Football is in the air as the Duke Blue Devils take to the practice field where they'll prepare for their season opener in South Bend, Indiana against the 10th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
The Blue Devils head football coach, David Cutcliffe, and players addressed the media today via Zoom where they discussed the many challenges ahead. Here are a few thoughts in the first BDN football notebook for the coming season.
Is the Quarterback Position Wide-Open?
If you listened to Duke head football coach David Cutcliffe via Zoom as he addressed the media you might think the quarterback position is wide open. All offseason, incoming freshman Chase Brice has gotten the most hype but Cutcliffe clearly wants competition at the position. He mentioned that Chris Katrenick had shown vast improvement in understanding the nuance of the position and the way it needs to be played at Duke.
He also mentioned his walk-ons and Gunnar Holmberg while saying little of Brice. Reading the tea leaves on this one still tells me Chase Brice is the person the staff trust most but that he and others have to produce not just in understanding the game on paper, but that it must translate to actual play on the field.
I think the ACC's longest-tenured coach is trying to stabilize a solid backup option while continuing to teach the Duke system to the position.
Safety is a Priority
Duke is adjusting to not only new facemask protection but testing and implementing ever-changing precautionary measures with concern to the COVID virus. He is also allowing his players to wear monitors with concern to conditioning and avoiding soft tissue injuries as they work back into shape. He mentioned a concern with his athletes getting back into shape in the summer heat after so many people have spent time inside.
... but the good thing is...
Cutcliffe said that 98% of his players came back in the shape they had hoped. Duke implemented many a session for training via Zoom, and or, other technologies.
Duke Loses Two to Opt-Outs
Curtcliffe shared with the media that OL Jacob Rimmer and long snapper Ben Wyatt have opted out and both have the blessing of the team and university. He also sounded as if both could be replaced and that he had players ready to step up. Considering he has lost just two players thus far I would say that is the best they could have hoped for.
Cut's comments on the whole
He definitely sounded excited about playing football, but he also shared the following. He said today's practice went off pretty well and that they would adjust as they go. He also mentioned that team spirit was high and that he witnessed good habits during the first practice.
Overall, he sounded pleased where his team was at despite being just 36 days out from their opener at Notre Dame. He also said he was pleased with the kicking game and or how they worked. That is big news considering Duke has new players at the position.
Cut also mentioned his veterans three times during the chat where he is pleased to have some experience. He mentioned the offensive line and seemed to hint at battles for the starting spots while developing depth.
Also mentioned was that players are adjusting to him calling plays and that there were some changes on the offensive end. There was little mention of some of the new staff with the exception of Greg Frey, the OL coach.
A Few Schedule Thoughts
Duke more or less replaced Pitt and Miami with Syracuse and Florida State. With the struggles versus Pitt, this could be a good thing or is it? Syracuse blistered Duke in Wallace Wade last season, so we can hope the Blue Devils will seek revenge in the Carrier Dome. Considering Duke whipped Miami and rarely play Florida State, I think this is a good swap for Duke as well. Duke gets the Seminoles in late November for their last game of the season.
The Blue Devils have a program on the rise in UNCC a team that went bowling on the schedule. That may actually be one of the leagues' tougher outside opponents. In-state opponents are always dangerous and this will be the first meeting between the two schools. Duke lost Middle Tennessee State and NC A & T or Elon. One more note, the Blue Devils play UNCC on Halloween on Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium.
Opening at #10 Notre Dame will certainly be a major challenge for Duke and the two teams played not that long ago. But maybe cathing the Irish early is better than late. The Duke program will also have a lot of the nation's eyes on them with this opener and that can be a good thing.
Stay tuned into Blue Devil Nation as the season approaches for our Duke Football Notebooks will continue as we near the opener. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter for the latest breaking information and visit our Facebook Group.