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august 28, 2009

Courtney Douglas / The Chronicle

Duke Football


2 | FriDAY, AUGUSt 28, 2009

the chronicle

Stadium Facelift

Wallace Wade sees bathroom, other improvements

santosh shanMuga/ChroniCle File Photos

Wallace Wade Stadium saw two new bathroom facilities built on the concourse in time for the 2009 season. In addition, Duke’s 75-yard practice field was extended to 120 yards and received a new FieldTurf surface. by Andy Moore The chronicle

Students dressed as kegs, overgrown babies, old West bandits, ladybugs and Will Ferrell from “Semi-pro”: have no fear. This year’s inevitable post-Tailgate bathroom runs will not be quite as bad as in years past. The old bathrooms at Wallace Wade Stadium were widely derided and were known for overflowing toilets and interminable lines. now, they will be used for spillover crowds only. Shiny new brick restrooms have been built on the east and west wings of the concourse to accommodate larger crowds. Duke built them this offseason as part of a $9 million upgrade after dealing with complaints from students, fans and even head coach David cutcliffe. he once called the old bathrooms “roadside fruit stands.” “one of my big things early on was to do what we could to make [Wallace Wade] more fan-friendly,” cutcliffe said. “We’ve got great, committed fans who have stood by Duke. let’s treat them first class.” A new concession stand on the west side of the stadi-

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um has also been built. it, along with the new restrooms, is just part of a sizable overhaul going on at Wallace Wade. A new sound system was put in place last year, and a new video board will be in place by the Sept. 5 season opener against richmond. “i don’t think people realize how much we’ve spent on the new sound system. i turn it on every now and then to hear it in my office,” cutcliffe said. “The aesthetics [of the renovations] have tremendously helped our recruiting. it shows young men that we can back up what we’re telling people—that we’re committed to Duke Football.” Most significant, perhaps, are the $4 million worth of improvements to the practice facility and visiting team locker room located behind Wallace Wade. What was a 75-yard practice field has been lengthened to 120 yards, with a new FieldTurf surface that should help prevent injuries. The enlarged practice space has come as a relief to cutcliffe, who was amazed that Duke didn’t have a regulationlength practice field and even went so far last year as to

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half-jokingly say that the Blue Devils were struggling in the red zone because they didn’t have one to practice on. “With the space last year, it was almost impossible to practice with the offense and defense together,” cutcliffe said. “This gives you the facility and the depth perception of playing a real game. our passing game and our defense against the pass will be better because of it. We’ve got an opportunity here to run ourselves like a first-class program.” The training facility also has been renovated. in the improved building, teams will wait out bad weather, the special teams unit will conduct meetings and injured players will be treated during games—a welcome alternative to treatment on the sidelines. next on the list of renovations are grass and indoor practice fields. According to Senior Associate Director of Athletics Mike cragg, the additions are in the design phase with Beck Architecture, which also designed the basketball team’s new practice center. They hope to bring the plans to the Board of Trustees in october and plan to raise funds for the facilities independently rather than seek university funding.

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the chronicle

FRIDAY, AUGUST 28, 2009 | 3

Looking Ahead

Schedule provides bowl opportunity

2009 SCHEDULE:

by Taylor Doherty The chronicle

Head coach David Cutcliffe said it, and he says he really means it: “I believe we will be a bowl team.” To make a bowl game a possibility, Duke must go .500 in its 12-game season. However, this year, there’s a catch: Duke has two FCS opponents—Richmond and N.C. Central—but only one can count toward the six-win requirement. Winning five games against FBS opponents will be no easy feat, as Duke faces a tough nonconference and ACC schedule in 2009. “Look at our schedule, and they all could be challenging, but there’s nobody on there that we’re going to forfeit to,” Cutcliffe said. “We feel like we can play with anybody if we play well.” Duke may be able to play with all of its opponents, but some wins are clearly more attainable than others. With a bowl berth in mind, a breakdown of the Blue Devils’ key matchups (Duke home games in caps): The FCS Teams: RICHMOND (September 5) and N.C. CENTRAL (September 26) The Spiders and the Eagles are expected to be the easiest of the Blue Devils’ opponents. Only one of the two potential wins against these FCS teams would count toward bowl eligibility, but for a program looking to rebuild, it’s crucial to amass as many wins as possible. For now, Cutcliffe isn’t looking any further than his first opponent. “I don’t get deeply into a schedule, and the thing that is dead in front of us now—and

Chronicle File Photo

Duke was shut out at home by Richmond, 13-0, in the 2006 season opener, and hosts the Spiders Sept. 5. the only thing that stands out—is a Richmond team that knows how to win,” Cutcliffe said. The Spiders won the FCS national title last season, downing reigning champion Appalacian State in the quarterfinals and Montana in the title game.

Last year, the Black Knights went just 3-9 and finished the season with 30-3 and 34-0 losses against Rutgers and Navy, respectively. Vast improvement seems unlikely under first-year coach Rich Ellerson.

The Key Out-of-Conference Opponent: Army (September 12)

See schedule on page 9

Sept. 5

Richmond

Sept. 12

at Army

Sept. 19

at Kansas

Sept. 26

NCCU

Oct. 3

Va. Tech

Oct. 10

at NCSU

Oct. 24

Maryland

Oct. 31

at UVa

Nov. 7

at UNC

Nov. 14

Ga. Tech

Nov. 21

at Miami

Nov. 28

Wake

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4 | FriDAY, AUGUSt 28, 2009

Scott

Rich

the chronicle

Over/Under:4.5 chronicle columnists Scott rich and Will Flaherty debate whether or not Duke will win more games than it did last year

Schedule and experience push Duke into bowl contention college football is a game that, for many, is defined more by pageantry, tradition and spirit than star power. You would never, for instance, expect the nFl’s lions to upset the Steelers in a playoff game, yet somehow a mediocre ole Miss team took down eventual national champion Florida. Duke, similarly, is not the most talented team in the Acc this season, or even one of the top six or seven. But after head coach David cutcliffe’s first year in Durham, it appears the Blue Devils are finally headed in the right direction. So call me an optimist, a homer or a lunatic, but in cutcliffe’s second year at the helm there is no reason to believe the Blue Devils’ renaissance will not continue and their win total will not improve. Duke will get to five wins, and possibly more. With senior leaders at critical positions, an influx of young playmakers, a year of experience in cutcliffe’s system, a rejuvenated fanbase and maybe a little luck, the Blue Devils should have the intangibles that make college football upsets possible to make a run at a bowl birth. That invaluable senior leadership will be most prevalent on the offensive side of

laWson KurtZ/ChroniCle File Photo

NFL prospect Vince Oghobaase, a fifth-year senior, anchors the Blue Devils’ inexperienced defensive line.

the ball, where Thaddeus lewis should be one of the top quarterbacks in the Acc and re’quan Boyette’s return from injury should help shepherd a young backfield. Meanwhile, promising youngsters like running backs Jay hollingsworth and Desmond Scott and receivers Johnny Williams and Donovan Varner should be able fill the voids left by clifford harris, Tony Jackson and eron riley. Defensively, the loss of All-Acc linebacker Michael Tauiliili will be more difficult to overcome, but senior Vincent rey should step into the leadership position and improve on his 109 tackles last season. An star on the defensive line should be able to do the rest, thanks to senior Vince oghobaase’s decision to use a fifth season of eligibility and the addition of 315-lb. recruit John Drew to the middle of the line. The schedule makers have also been kind to Duke this season. home games versus FcS teams richmond and n.c. central should be easy victories, and the Blue Devils should be favored when they face Army in West point. Duke’s conference schedule is similarly fortuitous, as the Blue Devils face Acc contenders Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and georgia Tech all in Wallace Wade Stadium, where an improved atmosphere could push the Blue Devils to an upset. Furthermore, Duke avoids playing perennial conference powers Florida State and clemson this season, but will face Maryland, one of the worst teams in the Atlantic division, at home. So yes, the Blue Devils did lose arguably their two best players from last season’s team in riley and Tauiliili. But cutcliffe has his players, the fans and at least this writer believing that Duke Football is returning to competitiveness. in a sport where coaching, experience and home-field advantage often topple superior talent, the Blue Devils appear to have finally found the intangibles necessary to continue on the long road to respectability.

Will

Flaherty

Riley and Tauiliili’s departures too much to make up for For a program that had only taken baby steps of progress in efforts to escape the Acc cellar, the Blue Devils’ 4-8 record in 2008 under new head coach David cutcliffe qualifies as a Usain Boltsized stride toward a bowl berth. With fourth-year starting quarterback Thaddeus lewis guiding the offense and potential first-day nFl Draft candidate Vince oghobaase anchoring the defense, it would be easy to think that the Blue Devils could be on the brink of going bowling in December for the first time since 1994. But as great as that would be, it’s not going to happen. With two FcS teams on the schedule, seven wins are needed for Duke to become bowl-eligible. inexperience on the offensive line and across the defense, coupled with the loss of major contributors Mike Tauiliili at linebacker and wideout eron riley to graduation, make a repeat performance of 4-8 the most likely outcome this year. lewis has solidified his position as arguably the top passer in the Acc after three years worth of starts, but he’ll sorely miss the security blanket of riley in 2009. riley was lewis’ primary target during each of his first three years in terms of receiving yardage. And in addition to losing his go-to wideout, lewis will be only as good as the protection he gets from his offensive line. With guard rob Schirmann and tackles cameron goldberg and Fred roland gone due to graduation, Duke’s offensive line ranks 116th out of 120 FBS teams in terms of aggregate career starts with 25. Just as the offensive line will play a crucial role in lewis’ success, it will have to excel to help Duke’s stable of running backs succeed. With fifth-year senior re’quan Boyette healthy and freshman star Desmond Scott in the fold, the Blue Devil backfield has as much talent as it’s had in a long time. But the offensive line will need to play above what its lack of experience would suggest to open holes for Duke’s backs this year. on the defensive side of the ball, youth

is again the Blue Devils’ Achilles heel, with only five starters returning. Although standouts like linebacker Vincent rey and oghobaase have proven themselves before, young players will have to step up in the secondary, where expected starting safety Zack Asack was booted off the team over the summer. And at linebacker, Tauiliili must be replaced after an All-American season. As much as a schedule with not one, but two FcS schools sounds like a breeze, the opener against richmond will bring last year’s FcS national champion to Wallace Wade Stadium. it only takes a quick highlight of Appalachian State knocking off Michigan in 2007 or a more nightmarish glimpse back at richmond’s 13-0 whitewashing of Duke in the 2006 season opener to realize that even the Spiders can’t be chalked up as a win. Still, Duke should pull through its nonconference schedule with a 3-1 record with wins over richmond, Army and n.c. central. Sounds similar to last year’s quick start? it should, and with such an inexperienced group unlikely to pull out more than one win in the Acc, a 4-8 finish will leave Duke fans with a nasty feeling of déjà vu when it’s all said and done in December.

Chase olivieri/ChroniCle File Photo

Wide receiver Eron Riley was Thaddeus Lewis’ favorite wideout for three seasons until his graduation.

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the chronicle

FRIDAY, AUGUST 28, 2009 | 5

The armadillo in the room Sometimes, all you can do is bury your head in a heap of nachos from The Dillo. The more queso, the better. Let that stuff drip off the side of the plate. It tastes good. And until the chips run out, at least, The Dillo will make you feel better. It might even force you to forget you just took a suckerpunch to the gut. The Dillo, therefore, was my refuge Nov. 1 last year after the most wrenching Duke Football loss I’ve ever watched, and I’ve seen a lot of them. There was Miami in 2006, Navy in 2007 and Northwestern in 2008. There were blocked field goals and missed extra points, false starts and pass interferences, a heartbreaker to North Carolina one year and another the next. Duke wasn’t good at much, but it often did come this close to winning—which means, in short, that the Blue Devils were extraordinary at losing. They lost like Florida won: with style, with panache, with a flair for the dramatic. If Tim Tebow is the mask with the smiley face, then Duke was the other one. You know. The one that looks sad. That was me—woe was me!—after Duke lost in overtime at Wake Forest, a defeat that left me more Ben shaken than usual. Nearly three years of watching Duke Football and countless more enduring Rutgers Football should have armed me, and if not, at least numbed me. It still stung. Don’t remember? Go grab some Tostitos while I rewind the 33-30 loss, which, if flipped, would have given Duke a 5-3 record. Scoop some guac while you’re up. It will help. * 30-30, 3:14 left in the fourth. Twelve-yard completion. Fourteenyard run. First down on 4th-and-2. Rush, rush, rush. Timeout. Two seconds left. Nick Maggio’s game-winning field goal: wide right. * 30-30, first overtime. Riley Skinner is rushed on 3rd-and-10 and hurls the ball off his back foot. Complete for a first down. Four plays later, the Demon Deacons score a field goal. * 33-30, first overtime. Second play from scrimmage. Eron Riley is open in the end zone. Thaddeus Lewis aims for him. Aaron Smith steals the ball. Two inches higher, and an interception becomes a touchdown. Instead, it’s another loss. “Welcome back, Duke Football,” a friend said as soon as Smith caught the pass intended for Riley, as soon as 5-3 became 4-4 and as soon as it became clear that David Cutcliffe wouldn’t be going to a bowl in his first season. I couldn’t fault him for making that connection. It was a classic Duke loss, shocking only because they had seemed so far in the past. After all, a win would have given the surging Blue Devils four chances to become bowl-eligible. Instead, they proceeded to lose to injuries first, and everyone else next. “I just hate it for our kids that we can’t find that next step to

Cutcliffe: Year 2

BACK FOR MORE

David Cutcliffe’s players have pushed him—not the other way around—in his second year at Duke

Cohen

See Cohen on page 10

Chase Olivieri/Chronicle file Photo

Last year’s loss to Wake Forest—not the Dillo’s chips—made Ben Cohen sick to his stomach.

Chase Olivieri/Chronicle File Photo

Blue Devil players didn’t shy away from head coach David Cutcliffe’s rigorous offseason program in the leadup to this season. by Stephen Allan The chronicle

David Cutcliffe finally did something this summer he’d wanted to do for nearly a year but couldn’t his first year at the helm. He pushed his team to its mental and physical limits with 110-yard sprints, 5,000 total yards of running and new wrinkles in the playbook—tasks that four-year quarterback Thaddeus Lewis said the team could not have accomplished last season. It wasn’t just that they would be unable to do them. Cutcliffe was worried many players on the team would have quit had he pushed them as hard as he wanted to. But now, it’s not the coaches who are demanding more. The players ask Cutcliffe at practice if he can make the workouts harder and longer and if he can throw more wrinkles into the playbook. Without conditioning limitations or a fragile mentality, Cutcliffe unequivocally expects this year’s squad to play in a bowl game. “We are capable of that, and my job is to coach them to that level,” Cutcliffe said. “Will it be easy? No. Every hurdle gets higher on this race, but that’s exciting. The bigger the hill, the more fun you have in accomplishing those things. It’s harder, but a lot more rewarding.” As the players have learned, when Cutcliffe speaks, it is in their best interests to listen. He has consistently stuck to his word, whether he’s talking about developing new facilities or establishing and enforcing team discipline. When he got to Duke, Cutcliffe promised his players they would have better practice facilities and a renovated home stadium to play in. But to the veterans on the team, it just sounded like a broken record from the previous few years. “Coach Cutcliffe says, ‘When I say something, I mean it. We’re going to get us a new field,’ ” Lewis said. “Yeah, coach, we’ve heard that one a lot…. But nobody has done anything for Duke Football like he has. It almost brings tears to your eyes.” With a $10 million donation from Bob Pascal, Trinity ’56, and Steve Brooks, Trinity ’70, in April, Cutcliffe was able to get those renovations started. The school has completely remade the

restrooms at Wallace Wade Stadium, and the practice field has been lengthened to 120 yards. Additionally, Cutcliffe and Director of Athletics Kevin White have plans to create an indoor practice facility and possibly remove the track in the stadium. Cutcliffe said there will also be a new scoreboard in place for the new season. His most difficult task—rebuilding his players into a legitimate ACC team—is actually ahead of schedule, he said. Cutcliffe said he thought his team was a bowl team last year and has looked even more prepared in spring ball and summer camp. “If we had a head coach worth a darn, we’d be a bowl team and that’s the truth,” Cutcliffe said. “I still stay up at night thinking of a couple of games. We should’ve been 6-6 at worst last year.” Lewis said the biggest difference from last year to this year is Cutcliffe has only had to teach a point once before the team understands it. “He’s not saying, ‘We’re going to cut back on this running,’ and now [he says] it’s you’re doing this, you’re doing that, [and we say] yes sir, no sir,” Lewis said. “Everyone’s doing their business. No one’s trying to back out of their runs or anything.” Not every player has lived up to Cutcliffe’s ideals. In fact, he has had to dismiss safety and former quarterback Zack Asack, running back Tony Jackson and linebacker Trent Mackey. Asack and Jackson played significant roles last year and were expected to contribute again this upcoming season. But like any other situation, Cutcliffe doesn’t beat around the bush in addressing the issue. “Everyone will be better for it,” he said of their dismissals. “But I just believe as a parent or coach, continuing to say don’t do that isn’t going to work. I don’t like that and it’s my least favorite thing.” Cutcliffe said all three players were isolated cases and that the group he has now is the best he’s ever had, mostly because they want practice to be as hard as possible. Once he heard that from his team, he knew he could expect his players to compete in December. Because if they can handle the toughest practices without quitting, they can handle the pressure to play in the program’s first bowl game since 1994.


6 | FriDAY, AUGUSt 28, 2009

the chronicle

The Season-Definer: the offensive line

Chemistry the key for revamped offensive line by Dan Ahrens The chronicle

With 1:31 remaining in last year’s contest against Virginia Tech, Duke had the ball and a chance to do the unthinkable— shock the perennially powerful hokies in the hostile confines of Blacksburg, Va. on first down, former Duke quarterback Zack Asack took the snap in the shotgun, looking to pass. The hokies only rushed four linemen, dropping seven men back into coverage. Despite the underwhelming pass rush, Asack had barely finished taking a three-step drop when a Virginia Tech defensive tackle broke free, drove his shoulders into Asack’s chest and planted him into the ground. The ball—and the Blue Devils’ hopes of an upset—floated into the hands of the hokies’ Victor harris, who ran it all the way back for a touchdown, sealing the deal for Virginia Tech. That play typified the inconsistent performances by Duke’s offensive line a year ago, especially at the end of games. Senior Jarrod holt and the rest of the Duke linemen dedicated themselves to reversing that trend over the summer. “We want to be strong and come through in the fourth quarter,” holt said. “We’ve our rear ends been running off and trying to get in the best shape possible to be able to finish strong. That’s one of the problems i think we had

last year—not finishing.” The line’s inability to finish was visible on a much smaller scale than entire games. The players’ failure to hold their blocks and complete individual plays was largely responsible for the struggles of Duke’s anemic rushing attack, which was ranked 103rd in the nation at year’s end. This season Duke features a strong trio of ballcarriers in fifth-year senior re’quan Boyette, sophomore Jay hollingsworth and true freshman Desmond Scott. With such talent at tailback, Duke’s offense will be looking to bolster its rushing attack, putting the pressure squarely on the offensive line. And since only two starters, junior center Bryan Morgan and sophomore guard-turnedtackle Kyle hill, return from last season, the weight of that burden will fall largely on unproven shoulders. new starters include holt at tackle and Mitch lederman and Brian Moore at guard. “Any time you have a great tailback, it really helps you as an offensive lineman,” offensive line coach Matt luke said. “With everybody expecting us to be the weak link of the team, it has kind of pushed those guys through the summer.” even before throwing the first block of the season, the results of those workouts are visible. Morgan, easily the smallest starting lineman in the Acc last year, has added over ten pounds to his frame, pushing him to 255. hill has grown from being a 270-pound, severely undersized guard into a bruising 285-pound tackle. Despite the added bulk, the unit is noticeably faster and lighter on its feet than in recent years. While the Blue Devils fought through their grueling summer routine, however, something else developed— something just as important to an offensive line as footwork and fitness. Throughout all of the sprints, drills and lifting, a sense of family and unity has drawn the linemen together. Duke will be relying heavily on this chemistry to turn a jumble of guards and tackles into one cohesive force. “We’re working to be really good as a team, as a unit, instead of individuals,” hill said. “i think we’ll be able to work enough as a team, as that one unit, to carry each other on and gain that experience together to really step forward and do a good job.” With inexperience being the prevailing theme of this year’s line, leadership will play an uncommonly important role as the group hopes to mature quickly. Adding to that challenge is the arrival of four new freshmen who could be called upon early to spell the starters. holt, the most senior memSee O. LINE on pAge 11

bythenumbers 1994: The last time Duke played in a bowl game 255: Weight of C Bryan Morgan, the ACC’s smallest starting lineman 25: Career starts among all of Duke’s offensive linemen combined 34: Total starts under center for QB Thaddeus Lewis 47: Lewis’ career touchdown passes 3.0: Yards per carry for Blue Devil running backs in 2008 61: Receptions by departed WR Eron Riley last season 12: Predicted Duke finish in the ACC

Quarterbacks Thaddeus Lewis and Sean Renfree’s success in 2009 will depend largely on the five linemen in front of them


the chronicle

FriDAY, AUGUSt 28, 2009 | 7

The Offense

Candidates aplenty to replace wideout Riley by Jason Palmatary The chronicle

last year, Duke fans grew accustomed to watching 6-foot3 wide receiver eron riley use his combination of size and speed to make plays all over the field. With riley’s graduation and departure to the nFl, the Blue Devil receiving corps will feature a different look this year, but is nonetheless confident in producing without him. “it’s obviously a big loss not having his presence, but we’ve got to move on,” junior receiver Austin Kelly said. “it’s about getting more consistent as a group, spending more time in the playbook and paying more attention to detail with our routes.” replacing riley’s 693 total receiving yards, eight touchdowns and deep-threat potential will be crucial considering that this year’s three projected starters at the position—Kelly and sophomores Donovan Varner and Johnny Williams—had fewer combined yards than riley last season. Still, the emphasis on getting the ball into riley’s hands had its downfalls as the increased focus of defenses on riley

resulted in some drops and forced interceptions. “We’re working hard to help our quarterback build more trust in the receivers as a unit this year so that he will be able to spread the ball around,” Kelly said. “he can go to anybody on a big third down and know that they will keep the drive going.” Both Varner and Williams are short for wide receivers, standing at 5-foot-9 and 5-foot-10, respectively. however, both players compensate for their lack of height with their shifty, explosive athletic ability. To make use of this unique skill to gain yards after the catch, shorter, quicker passes will be a prominent part of the playbook this year. especially with a reshuffled offensive line in front of quarterback Thaddeus lewis, short passes should be a Duke staple in 2009. That strategy isn’t much of a departure from last year, as underneath routes were also a significant part of the aerial attack and allowed for running backs clifford harris and Jay hollingsworth to make a number of catches out of the backfield. Unfortunately, the receivers failed to excel in their playmaking after

the catch as this year’s trio combined for only one touchdown last season. But the coaching staff is confident that results will improve. “We have some guys that can get what coach cutcliffe calls the dirty yards,” senior lewis said.

“These receivers are willing to lower a shoulder and are capable of making somebody miss in the flats to pick up a couple of extra yards or break even bigger gains.” Still, this isn’t to say that the Blue Devil offense won’t pick and choose its spots to let lewis throw the football down the field. The Kelly-Varner-Williams trio knows that for the offense to be potent enough to stay competitive in Acc games, they will have to use their playmaking ability to create big plays. Also hoping to make significant contributions out on the flank are true freshmen wideouts conner Vernon and Tyree Watkins. Both of these newcomers are expected to see action off the bench. Vernon, out of Miami’s gulliver prep Academy, has been turning heads in workouts and actually lined up alongside Varner in high school, a relationship that Varner hopes to continue to foster. “i was in his shoes last year as the new guy just trying to get comfortable and learn as much of the system as i could,” Varner said. “So i am going to do everything i can to ease his transition because i think he can really help us with his playmaking ability.” While the freshman will be continuing to learn the playbook and transition to the college game, the rest of the receiving unit is afforded the pleasure of having a returning quarterback and coaching staff. The first year playing under head coach David cutcliffe brought a lot of changes, but the offense seems to be in a much greater comfort zone now. “The continuity is a sigh of relief, really,” lewis said. “i’m Courtney Douglas/the ChroniCle just excited to sit back in that pocket and watch the receivers m (pictured left to right): senior Jarrod Holt, redshirt freshman Brian Moore, junior Bryan Morgan, senior Mitchell Lederman and redshirt sophomore Kyle Hill. make plays.”


8 | FRIDAY, AUGUST 28, 2009

the chronicle

Special Teams

High expectations for oft-forgotten unit by Harrison Comfort The chronicle

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David Cutcliffe’s reputation is that of a quarterback guru, but he gives as much attention to the often-overlooked third element of the game­—special teams. “Coach Cutcliffe is in every special teams meeting,” special teams coordinator and tight ends coach Ron Middleton said. “Nobody on this team is immune to special teams. We are given specific practice time, meeting time and whatever else we need to be prepared.” After years of futility on special teams, Duke finally began to show consistency in Cutcliffe’s first season at the helm. Kicker Nick Maggio did not miss a single extra point and he and Joe Surgan combined to make 13-of-18 field goals. Redshirt junior Kevin Jones, the team’s starting punter, said the chemistry of the special teams has played a major role in helping the unit improve. “We have worked on chemistry amongst all the special teams players, making sure everyone is comfortable with each other,” Jones said. “[Special teams] is very focusoriented. There are not many opportunities, so it is important that you capitalize on the chances you have.” The starting kicker job, despite Maggio’s return, is still up for grabs between him and Will Snyderwine. The coaching staff is expected to make a decision this week on who will handle kickoff and field goal duties. Middleton also stressed the importance of the field position battle this upcoming season. Before Cutcliffe arrived,

Courtney Douglas/Chronicle File Photo

Punter Kevin Jones, a redshirt junior, has started at the position for the Blue Devils since 2007. Jones averaged 40.8 yards per punt last year, second in the ACC. Duke often tired in the fourth quarter, which meant the Blue Devils covered little ground and allowed their opponents to have short drives for points. Thanks to Cutcliffe’s conditioining levels, however, the team did not fatigue down the stretch and was able to put itself in better position to win close games. Against Virginia Tech, for example, Duke’s field positition management meant the Hokies’ only offensive points came on the last drive of the first half.

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With an even heavier emphasis on conditioning this offseason­­—the team ran 5,000 yards in sprints—Middleton expects the special teams to not only contribute, but also to make a difference. “We feel that we can positively affect [and] win three games just from special teams,” he said. “We preach it, we put the time in and put the emphasis on it, and hopefully that equates to a successful unit.” Wide receiver Johnny Williams will handle punt returns, while fifth-year se-

nior running back Re’quan Boyette will return kickoffs this season. No one has yet been named as the off-return man, or the man who receives the ball on short kickoffs. Middleton said depth and filling in roster spots on the coverage squads will be the biggest challenges. But if his players live up to Middleton’s expectations to win three more games, that would be just enough to help Duke qualify for a bowl game.


the chronicle

FriDAY, AUGUSt 28, 2009 | 9

SCHEDULE from page 3

The Defense

With a win, the Blue Devils could potentially begin the season 2-0. The game is on the road, but if the upset of Vanderbilt last year proved anything, it’s that road games are an obstacle the Blue Devils can overcome. Crucial ACC Games: 1. MArYlAnD (october 24) Assuming that Duke enters the Acc season with two wins that can count toward the six-game total, the team will need four conference wins in order to make a bowl. in that sense, Maryland could turn out to be the makeor-break game of the season. A win would put Duke on track to make a bowl game and leave the Blue Devils with five games to win three. it would also be the start of a crucial stretch of challenging but beatable opponents in Virginia and north carolina. cutcliffe likes the game’s timing, too. Duke has its only off-week of the season right before facing the Terrapins, giving his team more time to prepare. “it lays out a little better for us,” he said. “if you’re going to have one open date, you like where it falls, right in the middle, six and six.” 2. Virginia (october 31) The Blue Devils make the trip up to charlottesville for a halloweeen match-up. Virginia is coming off a disappointing season last year in which it failed to make a bowl game. if the cavaliers can find a consistent option at quarterback—they currently have three players in the mix for the starting spot—they may prove to be a diffcult team for Duke. The Blue Devils, though, dominated Virginia in a 31-3 win in Durham last year. 3. north carolina (november 7) The Tar heels are a top-25 team and may serve as a major roadblock for the Blue Devils. north carolina made a bowl game for the first time in four years under head coach Butch Davis last season and shows no signs of taking a step back. 4. WAKe ForeST (november 28) Duke has just five wins over the past three seasons, with four of those wins coming last season under cutcliffe. But if the Blue Devils could finish games against Wake Forest, that number could have been eight. Duke has lost its last three matchups with the Demon Deacons by a total of nine points. The Blue Devils have come up short before, but if the game means becoming bowl eligible, can they finally win a game when it counts?

Tauiliili’s shadow still looms by Kevin Fishner The chronicle

he led the 2008 Blue Devils in tackles, interceptions and heart. nothing stopped three-year starter Mike Tauiliili from making that game-changing tackle, that last play of desperation. no one can deny that replacing the team leader in tackles—now trying to make the roster with the nFl’s indianapolis colts—is a difficult task. But head coach David cutcliffe thinks he already has a man for the job: senior captain Vincent rey. “[rey] has big shoes to fill taking the leadership role that Mike Tauiliili had on the field,” cutcliffe said. “But he is capable of doing that.” rey finished second on the team in tackles last year from the linebacker position, recording 109— 31 tackles short of his former teammate. Although he didn’t receive the same recognition that Tauiliili did last year, rey’s coaches and teammates know they have a leader on the field in him. linebacker coach Jim collins echoed cutcliffe’s endorsement of rey’s leadership potential. collins said rey served as a strong leader last year, and is expected to lead the linebacking corps in making tackles and breaking up passes. And rey not only garners the respect of the coaching staff, but the veteran players and newcomers as well. Senior defensive end Ayanga okpokowuruk has high hopes for the linebacking corps as well as the defense as a whole. “We set the bar high,” okpokowuruk said. “We’re looking to improve off of last year. We have rey anchoring the linebacking corps and helping the young guys out. They’re doing a really good job.” Accompanying rey will be an experienced junior, Damian Thornton, and then a rotation of new talent behind them. cutcliffe said he has no problem playing freshmen and noted a few standouts after his team’s Aug. 22 scrimmage. cutcliffe mentioned freshmen Auggie campbell, Austin gamble, Tyree glover, Zach greena and Sydney Sarmiento as potential contributors. With all the young players on the depth chart, no matter how talented they are, they still need the leadership and positive example that rey provides. But according to cutcliffe, rey is more than just a leader of the linebackers, and more than just a leader of the team. “There’s a difference between just being a leader and being the heart of a football team,” cutcliffe said. “Vinny rey is the heart of our entire football

Maya roBinson/ChroniCle File Photo

Linebacker and captain Vincent Rey is charged with replacing Mike Tauiliili. team the way he competes.” rey isn’t expected to make people forget about the standout career Tauiliili had. But cutcliffe and the Blue Devils are confident rey will set the right tone for the upcoming season.

Join The Chronicle! Come to the sports staff’s weekly meeting this afternoon at 5:45 in 201 Flowers, near the Duke Chapel. You can also check out The Chronicle’s table at the Student Activities Fair on East Campus today. Contact Gabe at gs31@duke.edu with any questions.

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Duke has come close to victories against Wake Forest in recent years, but has lost its last three games to the Demon Deacons in heartbreaking fashion.

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the chronicle

The Newcomers

Cutcliffe touts Scott, freshmen by Caroline Fairchild The chronicle

head coach David cutcliffe’s second season as Duke’s leader brings with it not only high expectations, but also a promising freshman class. After a strong recruiting effort on cutcliffe’s part along with the help of the entire Duke staff, the class of 2013 comes in with 31 new players hailing from far-away hometowns in the Bahamas and Texas to local products from north carolina. The new additions to east campus bring a lot of talent, energy and promise to the Blue Devils as preseason begins to wind down and they look forward to the year. “As far as the new season goes, we are obviously very excited to get another year under our belt,” redshirt freshman quarterback Sean renfree said. “We have a great new class and coach did a great job of recruiting athletes, and he is really building a program. [The freshman] are doing really well for us so far and a lot of them can make good plays.” Although cutcliffe sees all of his new recruits adding positively to the team as a whole, there were two players that stuck out to the coaching staff, the players and fans at a preseason scrimmage last Friday. one player who had stood out at the scrimmage and looks to be a growing asset for Duke’s offense is four-star recruit Desmond Scott. Scott is native to Durham and was charted as the top running back in north carolina and the 23rdbest in the country by eSpn.com. As a senior, Scott rushed 256 times for 2,249 yards and 24 touchdowns while catching 30 passes for 532 yards and five touch-

Courtney Douglas/the ChroniCle

Backup quarterback Sean Renfree did not see action as a freshman, but could contribute this season. downs. The running back added four kickoff returns for touchdowns in the state semifinals in leading hillside high to a 12-2-1 record for the season. on Friday, Scott rushed four times for 20 yards, but also caught six passes for 39 yards.

“Desmond was real busy today and that is good,” cutcliffe said. “he was more consistent than he has been and he did well with his assignments and it was a good See FRESHMEN on pAge 11

“ BBQ ,

TENDER

COHEN from page 5 win a tough game like this,” cutcliffe said in Winston-Salem. “We’ve let two... get away from us where we had a chance to win at the end. now we’ve just got to grow to the next level.” There’s not much of a motto in there— nothing like “play like A champion Today,” and thank goodness for it—but the statement will define cutcliffe’s second year and, indeed, every season until Duke does make it to that next level. While no single campaign is like any other, every one—no matter the length, no matter the location, no matter the sport— hinges on one particular occasion. last year, it was the Wake Forest game, and it was the field goal, the blitz gone awry, the interception. Duke lost before and lost after, but it was the loss to the Demon Deacons that changed its tenor and momentum. it was, ahem, the queso on the tortilla. And somewhere on this year’s schedule lurks another game like Wake Forest, a contest that will, at some point, prove whether the Blue Devils have grown to that so-called next level, an aspiration every team still has the right to harbor. it might be the first game of the year and it might be the last, but probably, it will be somewhere in the middle— sometime around november, when, as cutcliffe liked to remind us last year, his team was defined. it was only cruel that Duke’s tipping point landed on the first day of the month, sucking out the sweet promise from the rest of it. i’m sure that taste of hope is scrumptious, though, even more so than oozing queso. i bet it lasts longer than 15 minutes, and i imagine it doesn’t leave you wondering what empty feeling made you indulge in The Dillo in the first place.

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the chronicle

FriDAY, AUGUSt 28, 2009 | 11

staff picks

or: proof we’re a bunch of homers

STAFFER

ACC CHAMP

DUKE WINS

BIGGEST WIN

NCAA CHAMP

DUKE MVP

HEISMAN WINNER

Gabe

Miami

5

Virginia

USC

Thad Lewis

Tim Tebow

BZ

Ga. Tech

6

Wake

Rutgers

Thad Lewis

Tim Tebow

Sabreeeeena Ga. Tech

7

UNC

USC

Thad Lewis

Colt McCoy

SPORTSWRAP Editor: gabe Starosta Managing Editor: Sabreena Merchant Photo Editor: courtney Douglas Recruitment Chairs: Taylor Doherty and Andy Moore Associate Editors: ryan claxton, harrison comfort, caroline Fairchild, Kevin Fishner, Alex Keller, Julia love, Scott rich, Jeff Scholl, Felicia Tan, Dan Ahrens, Jason palmatary Senior Associate Editors: Stephen Allan, Ben cohen, Joe Drews, Will Flaherty, laura Keeley, Archith ramkumar, David Ungvary

Stephen A.

N.C. State

7

UNC

Florida

Thad Lewis

Colt McCoy

Texas Will

Va. Tech

4

Wake

Florida

Vincent Rey

Tim Tebow

Special thanks to chronicle editor Will robinson, Managing editor hon lung chu, photo editor Michael naclerio, Sports photo editor courtney Douglas, Sports Managing editor Sabreena Merchant and former Sports editor Ben cohen for their help in production of this issue of sportswrap.

Tim Tebow

Founded in 1983, sportswrap is the weekly sports supplement published by The chronicle. it can be read at:

Axel Nielk

Duke

12

UNC

Duke

Cut

www.dukechronicle.com

Hon

Duke

0

BC

CDawg

Duke

5.5

UMd

N’western

Re’quan

Michael Vick

The Ravens

Thad Lewis

Jahvid Best

Founded in 2007, The chronicle’s Sports Blog is the sectoin’s daily presence on the web, featuring constant updates on all Duke-related stories. it can be read online at: www.dukechroniclesports.com

Work for The Chronicle! Email Gabe at gs31@duke.edu for more information

FRESHMEN from page 10

O. LINE from page 6

growth day for him.” The other player to catch the coaching staff’s eye was Sean Schroeder, a quarterback from laguna niguel, calif., was listed by eSpn.com as the 29th-best quarterback in the country prior to his decision to play for the Blue Devils. As a senior, Schroeder completed 175-of267 passes for 2,826 yards with 31 touchdowns and eight interceptions for a season that caught cutcliffe’s attention and made him a good fit for Duke. Schroeder’s slight build—he currently weighs in a 185 pounds—and the two quality quarterbacks in front of him on the depth chart will limit his time under center this season. in the long run, though, he promises to be a good pickup for Duke. The firstyear player was 7-of-9 for 61 yards last Friday, splitting time with renfree and senior quarterback Thaddeus lewis. “he’s done really well, especially for a freshman,” renfree said. “My freshman year i was really dazed and he’s done really well and he fits in. Thad and i both love him. he’s fun to play with. obviously, physically, he has to get a bit bigger, but he works really hard.” As the preseason nears its end, the best of the freshmen may still be yet to come. And, with Duke’s first matchup against richmond just a week away, the freshman class will have an immediate opportunity to show its team, its coaches and its fans the strides it has made in preseason to be ready for ncAA play.

ber of the line, has stepped up and assumed some of this responsibility. “Definitely as a senior you’ve been here a while, you know the ropes a little bit. A lot of people look up to you,” he said. “You’ve got to support these kids. They came out of high school, this is their first time away from home, this is their family up here....not just me as a senior, but everybody lifting up everybody.” Duke’s hopes of building the momentum of the cutcliffe era depend on just how high this group can lift itself— whether holt, Moore and lederman can become effective starters, whether the freshmen develop into viable future options and whether the line can clear holes for Duke’s tailbacks to run through. Should they fail, the line will still be full of holes—the kind of holes that cause Duke quarterbacks to break ribs after tough tackles. if the line finds a way to pull together, Duke’s upset fairy tales in 2009 could see a much happier ending than that disappointment in Blacksburg—or at least one where the Blue Devil quarterback is still standing.

For the most up-to-date source of Duke sports news as well as photo showcases from Blue Devil sporting events, visit The Chronicle’s Sports Blog: laWson KurtZ/ChroniCle File Photo

Check out The Chronicle’s Sports Blog during and after Duke games for live updates and photo slideshows.

www.dukechroniclesports.com


12 | FRIDAY, AUGUST 28, 2009

the chronicle

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August 28, 2009 issue (Football preview)