Duke Continues To Up Talent Level

Now that the ink has dried on all those National Letters of Intent, the official recruiting class rankings can be looked at with a sense of temporary finality. Of course those rankings won't fully translate until it becomes apparent which teams earned commits from players who fail to enroll in school in the fall.

After the addition of Dade County (Fla.) quarterback Thaddeus Lewis was announced on National Signing Day, the Blue Devils saw their recruiting class elevated to the No. 36 class in the nation as ranked by Scout.com.

While many Blue Devil fans will gaze upon that ranking with un-interested reactions, it's important to note the improving trend in the class rankings since head coach Ted Roof and his staff took control of the Duke program midway through the 2003 season.

After honoring all of the commitments from the previous coaching staff, Roof and company really took the program to another level beginning in 2005. That class, headlined by five star prospect Vince Oghobaase, was rated as the nation's No. 31 overall group and was slated eighth in the eleven team ACC. This year's class checks in at seventh in the new 12 team league.

For the sake of comparisons, the class of 2004 was considered 65th in the country and dead last in the ACC. In 2003 the Blue Devils were once again rated last in the conference and 76th in the country. 2002 was more of the same with Duke again ranked last in the conference and 60th in the country.

While it's true that sometimes recruiting ratings by any service aren't always going to be correct, more often than not there is some merit to what they represent. That has proven to the case with Duke as those lowly rated classes are now the veteran base of a program that has struggled to be considered competitive in one of the nation's best football conferences producing just a 3-19 record over the past two seasons, with just one victory over a Division I-A opponent.

Thankfully there appears to be light at the end of what has been a very dark tunnel, and it starts with the tremendous upgrade in recruiting that has been experienced in Durham. Back to back efforts of No. 31 and No. 36 have caught the eyes of several recruiting analysts as well as opposing coaching staffs.

"This class shows Duke's amazing ability to keep the ball rolling with the way their season ended up," said Scout.com Regional analyst Miller Safrit. "And it shows what type of recruiters are on that staff. Great people that develop relationships quickly with these recruits and work hard to find the right players"

While the Blue Devil coaches seem to have the ability to develop a good rapport with today's highly sought recruits, there has to be more to it. After all it's rare that a program that has seen so little success on the field is able to recruit at such an improved level so quickly. Safrit has a theory on that as well.

"It is very obvious that the staff is making their evaluations early, and want to be the first to offer players. I believe at least eight of the players that signed with Duke were first offered by the Blue Devils including both of the four-stars (Florida DE Tyler Rice and PA RB Brandon King) on the commit list this year."

King, who is widely rated as the best overall recruit in the class, chose the Blue Devils over offers from several high major programs including Oklahoma. Safrit believes that Brandon's combination of size and speed make him a prime candidate to see the field early for the Blue Devils, along with New Jersey linebacker Vincent Rey.

"King could certainly see early time at either fullback or on special teams. Rey is another guy that, with his time at prep this year, is physically ready to see the field early as a linebacker."

Another player Duke brought in that is a lock to challenge for immediate playing time is Lewis. With the departures of Mike Schneider, Curt Dukes, and redshirt freshman Gene Delle Donne, the program was down to just two scholarship signal callers – returning starter Zack Asack and sophomore Marcus Jones. By snagging Lewis on Signing Day, Safrit believes that Duke has landed yet another instant impact player.

"Duke certainly needed a quarterback, and Lewis brings an air of electricity to the position. He is a fun player to watch, though he needs to work on his mechanics and making the right decision."

Making the right decision is something that appears to be more and more common these days in the Yoh Center – especially on the recruiting trail.

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