In case you haven’t noticed, things tend to come in waves here at BDN Premium. With AAU coverage in full swing, we’re also entering the heat of the college football recruiting season. The Blue Devils have added another verbal commitment this week, and they’re just getting started. [private]
Class of 2012 up to 4
California LB Deion Williams joined TE Erich Schneider, DE Allen Jackson, and SAF Dwayne Norman as the first four verbal commitments in the class of 2012 this week. As a junior, Williams earned 2nd Team All-Trinity League honors, playing on both sides of the ball. Though Duke was his only offer to date, the coaching staff targeted Williams early on in the recruiting season and there’s reason to believe that they expect him to develop into a solid college player.
Back to the board
During the recent spring evaluation period, the Duke coaching staff was out in full force, scouting the country for players who will make an impact for their program. At the start of the evaluation period, Duke had extended around 50-60 offers. That number has now swelled to nearly 100, so let’s take another look at the recruiting board by position.
Let’s start with one of the positions of greatest need in 2012, after not bringing in a running back in 2011. Duke is up to 12 offers at running back, a good indication that they hope to take more than one in this class. Eleven of those prospects are still undecided, with J.C. Coleman, a Virginia Tech commit, being the lone exception. Dontonio Jordan is expected to announce his decision today, with most expecting his pick to be Kansas or Stanford. We’ve already heard from several of the remaining prospects, so we have some idea of where Duke stands with them: Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall, l’Tavius Mathers and Nick Tompkins. Interviews with some of the new names will be posted this week.
The offensive linemen are widely considered to be the strength of the class of 2011, and Duke hopes that success continues in the class of 2012. So far, Coach Luke and the staff have come up empty, losing six offensive line prospects to other schools; most recently, Patrick DeStefano to Clemson and Max Tuerk to USC. There are eleven uncommitted offensive line prospects remaining on Duke’s board, and we will focus on this position in interviews next week.
It’s no secret that Duke needs to improve on defense, and recruiting well along the defensive front would go a long way towards that cause. With an athletic defensive end prospect in Allen Jackson already on board, Duke is looking at 8 additional defensive end prospects and 12 defensive tackle prospects. Of those offered, only two have committed elsewhere: Brent Wilkerson to Penn State and Matt Godin to Michigan. Again, a lot of these prospects aren’t new to us: Torey Agee, Korren Kirven, David Reader, Jordan Watkins, and Carlos Wray.
The Blue Devils added Deion Williams to the class of 2012 this week, and will look to add at least one additional linebacker in this class. Keilin Rayner remains at the top of the list, but Jeremiah Allison is a new west coast prospect that has entered the mix. We’ll hear from him this week as well.
After losing out on Ronald Darby to Notre Dame, Duke remains focused on a group of five cornerbacks, led by Larry Hope and Albert Reid.
Duke views Erich Schneider, the first commitment of the class of 2012, as a tight end prospect, but will need to add at least one more to build depth at the position with the graduation of Cooper Helfet and Danny Parker. While they lost out on Evan Baylis to Oregon, Duke remains aggressive with a group of elite tight ends, headlined by Dan Beilinson, Justin Meredith, Kent Taylor, and Colin Thompson.
The Duke offense remains attractive to elite wide receivers, and with All-ACC receivers Donovan Varner and Conner Vernon now upperclassmen, the Blue Devils will need to reload at the position in the class of 2012. Micheal Summers is an athlete we recently heard from who could fit nicely as a slot receiver, and Duke continues to pursue Jared Crump, Justin Johnson, and Max McCaffrey.
So now you’re asking, did he really mean quarterbacks? I thought Bilal Marshall was the only one with an offer. Well, here’s your reward for reading this far. Duke has extended an offer to Georgia QB Chris Moody, another dual-threat prospect in the class of 2012. Moody has offers from other ACC programs such as Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech, along with an offer from Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks. Here’s a highlight clip for those who want to see more.
For most of you, this is a holiday weekend, and we wish you a safe and happy Memorial Day. For those of us here at BDN Premium, it will be a busy weekend, and we hope you’ll come back for the best AAU and Duke football recruiting coverage around. WE ARE DUKE.
We hope you all had a great Cinco de Mayo. We certainly did. Anyway, with the surprising retirement of Gary Williams and the spring signing period wrapping up, we understand that you’ve been distracted this week, but that’s no excuse for not joining BDN Premium so that you can get your inside look at Duke athletics. Also, if you don’t have BDN Premium, then you can’t read Football Friday, which means that this is the end of the ride for you. Cue the Oompa Loompas! [private]
You didn’t know you were going to be assigned homework when you started reading this article, did you? Too bad. I’ll keep this week’s article short so that you will have time to complete the following assigned reading.
When I first started writing this column, I intended to include a section of noteworthy links each week, and to this point, I haven’t really followed through on that idea, mostly because there hasn’t been much to read this offseason. This week, however, I came across two important articles to read. As most of you know, Al Featherston is a great friend to BDN and also one of the most knowledgeable Duke writers around. This spring, we’ve touched briefly on some of the hopes and concerns for the new Duke defense, but not nearly to the depth of Al’s recent article for GoDuke. It’s a must read for Duke football fans, and gives some insight into the strategy Duke will apply this fall, straight from the mouth of defensive coordinator Jim Knowles. The 4-2-5 defense is an interesting strategy that is based on the concept that speed will be a strength for the Blue Devils. It also should be noted that TCU is one of the more successful programs to implement a 4-2-5 defensive scheme.
The second development this week is the letter sent from the Justice Department to the NCAA regarding the BCS system. While there may not be a formal investigation into the BCS at this time, the letter clearly outlines the potential antitrust issues. The questions raised by the letter should be thought-provoking to the NCAA and college football fans. What are the advantages of the BCS for schools, student-athletes, and fans? What are its disadvantages? And of course, what might an alternative system look like, and how would that affect a program like Duke? Sounds like great material for the message board.
Duke recruiting genetics?
In recent years, the Duke men’s basketball program has enjoyed the benefits of genetics – Gerald Henderson, Nolan Smith, Seth Curry, and Austin Rivers are all the sons of former NBA stars. In the class of 2012, the Duke football program is targeting a group of football legacies, hoping that at least part of NFL stardom is genetic.
Patrick DeStefano: the 6’4” 275 pound offensive lineman from Roebuck, South Carolina is the son of former Blue Devil and NFL offensive lineman Frank DeStefano. The versatile prospect is one of the hardest workers in the class of 2012 and plans to lead Dorman back to the state championship this fall. With over a dozen scholarship offers, DeStefano has his choice of ACC and SEC schools, and plans to narrow his list down later this spring.
Max McCaffery: the 6’2” 180 pound wide receiver prospect from Highlands Ranch, Colorado is the son of former NFL and Stanford WR Ed McCaffrey, Max is also the nephew of former Duke men’s basketball player Billy McCaffrey, who transferred to Vanderbilt after the 1991 National Championship. Max and his younger brother, Christian (a rising sophomore running back) will look to lead Valor Christian to their third state championship this fall. Max currently has scholarship offers from Duke, Wake Forest, and Arizona State.
Woody Baron: the 6’3” 250 pound defensive end prospect from Brentwood, Tennessee is the nephew of former Virginia Tech defensive tackle James Baron, who later played briefly in the NFL and for several years in the AFL. A 2011 Finalist for Mr. Football in Tennessee, Woody finished his junior year with 50 tackles and 17 sacks at Brentwood Academy. With family ties to Virginia Tech, the Hokies may be tough to beat in this recruitment, but Duke was one of the first schools to offer the top prospect.
Torey Agee: the 6’4” 247 pound defensive end prospect from Opelika, Alabama is the son of former Auburn star fullback Tommie Agee. A talented run-stopper, Torey hopes to work on his pass rush this fall at Opelika. The Blue Devils joined South Alabama as the first to offer the talented junior, who now has 5 scholarship offers and interest from Auburn and Georgia Tech.
Nick Davidson: the 6’7” 270 pound offensive lineman from Eden Prarie, Minnesota is the son of former Ohio State and NFL lineman Jeff Davidson. Nick moved to Minnesota this spring from Charlotte, North Carolina, after his father left the Carolina Panthers to become the offensive line coach for the Minnesota Vikings. With 14 scholarship offers already, Nick will have his choice of schools throughout the country, though he's still waiting for an Ohio State offer.
With high school spring practices kicking off across the country, the Duke staff has been busy on the recruiting trail. We’ll have lots of recruiting coverage coming up next week, so be sure to check back in with Blue Devil Nation. As for the current Blue Devil team, we wish them best of luck as they wrap up their finals and take a well-deserved break. Of course, we also with the seniors well as they prepare to graduate on May 15. Duke’s first summer session begins on May 18 and several members of the class of 2011 will be on campus for the first time.
We promised a short column so that you could get to your assigned reading. Have a great week and be sure to chime in on the 4-2-5 defense or the BCS on the BDN premium message board. WE ARE DUKE.
It’s Friday afternoon, which can only mean one thing – Football Friday! This week, we take a look at Duke’s 2011 ACC opponents spring practices along with some recruiting updates. [private]
It's a long one this week, so I won't distract you with any witty opening filler. Let's get right to it.
Matt Daniels named to Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List
That’s a mouthful of an accomplishment. Interestingly, there were 11 candidates from the ACC, more than any other conference. Daniels is a player that I’ve enjoyed watching develop over his four years in Durham, and I always feel like he has another level we still haven’t seen. Hopefully, this will be the year that he reaches that level and helps to turn around the Duke defensive unit. As one of the most versatile players on defense, his playmaking ability will be key to the Blue Devils’ success in 2011.
Scouting the ACC spring practices
With lots of transitions occurring on the sidelines and under center around the ACC this year, it may be a good opportunity for the Blue Devils to pull off a few upsets. Several teams will wrap up their 2011 spring practice this weekend with their spring games, so be sure to tune in to the ESPN family of networks to scout out some of Duke’s 2011 opponents (ESPN – you can email me for the address to mail my endorsement check). So sit back and enjoy a cold one while we take a whirlwind tour around the ACC. Oh wait, you’re still at work, so grab a cup of coffee instead? Anyway, here are some of the headlines from Duke’s 2011 ACC opponents this spring:
Boston College: the Eagles will be Duke’s first ACC opponent this fall, which may be a good thing for the Blue Devils. BC will return nearly all of their offensive starters, who will be operating under a new coordinator in Kevin Rogers. The emphasis so far this spring appears to be on the passing game, which has been inconsistent so far this spring. In the first scrimmage of the spring, Chase Rettig was on the same page with his receivers, and the BC offense finished with 5 touchdowns. In their second scrimmage, however, the defense had their way with the new offense, finishing with 4 interceptions and 4 sacks. BC will be a tough opponent, as we saw last year in Wallace Wade Stadium, mostly due to Montel Harris on the ground, and Luke Kuechly on defense. If Rettig and his receivers can develop consistency, BC will be a dangerous team for the entire ACC.
Florida State: most expect the Seminoles to be at the top of the ACC in 2011, and you can see for yourself on Saturday at 4PM on ESPN3. This team will go as far as QB E.J. Manuel can take them, and the indications this spring are pretty good. Manuel is the athletic signal-caller that has given the Blue Devils trouble in recent years. Perhaps the biggest question for the Seminoles will be their offensive line, where they will have to replace 2 starters and had 4 players out for spring practice. Overall, the Seminoles lost only 3 starters each on offense and defense, and the expectations are high in Tallahassee.
Wake Forest: the Deacs’ will hold their spring game on Saturday at 1 PM. After a disappointing 2010, Wake Forest loses 8 starters. Tanner Price is the unquestioned starter on offense and will be backed up by Ted Stachitas. Both players gave the Blue Devils trouble last year in a 54-48 loss in Winston-Salem. Much like the Blue Devils, the Deacs struggled mightily on defense last year, and Coach Jim Grobe has been pleased with the defensive intensity this spring. The running game will be led by Josh Harris and Brandon Pendergrass, but questions remain in the kicking game for Wake Forest. The expectation is for this team to be improved from a season ago, but in order for that to happen, they will have to show more consistency this fall than they have this spring.
Virginia Tech: the Hokies lose perhaps the most of any Duke opponent in 2011, but in Blacksburg, they reload, not rebuild. The defending ACC champs lose QB Tyrod Taylor along with RB Ryan Williams and RB Darren Evans to the NFL, leaving the Hokies’ offense in the hands of redshirt-sophomore Logan Thomas and junior tailback David Wilson. There have been rave reviews this spring for Wilson (even though he's missed several practices due to track), who is working under first year running back coach Shane Beamer (yes, Frank’s son), after long-time assistant Billy Hite retired. The VT defense also has questions as they replace 5 starters from 2010, but the Blue Devils will have to keep the ball away from returning CB Jayron Hosley, who led the country with 9 interceptions and 17 defended passes in 2010.
Miami: lots of changes in Coral Gables this spring under new head coach Al Golden. The Hurricanes will hold their spring game on Saturday at 3 PM, and questions still remain heading into the fall. The coaching staff has been openly disappointed in the intensity and conditioning of many of the Miami players this spring, and Golden has left the depth chart up for grabs this spring. That includes quarterback, where Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris are battling for the starting job, though Spencer Whippel was the starter heading into the spring. We’ll get to see lots more from the Hurricanes, as they’ve struck a deal with ESPNU to air a series of All-Access shows this spring.
Virginia: the Wahoos wrapped up spring practice last week with nearly as many questions as answers. It’s a complete toss-up at quarterback, where the updated depth chart lists Michael Rocco and Ross Matheney in the “first group” and Michael Strauss and David Watford in the “second group.” In short, no one has established themselves as the leader of this offense this spring, and that has to be a concern for a team that loses 19 lettermen, including 5 starters. After a shootout in Wallace Wade Stadium last year, the Blue Devils will be glad to hear that QB Marc Verica and RB Keith Payne are among the starters lost. The Cavaliers’ defense should be improved from a year ago as they enter their second year in the 4-3 scheme, and will be anchored in the secondary by CB Chase Minnifield, who finished 2010 with 6 interceptions. Offensively, it’s tough to evaluate a team with 4 inexperienced potential starters at QB.
Georgia Tech: the Yellow Jackets are yet another ACC team who will be breaking in a new QB in 2011, as Tevin Washington takes over for Josh Nesbitt. The Blue Devils saw plenty of Washington in 2010 in their 30-20 loss in Atlanta. This spring, head coach Paul Johnson has been disappointed in the play of his offensive line, which returns three starters from a year ago. In addition to Nesbitt, the Jackets’ triple-option offense will have to replace Anthony Allen at B-back, but return Roddy Jones and Orwin Smith at A-back. Defensively, GT will have to replace 6 starters, but they do return all 3 starters up front in Al Groh’s 3-4 scheme. The front three will have to be the strength of this defense, and it has impressed the coaching staff this spring.
North Carolina: if you thought Bieber fever was annoying, wait until you meet the Tar Heels with Renner fever. Bryn Renner inherits the starting job at quarterback, and impressed the Tar Heel faithful with a 9/13, 123 yard performance in their spring game. The highlight was a 43-yard pass to Erik Highsmith, something UNC saw far less often during the T.J. Yates era. After a tumultuous 2010 and an ongoing NCAA investigation, the Tar Heels will have several new faces on both sides of the ball in 2011. Five starters depart on both offense and defense, which means that the few returning starters, such as senior DE Quinton Coples and senior TB Ryan Houston will have to shoulder (no pun intended) much of the load on defense and offense, respectively. Despite suffering a broken scapula in the spring game, head coach Butch Davis expects Houston to be an every-down back for the Tar Heels this fall.
Spring evaluation period starts today
Ok, I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted after that tour of the ACC. That took some serious work, and I didn’t even talk about NC State, Clemson, or Maryland. Anyway, recruiting gets back into full gear today, as the spring evaluation period opens up. So what does that actually mean? The Duke staff has 168 evaluation days to use between now and May 31. An evaluation day is a day spent in evaluation of a prospect's athletic and/or academic ability. The staff is limited to 1 athletic evaluation and 1 academic evaluation per prospect during this time. So whom will the staff be visiting? Let’s take a look at the offers out there by position.
Quarterbacks: we’ll start with the glamour position, and one that Duke has built into a strength for 2011 with Sean Renfree, Brandon Connette, and Anthony Boone. Miami’s Bilal Marshall remains the only quarterback prospect with a Duke offer, and we’ll check back in with him soon to get an update on his recruitment. There are 19 other QBs on the board, highlighted by names like Bart Houston, Casey Cochran, and Matt Johnson.
Running backs: Duke remains committed to taking at least one or two running backs in the class of 2012, and they’ve extended 7 offers with 17 other prospects under evaluation. Keith Marshall is at the top of every school’s list, but he’s joined by Todd Gurley, Dami Ayoola, Dondre Brown, Dontonio Jordan, Jay Jay McCullough, and Nick Tompkins as prospects with verbal offers.
Wide receivers: with Donovan Varner and Conner Vernon now upperclassmen, the Blue Devils will look to reload at receiver in the class of 2012. Seven receivers have verbal offers, which include Nelson Agholor, Jared Crump, Desmond Frye, P.J. Harris, Justin Johnson, Max McCaffrey, and Darius Powe. Twelve other receivers are on the Blue Devils’ list of 2012 prospects.
Tight ends: the Blue Devils’ got on the board early with a commitment from Erich Schneider, but remain in pursuit of top TEs Dan Beilinson, Kent Taylor, and Evan Baylis.
Linemen: as would be expected, linemen make up the majority of verbal scholarship offers to date. On the offensive line, Duke is looking to add a few top prospects and has extended 11 offers to players like Patrick DeStefano, Mark Harrell, D.J. Humphries, Andrew Jelks, Eric Olson, and Max Tuerk. The emphasis, however, is the defensive line, where Duke has extended 17 verbal offers to players like Allen Jackson (committed), Korren Kirven, D.J. Reader, Jordan Watkins, and Carlos Wray. In addition to the prospects with offers, Duke has over 40 other linemen on their recruiting board.
Linebackers: Duke is going hard after two linebackers in particular early in Keilin Rayner and Deion Williams. There are several others under evaluation, but the Blue Devils remain in good shape with those two players.
Secondary: the defensive secondary is another position of emphasis in the class of 2012, and the Blue Devils have extended offers to 13 prospects at cornerback and safety. In addition to players like Michael Summers, Albert Reid, Ron Geohaghan, and Dwayne Norman, the staff is evaluating another 15 prospects.
We’ll be back
Lots of recruiting coverage coming this week as the staff hits the recruiting trail and we tag along for the ride. No idea what we’ll talk about next week, so you’ll just have to come back to find out. As always, feel free to join in the discussion on our message board if you need a football fix before next Friday. WE ARE DUKE.
Patrick DeStefano is a 6’6” 280 pound offensive line prospect from Roebuck, South Carolina. In his junior season, he helped Dorman to the state championship game and later received several accolades, including 2nd Team All-State. Widely regarded as one of the top offensive line prospects in the state, Patrick has already received verbal scholarship offers from an impressive group of college programs, and Duke was among the first. Highlights of Patrick’s sophomore season can be viewed here.
BDN: Can you start off by describing the strengths and weaknesses of your game for someone who hasn’t had a chance to see you play?
I’d say for me personally, the biggest strength is my versatility. In Dorman’s system I play regularly on a gamely basis, tackle, guard, center, tight end, fullback, defensive tackle, defensive end, and nose guard. But just as an offensive lineman, I’ve been told I have natural knee bend, I play with a straight back and I have really nice hips, and I can get up to the second level good.
BDN: What are some of the things you’ve been working on this offseason?
I mean, this is my last offseason before I actually get with the big boys, so every aspect of my game I need to improve. Bigger, faster, stronger, you know, you can never have enough of those. I know that I’m miles away from where I need to be to be a Divison I recruit, so I’m just trying to work as hard as I can. To be specific, it’s hard to single out just one piece of my game, but I guess I would say the biggest thing would be working on technique, just better technique.
BDN: I know you had a great year last season. What are your goals for you team and yourself individually for the fall?
We lost the state game to our arch rivals, the Byrnes Rebels. That just gets me going. No offense to them, but I can’t stand Byrnes. I hate them, and they hate me too, so it’s a mutual feeling. My biggest thing is I want to beat them in State. I understand they’re great rivals, they’re great competitors, it’s going to be a hard competition, but that’s my goal and our team’s goal, hopefully. But just for me personally, just every day trying to get better.
BDN: What are the most important things you are looking for in a college?
The biggest thing I’m looking for in a school is how comfortable am I with that school. When I step foot on that campus, do I want to be there? Because I’m potentially going to be spending the next four or five years of my life there, so that’s definitely a big thing. The next thing I’m looking for is the academics of the school, because something my dad always drove into me as a little kid, he said that God many one day see it fit to take away your athletics, but he will never take away your academics.
BDN: Is there a particular field or program that you’re interested in academically?
No, I thought so, but not really. I’m 17, life changes, I’m just a growing kid.
BDN: What schools have you recently heard from? Who were the first schools to contact you?
As far as the first schools, I had three offers come in on the same day in the spring, it was a great day, it was a blessing. Clemson, Duke, and South Carolina all came in on the same day. But as far as the total rap sheet, those three plus North Carolina, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, Tennessee, Arkansas, Northwestern, Stanford, and I think that may be. I may be forgetting one somewhere in there. I know it’s at 11 or 12, I’m sorry. I know that sounds arrogant, but it starts to blend together, I hope that doesn’t come across as cocky.
BDN: Which schools have you had a chance to visit so far? What schools do you definitely plan on visiting later this year?
My visits haven’t really started up yet. So far I’ve only visited Duke and Clemson. But you know I also have plans for setting up other visits to different colleges. I don’t really want to say what colleges because I don’t know yet, all I know is I have several other colleges to visit this spring.
BDN: Were there any schools that have impressed you with your visits or with your contact with them so far?
If you had asked me that question a few months ago, I would have had five schools, top five all ready to go, but you know, this recruiting process has just gotten so big lately that it’s all gotten jumbled together. So many schools have so many great things to offer that I couldn’t honestly give you a top five.
BDN: It’s still very early in the process, but ideally, when would you like to make your college decision?
I am going to graduate a semester early so I can go into spring practice wherever I want to go. I just know I need to have my mind made up before December.
BDN: Thanks a lot, Patrick and best of luck to you.
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