After more than a year the class of 2013 is in the books with Duke signing 20 prospects. Over the last 11 months the Blue Devils addressed several depth chart needs, and it's time to look back over the haul. TDD sat down with Scout.com's team of recruiting analysts to get some feedback on the newest group of Blue Devils.
Who is the top player in the class in your opinion?
Chad Simmons, National Recruiting Analyst: I have to go with Johnell Barnes. He's a very smooth and fluid athlete that could be a very good wide receiver or corner back in college. He's smart, very coachable, and has great ball skills. Really a lot of upside with him.
Michael Clark, South Region Analyst: I'm going with Chris Holmes, the safety out of Fredericksburg, Va. He is physically ready to play in college right now. His length allows him to cover a lot of ground in the secondary, and he has really good instincts.
Mike Bakas, Florida Analyst: From Florida it's Parker Boehme. He's a talented kid with good football IQ and athleticism. He's a spread offense quarterback, and will do well and learn under Cutcliffe.
John Watson, TheDevilsDen.com: When looking at the best I am going to go with the most immediate impact. For me that'll either be Barnes as a receiver or Evrett Edwards in the secondary. Edwards is already in school and has previously indicated that Duke expected him to be in the discussion for who plays opposite Ross Cockrell when Duke opens up against NC Central. Another player to watch is Dominic McDonald (formerly Zanca). He was good enough to get an offer to play in the SEC for Tennessee and I know the Duke coaches were thrilled to land a big, fast linebacker.
Anyone in the class who could surprise relative to their ranking?
Clark: Breon Borders is my pick.
Simmons: Deondre Singleton is one that really jumps out to me. He is a very good athlete and I was surprised he was not pursued by more schools. He has good length, he is has good quickness, and he is a raw talent with a lot of room to improve.
Bakas: No one talked about Alls much but he has size and athleticism and produced in Dade County, where the best football in this state is played.
Huffman: Ryan Smith was somewhat under the radar, surprising given his team's success, but he's been overshadowed by other players at Gorman in the past few years, including future Duke teammate Shaquille Powell. But he's a tremendous playmaker.
Watson: I'll go with Quay Chambers. He is considered just a two star prospect by Scout, but is a tremendous athlete who can play a lot of positions. He's going to start off as a quarterback, and has all the measureables at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds. I still think he'll end up as a big, athletic receiver though.
What do you see as the overall strength of this class?
Clark: I think the secondary is the big strength of this class.
Simmons: When looking at the numbers alone, the secondary stands out to me. They are going to sign more than six athletes who will play safety or corner for the Blue Devils. They could have a couple of real sleepers in that group too. That would be the strength of the class.
Bakas: They did a nice job in Florida. They got some size, athleticism, and overall good football players.
Watson: I agree with everyone who said the defensive backfield, though I also think Duke added a lot of athleticism and talent at receiver. Guys like Edwards and Holmes will likely be in the conversation to play very early. On the other side of the ball I can see Barnes factoring into the passing game as well.
What about weaknesses in the class?
Simmons: Looking at the defensive line unit, there is only one there. A defensive tackle is in this class, but you always need more than one there. Depth is a real key in the trenches.
Clark: I also feel that the defensive line haul is the weakest point of the class with just one player.
Watson: Duke has had a lot of trouble bringing in instant impact guys along the defensive line, and that's something I'm sure everyone would like to see change. Landing a couple of big time defensive tackles in 2014 would cure a lot of depth chart issues.
How would you rate this class against others Cutcliffe has brought into Duke?
Clark: I am not sure if it is better than any of the classes in the past few years, but I think they added a lot of good athletes.
Simmons: I think he has signed better classes on paper, but we will not know for certain for a few more years. He has a addressed the needs in the secondary and I like a couple of wideouts in this class, but overall, he has signed better at this stage.
Watson: I think this is similar to the ones he's signed in the past. They filled some needs at certain positions, and they are bringing in guys who can run. Athleticism has increased 10 fold under Cutcliffe and that continues to be the case.
On that note, as a third party observer, what challenges are facing Duke and Coach Cutcliffe when he gets on the recruiting trail? Are they addressing those challenges?
Clark:I think the challenge they will continue to face is on the defensive side of the ball. He added some speed in this class, but must continue to add athletic playmakers in future classes.
Coach Cutcliffe is a great offensive mind and will always find way to score. If the defense can continue to improve, they have a chance to have some really good seasons in the near future.
Simmons: Duke is known for basketball, so not many top prospects grow up wanting to play football for the Blue Devils. That puts them off to a tough start right there. Then, they have no real history or tradition in football, so that is something else they have to battle. Of course they are in the south too, where many consider SEC country, so if they want to land elite prospects, they have to compete against some of the best programs in the country.
They do a solid job recruiting though. David Cutcliffe has a great history, he is well respected, and the education at Duke sells itself. It is just tough for anyone to be successful consistently there in football or football recruiting.
Bakas: Taking the next step as a ‘football program' seems to be the key. They're starting to turn the corner and players are noticing. Now they must take advantage of that and give kids something to really look forward to when considering Duke.
Watson: The Scout guys hit the nail on the head. Duke continues to battle the stigma of a 20 year run of futility. And, of course, with the advancements in the game and training, there are more and more teams landing quality players. That being said, things are changing and Duke is continually focusing on their strengths which include the academics, the competitiveness of the team, and now they have post season experience to sell.