The pre-season kicking game looks to be well settled for the first time in several seasons. Former walk-on Will Snyderwine was among the first players on the field Friday and showed range out to 50 yards plus. First without pressure, then with. Continuing the strong finish to last season, each of the seven attempts from varying angles and distances got up and out very quickly. Each was converted.
The punting game also got some early work with fifth year senior Kevin Jones looking more consistent. After warming up the punters, the team split into special teams work with an emphasis on downfield coverage. Conner Vernon, Josh Snead, and Donovan Varner all took turns with the returns.
WHAT FORMATION IS THAT?
Much has been made of the decision to switch to a 3-4 defensive scheme this year. Varying theories on why have been bandied about the various discussion forums, from not enough true interior defensive linemen to strategic reasons. After a few days of camp the buzz word may very well be confusion. The defense seems to be lining up in several different variations of 3-4 and 4-3. It's enough to cause a good amount of confusion for opponents. As one offensive player put it…"I am not sure they've lined up in the same formation twice so far."
One thing that was being stressed early on was speed off the line. Freshman D-lineman Nick Sink earned early praise with an explosive first step as did third year sophomore Curtis Hazelton. Freshman Dezmond Johnson got a proverbial pat on the back from Coach Cutcliffe after executing one of the drills well before the coach reminded him to "do it right the first time." That was a noticeable theme throughout the practice as the coaches stressed execution from the initial rep through the last.
Also noticeable in these drills were the number of reps the linebackers were getting led by Damian Thornton and Kevin Rojas, who has played well enough off his redshirt season to be slotted among the starting lineup.
While the running game didn't perform at its best last season, the Blue Devils enter 2010 with a stable of extremely talented backs who are able to run and catch. Sophomore and last year's leading rusher, Desmond Scott has added noticeable size and appeared far more decisive when hitting holes on Friday. Additionally, freshman back Juwan Thompson had a couple of nice cuts and looks every bit of his listed 215 pounds. But the most talked about back - from our perch on the sideline - was freshman Josh Snead who showed off his lateral quickness and ability to change gears in an instant. Playing in the Spring certainly seems to have paid off and it's going to be very tough to keep him from the field in some capacity this fall.
GLIMPSE OF THE OFFENSE
The first team receivers appear to be Austin Kelly, Conner Vernon, and Donovan Varner with Brett Huffman as the tight end. JUCO transfer Cooper Helfet was also getting a number of reps with the first team offensive unit. The starting RB slot appears to be between Scott and Jay Hollingsworth, while Thompson and Patrick Kurunwune were battling with the second team.
Obviously Sean Renfree is going to be the starter, and it would appear as though Brandon Connette - the true freshman from California - has the inside track for the back-up role. That will likely be important as Duke will likely not play one quarterback exclusively throughout the season given the potential for injury and the lack of game experience at the position as a whole, it's likely that Connette will get on the field early in the season and throughout the year.