Caulton Tudor

Win or lose Saturday, Duke's football future is bright

Posted November 29, 2013

Regardless of Duke’s fate at North Carolina, there are several reasons to believe the Blue Devils are not a collective flash in the football pan.

Team leaders Ross Cockrell, a senior safety, and Anthony Boone, a red-shirt junior, predicted as much way back in July in Greensboro – the very day Duke was picked to finish last in the ACC Coastal Division.

“People think we just got lucky and made it to a bowl game last season, but people are wrong,” Boone said. “If they were surprised by us last season, just wait.”

The natural tendency by fans and the media was to assume Duke football couldn’t sustain success regardless of how many rabbits David Cutcliffe pulled from a hat in 2012.

And even if Duke wins Saturday to finish regular season at 10-2 overall to claim the Coastal title at 6-2, there’ll still be a tendency to see the Devils as a cellar candidate in preseason 2014 and beyond – and that’s even if Cutcliffe turns down the wave of job offers that will come his way.

As Cockrell said in July, “It’s going to take fans a long time to really understand that we’ve turned the corner. We realize that, but that corner definitely has been turned.”

Roster is still youthful

Starting with Boone, fellow quarterback Brandon Connette, linebacker Kelby Brown and nose guard Jamal Bruce, the current roster is dotted with red-shirt juniors.

If all or most return for 2014, Duke again will be blessed with above-average experience and first-rate locker room leadership. But beyond that group, the Devils are getting as much production from first- and second-year players as any team in the ACC.

Five running backs are averaging more than five yards per carry and two of those – Jela Duncan (5.3 average) and Shaquille Powell (5.6) – are sophomores.

A third running back, Smithfield-Selma junior Josh Snead, is averaging a whopping 6.6 yards per carry behind an offensive line that includes red-shirt juniors Takoby Cofield (Tarboro tackle), Laken Tomlinson (guard) and Braxton Deaver (Charlotte tight end) along with red-shirt sophomore center Matt Skura.

The offense’s most explosive player, wide-out Jamison Crowder from Monroe, is a junior. Behind Crowder is an emerging receiving star in sophomore Max McCaffrey. Huge target Issac Blakeney (6-6, 235, Monroe) is another of those red-shirt juniors.

And on defense, red-shirt sophomore Jeremy Cash and red-shirt frosh DeVon Edwards are solid preseason ’14 all-star candidates, as is junior linebacker David Helton.

Two things have occurred fairly fast:

1.Cutcliffe and his staff have been able to sign enough quick, athletic players to make a collective impact even though there are few 4-star and 5-star players on the roster.

2.The staff also has made strides inside North Carolina’s borders. That’s something Duke football coaches have tried to accomplish without much success for years, particularly in the Charlotte metro area.

Cockrell, who played at Charlotte Latin High, said Duke will become more popular in that part of the state.

“We have so many guys on the team from around Charlotte that it’s created a lot more interest and momentum for recruiting,” he said. “Duke’s really visible there now compared to just three or four years ago.”

The program was down for so long that Duke acquired a reputation for losing that won’t soon be forgotten. But in a twisted kind of way, that situation might even be working in Duke’s favor.

The team has won 15 games in two seasons without being directly targeted by opponents. That won’t be the case in Kenan Stadium Saturday. The favored Tar Heels will be completely focused.

But come July and those preseason picks for 2014, will the Devils land just one vote to win the Coastal? It’ll be interesting to see.

20 Comments

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  • snapjack Nov 29, 12:38 p.m.

    Couldn't agree more. Coach has done an incredible job and I don't see him going anywhere so that will make all the victories against duke the sweeter.

  • snapjack Nov 29, 1:00 p.m.

    Tudor is an old grouch that has no clue. He has got to be the worst in the triangle. Cutt will... View More

    — Posted by PricelessGemUNC

    Bit harsh isn't it? It seems everyone gets to bash anyone that writes something just because they didn't like it or the team covered. Cut has already turned down offers, I think he's here for the duration and would much rather beat a good duke team than the one they've been.

  • PricelessGemUNC Nov 29, 1:11 p.m.

    Tudor is an old grouch that has no clue. He has got to be the worst in the triangle. Cutt will... View More

    — Posted by PricelessGemUNC

    Bit harsh isn't it? It seems everyone gets to bash anyone that writes something just because... View More

    — Posted by snapjack

    What offers has he turned down? Don't even tell me Tennessee because he would have taken that job. These guys that coach are all business. They do it to make money! Just because an offer may come in for more money there are more things involved. I can tell you some real reasons why coaches leave for the same amount or even less money. Things like cost of living, state taxes, school benefits all have a hand in getting top notch coaches. I agree Cutt is a good coach but he is old and weathered. Lou Holtz was a good coach but he we too old to run a program when he got to South Carolina. Cutt has 2 to 3 more years of coaching left tops. After he is gone you better hope the media gets a character like him for press conferences so the media will fall in love with them.

  • Hammerhead Nov 29, 1:19 p.m.

    Tudor is an old grouch that has no clue. He has got to be the worst in the triangle. Cutt will... View More

    — Posted by PricelessGemUNC

    A drowning man will clutch a straw.

  • Gunnstigator Nov 29, 1:26 p.m.

    Not a Duke fan, but I like and respect Coach Cut and think the world of him. I don't believe Cut is going anywhere - he's a man of his word and has integrity. I believe Coach Cut has made great strides at Duke, but it will take a while for the rest of the ACC to believe in Duke. I don't think Duke will be predicted to finish last in the Coastal next year, but even if they make it to the ACC Championship game, they won't be picked to finish first, either. It takes time to build a program, and it takes more time for fans to buy into that program. The Duke/Carolina game is important to both teams, but I don't believe either team's future will be determined by who wins the game.

  • Hammerhead Nov 29, 1:35 p.m.

    Not a Duke fan, but I like and respect Coach Cut and think the world of him. I don't believe... View More

    — Posted by Gunnstigator

    As always, a voice of sedation and reason.

  • FakeCoastalRings Nov 29, 1:56 p.m.

    Tudor is an old grouch that has no clue. He has got to be the worst in the triangle. Cutt will... View More

    — Posted by PricelessGemUNC

    Reported

  • Hammerhead Nov 29, 2:01 p.m.

    Tudor is an old grouch that has no clue. He has got to be the worst in the triangle. Cutt will... View More

    — Posted by PricelessGemUNC

    Reported

    — Posted by FakeCoastalRings

    I think you meant "retorted".

  • 903 Hook em banned Nov 29, 2:07 p.m.

    Duke's got alot of this year's team returning but the other big plus to next year is that Thomas Sirk will be available unless he gets hurt again in Spring ball.

    This year's the payoff year to the past 5 years of rebuilding but next year is looking even better. And it doesn't really matter what the other Coastal Division teams are getting in the 4 and 5-star recruits that they get but Duke doesn't because Duke did it this season without that. Cut's proven that he can identify 4 and 5 star talent in players rated much lower but with potential and he's also been masterful at hiring top-notch coaches that have been able to develop those unknown recruits into quality 4th and 5th year seniors that can make people forget about ratings...

  • zonk Nov 29, 2:29 p.m.

    Cutcliff has done a fine job. I think he is happy where he is at. But if Carolina is so awful and Duke so great how is Carolina favored ?

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