Cutcliffe talks defensive strategy

The most important stat for the Blue Devils this year is, perhaps, the most simple to measure.

Coach Cutcliffe said he came back from the bowl game trying to decide what to say to the team and how to say it. As it turns out, he said he didn't have to say much. He described the guys as hungry and putting in even more effort to get better this summer.

The team has to improve its defense next season. Coach Cut said asking the offense to average 37 or 38 points a game to offset the 36 given up by the defense is too much.

"Systematically, we've had to change a bit," he said. "It's points per game. It really doesn't matter how, it's keeping them from scoring points."

As a part of that change, Coach Cut said the defense has to limit explosive plays (plays of 25 or more yards). He said the coaches have been studying other teams like Oklahoma to see how the defenses have stopped other teams. Not every team is blessed with a defensive front like Alabama or LSU that can stop any offense.

On the back end, the team is working in some younger players. Coach Cut said corner Ross Cockrell is an important player, but his experience is just as important at this point.

"Right now he's coaching," he said. "He's coaching as fast and as hard as he can coach. Ross knows all five positions, can play all five positions."

This offseason the guys have worked on agility circuits to improve in space. Coach said his players have to be able to change direction quickly. He doesn't want what he calls "bus drivers" in the open field.

"You see a guy having to wheel his arm around to get around," he said while turning a big imaginary steering wheel with his hand. "Well you've got one who isn't going to make many plays in the open field. We don't want bus drivers. No offense to bus drivers."

Several guys are coming off injuries on defense, and Coach Cutcliffe said Kelby Brown is coming along good. During the season, Coach Cut said he would monitor the minutes and snaps for Justin Foxx, Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo, Kenny Anunike and Jamal Bruce. The team has 32 returning letterman in part because of all the injuries last year.

"I'm praying this is the healthiest team," Coach Cutcliffe said. "Because what this one [team] is going to let us do is play more people by choice than any team we've had."

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