DURHAM - Duke moved to 4-0 on the season with a 47-13 win over Tulane on Saturday. QB Anthony Boone finished the day with 181 yards through the air and 42 yards and a TD on the ground. In just his third year in Durham, K Ross Martin became the Blue Devils' all-time leading scorer with a 31-yard FG and 6 extra points. Blue Devil Nation spoke with both offensive stars after the game.
Are you ready for some football, Blue Devil Nation? Saturday afternoon will be your last chance until September 1st to see some Duke Football, so get your fill. The Blue Devils will take to the field on Saturday at 1PM in Wallace Wade Stadium for their annual spring game. BDN's Football Friday is here for your preview.
First of all, highs in the upper 70s, with a slight chance of isolated thunderstorms. Should be a perfect spring day for some football if the rains miss the Methodist Flats. That also means a perfect day for some tailgating. Get there early, as the team will conduct the Blue Devil Walk at 11:00 AM. Team BDN will be there in full force, so be sure to say hi. Here's the information on the parking situation. Bring your wallets, even though admission is free (stadium gates open at 11:15), as there will be plenty of opportunities to get your Blue Devil gear, as well as stuff your face with Chick-fil-a, Domino's, and Blue Devil Concessions. Oh, and the most important reason to bring your wallet is to purchase your 2012 season tickets. Ticket office reps will be on hand and help you pick your exact seats. Try before you buy. The game kicks off at 1PM and Coach Cutcliffe will address the crowd during halftime of the scrimmage. Spring practice awards will also be announced at halftime.
Scouting the Blue Devil Offense
The Duke offense will feature a number of familiar faces, but it's likely to be the unfamiliar ones who will make an impression on Saturday. We all know what Conner Vernon is capable of at wide receiver, but as he's been limited due to injury this spring, expect to see a lot of Blair Holliday and Jamison Crowder, both of whom have had very strong spring performances. Nick Hill is another young face who appears ready to contribute, and Corey Gattis and Tyree Watkins add a veteran presence to the receiving corps. With Jack Farrell and Braxton Deaver sidelined with injuries, the Blue Devils had concerns at wide receiver heading into spring practice. Coming out of spring practice, tight end is no longer a concern, and you'll likely see why as Issac Blakeney and David Reeves are sure to impress.
Up front, the Duke offensive line returns all but graduating senior Kyle Hill, and that continuity should benefit the Blue Devil offense. This group has improved each year under Coach Cutcliffe, and they're looking to take a big step forward this fall under new OL Coach John Latina. Expect to see a few holes opened for the likes of the now healthy Josh Snead and last year's leading rusher Juwan Thompson, who have seen the majority of carries with senior Desmond Scott nursing injury. If that trio isn't impressive enough for you, the Blue Devils will add two more big-time running backs in just a few months, as Jela Duncan and Shaquille Powell will push for early playing time.
Am I forgetting something? Ah, yes, quarterback. While Peyton Manning had been a fixture in the Duke practice facilities this offseason, he will not be taking snaps under center for the Blue Devils on Saturday. Sean Renfree remains entrenched as the starter, and he's had yet another good spring running the Duke offense. While much of spring practice is situational, Renfree has shown the ability to get the ball downfield, averaging 15.7 yards per completion in the last scrimmage. But Renfree's old news, right? Coach Cutcliffe and the Duke staff have been looking at ways to get guys like Brandon Connette and Anthony Boone more involved in the offense, and they've done well with running the ball and catching the ball in some unique schemes. But don't get too excited. Knowing the Duke coaching staff, the Blue Devils are unlikely to show off anything particularly new or exciting on Saturday, so we'll all just have to wait until the fall. Expect to see Connette, Boone, and freshman Thomas Sirk take several snaps under center in relief of Renfree; all have taken big steps forward in their command of the offense this spring.
Scouting the Blue Devil Defense
Somehow, it seems that Duke has had a perpetually young defense the past few years, and that remain the case this spring, though they are overall more experienced. The losses of Matt Daniels and Charlie Hatcher will be the biggest voids to fill, and there are a number of candidates looking to contribute. Up front, Duke will be without their top pass-rushers Saturday in Kenny Anunike and Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo, but will feature much of the same group of athletic ends we saw a year ago, led by Justin Foxx, Dezmond Johnson, and Jamal Wallace. Sydney Sarmiento, Jamal Bruce, and Nick Sink are likely to see the majority of time on the inside up front. The defensive line continues to improve under Coach Petri and has the benefit of going up against a big and experienced offensive line in practice.
At linebacker, the Blue Devils will be without Kelby Brown for the foreseeable future, but expect sophomore David Helton to continue to impress. The redshirt is off for Kelby's younger, but bigger, brother Kyler, and it appears that a nose for the football is in their genes. Austin Gamble is the lone upperclassman, though sophomores C.J. France and Jon Woodruff have some experience. And before you get down on the Blue Devil linebackers, keep in mind that stud recruits Keilin Rayner and Deion Williams will be on campus in just a few months.
Coach Knowles' 4-2-5 scheme relies heavily on the secondary, and the emergence of Ross Cockrell as a shutdown corner is key. He'll be joined by senior Lee Butler at cornerback, though youngsters Jared Boyd and Tim Burton will see time. The leader of the secondary this year is most likely to be leading returning tackler Walt Canty, though hard-hitting Jordon Byas has also turned some heads with August Campbell sidelined this spring. Newcomers to look for at safety include the hard-working Chris Tavarez, Britton Grier, transfer Jeremy Cash, and former WR Brandon Braxton. All should see snaps on Saturday and overall, this group has some of the best playmakers on the defensive side.
Scouting the Blue Devil Special Teams
Will Monday. That's about all you need to know. With Will Snyderwine and Alex King now graduated, Monday has handled all of the punting and kicking duties this spring, and handled them well. By the fall, incoming freshman Ross Martin may challenge him for the placekicking duties, but expect to see Monday handle the punting for the next four years in Durham. On the return side, Jamison Crowder remains the Blue Devils' top threat, but he'll be joined by incoming freshman DeVon Edwards this fall, who took more than a few kicks to the house during his high school career. In all likelihood, getting to see Monday punt and kick should be a refreshing sight for Blue Devil fans and the only real highlight on special teams Saturday.
Recruiting still sizzling
Who are all those people with lanyards and nametags? That would be the dozens of high school prospects and their families who will be on campus this weekend to take in the Blue Devil program. Several members of the Duke class of 2012 will be on hand Saturday, and they'll be joined by a huge group of future prospects. With 3 commitments already on board in 2013, the coaching staff is flying high on the trail and will have in some of their top targets in this class, including a handful considered among the nation's elite. Coach Cutcliffe and his staff work on recruiting every single day, and this weekend will be no exception. And just like the staff, we follow the recruiting trail here at BDN, so be sure to check out some of our recent interviews with the likes of TE Nathan Marcus, and OL Sterling Korona, and of course lots more to come. Don't be surprised if the Blue Devils hear more good news by the end of this weekend.
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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.
It's Signing Day for Duke Football! Coach Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils officially will welcome the class of 2012 into the Duke family today. BDN has all the coverage, including Mark Watson live at Coach Cutcliffe's afternoon press conference.
National Letters of Intent Received
TE Erich Schneider
Weight: 220 pounds
High School: Episcopal
Hometown: Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #151 WR
TE Dan Beilinson
Weight: 240 pounds
High School: Panther Creek
Hometown: Cary, North Carolina
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #22 TE
OL Casey Blaser
Weight: 255 pounds
High School: South Mecklenburg
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #105 OT
K Ross Martin
Weight: 190 pounds
High School: Walsh Jesuit
Hometown: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #2 K
DL A.J. Wolf
Weight: 245 pounds
High School: Hackley
Hometown: Tarrytown, New York
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #167 DE
DL Allen Jackson
Weight: 235 pounds
High School: McDonough
Hometown: Owings Mills, Maryland
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #86 DE
DL Carlos Wray
Weight: 280 pounds
High School: Shelby
Hometown: Shelby, North Carolina
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #94 DE
WR Anthony Nash
Weight: 180 pounds
High School: Bayard Rustin
Hometown: West Chester, Pennsylvania
ESPN ranking: 2 stars, #187 WR
ATH DeVon Edwards
Weight: 170 pounds
High School: Alcovy
Hometown: Covington, Georgia
ESPN ranking: Not Available
OL Tanner Stone
Weight: 280 pounds
High School: Highland Park
Hometown: Dallas, Texas
ESPN ranking: 2 stars, #163 OG
SAF Michael Westray
Weight: 195 pounds
High School: Westlake
Hometown: Waldorf, Maryland
ESPN ranking: 2 stars, #168 SAF
WR Max McCaffrey
Weight: 190 pounds
High School: Valor Christian
Hometown: Highlands Ranch, Colorado
ESPN ranking: 2 stars, #232 WR
DL Michael Mann
Weight: 220 pounds
High School: Valor Christian
Hometown: Highlands Ranch, Colorado
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #122 DE
SAF Dwayne Norman
Weight: 195 pounds
High School: University Christian
Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #50 SAF
RB Jela Duncan
Weight: 190 pounds
High School: Mallard Creek
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #40 RB
SAF Corbin McCarthy
Weight: 200 pounds
High School: Norco
Hometown: Norco, California
ESPN ranking: 2 stars, #143 SAF
LB Deion Williams
Weight: 225 pounds
High School: Lutheran
Hometown: Orange, California
ESPN ranking: 2 stars, #7 FB
LB Keilin Rayner
Weight: 215 pounds
High School: North Brunswick
Hometown: Leland, North Carolina
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #74 OLB
RB Shaquille Powell
Weight: 196 pounds
High School: Bishop Gorman
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
ESPN ranking: 3 stars, #56 RB
The Blue Devils secured a commitment from the nation's top high school kicker over the summer in Ross Martin of Walsh Jesuit in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Martin told BDN earlier this summer that Duke has "always sort of been my dream school, because of the combination of world-class academics and D1 ACC football." With the impending graduation of senior Will Snyderwine, Martin will have an immediate opportunity to contribute to the Blue Devil program in 2012, but first, he has big goals for his senior season at Walsh Jesuit. Since BDN last spoke with Ross, he has been named an Under Armour All-American, and nailed a game-winning 29-yard field goal in his season opener.
Ross checked in with BDN this week to update Duke fans on the start to his season:
Week One Game Summary: Our season opener against the Louisville Leopards ended in a thrilling finish, as I drilled a last second game-winning field goal as time expired to seal the win for the Warriors. We were down 26-24 with 2 seconds on the clock when I hit a 29 yard FG to win the game 27-26 as time expired. I also made my only other field goal attempt from 42 yards to take the early lead 3-0 in the first quarter. I kept Louisville pinned back all night with my kickoffs and punts, as they never started any drives from beyond their own 20 yard line. I earned the team award for special teams player of the week and was selected as Player of the Game by WHBC who provided local televised coverage of the game.
Week Two Game Summary: Our second game was another big rivalry game vs. St. Vincent St. Mary. Falling behind early by a score of 28-3 the Walsh Jesuit Warriors engineered a great comeback and fought back with passion to pull within two points of the Saints with the Warriors falling in a tough loss 48-46. I earned the team award for special teams player of the week.
Week Three Game Summary: Last night we hosted the defending State Champions, Columbus Bishop Watterson. It was another tight game going down to the last few seconds with us connecting on a 15 yard pass for a touchdown with 35 seconds remaining to take the lead 26-24, which was also the final score of the game. We now have a record of 2-1 on the season. I was 2 for 3 on field goals, hitting from 35 and 34 yards, and the one that I missed was on a mishandled snap that was laying flat on the ground instead of standing upright. On the season I’m now 5 of 6 on field goals with conversions made from 42, 35, 34, 29, and 27 yards. I also went 2 for 2 on PAT’s last night and am now 10 for 10 on the season and extending my high school career streak to a perfect 54 for 54. In addition, I had another great night of punting for the Warriors with an average of 48 yards on 4 punts and a long of 61 yards.
PAT’s: 10 for 10 (Extending perfect HS career streak to 54 for 54)
FG’s: 5 for 6 (42, 35, 34, 29, 27)
KO’s: 10 of 12 for touchbacks
Punting: Average Distance: 42 yards / Long: 61
Thanks for checking in with us, Ross! Enjoy your bye week and good luck against Lake Catholic on September 24!
BDN will have periodic updates from Ross and his future 2012 Duke classmates throughout the season.
Among the many improvements since Head Coach David Cutcliffe’s arrival in Durham, none may be more significant than the Blue Devils’ special teams. Duke has gone from a team that repeatedly failed to execute on special teams to featuring a preseason All-ACC and All-American kicker in Will Snyderwine. Blue Devil fans have almost become spoiled by Snyderwine’s reliability, and the improvements in punting and returns have been apparent in recent years. On Thursday, Duke solidified their special teams play for the future by securing a commitment from top placekicker Ross Martin, beating out an impressive list of programs. At 5’10″ and 185 pounds from Walsh Jesuit HS in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Martin earned 1st Team All-State honors as a junior, and was named the #2 kicker in the country by Chris Sailer and the #3 kicker in the country by Kohl’s. Needless to say, the Blue Devils’ coaching staff is thrilled to add another future special teams star to the Duke program. Duke fans can get a look at the Blue Devils’ future kicker:
BDN caught up with the newest Blue Devil shortly after his commitment.
BDN: How did you arrive at your decision to commit to Duke?
Pretty much, when my older brother was looking at schools, he visited Duke and I went with him, and that was about five years ago and that’s when I started falling in love with it. Since then, it’s always sort of been my dream school because of the combination of great, world-class academics and D1 ACC football.
BDN: Can you talk about your recent visit and your relationship with the Duke coaching staff?
I’ve been in contact with the kicking coach, Coach Zac Roper, for awhile now. He actually came up to my school to visit with my head coach and that’s the first time we met in person. We hit it off and he’s an outstanding kicking coach. He has a tremendous expertise of the kicking game and I’m definitely confident that he can get me to the next level. They asked me to come out to their summer camp, and I went out last Friday and kicked in the stadium for Coach Cutcliffe and a couple other coaches and that night they offered me, and then just yesterday I went back to campus to commit with my family.
BDN: Scouts obviously have said great things about your kicking ability; how would you describe your strengths in your own words?
Well, probably my biggest strength is my mental ability and focus, and also my accuracy and range for field goals. I’ve hit field goals as far out in practice as 65 yards. For kickoffs, last year I had an over 80% touchback percentage.
BDN: Obviously with your ability, some other schools have taken notice. Who are the other schools that you were in contact with and were considering before your commitment to Duke?
The other schools that had offered me were obviously Duke, and then Texas, Pitt, Rutgers, Iowa State, Kent State. And then from the Ivy League, Harvard, Cornell, Penn, Dartmouth, and Columbia. I’d also been taken to Northwestern, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Cal-Berkeley, too.
BDN: That’s definitely an impressive list, so congratulations and I’m sure Duke fans and coaches are excited to have you join the Blue Devil family.
Oh yeah, I’m definitely thrilled.
BDN: What are your plans for the rest of your summer as you head into your senior year?
Actually I’m heading out to California for Chris Sailer’s Top 12 camp, where he invites the top 12 kickers in the country to compete out there. I’m actually doing that next week. After that, it’s pretty much back to high school football, with summer lifting and practice coming up.
BDN: Well that’s a great honor and best of luck in California next week. Is there anything else you want Duke fans to know about you?
No, not really, other than I’m just extremely excited to start off there. I really felt at home out there, just getting to meet everyone.
BDN: Thanks a lot, Ross, and welcome to Duke.
Sounds good, thank you.