Category Archives: Duke Football

What they’re saying about Coach Cutcliffe

[private]The final tour stop on the Cutcliffe Express stopped at Tyler's Tap House where Coach  Cutcliffe addressed aproximately 250 Iron Dukes.  He  later threw out the first pitch during the Durham Bulls game.  We'll have an in depth article up tomorrow where you will hear all the positive things said. So be sure to check back.   During the event, I was able to talk to some Duke players and fans.  Here is what they had to say about David Cutcliffe -

Hal McElhaney (Former Duke Football Great)- I've been to practice sessions all spring and observed his coaching style.  There is so much familiarity in the ways he does things to Coach (Bill) Murray that it's scary.  I think Coach Cutcliffe is what I term a throwback.  He grew up under the Bear Bryant regime and there is a lot of style in him.  I know we are going to improve.  I will guarantee you we will improve.  He's such a methodical well planned thinker.  He's demanding, he's tough, he's kind of ornery, but he also puts his arms around a player.  I have a tough time tempering my excitement. 

Bob Harris (Voice of the Blue Devils) - I have been on the tour with Coach Cutcliffe and he's got people interested and excited about Duke Football again.  Listening to him talk, you can see just how committed he is and how much he believes they're going to win.  He's the ninth head coach that I've worked with and only two others have been a head coach prior to coming to Duke.  David brings a pedigree that none of the others can touch.  The job he did at Mississippi, going to four straight bowl games which is phenomenal.  I'm not predicting anything like that for Duke but he will have them much better quicker some might think.  I'm excited about the way he does things, the way he conducts himself and the changes within the team in the short time he has been here.

Roger Neighborgall (Former Duke Quarterback 72-75)- Coach Cutcliffe is going to focus the kids priorities.  That's very important at Duke.  In the past they have put their focus in a lot of different directions.  These kids are going to know they have a proven winner.  I liked that he mentioned faith and family as two of the key points.  What Coach Cutcliffe was saying is that he is going to respect which ever faith you may bring to the table or encourage you to have some kind.

Don Fowler (Former Duke Baseball Player)- What has most impressed me is that Coach Cutcliffe has figured out that there are kids in North Carolina that can play.  As a North Carolina native that played at Duke I know the importance of having in state kids.  I like that he said he was going to be out there visiting every town and getting to know the coaches.

Don McClintock (Fan from Durham)-  He's doing exactly what I think needs to happen.  There has to be a change of culture and that's exactly what he is trying to instill.  We're excited ... all of my family has tickets and we are looking forward to go watch Duke play.  Obviously, the Duke fans want to win, but they really just want to see a good brand of Duke Football.  If they win they're going to be really excited.  If they don't win and play a good brand of football, that'll be okay in that they understand it's going to take a little while to get it turned around.

Stan Ellis (A fan from Durham)- I think its great having Coach Cutliffe at the helm.  It's motivating and that's something that Duke has lacked for a long time.  I've been going to Duke Football games all my life and it's good to see someone come in that can motivate and get them back to where they use to be.  I invite all Duke fans to "Charlies," a Duke friendly place.

Check back in for the best Duke Football coverage on the web. Oh! And since Charlie's was mentioned I have to plug my bud Gene Devines place, Devines.[/private]

Duke Football Practice Report #3 – Fundamentals

[private]The Duke Football Staff has taken a step back and gone into a teaching mode.  "I changed our schedule to do a lot more teaching, a lot more fundamentals.  We are where we will test offense versus defense in more situations in the next two days," said Cutcliffe.

The team lined up the with DL's and LB's versus the offense early in the practice.  They were surrounded by five coaches which include Matt Luke, Kurt Roper, Zac Roper, Ron Middleton and of course Coach Cutcliffe.  It was obvious these guys had worked together and it was easy on the eyes to view the coaches at work.

Luke would bark orders just outside the trenches and Middleton stayed behind the offense, exhorting several players with Kurt Roper nearby.  Coach Cutcliffe was overseeing the whole scene with intensity, making the team run several players over.  Zac Roper, like Cutcliffe would push a linebacker in a certain direction from behind to either test the offense or to improve their skills aof perception.  In short, all the coaches were on the same page and they were trying to get the team that way.

A lot of emphasis was put on the throwing motion, stance and footwork of the quarterbacks.  The defensive linemen went one on two and one on three in drills.  Four or five players looked really good during these drills including offensive linemen, Goldberg and Roland.

The tight end position has has a lot of attention in that Brandon King has been out.  Cutcliife stated, "when we get this thing going rolling we will have two and three tight ends in the game at one  time.  We want guys who can stretch the field and are physical.  That's a special position to go and recruit.  I think the guys we have now are capable, but I don't think they are use to the versatility and what they are asked to do.

Notes- Duke will turn around and practice in the morning, for Cutcliffe has a speaking engagement at Tyler's Tap House in Durham.  Duke will wear full pads tomorrow and hold a closed scrimmage on Saturday.  Coach Cutcliffe said the team was in as good of shape as he thought they were.  He wouldn't go into individual players name but said the young guys are providing some speed and quickness.  He mentioned that his team needed to play lower which especially holds true for certain positions.  I noticed the same thing and it's as if Coach read my mind.  Coach said, "the first thing out of my mouth tomorrow is to play lower."  Coach also said his team could not afford to waste any reps.  He also mentioned that he liked seeing the stadium in the backdrop as Duke practiced.  Coach also said they have great respect for James Madison and their coaching staff, mentioning they were winners saying "we have a big challenge in front of us."  Vinnie Rey took a big hit and was taking into the Yoh Building.  It is said it was not serious.[/private]

Duke Football Practice Report #2 – First Unit Offensive Line Pleases Cutcliffe

[private]Coach Cutcliffe sang the praise of the number one offensive line unit on Wednesday evening.  “It was good to put the pads on where we could get some work on the line of scrimmages with the offensive line against the defensive line.  It really starts telling the tale of who is ready to play,” said Coach Cutcliffe.  He continued, “I was encouraged by the offensive lin in our inside running drills today.  It was the best I’ve seen them play since spring.”

“Get up, get up, get up!,” echoed in the background from various parts of the field as dusk closed in on Duke Football’s third practice of the season.  In short, when a player hit the turf, they we immediately encouraged to get up so that they could still make the play.  “One of our rules is to treat the ground like a hot stove.  Nobody has ever won a football game laying on the ground.  I think it’s critical that our guys understand.  That’s how we play football, we’re back on our feet.  That’s the biggest emphasis we have right now, that everybody get back on their feet, stay on their feet and keep moving.  There is an old saying I like from the years I heard from old Jim Neyland, “No feet, defeat,” and I think that’s very true in football.  If you don’t have good feet you’re gonna get beat.”

With regards to the passing game, Cutcliffe stated, “We have miles to go, but we are making a lot of progress in throwing and catching the ball route running and understanding spacing versus zone and separation versus man.”  Coach then said that they had slowed the process down and got back into the teaching mode saying,  “We don’t want the cart to get ahead of the horse trying to do too much.”  This was in reference to similar mistakes this unit had been making in Spring ball which once again caught his watchful eye.  He also mentioned that the receivers were starting to learn how to separate and that the quarterbacks were starting to play a little faster saying, “It’s a fast mans game and we’ve got to get to that point.”

While a lot of the focus has been on the offense, it’s defense that often wins you the ball game.  “I see our defense managing our zone blitz game and disguises.  You can tell they’ve done a lot of group and individual work on it,” said Cutcliffe.

Notes- Much like Coach K, Cutcliffe is active when talking about changes he feel will help the college game.  He feels there should be some sort of exhibition game in order to work out the kinks, stating the NFL got four games to work with.  He also talked of some rule changes which I will elaborate on later.  A couple of freshman caught my eye and it is being discussed on the BDN Premium Message Board.  Tielor Robinson is running with the tight ends.  There is no word on the status of Brandon King.  Coach Cutcliffe will be speaking at Tyler’s Tap House in Durham tomorrow with tickets still available.[/private]

BDN’s Duke Football Practice Report #1 (corrected)

[private]Duke Football held their second practice of the season last evening and it was evident that some changes have been made. I’ve been going to practices for many years having seen every coach run their version since Mike McGee. Wallace Wade would often be right beside me, yet he never commented but so much. There was one exception which was Red Wilson’s 1981 season which was the last time Duke beat Virginia Tech on a Dennis Tabron interception. Wade stated, “now that’s good football,” after a play fake which resulted in a forty yard scamper by the tailback.

I couldn’t help but wonder what Wade might have said about David Cutcliffe. Wade of course coached Alabama before coming to Duke and Cutcliffe graduated from ‘Bama in 1976. While Wade was a man of few words at practices, he always had that “legend” thing going on, where he commanded attention. It got to the point where I could almost tell when he was not impressed by reading his facial expression and there were quite a few times when he must have been thinking what happened to the once proud tradition that was Duke Football.

A lot has changes since the days when Wade stalked the sidelines, but good football is still good football. Wade always talked about protecting the ball and the advantage of a good kicking game. He would often crack a slight grin watching Scott McKinney nail field goals on a consistent basis in 1981.

Well, Coach Cutcliffe preaches ball protection too. And he also knows how important the kicking game is for Duke this coming season. I couldn’t help but gravitate towards the kickers where I watched the footwork of Joe Surgan and incoming freshman Paul Asack. Cutcliffe most recently stated that he would go for extra points if their wasn’t significant improvement.

That is but one of the concerns the new staff will address. North Carolina is known for it’s sometime schizophrenic weather and on this evening, the humidity increased as the night went on. So, did the intensity of the pace which ended with the dreaded one legged suicides while pulling a significant amount of weight.

The practice seemed much more uniform than last season. Players would run to their stations and if they let up, a coach was sure to be in their ear. In fact, watching Coach Middleton at work broght back memories of old school discipline. Middleton is an imposing figure that will not hesitate to tell a player what he feels. During one drill with the tight ends he let one player know that his intensity was as soft as, well, you get the idea.

Watching the intensity of Vince Oghobasse and others on the defensive front was a refreshing sight. It was nice to see Ayanga Okpokowuruk return to his natural position of defensive end as well. No matter where you looked, each coach was focused and on the same page. Simply put, there is more organization.

Cutcliffe lets his coaches do a lot of the work. He will float from offense to defense, from lineman to backs, letting them know what he expects. Cutcliffe will insist certain plays are run over again or that an individual players take more reps.

The team as a whole looks svelte. They are not that imposing physically on the whole, but they are in good shape. Duke will employ new schemes which will require mobility and of course the emphasis has been on being fresh in the fourth quarter since Spring.

Cutcliffe mentioned that he was anxious to see what the team carried over from the Spring and his reaction was mixed. “I thought our team was fresher from start to finish tonight,” said Coach when comparing it to the first nights practice. He was ready to get off the field and get right into watching the tape. “Okay, let’s make it quick, I have work to do,” he bellowed as print media gathered after and extended local TV piece.

The work ethic was also mentioned again by Senior leader Eron Riley, “We worked really hard in the off season conditioning wise. We made it through practice, we’re tired but we are making it through it. We need to be more consistent, but we’ve got good work in the last two days.” Riley was gasping for breath having just completed the aforementioned suicides to close Duke’s second practice.

Cutcliffe mentioned that he felt there was balance to the practice and that he would have to look at tape to reaffirm that. “We really went back and focused on fundamentals on both sides of the ball which I think payed dividends,” he said. After watching the first nights tapes he mentioned, “We were making some of the same mistakes that we made in Spring. We can’t go another day making the same mistakes.”

Cutcliffe also mentioned that he threw in some unexpected changes on both sides of the ball to keep the team on it’s toes. he then segued into the secondary after being questioned about it. “I think we’ve really gotten off to a good start. We talked about it as a staff this morning … Coach Jones and Coach McIntyre. We’ve got to get settled, Glen Williams is a good cog. We are trying to get the best four or five on the field. We are not a team that’s afraid to play nickel and dime and getting our best guys in the game for we want our speed on the field.”

He went on to sing the praises of Leon Wright who had a good start. He also mentioned that he wanted to become more physical and consistent at safety, then mentioning Catron Gainey.

The Blue Devil Nation will continue it’s coverage of practice and we have plenty of notes and quote which we will share in the coming days. If you are a football fan, be sure to check in often and get an almost daily fix of information and analysis.

Pictures - (1) Coach Cutcliffe instructs Patrick Egboh, (2) there will be a battle foe the place kicking job. Joe Surgin looks on with freshman Paul Asack looming over his shoulder, (3) Coach Middleton is all business when running drills, (4) Vince Oghobasse shows off his quickness after trimming down in the off season. No reproductions are allowed without prior permission from BDN staff.

**- My faulty memory was off six years on Wade in the original print :)[/private]

Duke’s New Offensive Coordinator talks about the coming season

[private]The Blue Devil Nation was on hand for media day and we secured this interview with new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper.  We will have an article daily on Duke Football leading up to the home opener against James Madison.  We will also bring you practice coverage and comments for Blue Devil Nation Premium members.  The Blue Devil Nation loves Duke Football and we will aspire to bring you the same great coverage you have seen with concerns to the basketball program.  If you are a football fan, please pay us a daily visit during the month of August.  You’ll be happy you did!

So!  Are you excited to finally get back on the field?

(Wide smile) Oh yeah!  It’s like Christmas … Christmas Eve anyway.

Tell me a little bit about tomorrow.  Will you just have a walk trough?

The NCAA changed the rules a few years ago to try and help with all the heat strokes.  So, the first five days we can only practice once a day.  We will have about a two hour practice these first few days and on Saturday, we’ll have our first two a days.  We’ll have some intense practices this week.

Are you looking forward to seeing if any freshman can possibly help?

Sure, like I said it’s like Christmas Eve and tomorrow we get to unwrap the presents which is always an interesting thing.  We will try to help them catch up.  It wasn’t that long ago when you use to have two or three days of freshman where you could get out there and work specifically withthem  With all the rules changes they’ve taken those practices away which has been a change.   So, we’ve got to see who can step in and see  guys can play and possibly help right away.

So, I’m assuming the staff will get together and talk about who they might redshirt and such.  What is a realistic time line where you think you might have a feel to make the decisions?

Well, in college football is different than say the NFL, where they get four preseason games.  We schedule in three scrimmages with ACC crews … it’s a daily process, but at the end of those scrimmages, you’ve got to make those decisions and move on.  Our last scrimmage is the 19th of August.  We’ll put them out there and see who makes plays and the ones that are ready show up.

You’ve had a chance to get to know some of the guys here by now.  Are the players where you want them to be at this point and time?

I’m really comfortable with the players and the entire staff.  It’s a day by day thing.  Obviously I know the offensive players better and I think it’s a good group of guys who understand  what we want to do as an offense.  If they buy in and I think they have then that gives you a chance on Saturdays.

Is it safe to say there will be a lot of changes in your offensive schemes?

Well, there’s only so many ways you’re going to skin a cat.  Football is football, there’s eleven on the field.  When you develop tour schemes you do it based on people or personnel as much as anything else.  We’re going to be an offense that … (brief pause) … at the end of the day we want to score one more point than the opponent.  You do that by taking care of the ball and making big plays.

So, it’s safe to say that there is a gray with concerns to how you may call a game?

Sure, sure!  And it changes as the game changes.  We have to find out who the guys are that are going to make plays for us and then make it so guys get the football.

Some felt that the Duke offense wasn’t aggressive enough last season.  Even in the one win, they kind of scaled back the offense in the second half but still managed to hold on.  How do you make those decisions on when to go for the jugular so to speak?

I don’t think anybody say let’s go into the third of fourth quarter and say let’s protect the lead.  But there are certain situations in the game where you don’t want to put our self a bad situation and this is from years and years of position study and down and distance study.  If you take a close look at it and you get the ball within your own twenty yard line the percentages go way down.  Obviously the percentages improve as you get closer.  You have to be smart with play calling.  I learned a long time ago from some food football coaches that you beat yourself a lot more than that opponent beats you with turnovers, negative plays, penalties … before you win a football game you can’t be yourself.  There is that happy median where you want to be aggressive but still be smart.  We want to be our self and be a sound football team and you want to pick up chunks of yardage on big plays.  But you don’t win a game in the first three quarters.  You and I know when you play teams like North Carolina, Clemson and Virginia Tech, well you’re not going to run them off the field.  That’s not realistic I don’t care who you are even if you are number one Georgia.  We want an opportunity to win the football game in the fourth quarter.  You want a drive at the end of the game … that’s why everyone  wants a that great quarterback.  When you look at it those great ones have found a way to take that last drive and score with it just like Eli Manning did in the Super Bowl

I’m assuming you have had a chance to watch some film of last years games in getting an idea of your personal.  In the Miami game in Wade two years ago, Duke had an opportunity to score late in the game after a sustained drive, yet bogged down and turned the ball over.  The same thing pretty much happened there last season.  Have you seen that film and would you have done anything differently?

I wasn’t in that situation, so It’s hard to say what they were doing was the wrong em.thing.  They coached their team the way which seemed right to them.  Does that mean I would do it exactly the same?  No.  But our philosophy … we’re going to be pretty multiple

Speaking of quarterbacks, have you had a chance to look at Thad and what were your thoughts of him coming out of spring practice?  What do you like and dislike about his game?

I think he’s a guy that can throw the football well,  He runs a little bit hot and cold at times but he can throw the football well.  The thing that needed improving were his fundamentals.  You can’t ever take that lightly because when the fundamentals start fading are when the turnovers happen and that isn’t just an interception.  It could be fumbles in the pocket, the center exchange … all those things that you have to concentrate on as a coach.  He’s got to learn in our offense the fundamentals that are important.

I think it’s reps, I think it’s fundamentals.  It’s where he sets the ball up when he finishes his drop.  I think how he keeps both hands on it before he delivers rather than panicking and separated.  In situations like that I think you get your feet too far out of whack and you are not on balance.  He has to understand the timing of plays and apply that to have himself be active.  He was at 55% last year which is okay.  But you need to be 60 and above to really be throwing well.

So what will the team have to do to help ensure his success?

We have to figure that out … how we’ll protect him and how we do it best.  We have numerous protections in our package, no doubt.  So we will find the ones we are good at.  The other thing that you have to look at is that you have to build routes where he can get the ball out of his hands faster.  There are really good routes you can build up, but you will have to be able to protect a little bit longer.  If you can’t protect it, then there is no reason calling it.

You say in your offense …

Our offense is different, the drop back, the run schemes, all the footwork is different and that has to appl into to how you hand the ball off, how you get back into position and set, reading the coverage … which has to apply to the way we will run our offense at Duke.

How do you feel about the time you’re allowed to prepare for the home opener?

You know, when you really think about fifteen practices isn’t very much.  I’m anxious to see how much carry over we had (Spring).  There needs to be carry over and then there needs to be progress.  I’ll be able to tell you here in a couple of weeks exactly what I think.

Is it safe to say that Duke will be running the backs on routes and utilizing the tight ends more?

Sure.  I think last year one of our tailbacks caught 39 passes and he made a big difference in what he was doing.  Our tight ends>  We had four catch TD passes last year at Tennessee.  The goal is to get 55 to 60 percent completions their way for you really don’t have to throw it that far.  You hope those guys then make plays with their feet.

The running game was atrocious last year.  WIll improved quarterback play help there?  What can you do to try and develop a running game which averaged around 50 yards a game?

It’s a good question but a very long discussion when you get into it.  You have to be balanced, there is no doubt about it.  Typically an offense will go one way or the other with what they are good at.  The emphasis went more towards the passing game at Duke last year.  You’ve got to balance up your practice time to get good at both of them.  You’ve got to pick a few things and try to get good at it rather than saying okay that didn’t work let’s try something else.  You have to rep and rep and rep and rep until you become good at anything.  We didn’t come out at Tennessee last year and try to out physical everybody and the same will apply here.  You’ve got to create lanes horizontally and vertically in your running game.

Coach Cut has talked a lot about the speed of the ACC defenses.  The SEC is obviously fast.  Will you approach things differently in this conference?

I don’t think so.  The ACC, especially a couple of year ago was as talented as the SEC on defense.  When you are talking conferences, don’t gage it on offense but on the defensive side of the ball.  Florida won the national championship a couple of years ago because you couldn’t block their front four.  LSU last year won the title.  They were good on offense, but you couldn’t block their front four,  When you look at the ACC you start seeing players like that.

You are the OC and coach most of that side of the ball.  How do you guys work together like with Coach Cutcliffe?

Very well.  He’s done it a lot of years now  so he understands all the verbiage and all the terminology, every scheme we are running he is seen before.  If he sees something he likes or dislikes, he’s going to make a comment.  He is very involved with the process.

Pictured are Coach Kurt Roper and his wife and daughter and Thad Lewis and Coach Scottie Montgomery.  All pictures are the sole property of  Blue Devil Nation and you must have permission to reprint them in any way.


Duke Football ready to begin a new era under Cutcliffe


Duke Football is about to kick off the 2008 season under new Coach David Cutcliffe. The Blue Devils held their annual picture day on Sunday in Wallace Wade Stadium and the Blue Devil Nation was there to cover the event. We secured several interviews and will have articles almost daily leading to the home opener with Division II power, James Madison. We will also be bringing you some coverage from football practices as Duke Football readies to embark on a new era. As always the BDN will bring you plenty of illustration, so check back in for a photo gallery tomorrow and a one on one with new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper later today. Until then, enjoy the links below.

Today's Football Links -

Duke Football begins new era

WRAL Video

New staff determined to change the culture of Duke Football

Lewis talks of meeting the Manning brothers

Will a summer of hard work pay off?