Friday Practice Insider

The Blue Devils returned to the practice field on Friday morning for the first of two practices of the day. As head coach Ted Roof and his team begin to look towards the first game of the season, the intensity and number of drills continue to pile up as the Devils look to embark on a strong 2005 campaign. Check out the premium ticket for the full report.

Preparing the Stadium

While heading to the practice field via the Wallace Wade stadium stairs, it became apparent that the long awaited pressure washing of the stadium has begun. With nearly 35% of the job done, a crew of workers arrived around 11:00 AM to continue the job. Meanwhile the grounds crew was busy marking the field's hash marks and beginning to imprint the various yardage markers.

Special Teams Notes

The first player out of the tunnel was freshman kicker Joe Surgan. The 6'4, 215lbs Florida native put on a show during warm ups, connected from as far as 45 yards, with ease. And while that may be looked upon as ordinary, it should be noted that many of his attempts were sailing between the uprights and continuing on, only to be stopped by the top 20% of the back of the scoreboard. A notable evaluation of the new kicker's ability was that his field goal attempts look like "eight irons" in both height and distance.

Surgan, and walk-on Randy DeSmyter both continued to connect on attempts over 40 yards with a good accuracy rating, though it took a bit to get adjusted to the full on rush, and then moved to kick offs. Again it was the freshman that impressed, sending a number of balls well into the endzone on (65 yards away on the practice field).

Meanwhile punter Chris Sprauge and his coverage team looked to be in top form as his offerings to the return team were long and high, giving the coverage team ample time to attack. Based on today's performance, it would seem as though Duke will have a much improved special teams game when it's time to kick off the season in Greenville.

A good portion of Coach Roof's time was spent working with the kick off return team. One player who stole the show was sophomore tailback Ronnie Drummer, who looked extremely impressive on his second attempt. After receiving the ball, Drummer began going left, only to quickly switch right and eluded nine different defenders on his way to a touchdown. Others who spent time receiving were safety Chris Davis and freshman tailback Re'quan Boyette.

Quarterbacks

Junior Mike Schneider was sharp once again, completing several third and long situations against the first team secondary. Schneider looked particularly comfortable executing a three-step drop and quickly finding one of his receivers. The first stringer also took a majority of the snaps, in an on-going effort to implement offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien's new schemes.

Meanwhile, Schneider's three underclassman understudies all had their moments running the offense and making throws. Delaware native Gene Delle Donne's mechanics and size will allow him to make a strong challenge to move up the depth chart. Standing a legit 6'5 and looking all of his listed 230lbs, Delle Donne showed off a strong arm and quick release throughout the day.

Freshman Zack Asack also took some snaps in the third and long drill and while he didn't seem to have the same "zip" on his throws as Delle Donne, he throws a tight spiral and seemed to make the correct reads more often than not.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was freshman Marcus Jones who truly embodied the idea of being a jack-of-all-trades. Pegged by many to become a receiver when he signed with Duke, Jones is, quite possibly, the best athlete on the team. – not to mention a very good quarterback. It appeared as though the coaches are still working on tweaking his throwing mechanics, but he still manages to throw a quick, tight spiral when he was called upon. Jones also spent time with the punters, where he seems able to routinely boot the ball 40 yards or more – given the right circumstances, he could keep opponents guessing throughout the season.

Protection

The offensive line looked more reliable than in earlier practices, though the number of reps witnessed at full speed was lacking. The offensive lineman who saw the most reps while we were observing were Demetrius Warrick, Tyler Krieg, Jim Morvachik, Zach Maurides, Matt Rumsey, and Lavidrum Bauta. The line afforded the QBs ample time to find the receivers on the third and long exercises, and seemed to explode and move as a unit in the early exercises that focused on the running game.

Running Game:

Though it was a light morning for the running backs in terms of play calling, sophomore Justin Boyle and senior Cedric Dargan both look capable of holding down the feature back position, while senior fullback Malcolm Ruff projects to open a number of holes and logging a number of yards himself. Right now it would seem as though Ruff and Dargan will be the opening day starters, which comes and no surprise.

Receivers:

The young receiving corps looks very good, and very tall. Freshman Eron Riley heard his name called in a positive light numerous times, as did fellow newcomers Raphael Chestnutt and Marvin Marcelin. Sophomore Jomar Wright appears to be a viable, if not top option in possession situations, and made a number of big time catches to move the offense the needed 10 or 12 yards. Other Notes:

The freshman defensive line of Clifford Respress, Ayanga Okpokowuruk, and Joe Suder spent a good amount of time working together. When freshman phenom Vince Oghobaase returns to full speed, this young grouping will certainly be a huge asset to the Devils' defensive efforts.

When he committed to Duke last fall, Respress was listed by Scout.com at 245lbs and a defensive end. He's now easily pushing 270lbs if not more, and looks to be very imposing for opposing linemen. The same can be said of Ayanga, who showed a very good ability to shift his weight and momentum to adjust to the play. In the middle of the line, Suder will continue to tone up and drop a bit more weight, but at 6'6 and 340lbs, it's hard to imagine him not plugging up the line.

The Injury Bug

So far the roster looks to be mostly healthy. Some of the bigger name players are being held out of some drills, though it's more precautionary than anything else. Their absence allows some of the younger players to get the needed reps in, which will help from a depth perspective.

Next Practice:

The next practice will take place on Friday afternoon. Saturday's practice will be open to Varsity Club members. Other practices are closed to the public.

Meet the Blue Devils

The Duke football program will host its annual Meet The Blue Devils Day on Saturday, August 20 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. in the Yoh Football Center on campus.

Players and coaches will be available for autographs and pictures while posters will be distributed free of charge. In addition, prizes will be raffled off to fans in attendance.

Sponsors for the event include Alltel, Blue Devil Weekly, Blue Devil Concessions, Delta Air Lines, Dick's Sporting Goods, Durham Coca Cola Bottling Company, Duke University Federal Credit Union, Gatorade, Herald-Sun, Northgate Mall, Qualex, and Time Warner.


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