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Cutcliffe on BC: "They’re a well-oiled machine"

Duke head coach David Cutcliffe met the media on Tuesday to discuss his team's progress ahead of the game against the Eagles on Saturday.

OPENING STATEMENT: This Boston College team is really something to watch. I think you have to start with their defense. When you watch the Florida State game and the Northern Illinois game, you watch a team that the most yards any team has [gained] was Florida State with I think 217. They’ve only given up two touchdowns in four games. Florida State had 14 and one was a defensive TD, and Northern Illinois had 14 and one was a kickoff return. 

They’re big. They’re a well-oiled machine. They do a lot of things on defense and they defend every aspect. They have great run defense, but they also have great pass defense. That’s why they are who they are. They’re very physical. We’re coming off a game that was physical, and going into another game that’s physical. It’s always this time of year you start getting some bumps and bruises, but we had everybody at practice today, so that was huge. 

Their offense, they’ve been very unfortunate in losing players to injury. It was interesting to watch them. This past week they beat a really, really good team in Northern Illinois. They’re very creative offensively. They have been and they were last year, but whichever quarterback is in the game, it actually changes them to some level and degree. Both can throw it, both can run and are very quick – one of them is really, really fast – but [they’re] big, physical, lot of formations, a lot of things that give you problems defensively. 

In the kicking game, they play as hard as anybody we will play. [They are] a very, very well-coached football team. They make you play as well as you can play as good as any team that I’ve coached against. What a great matchup challenge for us. 

The other challenge for us right now is to continue to focus on Duke. We did a lot of good things on both sides of the ball, we did a lot of good things in the kicking game, but I think the thing that is best for us right now is to continue to focus not only building on our strengths, but there are things that we can address and get a lot better at, and fortunately, I think quickly. I think we have some mobility. We have guys that want to play hard. We just have to fine tune everything we’re doing every day. And that’s kind of where we are going into week five. That’s kind of where you should be. Each day at practice is a critical day for this football team.” 

Q. How WR Johnell Barnes’ first half suspension changes the offensive game plan: 

COACH CUTCLIFFE: There’s nothing you can do but play the other people. I think I said this right after but it’s still the case, I’m going to evaluate who’s performing at practice at receiver right now. Obviously, we know T.J. Rahming and Chris Taylor, who have both started at different times, could be that, but Anthony Nash had a solid day today, which I wanted to see. Quay Chambers and Ryan Smith, everybody has an opportunity to step up. I’ve told our staff that I’m going to view it this way; we get a fresh Johnell Barnes the second half of the game. How many times can you say that and have that? It’s always painful for players to miss playing time. He should come out very hungry after the half and play at a level that I think can hopefully be special and something that we will build on the rest of the way. 

Q. On lack of involvement in the passing game for TE Braxton Deaver: 

COACH CUTCLIFFE: We’re playing three tight ends. We’re trying to become what we need to become offensively. We’ve been a run-first offense a little bit more maybe than when Braxton was playing previously, but tight ends are unique guys. They can be pass-game weapons, but they have to play at a high level themselves and practice at a high level to become a part of all this. 

I think Erich Schneider and David Reeves can be weapons. I think there’s another level for all three of those guys where we would like to use two of at a time, if not three at a time. When we get Dan Beilinson back, we can have some depth, if they will be that combination of a great, physical player that is also a great pass catcher. That’s the role of a tight end. They’re not wide receivers. If that were the case, I would rather put a wide receiver in there. We want the total game: physicality, the ability to catch the ball in traffic, the ability to be a factor.” 

Q. On if the increased tackles in the opposing backfield is a product of more aggressive play-calling or improved execution: 

COACH CUTCLIFFE: I think we have one guy for sure, Jeremy Cash, who you put in as many situations as you can. I think that’s part of it, Coach [Jim] Knowles is using his weapons and using them very well, and then players are making plays. Jeremy is a brilliant veteran. He diagnosed so many things in the Northwestern game that it wasn’t a blitz, but he ends up tackling people four yards deep in the backfield. It’s called read-and-react, and he does it really well. And I think we’re more aggressive just in general up front. I think you see it in Carlos [Wray] and A.J. Wolf consistently being as aggressive as they possibly can be. I think we’re quicker, more athletic and stronger, particularly on the interior of our line. 

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