Cut: Duke gaining ground with physicality

Duke head coach David Cutcliffe spoke to the media on Tuesday about Saturday's game with Virginia

On facing Virginia Saturday afternoon:

?“Obviously, every week is going to be a big week. Getting to play back-to-back and then having an open date, hopefully we can continue our focus to play a very good Virginia team that could very easily be undefeated if you watch them on tape. They’ve really played well all year. They do outstanding things in all three phases. They’re playing well on offense. They have a lot of weapons, and they use them well. They’re playing well in the kicking game. Their specialists are performing. Their return game is outstanding. Their defense is playing as well as anyone. Their defensive front, secondary and linebackers blend together well. They’re taking the ball away from people. They’re stopping teams on third down extremely well. They have 23 sacks and a lot of tackles for losses. If you look at the tape, the downs and distances opponents have faced against them, they’ve been very difficult. There’s a reason why they’re being successful. We have to prepare well and we’re going to have to play well. It’ll be a huge challenge, but I think I’ll find myself saying that every week. That’s what we’re faced with at this point. It’s a big game and another big opportunity to go out there and compete, to see what we can do.”

On the depth of Duke’s defensive line:

?“We’ve had some guys that have been making plays. Jamal Bruce had to work hard to get healed to get back. It’s continued to shift and change. I mentioned it last week, I think we’re rotating there with Michael [Ramsay] and A.J. Wolf inside. I think Keilin Rayner and Allen Jackson are continuing to close that gap to give us some form of depth. My concerns at end, if we could get Jamal [Wallace] back at full speed, we’re not to that point yet but we’ll see. We’re still early in the week. Dezmond [Johnson] is starting to get some work. We’ll see where we can get him. Now we’re just operating with Johnathan [Jones] and Jordan [DeWalt-Ondijo], Kyler [Brown] and Britton [Grier] and Michael Mann. We have a lot of seniors there, but we have a nice blend of some nice talent. We’re redshirting three defensive linemen, so there’s a positive in that regard.”

On Duke’s kickoff game:

?“First of the year, most of it was based on hang time with the kicks. We had good kicks. What we did was lose leverage on the ball. It’s technical. There’s complexity to kickoff coverage. You’re not just running down there. There’s a way to miss a block. There are leverage points you have to have. Both returns [against Georgia Tech] should have been minimal. When you have a mistake in kickoff coverage in a few spots in a row, sometimes what happens, happens. The best part about it is that they’re correctable mistakes, especially when you get into that kind of kick. It’s something that Coach Roper and I talked a lot about. We have a lot of speed on that unit and we have to utilize that speed better.”

On the balance between run and passing:

?“I used to call offenses chameleons. What I meant by that is you take your personnel and you do what you think you can do best to win. We’ve had years where we’ve thrown it for 350 or more yards a game, and we’ve had years where we run it for 250 or more yards a game. I think with our personnel right now, our offensive front is experienced and talented. I think it lends itself to that, particularly when you’re playing conference games where you need to keep the football. Time of possession in the first half was huge in that game [against Georgia Tech]. It’s a little easier to do that with the run game. As we move forward, sometimes that’s going to be dictated by a matchup. ”

On the physical play of Duke:

?“I think we’re gaining ground in that regard. I think we recruit a little bit of a more physical player. I mentioned to each one of our strength and conditioning coaches just how exceptional our physicality looked and we managed ourselves well. Our strength was evident. We’re a little more physical on both lines of scrimmage. There are a lot of people involved in that.”



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