Tag Archives: Coach Cutcliffe

Brandon Braxton updates BDN on his transition to safety

Duke receiver Brandon Braxton has made the switch to safety this spring

The goal this offseason has been on finding the "best 22" players to put on the field for the Blue Devils. Inevitably, this forces the Duke coaching staff to make some creative and difficult decisions to realize this goal. One of the most prominent changes this spring has involved Brandon Braxton, a once promising wide receiver who has selflessly made the switch to safety. Braxton's strong play on special teams the past two seasons exemplified some of his potential as a defender and tackler, but the learning curve for Coach Knowles' defense is steep. BDN caught up with Brandon after spring practice last week to get an update on his transition.

BDN: How did the decision to switch positions come about?

I had originally heard through the grapevine that they were switching me to defense. I gave Coach Cut a call and went and met with him, and it wasn’t for sure or anything at that point, and he said that they had been thinking about it. I told him I would be willing to switch if they thought that would improve our team, and I ended up switching and so far I like it a lot. 

BDN: How do you feel your skill set fits on the defensive side of the ball?

I like the defensive side of the ball because it allows me to react instead of having a set play, so I definitely like that about defense. I also just like flying around and reading, so that’s probably my favorite part about defense.

BDN: You’ve played quite a bit on special teams over the past two seasons, so you’ve had some experience with tackling, but what have you found to be the hardest adjustment to playing defense so far this spring?

There really hasn’t been any really hard thing to pick up, but just learning the defense and knowing checks and seeing different things. Just being comfortable at safety is definitely a huge change from what I have been doing and what I’m used to. I feel like I’m a freshman all over again, learning a whole new system and getting back in the swing of things of college football. I haven’t played defense since junior year of high school, but so far I’m picking it up really fast and feel like every day I’m progressing.

BDN: Now that you’re on the other side of the ball, who’s the toughest receiver to matchup with in practice?

All of them are really good, honestly. Blair Holliday has been playing great. Jamison [Crowder] has been playing really good. Conner [Vernon], everyone already knows that Conner is a stud. Nick Hill is a new and upcoming redshirt-freshman and he’s been playing really good. All of them, really, there isn’t one that I can pinpoint that’s super difficult, they all have different attributes and different things that they bring to the wide receiver.

BDN: You may feel like a freshman all over again, but you’re actually entering your third year with the program. What’s your assessment of the team this spring, compared to when you first arrived at Duke?

This spring, well I’ve only been through two springs, but there was such a period when losing was acceptable, and I think that that whole air and people that were here when that was happening is gone. My teammates now don’t accept losing as an option. That’s the biggest thing that I’ve seen. We’ve all been working really hard and the coaches have been pushing us, and we’re all up to the challenge.

BDN: The secondary is obviously a key to Coach Knowles’ defense. Can you talk a little about some of the players that have impressed you and helped you make your transition?

All of them – Walt [Canty], Jordon [Byas], Anthony Young-Wiseman, they’re all veterans and they’ve all been here awhile. Ross Cockrell, we’re usually on the same side, and he’s been helping me a lot and he’s progressed immensely at the corner position. He’s turned into one heck of a cornerback. They’ve all done their part in helping me pick it up faster and teaching me tricks of the trade and making sure I do well.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Brandon, and best of luck this spring.

Alright, Patrick, thank you so much.

Woodbridge (VA) DB Evrett Edwards picks up an offer on his visit to Duke

DB Evrett Edwards is the type of star student-athlete Coach Cutcliffe wants at Duke

During Coach Cutcliffe's revitalization of Duke football, he has maintained the program's reputation for featuring the top student-athletes in the ACC. A year ago, the program led the ACC with 19 Academic All-Conference selections, more than three times any other ACC program. The goal is to match that success in the classroom with the results on the field, and ultimately, that effort starts on the recruiting trail. This weekend, Coach Cutcliffe extended a scholarship offer to a top student-athlete from Virginia, who he hopes can help the Blue Devils continue to build their success both in the classroom and on the field.

Evrett Edwards is a 5'11" 175 pound cornerback prospect from Woodbridge HS in Woodbridge, VA. Though he didn't start playing football until 8th grade, Edwards was a quick study, learning from his uncle, Benny Guilbeaux, a former safety at Notre Dame. By his junior year in 2011, Edwards earned 1st Team All-District honors, totaling 38 tackles, 6 interceptions, 4 pass break-ups, 3 fumble recoveries, 2 blocked field goals, and 1 blocked punt. The speedy prospect has seen his recruitment take off in recent weeks, and he now holds 6 scholarship offers from Boston College, Duke, Illinois, Ohio, Wake Forest, and West Virginia. BDN caught up with Evrett shortly after his unofficial visit to Duke on March 17. [private]

BDN: How would you describe your strengths as a player?

My understanding for the game. I’ve been told that I have a very high football IQ. I use that to my advantage. I study a lot of film, I study so much film to the point where I know if they run a certain play, I know what their whole drive will consist of. My footwork, I play soccer, so at my position footwork is a big deal. My quickness and my speed, I run a 4.42 [second] 40 [yard dash] and 3.91 [second] 20-yard shuttle.

BDN: What are you working on this offseason as you prepare for your senior year?

First of all, better myself. Second of all, better the people around me, and through that, obtain a state championship.

BDN: As you approach your college decision, what are the most important things you are looking for in a school?

I’m looking for a school that will last with me for 40 years. I understand that football is going to be finished at some point, and whenever football is done with me and I’m done with football, I need a degree from a school that is going to mean something in the business world. So, a 40-year, not a 4-year school.

BDN: Is business something you want to study in college?

International Business.

BDN: Where do you stand with offers and visits now?

I have 6 offers, most recent came from Duke yesterday. Earlier this week, on Tuesday, I got one from Wake Forest. On Friday, last week, was West Virginia. Thursday last week was Boston College and Wednesday last week was Ohio. Two or three weeks ago, my first offer came from Illinois.

BDN: Which schools have you had a chance to visit?

I’ve visited Duke and UVA thus far. I’m really trying to plan a visit to West Virginia and then April 13th I’m going to Northwestern, they’re interested and talking about a possible offer. On the 14th I’m going to the University of Illinois.

BDN: Can you talk a little bit about your visits to UVA and Duke and what stood out to you about those schools?

Virginia, I talked to Coach Poindexter and he invited me to their Junior Day so we went down and visited, sat down and went over some film with Coach West, nothing serious. Duke, I’ve been in contact with Coach Roper for quite some time now, I went to spring practice, liked what I saw, had a chance to see the position coaches, watched film with them in a meeting, and then at the end of the day, Coach Cutcliffe called me into his office along with my parents. He told me he wanted to extend me an offer and thought that I would be a perfect fit for this school with my upbringing from my parents and how it’s hard to find true student-athletes that excel both in the classroom and on the field, and he really liked that about me.

BDN: Do you have a timeline in mind for when you plan to narrow things down or make your final decision?

I had been saying November/December, but now, after the way things have been going the past couple of weeks, I really don’t have a timeframe. I’ve prayed about it with my parents and when I get that feeling, I’m going to make the phone call and drive or fly to whatever school and talk to the coach.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Evrett, and best of luck.

Alright, thank you.


Duke Football lands 1st commitments in 2013 from Monroe QB Quay Chambers and TX OL Austin Davis

Monroe dual-threat QB Quay Chambers is the first commitment in Duke's class of 2013

Coach Cutcliffe added his first commitments in the Duke class of 2013 today as Monroe QB Quay Chambers and Texas OL Austin Davis committed to the Blue Devils.

Chambers is a 6'3" 190 pound dual-threat prospect from Monroe High School, the same program that has produced current Duke players Issac Blakeney and Jamison Crowder. The Blue Devils were the first program to offer Chambers a scholarship back in February, and hosted the speedy athlete on an unofficial visit on March 3. After missing most of his sophomore year with an ankle injury, Chambers finished his junior season at Monroe with 1,776 yards and 23 touchdowns through the air and 1,221 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground. His efforts earned him All-Conference honors for his junior season. The Blue Devils will likely bring Chambers in as an athlete, as they have with Crowder and Blakeney. "It wasn't a hard decision because Duke was my favorite school growing up and I always wanted to go there, so when they offered me, I had to take advantage of it," Chambers told BDN Saturday afternoon. "Coach Cutcliffe and Coach Lubick have been recruiting me and talking about playing QB or WR." Chambers was also receiving interest from UNC, NC State, and ECU.

Mansfield OL Austin Davis committed to Duke on Saturday

Davis is a 6'5" 295 pound offensive lineman who projects as a center at the college level, but can also play guard and tackle. Davis received his first scholarship offer from Duke and had been receiving interest from Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, SMU, and Georgia Tech. The big prospect gave his pledge to Coach Cutcliffe during his unofficial visit on Saturday to take in the Blue Devils' spring scrimmage. A two-time 1st Team All-District selection, his highlight video can be seen here.

Check back with BDN for more on the newest Blue Devils.

Two-time All-ACC WR Conner Vernon checks in with BDN

Duke WR Conner Vernon scores his 1st of 2 TDs against Tulane last year -BDN Photo

Duke senior WR Conner Vernon is poised to rewrite the Duke and ACC record books during his final campaign in Durham this fall. Vernon will enter his senior year just 34 catches and 842 yards shy of the ACC career record-holders. After flirting with the NFL Draft earlier this offseason, Vernon is committed to finishing what he started at Duke before moving on to the next level.

BDN caught up with the Blue Devils’ star receiver after spring practice earlier this week.


BDN: You've been limited by injury this spring. First of all, how is your health right now?

It’s better. I’m back out there, I was out there today for practice, and I’m looking forward to getting back out there.

BDN: Should fans expect to see you in the Spring Game on March 31?

Yes, that’s what I’m hoping.

BDN: After three All-ACC caliber seasons at Duke, you considered entering the NFL Draft this year. Can you talk a little bit about that process and ultimately, why did you decide to return to Duke for your senior year?

Really, it just came down to just trying to finish what I came here to do at Duke, and that’s to get them back to the program they once were. I really just wanted to jump start the new direction that Coach Cutcliffe has turned this program around in. Also, finishing up graduating and getting my degree was a really big thing for me and my family, so that also played a role into it.

BDN: As a rising senior, you now become one of the veterans and leaders on this team. What is your assessment of the team in spring practice so far, especially as you compare it to past seasons?

This team, we’re a really young team, but we have a lot of talent, which is something we’ve had in the past, but I think the difference now is that we have a lot more depth at each position, and that’s going to help us a lot. We have a lot of young guys who have grown up a lot this spring, who have shown that they can play at this level, which is a big improvement from prior years. We have a very good recruiting class coming in that will have some guys who can play right away, and we’re hoping that will push some of the older guys to keep working to keep getting better. Really, that’s what this spring is all about. The competition level has been a lot higher than it has been in the past.

BDN: You mentioned the youth on this team and the higher level of competition in practices. Who are some of your younger teammates that have impressed you this spring?

From what I’ve seen so far, some of the young guys who have really stepped up is Blair Holliday at the receiver position, he’s taken on a starting role and has been playing a lot with the 1 offense, he’s really stepped up. On the defensive side, Kyler Brown, Kelby’s younger brother, he’s been all over the field, flying around, so that’s been really good to see. I’m definitely missing a few, there’s been a bunch. Dezmond Johnson has really stepped up on defense. There’s been a bunch of guys I’m missing right now, but when we pull up the tape you’ll see flashes from some guys that are really impressive and things that they haven’t shown in the past.

BDN: Over the past couple of seasons, Duke has struggled to score in the red zone. Why do you think this is? What are you working on this spring to improve the red zone offense?

I think it’s really just an execution standpoint, for some reason down there we just lack execution. It’s something we have to fix because we have to score points down there, field goals aren’t going to cut it, we need touchdowns. Also, down there execution is very important because you don’t have a lot of room to work with. It’s difficult down there to throw the ball so we have to have our running game, which has stepped up a lot this spring. That’s something we’re looking forward to this fall, being able to run the ball down there as opposed to relying on the past.

BDN: You're closing in on an historic career at Duke, and looking to lead this team back to a bowl game in your senior year. What are some of the things that come to mind as you reflect back on your decision to come to Duke and your career here?

If I could do it all over again, I would do everything the same. This has been home for the last four years and it’s been a great four years. I’ve been put in a position with this offense and Coach Cutcliffe’s game plan to be able to be successful and have these kind of records, it’s an honor. From the moment I stepped on campus to where we are now, the difference is monumental. From our new facilities, we have the new Pascal Indoor Facility. When I first got here, the Brooks Facility wasn’t up yet, so I got to see that develop. Then we’ve added to our weight room, and really just the buzz around town is that Duke Football isn’t an afterthought now. It’s what’s happening now around Durham, and that’s something that was nonexistent before Coach Cutcliffe got here. Getting to see that grow has really been fun to watch.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Conner, and best of luck this fall.

Thank you so much, Patrick!

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.


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!


Duke among the first to offer 2014 TE Jeb Blazevich

2014 Charlotte Christian TE Jeb Blazevich already holds scholarship offers from Duke and UNC

With Duke's prolific passing offense, solid tight end play, both in blocking and receiving, is crucial to success. After the graduation of senior TEs Cooper Helfet and Danny Parker, the Blue Devils are young on the tight end depth chart. That youth has the Duke staff working hard on the practice field this spring, but also on the recruiting trail. Among the impressive list of visitors this past weekend, Duke welcomed in one of the top sophomores in the state of North Carolina in TE Jeb Blazevich. Blazevich is a 6'5"  235 pound prospect out of Charlotte Christian school in Charlotte. The Blue Devils have recruited well in the western part of the state in recent years, securing commitments from players like Charlotte Christian alumni Kelby and Kyler Brown. Duke is hoping to continue that success with Blazevich, one of the first players in the class of 2014 to receive a verbal scholarship offer from the Blue Devils. [private]

BDN: How would you describe your strengths as a player?

Well, as you know, I’m about 235 [pounds] and 6’5” so I’m not super big like some of the huge tight end and I’m not super small and fast like the wide receivers. I think I have good versatility to be able to go out and be athletic as a wide receiver and also get inside in the box a bit and knock some heads. So that’s what I’m looking to do is a little of both, just the versatility and be able to be a hybrid that can do both. I want to be able to be whatever kind of receiver or blocker that the team needs me to be.

BDN: What are you working on this offseason as you prepare for your junior year?

Goodness, it’s a lot of stuff. Definitely just continuing better routes, better speed. Of course I want to get bigger, faster, and stronger. But, better routes, explosive off the line, better blocking, just continue to work on the fundamental stuff. I’m trying to be more of a lateral player, I think at times I get a bit too North-South and I think if I improve my vision I can get a lot more extra yards. Just mostly the small stuff that every player needs to be working on – the routes, the blocking, the running, the lifting – all the basics, just keep working at it.

BDN: As you approach your college decision, what are the most important things you are looking for in a school?

Well, as my dad says, we sort of have a three-legged stool. We want a winning football program, of course. We also want good character and integrity, to see how they’re going to raise me, basically, since they’ll be my second parents when my parents aren’t there. And also, academics, how they’re going to prepare me for the real world after football ends. That’s the main three, and there’s a lot more that goes into it, but if we see those three, then that’s a college that we’d love to look at.

BDN: Which schools have you been in contact with so far?

Right now, it would be Duke, UNC, Clemson, South Carolina, and Florida. Also Auburn before Malzahn left, but I haven’t heard anything from them since then, so I don’t think they really count anymore.

BDN: That’s a great list and obviously many of those schools are close to home. Is location something that is important to you?

Location isn’t really a big deal, but as you know, it’s who you know, so closer is a lot easier for a sophomore to get introduced to people. Location is not that big a deal, it’s just sort of a coincidence that we know more people in this area and they’ve been stopping by and it’s easier for us to get to know each other as opposed to a school farther away where we’re not so close that I can go up there and see them and they can come see me. So it’s really just who we know.

BDN: Which schools have you had a chance to visit?

I’ve been to all the schools on the list, except for Florida. I’ve been down there to see the weight room and tour the facilities, something like that. I’ve been impressed by all of them.

BDN: Are there any schools that you have had a chance to visit this spring or have plans to visit soon?

Actually, yes. So far this spring, I’ve been downt o USC and this past week I went to UNC and Duke both, they had me up there for a little basketball game and that was really fun. I’m going to try to go to all their spring practices and spring games and go down to Clemson, just to see how actual football is going to be, not just the flashy show and stuff. See how they practice and see the coaches yell a little bit, get used to that.

BDN: Are there any other schools that you are definitely interested in hearing from or visiting?

I try to keep an open mind to all schools, but some of the few that we’ve sort of sat down and wanted to pursue are definitely Virginia, and something like Tennessee or Kentucky, and just more ACC schools, SEC schools, something fairly close by, not too far away, but we’re just open to anything. We just want to get as many options as you can, because options equal success, and it’s easier if you have options, so we’re just trying to get anywhere basically.

BDN: Is there anything else you want ACC football fans to know?

Just one more thing, February 18th I was offered by UNC and then actually last night I was offered by Duke.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Jeb, and best of luck.

Thank you sir, thanks for taking your time.