Off-Season Means Adjustments For Duke FB

The Sports Xchange takes an in-depth look at the Duke football program on the heels of National Signing Day.

Duke's profile as a national school doesn't always bode best on the football recruiting trail. So coach David Cutcliffe said the Blue Devils wanted to go more local, or at least regional.

Nine of the 19 signees are from North Carolina.

"Looking across this state over the next few years, you're going to see more and more and more players at Duke," Cutcliffe said.

The Blue Devils also went for two quarterbacks, with Monroe, N.C.'s Anthony Boone and Corona, Calif.'s Brandon Connette.

The other defining part of the recruiting class was the speed acquired. Cutcliffe said 10 of the players posted times of 4.5 seconds or faster in the 40-yard dash. Five of the recruits are labeled as sprinters in high school.

"I always say that speed never had a bad day in football," Cutcliffe said.

--Duke's biggest news in the offseason might be the news that didn't happen. After Lane Kiffin left Tennessee's coaching position vacant, Duke coach David Cutcliffe appeared to be the front-runner for the Tennessee opening by some accounts. But Cutcliffe has remained with Duke and that sent a general sigh of relief around the program. He'll be entering his third season in charge of the Blue Devils.

--Duke lost Mike MacIntyre, who had been the defensive coordinator, to San Jose State, where he has become the head coach. Jim Knowles left his position as Cornell's head coach after six seasons to fill an opening on the Blue Devils staff as he'll be a co-defensive coordinator and instruct safeties.

--QB Brandon Connette, Corona, Calif. -- Here's a player who should provide a winning mentality for the program. He enrolled in January, so he'll have a head start with spring work and could thrust himself into the competition at that position.

--DT Steven Ingram, Southaven, Miss. -- He provides the size, at 340 pounds, that's sometimes lacking for the Blue Devils. Duke is in need of run stuffers and this is where he comes in. Ingram also represents a recruit from an area that coach David Cutcliffe is familiar with from his time as head coach at Mississippi.

--OL Takoby Cofield, Tarboro, N.C. -- More size along the front is a bonus for Duke and this 300-pounder qualifies in that area. He ranked high among in-state players and might signify Duke's ability to compete in recruiting with more established programs in the state.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You've got to recruit better to start winning games, and when you win games, it's easier to recruit better." -- Duke coach David Cutcliffe, whose team's 2010 schedule includes a non-league home game with reigning national champion Alabama as the Blue Devils try to post their first winning season since 1994.

2010 LOOK AHEAD: The Blue Devils have some holes to plug, particularly at quarterback. But they have a strong crop of receivers and the team will have to find ways to make sure they have the ball in their hands. It's still a matter of building more depth, but the Blue Devils were able to redshirt a core of players last season and that should eventually pay off.

SPRING SNAPSHOT: Practice begins Feb. 15. The Blue Devils wrap up the spring session March 27.

This is an early start for this session, but coach David Cutcliffe doesn't like the long layoff between the end of the regular season and the beginning of official spring workouts. There will be chilly temperatures because the Blue Devils practice in the mornings prior to classes. So if the players don't like those elements, Cutcliffe suggests the team reaches a bowl game so the spring workouts will be pushed back.

With QB Sean Renfree the odds-on favorite to be the 2010 quarterback out with an injury, this will give the staff a chance to define the pecking order at this position.

Some of the conditioning issues that took priority in past seem to have been remedied.

--DT Vince Oghobaase -- He chose to return for a final season at Duke after weighing a jump to the NFL a year ago. His season was steady, though interrupted by a leg injury.

--LB Vincent Rey -- He was basically a tackling machine and he had enough speed to make big plays. His athleticism is a strength, but he's probably a long shot as a draft selection.

--QB Thaddeus Lewis -- He put up record-setting numbers and his tutelage under coach David Cutcliffe, who sent brothers Peyton Manning and Eli Manning to the NFL with considerable fanfare.

--QB Sean Renfree, coming off a knee injury, will be limited at best in spring practice. This could leave the door open for others to step in as the Blue Devils find a replacement for Thaddeus Lewis.

--K Will Snyderwine has been granted a scholarship after taking over first-string duties as a walk-on in 2009. "If there was ever one who has earned it, put to the test, he's the one," coach David Cutcliffe said of Snyderwine.

--CB Johnny Williams moves from receiver to cornerback in an effort to give more depth to the secondary. Plus, he was overshadowed a lot on offense. Coach David Cutcliffe hasn't ruled out using Williams as a two-way player.

--DT John Drew was one of three players dismissed from the program after an on-campus incident involving firearms. Drew played in all 12 games in 2009, with one starting assignment. The other dismissed players, RB Kyle Griswould and DE Brandon Putnam, didn't play in a game in 2009.

The Devils Den Top Stories