Surgan's Improvement Key For 2007

The talk surrounding the 2006 preseason in Durham centered around Duke breaking through and notching some much needed victories. Unfortunately, fate would not only deny the program a victory, but also snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with kicking game mishaps. After a productive spring from his starting kicker, Roof believes those woes may be behind the program.

In just the second game of the season, Duke had a chance to knock off Wake Forest in Winston Salem after driving down the field late in the fourth quarter to set up a game winning field goal. Unfortunately the kick was blocked, allowing the Deacons to escape and begin their run to the Orange Bowl, while the Blue Devils dropped to 0-2. Coming off a loss to I-AA Richmond in the opener, that blocked kick seemed to deflate an already fragile team psyche completely.

Duke would battle over the next 10 games, but the season would end with an 0-12 overall record on another game changing blocked kick against arch-rival North Carolina in the last minute of the final game.

While the fans around Wallace Wade and throughout the Duke fan base reacted to the loss, no one took it harder than starting kicker Joe Surgan. Once ranked as the nation's number four overall kicking prospect and a four start recruit by, Surgan managed to convert just three of his 10 field goal attempts including just 1-of-5 from inside 30 yards. Three kicks were blocked, and three of his 12 extra points were also missed. If you're scoring at home, it's safe to say that Surgan's sophomore season wasn't what he expected.

With every point and every offensive possession crucial in the ever competitive ACC, head coach Ted Roof and his staff had worried that such a sophomore slump could negatively effect Surgan and ultimately the team going forward.

"We'd go out to the practice field last season and he'd nail them and then we'd get in the game and he'd struggle a little bit," said Roof. "Once again it was the whole confidence thing about just going out and doing it. I don't think Joe suffers from a lack of confidence. It was just that when he got in the game, his fundamentals broke down a little bit and I think we've made some strides at getting those things squared away."

Throughout the entirety of Spring Practice, Surgan was routinely the first player on the field working on technique. Then, when the rest of his teammates headed home for their Easter vacation, the junior to be decided to get some extra work in.

"Over spring break he went to a kicking camp," said Roof. "It's just another example of our guys having the desire to put a lot into [improving].

The work paid off as Surgan capped off the Spring looking nothing like the player who finished 2006 in the number 26 uniform. In the annual spring scrimmage he converted every attempt afforded him - splitting the uprights with power to spare. No doubt Blue Devil fans everywhere hope it's a sign of things to come.

The Devils Den Top Stories