One On One With Eron Riley

One of the many talented members of the rising sophomore class reflects on his first season at Duke including the ups and downs on the field, and the pressure of being called upon to contribute in the ACC as a true freshman.

TDD: Looking back on your first season at the collegiate level, what were your overall impressions?

Eron Riley: I had a couple of big plays against Clemson and North Carolina, but I wish I could have made a lot more than I did. I think coming in over the summer really helped out a lot.

Coming in I expected to play and make an impact. Coach Roof told us that if we worked hard in practice we'd get a shot. We worked very hard on the practice field and it really paid off.

You were the first freshman class with a chance to come in early like that, how much did that help?

It really helped a lot for us. We had a chance to come in and get involved in meetings and also had a chance to bond as a team. We got to learn a lot early and it all really came together for us at then end when a lot of the young players earned their way into big roles for the team.

One of those guys, Zack Asack, certainly had a bigger year than expected. Talk about your impressions of his progression throughout the season.

Zack started strong and made some big plays against Virginia. As the season went along you could tell our offense got better and better as he learned how to make the right reads.

With so many young guys playing big roles, it's no surprise that there were struggles. What are the team's goals going into next year?

We were playing guys who were older and stronger than us, but we got that experience. We have to get stronger, and that's what this off-season is going to be all about. We're going to get bigger, faster, and stronger and when you add that to our experience, we'll be ready to minimize our mistakes and really improve.

What kind of impact has Coach Kelly had on you?

He's a great coach. When I came in my fundamentals were not very good at all. It was small things like route running, and that kind of thing. He doesn't let you get by with that. You have to work hard to do the little things before you can see the field. He's tough, but he's really helped me.

Talk about your impressions of Coach Roof.

He's a very honest person and tells you what he thinks straight up. He will push you to be your best and won't accept anything less than that. He won't let you cheat yourself or your team by not working as hard as you can.

What do you need to do to take the next step next season?

I need to get bigger and I need to work on making sure I do everything better. I need to be a lot more consistent.

What was the biggest change from high school to college?

Probably the speed of the game. When you're in high school you're usually one of the best players on the field. You're faster than your opponents. At this level everyone is just as fast as you are, if not a little bit faster. That's what you have to make sure you do the little things right – when it's this fast those little things make a big difference.

Coach Roof has talked about changing the attitude around Duke football. How has that happened?

When we came in we saw guys who weren't having fun. They'd be in the weight room or on the track looking like this was a job. You have to have fun. That's what the young guys try and do – make working hard fun.

What's been the biggest change for you off the field?

You've got a lot more free time in college than you do in high school. You've got to really manage that time well and you have to remember you're a student athlete at all times. The coaching staff really helps with tutors and that kind of thing too, in high school you had teachers who would make sure you knew what was coming up. Here, professors may say something once at the most, but they mainly expect you to know what is going on.

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