SPECIAL TEAMS EMPHASIS:
After team stretching and warmups, the team broke off into different stations - with the emphasis being on Special Teams performances. Fourth year junior punter Kevin Jones appears to have refined his technique this season as his kicks were both spiraling and carrying well over 45 yards per attempt. The coaching staff was big on the punt coverage team's technique both on the individual and team level.
A noticeable change was the level of scrutiny placed on everything portion of the kicking game from the way the team protects Jones to the way the coverage broke out and began immediately attempting to squeeze the returner into a pocket of would-be tacklers.
On the flip side, sophomore receiver Johnny Williams was a handful to chase down -- no matter who was on the coverage team. The speedy Williams broke a pair of returns for big gains thanks to hesitation moves that put the defenders on their heels before Williams appeared to downshift and explode past them. He showed the ability to cut either left or right with ease and made a few defenders look like they were chasing him in slow motion.
Prior to heading to punt coverage drills, the Devils worked on field goal and extra point attempts. Among the kickers working, the first to stick out was redshirt freshman Paul Asack who showed an extremely strong leg and great, immediate, elevation on all his attempts. Several times his kicks were sailing through the top of the uprights out to around 40 yards.
QUARTERBACKS BEING DRILLED
Prior to the teams beginning to work on plays under center, quarterback coach Kurt Roper was putting the signal callers through an intense session focusing on technique. The continual mantra was "play fast, play fast". Both Sean Renfree and Sean Schroeder got extra reps after starting quarterback Thaddeus Lewis and both seemed to react well.
In addition to working on receiving the snap, the quarterbacks worked on dropping back and were being hammered on the where to focus, how to move the feet, and being able to tuck the ball and run. A big emphasis during the scramble portion was protecting the ball after making the decision to tuck and run.
COMPETITION IS HOT AT RECEIVER
The loss of Eron Riley means the team is looking to establish at least one, if not more "go-to" receivers. The most likely to step up include third year player Austin Kelly and second year player Johnny Williams. However, the competition is fierce as demanded by assistant Scottie Montgomery. And not just to the seniors. Noticeable was the emergence of freshmen Tyree Watkins (who is wearing #81) and Conner Vernon (right).
"Both of those guys compete very hard," said Austin Kelly. "If they keep performing like this, they are going to see time this year. There's no doubt. They've caught my eye as well as the whole team's."
PAST GREAT WATCHES O-LINE DEVELOPMENT
Two time All-American and member of the 1960 Cotton Bowl team, Art Gregory, was on the sideline chatting up players and coaches on Monday morning. Gregory , a long-time member of the Peach Bowl selection committee, was paying special attention to the work of the offensive line - which was being tested early by the defensive line during both special teams and regular running plays. One player who appeared to stick out was right tackle Jarrod Holt. Another notable battle appears to be at the guard position where converted defensive tackle Brandon Harper is battling with redshirt freshman Brian Moore.
The O-line won a couple of battles up front in the running drills (focusing on hitting the holes between the tackles) which allowed Desmond Scott to shoot through and break a couple of big runs from scrimmage.
NEWS & NOTES
The new practice field looks great, as does the continued development of the opponents' locker room. Carpenters actually have pieces being assembled on the sideline as practice is going on. So much so that the power tools are making for a number of extension cords stretching around the outside of the field. On that note the practice field is 120 yards long and around 75-80 yards wide. There is no midfield field art - just a white with blue outline "DUKE" in each endzone. Unlike the past, there are uprights on each side of the field.
The next step in the program's development will be the construction of the indoor practice facility - likely where the current grass field is now. The program would them move the grass field over behind the trees (directly across from the visitors' locker-room.
Fifth year senior nose guard Kinney Rucker remains sidelined with a foot injury, though could be seen maintaining flexibility and moving around noticeably better. Meanwhile freshman Anthony Young-Wiseman's knee kept him out of practice. The program had previously announced that both players will be out indefinitely. Young-Wiseman is expected to redshirt this season.