Category Archives: Duke Football

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?


Friday Morning Links

Starting off with AAU Basketball and Las Vegas, Kenny Boynton and Brandon Knight have scored 33/26, 21/24, and 26/19, respectively over the past three days.  The two have combined to make 17 three point shots.  Jody Demling has an extensive update from Las Vegas posted on his blog at the Louisville Courier-Journal.

The Las Vegas Review Journal has written a positive article on the ability of lesser known athletes to achieve exposure via the AAU circuit.  Adam Zagoria and Dick Weiss also have updates on their blogs.

Turning to Duke football and Desmond Scott on his decision to play for Duke University: "I wanted to play in my backyard." has more here.

Finally, here is Coach K with more thoughts on USA Basketball.

Desmond Scott will play his football for Duke University

Duke landed a big time local running back, when Desmond Scott de-committed from Rutgers and casted his lot with the Blue Devils.  Scott plays for Durham Hillside, a team that also features another Duke commitment in Cory Gattis.  It's no secret that the Hillside Hornet's will get the support of Duke fans this coming season.  Scott is an all purpose back and will be a duel threat in college if he remains at his current position.  He is the ninth player to commit in the class of 2009 for Coach Cutcliffe.  Duke continues to show improved recruiting under the new staff.