Cutcliffe: "There's a significant difference"

Head coach David Cutcliffe met the media on Tuesday to discuss a number of topics including what has changed about the average Duke player since 2009.

Opening Statement:

“Coach (Charlie) Weis is coming to town, and I have great respect for Charlie Weis. After being at Ole Miss, he was a guy that quickly believed in me enough to offer me a job. I went to Notre Dame and was there with him for a short period of time, but long enough to know what kind of football coach the guy is. He knows how to get a football team ready. I don’t know that anybody in football knows the game better. I knew it was going to be interesting for me to watch their tape in all three phases. I knew what I would see. I would see a well-oiled machine from a coaching standpoint. They know what they’re doing and they’re coached well and prepared well. That didn’t surprise me at all.

“I’m very appreciative of Charlie giving me that opportunity. One of the toughest things that I had to do by far in the business was after open-heart surgery. I realized I had complications during that time and there was no way I was going to be able to earn my money. I called and told him, ‘I’m very appreciative, but there is no way that I’m going to be capable of being what you deserve.’ And again, he tried to encourage me to wait and didn’t push me away. I appreciated that very much, but I told him better now than later into things. I would’ve really looked forward to the opportunity to work with Charlie and just seeing another way of doing things and learning different things.

“With that said, they’re going to come ready to play football. They make you execute. They make you play well. They play some really good football teams, a lot like what we do. They’re a Big 12 football team. They have athletes. They have a lot of guys with good size who can run. I think their new people have helped them. Athletically and offensively, they’re much better. I see a difference and I know they know the difference, so they present a lot of problems in that regard. Defensively, they have a lot of the same people back. A lot of outstanding athletes. Their linebackers can run; their safeties and corners. Their defensive front is experienced. They’re a good football team and they’re a Big 12 good football team, so we’ll have to be at our best. I think our squad knows that. We had good preparation today. I haven’t finished all the tape, but I have a feeling and I hope it was the best Tuesday we’ve had yet. We’ll need it, and we need the best Wednesday we’ve had yet. I’m looking forward to just preparing and taking on the challenge. I know it will be one. I think Duke football fans are in for a treat. We need you all here early. It doesn’t have to be a friendly environment. We’re all nice to those folks, but it needs to be a hostile environment. We just came from one in Troy, Alabama. There’s nothing friendly about going down there and playing football. But we have to have ourselves ready to go. Wallace Wade is going to be rocking come Saturday afternoon.”

On the differences between the teams from when they played in 2009:

“In the first couple years, people were still learning the system. You’re taking people you inherited and trying to turn it in a whole different direction. We all know where we were. We had a group of people – the seniors of the year before – that had won two games the entire time they had been on Duke’s campus. We’ve made progress and we went out there and played a real good football team, and we didn’t play as well as we could play. And that’s a unique trip. That’s one of the things that concerned me about Troy. Anytime you go somewhere that you haven’t been before, there’s always a chance for a little flutter here and there and it doesn’t go quite right. But they were a good football team and we weren’t there yet. We have more athletes. We’re physically stronger. We’re faster. Athletically, there’s a significant difference. No offense to any of our good folk from 2009, but it’s just a fact.”

On Issac Blakeney’s ability to transition his performances in practice to game days this year:

“I think he’s a work-in-progress, in that regard. I think he has to continue to mature. That’s a maturity thing. Issac is so gifted. He makes everything he does look so easy, even to himself. I certainly think that he has seen Jamison (Crowder) work. Not the product we see on Saturday. I think he’s seen Jamison work enough now to realize that that hard work produces good results and hopefully that is something we’re going to take even another step with him.”

On what Anthony Boone has done better this year to cut down his interception numbers:

(Knocks on wood) “He’s worked hard starting last winter and spring practice. He’s worked really hard managing our offense and understanding when he can pull the trigger and when he can’t. That’s something that never stops. You’re going to have to take certain risks to be a really good player at quarterback, but if it ends up a 50-50 proposition with your touchdowns, something is out of kilter. I think it got his attention. His command of the ball has continued to get better, so he’s putting it where he wants to put it. I think his knowledge of what we’re doing has just been increasing steadily all along, and I think Coach (Scottie) Montgomery has done a great job of emphasizing discipline at that position. Scottie Montgomery is an extremely disciplined individual. He grew up that way. That’s why he’s accomplished all that he’s accomplished at this point in his life.”

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