakeney and David Reeves are two very young tight ends that I can see now all of the work they’ve put in,” Cutcliffe noted.  “If I had to probably pick one thing that the naked eye caught was Sean Renfree. He was a senior quarterback today. He was really sharp, and not just in the scrimmaging parts. From the first part of practice on — I watched him through seven-on-seven — everything was at a very high level. A lot of encouragement today.”

Safety Walt Canty registered the lone turnover of the day with an interception.  Kicker Will Monday booted a 26-yard field goal along with a pair of PATs.

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

Thomas Hennessy will fill the void left by LS Jackson Anderson this fall in Durham

Duke Football adds a commitment from 2012 LS Thomas Hennessy

LS Thomas Hennessy gave his commitment to Duke over the weekend

Head Coach David Cutcliffe has placed an emphasis on the importance of winning the kicking game during his tenure at Duke, and has thus placed an emphasis on recruiting top special teams prospects.  With redshirt-senior Jackson Anderson the lone long snapper on the roster, the Blue Devils filled a need by landing one of the top special teams prospects in the country, as 2012 LS Thomas Hennessy gave his pledge to Duke University over the weekend. Hennessy is a 6’3″ 205 pound prospect from Don Bosco High School in New Jersey. Ranked among the top 10 long snappers in the country, Hennessy will join fellow HS special teams standouts Will Monday and Ross Martin in Durham this fall.

Scouting Report from Kohl’s Kicking:

Thomas has outstanding accuracy as he was the only snapper to register 15/15 targets hit during the showcase events in May 2011. He stays consistent with his snap velocity and has smooth mechanics. 2nd place finisher overall and 1st place finisher for class of 2012 at Eastern Showcase camp. Had a good second day of charting at Underclassmen Challenge in January, 2011 and was the top finisher at the Eastern Showcase Event and finished the day by winning the snap competition. Has worked very hard and has made great strides in his development as a LS. Top 10 finisher at 2011 National Invitation Scholarship Camp.

BDN caught up with the newest Blue Devil shortly after his decision.

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BDN: How did you become interested in Duke and what led you to decide on the Blue Devils?

I first became interested in Duke my sophomore year when I started looking at high school because of its academic reputation. Ever since, I’ve always wanted to go there and we took a visit down there the weekend after the Super Bowl and toured the campus and the facilities and I just loved everything about it and knew it was where I wanted to go. 

BDN: You’ve become one of the top long snappers in the country. How did you end up becoming a long snapper?

I started playing long snapper my freshman year. We needed somebody to do it and I wanted to do it and it turned out I had a knack for it. Ever since then I’ve worked hard at becoming the best I can be and have attended lots of national kicking camps and earned the #9 national ranking this past year. 

BDN: Is there anything else you think Duke fans should know about you?

My school, Don Bosco, we’ve played a lot of national games and games in front of 10,000-plus fans. We played a game in MetLife Stadium in front of 20,000 fans, so I’m used to snapping the ball in big games and I think that will help prepare me for college.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Thomas, and congratulations on your commitment.

Thank you!

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All-American Will Snyderwine will anchor Duke's kicking game again in 2011 -Duke Photography

BDN previews Duke’s 2011 special teams units

Prior to the arrival of Head Coach David Cutcliffe, Duke fans remember all too well the days of missed field goals (and extra points!!), botched snaps, muffed punts, and missed tackles. Duke’s special teams is now light years ahead of where it was just a few seasons ago, and should continue to improve and become a strength for the 2011 Blue Devils.

 

All-American Will Snyderwine will anchor Duke's kicking game again in 2011 -Duke Photography

Kicking

Losses: Nick Maggio

Key returners: Will Snyderwine (R-Sr.), Paul Asack (R-Jr.)

Newcomers: none

2010 Review: Lou Groza semifinalist Will Snyderwine handled the kicking duties for the second straight season in 2010. After taking over for the injured Maggio in 2009, the former walk-on has now hit 38 of 44 (86.4%) field goal attempts in the past two seasons for the Blue Devils, with a career long of 52 yards at Georgia Tech in 2010. Snyderwine converted 32 extra points in 2010, extending his perfect career streak to 56/56. The combined field goal and extra point totals placed second all-time at Duke, with 95 points, and earned him All-American honors by the American Football Coaches Association, making him the first Blue Devil All-American kicker in school history. His value to the Duke team extended beyond field goals and extra points, as he increased his touchback numbers from 2/47 in 2009 to 11/60 in 2010.  Charged to work on on-side kicks last offseason by Coach Cutcliffe, Snyderwine delivered, as the Blue Devils were able to recover 4 of 6 on-side kicks in 2010. Overall, the Duke kickoff unit ranked 3rd in the ACC and 18th in the country, allowing just 19.71 yards per return, with opponents average start at the 24 yard line.

2011 Outlook: Snyderwine returns to anchor the kicking game again in 2011, and has already garnered several preseason accolades, including the Lou Groza Award Watch List and several preseason All-American honors. The former walk-on has developed into a potent weapon for the Duke offense and special teams units. Snyderwine appears ready to cap off a historic career at Duke with a big senior season. With increased depth throughout the roster, the kick coverage should continue to improve and become a strength for the Blue Devils. Big plays occasionally haunted the Duke coverage unit, and they did give up one touchdown return on the season against Alabama. The only concern with the Duke kicking game in 2011 might be depth at kicker, where an injury to Snyderwine could significantly weaken the Blue Devils.

Highly-touted freshman punter Will Monday will challenge senior Alex King

Punting

Losses: Kevin Jones

Key returners: Alex King (Sr.)

Newcomers: Will Monday (Fr.)

2010 Review: Jones lost the starting job to King after a botched punt against Wake Forest in 2010. King was mostly dependable for the Duke punting game, averaging 41.1 yards per punt, finishing 7th in the ACC. Of 55 punts on the year, King was able to pin opponents within the 20 yards line 21 times, with 6 touchbacks. The Blue Devils’ punters achieved a net of 33.6 yards per punt, which ranked 9th in the conference and 106th in the nation. The punt coverage, however, faired worse, allowing 14.4 yards per return, which ranked last in the conference and 117th in the nation. The Blue Devils were only able to force 7 fair catches on the season and allowed a punt return touchdown against Maryland.

2011 Outlook: Punting appeared to be the biggest weakness among Duke’s special teams unit in 2010, and stands to be an area of significant improvement in 2011. The hope is that with better depth, speed, and athleticism, the punt coverage unit will do a better job of limiting opponent returns. Punting should improve as well, as King now has nearly a full year of starting under his belt, and will be pushed by highly-touted freshman Will Monday.  The competition between King and Monday will definitely be one to watch this month.

 

Josh Snead led the Blue Devils' kick returners in 2010

Kick Return

Losses: none

Key returners: Patrick Kurunuwe (R-Jr.), Desmond Scott (Jr.), Conner Vernon (Jr.), Josh Snead (So.), Juwan Thompson (So.)

Newcomers: TBD

2010 Review: Scott, Snead, and Thompson were the leading return men for the Blue Devils in 2010, and Duke ended the season 4th in the ACC with an average of 20.9 yards per return. As true freshmen, Snead and Thompson ranked 7th and 8th individually with averages of 22.0 and 21.7 yards, respectively. The Duke return game provided the offense with an average starting position of the 27 yard line.

2011 Outlook: Duke has yet to return a kickoff for a touchdown under Coach Cutcliffe. Will 2011 be the year? With the three primary return men all back, Duke seems poised to continue to use kick returns as a strength. Scott, Snead, and Thompson will continue to share carries in the Duke backfield, and will also split the kick return duties. With their combination of size, vision, and speed, it may be difficult for any newcomers to break into the rotation, but the Duke staff has shown a desire to rotate multiple return men in an effort to keep players fresh throughout the season. The kick return job is another key competition to watch during training camp.

Senior Lee Butler is Duke's leading punt returner in 2011

Punt return

Losses: none

Key returners: Lee Butler (Sr.), Johnny Williams (Sr.)

Newcomers: ?Jared Boyd (Fr.), ?Tim Burton (Fr.), ?Jamison Crowder (Fr.)

2010 Review: Butler handled the vast majority of punt return duties in 2010, finishing with a respectable 8.6 yards per return, which ranked 5th in the ACC and 31st in the nation. With a season long of 33 yards, Butler was able to consistently advance the ball, but rarely broke out for big returns. Williams showed some explosiveness as a punt returner in 2009, but due to injuries and a position change, only returned 2 punts in 2010.

2011 Outlook: With both Butler and Williams back, along with a group of speedy youngsters headed by Jamison Crowder, Duke appears ready to develop the punt return game into a significant weapon. There is likely to be significant competition for the starting job, and with some improved blocking, 2011 might be the year that fans see an explosive punt return game from the Blue Devils. Coach Cutcliffe has historically emphasized the kicking game in past training camps, and the punt return unit is likely to see significant reps this August.

BDN Duke Football 2011 Offense Preview

BDN Duke Football 2011 Defense Preview

Bookmark Blue Devil Nation for in-depth coverage of Duke Football all season long, from training camp through the 2011-2012 bowl season.

Duke placed 15 teams in the top 10 percent of the APR - GoDuke.com photo

Football Friday: TWIDF

Does Major League Baseball still produce TWIB? I used to watch This Week In Baseball every weekend when I was a kid. Well, if MLB has TWIB, then BDN has TWIDF. BDN Premium’s Football Friday is your weekly look inside the world of Duke Football. It’s been a busy week in Durham, as the Blue Devils were recognized for their work in the classroom and also added a verbal commitment to the class of 2012.

Duke placed 15 teams in the top 10 percent of the APR - GoDuke.com photo

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Duke named among top 10 percent in APR

The NCAA honored the Duke football program, along with 14 other Duke teams, for placing among the top 10 percent in the multi-year Academic Progress Report. The APR is an attempt to provide a real-time evaluation of each student-athlete’s academic progress (as opposed to graduation rates, which are retrospective). While this kind of recognition has become expected among Duke teams, it’s still a great acommlishment. The Blue Devils were first in the ACC and second overall with 15 teams recognized; Notre Dame had 17 teams honored. As the Duke football program strives for excellence on the field, they also continue to excel in the classroom.

The NCAA has more questions for Butch Davis and the Tar Heels after Quinton Coples' appearance at a post-draft party

NCAA visits UNC, again

UNC defensive end Quinton Coples was spotted at a post-draft party in Washington, DC along with former teammates Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn in pictures posted on Facebook. This is either a complete non-story or a really big deal. Here’s why. If Coples paid his own way for the trip and related expenses, his attendance at the party is allowed by NCAA regulations (though ill-advised given UNC’s recent issues). If, however, Coples did not pay for any part of his trip to DC, Coples will likely be ruled ineligible for at least part of his senior season. Experts have Coples ranked among the top 5 NFL draft picks in 2012, so this could be another high-profile UNC player with eligibility issues. Given the similar infractions last year, the NCAA could have solid ground for strong sanctions against UNC. Stay tuned.

Duke receives third verbal commitment for 2012

The Blue Devils added a hard-hitting safety in Dwayne Norman

 

As you know by now, Dwayne Norman committed to Duke on Wednesday night. The Blue Devils were the first to offer the 6’0” 185 pound strong safety prospect from University Christian in Jacksonville, Florida. Norman joins fellow Jacksonville native TE Erich Schneider and DE Allen Jackson as the first three members of Duke’s class of 2012. Thus far, all three prospects appear to be solid verbal commitments to the Blue Devils.

As for Norman, he’s a hard-hitting safety prospect who totaled over 70 tackles and an interception as a junior, while also lining up at wide receiver. His highlights can be viewed here. Norman finishes tackles very well and does an excellent job getting into the opposing backfield. He will need to improve his coverage skills to play at the college level, but has the speed (4.5 sec 40-yard dash) and athleticism (33 inch vertical) to make the transition.

OG Cody Robinson is among the Blue Devils who arrived on campus this week

New Blue Devils on campus

Several members of the class of 2011 moved on to campus and began their first college courses this week. The first summer semester began on Wednesday, and the Blue Devils will have 8 players enrolled for this term. Several of these players worked hard to finish up their final semester in high school early so that they could arrive on campus as early as possible. The remaining members of the class of 2011 will join them for the second summer term at the beginning of July. Fall training camp will open during the first week of August, at which time all members of the team are required to report to campus.

The players enrolled on campus are:

OG Cody Robinson 6’3” 290 pounds

OG Lucas Patrick 6’3” 305 pounds

CB Tim Burton 5’9” 170 pounds

CB Jared Boyd 5’9” 170 pounds

P Will Monday 6’4” 185 pounds

TE David Reeves 6’6” 245 pounds

WR Nick Hill 6’2” 200 pounds

LB Jon Woodruff 6’3” 205 pounds (January enrollee)

Duke to host Nike camp this weekend

NFTC will host an invite-only camp at Duke this weekend

 

Spring football is in full swing for most high school prospects, and that includes both spring football practices as well as combines and camps. On Sunday, Nike will hold an invitation-only football camp on Duke’s campus for top prospects in the class of 2012 and 2013. Needless to say, this is great exposure for the Duke program, and a testament to the recent improvements in Duke’s football facilities. With the indoor practice facility under construction, Duke’s commitment to football should be clear to prospects. Duke will host their own football camps the 2nd and 3rd week in June, but this camp is another great opportunity to get top prospects on Duke’s campus for unofficial visits.

Here’s the list of Nike Football Training Camps this spring:

March 27         Miami

April 3              USC

April 10            TCU

April 15            Georgia

April 17            Florida State

April 30           Penn State

May 1               Rutgers

May 7              Houston

May 15            Stanford

May 21            Ohio State

May 22            Duke

June 5              Oregon

June 19            Washington

Desmond Scott leads an improved Blue Devil running game

Al Featherston does it again

If you’ve read this far, clearly Hooked on Phonics worked for you. Maybe you’re willing to read a little more. If so, we highly recommend the next installment of preview articles by Al Featherston at GoDuke. This week, Al speaks with Kurt Roper and analyzes what should be an improved running game for the 2011 Blue Devils.

 

That’s what’s happening in the world of Duke Football this week. Until next week, WE ARE DUKE. [/private]

 

Best of luck to Abraham Kromah and the rest of Duke's NFL hopefuls this week. -Lance King Images

Football Friday: the book light that comes with your Snuggie

If you haven’t joined BDN Premium yet, you don’t know what you’re missing. My wit and insight alone are worth the price of admission. Well, not really. It’s more like you get all of watzone’s scoop, Andrew Slater’s recruiting analysis, a great Duke message board community, and then my column is that last add-on in the infomercial that they throw in to close the deal.  I’m the booklight that comes with your Snuggie. But seriously, it’s April and I can’t find a way to keep these columns any shorter. I guess that’s a good thing, as it means there’s still a lot of activity around Duke football. Thanks for joining us for another thrilling installment of BDN’s Football Friday. [private]

Sorry about the title, I thought it was a good line, until I realized well, it’s not. Oh well, let’s see you come up with something better.

Best of luck to Abraham Kromah and the rest of Duke's NFL hopefuls this week. -Lance King Images

 

Tyree Glover dismissed from program

This is old news now, but Tyree Glover was arrested on Tuesday in Durham and charged with trafficking cocaine. After a search of his dorm room, he was also found to be in possession of marijuana and was held in jail in lieu of $750,000 bond. Legal experts would know better, but I believe the trafficking charge for the amount of cocaine he possessed is a class G felony, which carries a maximum sentence of 42 months in prison and $50,000 fine. As would be expected, Coach Cutcliffe acted swiftly in dismissing Tyree from the program for “conduct unbecoming of a member of the program.” As a sophomore, Glover played in 11 games for Duke and started the September game at Wake Forest. It’s an unfortunate development for the program, both as a knock on Duke’s reputation and a loss of depth at linebacker. While I hate to try and find a bright side in situations like this, Glover’s dismissal will open up another scholarship this fall, which could certainly help with only 12 players in their final year of eligibility. Though his serious lack of judgment is indefensible, we all certainly hope that Tyree is able to turn things around for himself.

NFL Draft set for Thursday

The Blue Devils sent four players to the NFL in 2010, though none were taken in the NFL Draft. Duke has several NFL hopefuls again this year, and the Blue Devil Nation will be pulling to hear their names called on Thursday. At Duke’s annual Pro Day, DE Patrick Egboh, OG Brandon Harper, TE Brett Huffman, WR Austin Kelly, TE Brandon King, LB Abraham Kromah, CB Chris Rwabukamba, and LB Damian Thornton worked out for NFL scouts, and a few have had additional workout invites in recent weeks. In all likelihood, the Duke seniors may have to work their way into the league again this year via the free agent and training camp invite routes. Next to winning games, establishing players in the NFL is essential to help the Blue Devils recruit elite athletes.

Spring practices wrap up this weekend

The last of ACC spring practices will wrap up this weekend, and the ACC coaches held their spring conference call earlier this week. Since we toured around the ACC in last week’s Football Friday, we won’t do it again. Much of what we discussed last week still holds true: QB battle will head into August in Miami, Virginia Tech expects David Wilson to be very good, etc. Boston College expects to have Montel Harris back for the fall, but he was held out of their spring game for precautionary reasons, so we’ll keep an eye on his health as we head towards September.

As for Duke, Coach Cutcliffe didn’t have much to add, given that Duke wrapped up spring practice nearly a month ago. He reiterated the team’s youth, especially along the defensive front, where 10 of 15 players are underclassmen. He’s excited about the speed on defense and thinks that Coach Knowles did a good job with personnel assignments this spring, which we can only hope will continue into the fall. We’re all excited to see this Duke offense, as it has the potential to be great with an improved and consistent running game, along with three competent quarterback options.

But back to the defensive front, as that’s what makes me lose sleep at night. Coach Cutcliffe reiterated that he hopes to play up to 9 guys along the defensive front, which is an interesting concept. When was the last time Duke had that many ACC caliber defensive linemen? Are there teams that routinely use that many players along the defensive front? Of course, any team with decent depth rotates guys in and out, but I get the impression that Cutcliffe hopes to have 8 or 9 guys who play significant snaps each game. It’s really an intriguing strategy, given the group of players Duke currently has. With so many young first or second-year players up front, and with no clear-cut All-ACC caliber player(s), why not try to get 20-30 good snaps out of each guy? The most obvious benefit is that it will hopefully keep the unit fresh for late in games, but it also reduces the amount of pressure on each individual player. I’m sure there’s both advantages and disadvantages to this potential rotation, but I’m interested to hear your thoughts (message board, anyone?).

Recruiting updates

As you might imagine, we haven’t heard much from the Duke staff this week, as the assistants have been on the recruiting trail. With the opening of the spring evaluation period last Friday, Coach Cutcliffe and the staff made calls to many of the high priority recruits to re-affirm Duke’s interest. It never hurts to be the first coach in a prospect’s ear, and Duke hopes it will pay dividends with some spring and summer commitments. Speaking of commitments, Coach Cutcliffe has mentioned his desire to have the class of 2012 essentially set by the start of the season, which some fans may have concerns about (the author included). We all know that many elite prospects, whether in basketball or football, tend to drag their recruitment out until the last possible minute. If Duke fills up its scholarships in August, it doesn’t leave much room for the January or February commitments. With a small class this fall, Duke doesn’t have a lot of margin for error, so it does make sense for the Blue Devils to try to secure the majority of their class by the fall. I don’t think Duke will be done with recruiting before the season, but it would be nice if they can get their commitment list into the double digits, hopefully leaving the remaining scholarships for some late-deciding elite talent. As we say on the message boards, just my .02.

So last week I name-dropped all over the place with recruiting, but none of it was very Watzonian. There’s so many names in football recruiting and things change so quickly, it’s hard to keep up. Trust me, I know. You talk to a kid from Oregon and he tells you he plans to take some officials in the fall before he makes a decision and then two days later he commits. No names, of course. Anyway, who are some of the players that Duke seems to have a good chance with at this point in the process? Let’s take a look:

With Anthony Boone's play this spring, it may not be essential to take a QB in 2012.

 

QB: With only one offer extended so far, Duke seems to think they have a good chance with Bilal Marshall, and that seems like a reasonable assumption as this point. When we last heard from him, he was favoring Wake Forest, mostly because they were the first to offer and the only school he had really visited to date. That remains the case, though he is mostly wide open. The hope is that Duke can get Marshall on campus this summer, perhaps for Coach Cutcliffe’s QB College, and then go from there. This is a situation not unlike basketball, where if Duke loses out on Marshall, they could have a lot of ground to make up with some of the other QB prospects. That being said, the chance to play for the mentor of Peyton and Eli Manning is still pretty attractive. With the play of Connette and Boone this spring, it’s also not a requirement that Duke takes a QB in this class.

RB: If I said it’s not a requirement that Duke takes a QB in this class, then I have to say that it is a requirement to take at least one RB in this class. So I think we’ve established that Keith Marshall is a long shot, and I would add that Dami Ayoola and Nick Tompkins might be as well, since both already have double digit offers. We heard from Dontonio Jordan and Todd Gurley this week that Duke remains in the mix for them, and there’s still a long way to go in both of their recruitments. As for the South Carolina prospects, Duke is Dondre Brown’s only offer to date, while Jay Jay McCullough has an offer from in-state Clemson, which might be tough for any school to overcome, but we’ll hear from him tomorrow.

WR: This is a tough group to really evaluate, as several have yet to visit Duke’s campus, which is never a good omen, though a few are from the West Coast, which makes it more understandable. We’ll hear from Justin Johnson over the weekend, and Duke is very much in the mix for his services. Of those on the East Coast, we’ll also hear from Jared Crump this weekend, and P.J. Harris and Desmond Frye are recent Duke offers.

TE: Duke remains in the mix for Dan Beilinson and already has a commitment from Erich Schneider.

OL: Duke has made a good impression on Andrew Jelks, Eric Olson, and Max Tuerk. In fact, I just heard from Eric that he will be on campus this weekend in Durham. Don’t get excited about D.J. Humphries. I’m working on hearing from some of the new OL names.

DT Korren Kirven sounded impressed with Duke, UVA, and VT

 

DL: D.J. Reader and Carlos Wray have made multiple visits to Durham, and Duke has impressed Korren Kirven and Matt Godin, though Godin is a lifelong Michigan fan with a Wolverines offer. We’ll hear from Sheldon Rankins and Nigel Williams this weekend, two other good looking prospects with Duke offers, who appear to have some interest in the Blue Devils.

LB: Deion Williams and Keilin Rayner are at the top of the list and both have Duke near the top of theirs at this point in the process. Would be nice to get one of these guys on board soon.

DB: Dwayne Norman will be making a decision this spring and it looks like it is down to Duke and South Carolina. Derek Jones has a good relationship with Miami’s Larry Hope. Duke was among the first to offer MarQuise Jones, Albert Reid, and Jonavaughn Williams. Would also be nice to get a DB on board soon.

Kicker: I didn’t mention this last week, but I see that it’s up on another site, so I’ll address it. Duke will, in all likelihood, need to take a placekicker in the class of 2012. Two in-state players, Paul Griggs and Brad Pinion, have both visited Duke and like the Blue Devils. With few scholarships available, it would be nice to be able to find a walk-on kicker, but it may be necessary to offer a scholarship in order to get an elite one. We’ll also have to see exactly where Will Monday is with his placekicking when he gets on campus this fall. Monday is expected to challenge Alex King for the starting punter job.

As you can see, the potential is there for Duke to put together a really good class in 2012, with almost all of the prospects mentioned likely to be rated as three starts or higher. The next few months are the critical period, as Duke will look to close out the recruitment with some of these players and receive commitments before the start of their senior year. We’ll do our best to stay on top of football recruiting and bring you the best, most efficient coverage around. Feel free to jump in with your thoughts, questions, etc. on the message board. Until next week, WE ARE DUKE.

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