Duke Football Working to Improve From Day One

Coach Cutcliffe and his players have plenty of motivation coming into 2014.

“I went home last night and thought we really are 0-0 now… We were kind of 10-4 up until we just reported. Not anymore. The reality that sets in that August 30th, we’re kicking off.”

Those were the words of Duke head coach David Cutcliffe as he addressed the media on the first day of training camp. It is clear after a historic season in 2013, the Blue Devils are ready to move forward and build off that success.

“Everybody still has yet to believe that we are the real deal,” redshirt senior defensive end Dezmond Johnson said. “You still have people out there that believe Duke is Duke, these two seasons were nothing but a fluke.

“Our motivation now is just to be better than we have been in the past.”

In order to sustain a winning tradition, Cutcliffe emphasized a key will be winning the battles in the trenches. New players must step up after the offensive and defensive lines lost a combined five starters.

“We’re going to look at both lines of scrimmage,” Cutcliffe said. “Try to come out of there with a starting unit and a second unit that are good enough to play with.”

Johnson believes the defense in particular possesses plenty of depth and talent to replace the lost production up front.

“Three guys did leave, but we didn’t lose our whole D-line,” Johnson said. “We have guys that can work with the system and the rotation that we have.”

Offensively, Duke averaged more than 32 points and 425 yards of total offense per game last season. The offense returns eight starters, including redshirt senior quarterback Anthony Boone and senior wide receiver Jamison Crowder.

Cutcliffe mentioned a few areas where he seeks improvement for an already potent attack.

“I want to become better in our toughest games running the football,” Cutcliffe said. “I want to see us convert third downs at a higher rate. I want to minimize unforced errors.”

With a 10-win season and a Coastal Division title to their credit, the Blue Devils know they will not be surprising anyone this coming season.

“I think now the opponents that we face, they won’t overlook us like they did once in the past,” Crowder said. “Now they know that playing against us, they really have to game plan and scheme up.”

Johnson and Crowder both mentioned how the tone around the program is different, especially since the Chick-fil-A Bowl loss to Texas A&M. Despite falling just short to Johnny Manziel and the Aggies, Duke proved it could compete with high profile football programs.

Now, this team wants to not just make a bowl game, but also finish with the season with a victory.

“We won’t be successful if we’re not successful in camp,” Cutcliffe said. “Everything else up to this point, not that it doesn’t matter, but it kind of goes away. We’ll find out how we’re handling success.”

The Blue Devils come into training camp with minimal health concerns, but here are a few noteworthy items from Cutcliffe:

- Redshirt senior tight end Braxton Deaver will not join the team until Aug. 9. Cutcliffe says Deaver has to do a few things to “satisfy” him before returning. Cutcliffe did not specify what those things were, but says he expects them to be done in a timely fashion by his return date.

- Redshirt sophomore tight end Dan Beilinson underwent surgery for a pectoral injury he suffered in the weight room and is out for an unknown amount of time.

- Freshman cornerback Johnathan Lloyd had surgery for an ankle injury that Cutcliffe says has been a continuous problem since his senior year in high school. Lloyd also does not have a timetable for his return.

- Redshirt junior defensive end Kyler Brown suffered an ankle injury in late summer work, and Cutcliffe says he will be limited in practice.

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