Coach Cut: The Bye Came At A Good Time

His team is enjoying a bye week after starting the season 4-1 on the season. So what is Duke head coach David Cutcliffe focusing on this coming week? Here are his thoughts from today’s teleconference.

DAVID CUTCLIFFE: I think our open date was good timing for us. Obviously, coming off of a loss, it's a chance to study yourself and all of the little things, the cumulative effect of camp and then five straight games, and it takes a physical toll on any football game.

We had a lot of guys playing with a lot of nicks and bruises and some of them banged up pretty good. We've been able to back off some of them this week, but we've had enough guys that needed the work. We've had really physical work for two days. We're going to do it again tomorrow, obviously facing Georgia Tech. You get a little extra time working against their option offense. It's been beneficial, and they need to improve some things offensively based upon the way we played against Miami.

So anyway, it was well needed. We'll give them the weekend off and be back on Sunday to go to work on Georgia Tech. With that, I'll take your questions.

Q. I wanted to start with I know going into this bye week you talked about giving the guys some time off, getting back to it. When you get back on to the field, what are someof the things you want to address moving forward? I know you only have one loss this season. What are some of those key areas that you want to look at?

CUTCLIFFE: Well, based upon Miami, we didn't get started very well offensively. There were three areas -- one, too many penalties, which has never been something we've played with, but it was. We had five false starts in that game. It's something that we just cannot afford to do ever.

The next thing was issues with our snap, which has not happened in six years we've been here. We had three bad snaps in the game that cost us three ways to play, stopped three drives, and we threw 29 incompletions in the game, which I don't -- I can't remember us ever throwing 29 incompletions in 39 years of coaching. So those were the obvious.

And then just generally our -- I felt we did some good things defensively, no question, but we still can tackle better. I think we have to be aligned and be ready to go when the ball snapped a little bit better. We've had a lot of specific things that we work on and actually scrimmaged this week. We're very short out there on the field, but we are able to do physical work.

Q. And then as far as looking at the team on offense with Anthony Boone. I know you've talked so highly of him in the past. Where is he at going into this bye week as far as how you feel he's progressing and if you feel that he is where he needs to be, or if there's some of those areas that you want him to key in on in the bye week?

CUTCLIFFE: Well, he can be more accurate consistently. There's issues that he's had to deal with physically that he needs to address and get well, get better.

The biggest thing is just stay on the path he's on. He's really played well for the most part. In five games you really couldn't ask much more. You can't get in the habit. We've had interceptions in each of the last two ball games. We've had two against Miami, and we had one prior to that against Tulane. So we don't want to get back in that habit.

So taking care of the football and just being as consistent as I know he can be throwing it. He's managed our offense extremely well.

I saw that Issac Blakeney had some kind of physical issue with hurting his hand in the Miami game. What is the status of that, and how does it affect him going on if he continues to try to play through it?

CUTCLIFFE: Did you say Anthony? I had a hard time hearing you.

Q. Issac Blakeney.

CUTCLIFFE: Issac, okay, yeah. He's been fine. He's practiced full speed. Unfortunately, your fingers and hand, we've got a lot of them that are dealing with that. That's one of the things that happens not only to receivers, but running backs, quarterbacks. We've got a couple of DBs that get caught up in it.

I think kids are so powerful now that, when you grasp people or hit people in the hands, sometimes it's a little bit more than what your hand, a human hand can handle, honestly. So he's just taped up, and it feels good. He's caught the ball extremely well the last two days. I don't see it being any issue.

Q. Hey, David, I was talking to one of your players this week, and he seemed to think that maybe they weren't as focused as they have been in the past in that Miami game. Did you get a sense of any of that during the game?

CUTCLIFFE: No, I really didn't. That's sometimes an answer that a player will give when things don't go well. I think, first of all, Miami deserves a lot of credit. It wasn't focus on the penalties. It wasn't -- it's execution. We're a smart football team. We practiced very focused. I think it was one of the more almost at times shocked that Miami caused us as many problems as they did.

So, again, I would credit them before I would do any -- say anything about it.

Q. When you went back and looked at the tape, did you have a better idea for some of the problems that you did have with the snaps and some of the penalties on the offensive line?

CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, and they weren't just -- we had two receivers that started false starts. So it wasn't just offensive linemen. Certainly, we always practice to noise. We always practice to pretty loud noise. But what happens, we don't ever do it at practice. We don't ever have problems with false snaps, et cetera. Sometimes things sneak in. It's just happened to me through the years in coaching that maybe you emphasize it a little less than you have and you don't realize it.

So the thing you do, they're not hard to fix, but it's fixed through emphasis. It's fixed through challenging our team. We've turned up the volume. We've done about every thing I know to do this week to make them uncomfortable in that regard. They've responded to this point. They'll see as we play games. We've got a lot of games on the road ahead of us, immediately ahead of us. We're only playing at home one time in October. We need to respond well to this.

Q. David, just wondering, how does Will Monday rank among the punters that you've been around over the years?

CUTCLIFFE: Well, I had the Colquitts at Tennessee that were a lot like Will, had an All-SEC punter at Ole Miss in Cody Ridgeway, but certainly he's one of our best. He's one of the most solid people. Will is smart, he's strong willed, he's got incredible practice habits. In the end, when the dust settles, I think he's got a chance to be the best we've ever had in every aspect.

I was around Britton Colquitt most recently at Tennessee, my two years back there, and I worked with Britton a lot, in a lot of areas of what he was doing, and he's tremendous. He's been really super with the Broncos. His cousin Jimmy, and of course that Colquitt family is pretty special.

But I think Will can be right at the top of the list.

There -- when you recruit somebody for that position, what are the aspects that you're looking for? What makes a good college punter?

DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Actually, we all can tell they've got some pop and some leg strength. I look for their hands. If a guy doesn't have great hands -- people don't realize what it's like to catch a snap that's moving at a .7 time frame for 15 yards. It's not as easy to catch as you think. It's the same thing you're looking for in a golfer, great footwork, balance, a guy that can repeat the swing.

Not unlike quarterbacks. I like to see them under pressure. I look at them punting back up. I generally like to get them in camp, which I can do. We see them respond when they're tired. It's one of the--I love it. It's one of the fun things to me to evaluate are place kickers and punters because it's challenging.

We've been fortunate, and in the end, I'm going to go with my gut. I have a lot of confidence this is the right kind of person. With Will, it didn't take me long at all.


The Devils Den Top Stories