Duke Observations

He may not be listed first on the depth chart, but chances are that Duke tailback Ronnie Drummer will get noticed at some point on Saturday when his Blue Devils stand in against Florida State Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium.

Drummer is second-stringer with a penchant for big plays. He runs when Cedric Dargan needs a breather. He returns kicks. Drummer is also a track star at Duke.

Big plays first - Drummer carried just three times against Georgia Tech last week. Making the most of the opportunities, he tallied 70 yards, including a 50-yarder that set up Duke's only touchdown. On Oct. 8, Drummer ripped of an 81-yard touchdown run at the expense of Miami and finished with 101 yards on nine carries against the Canes. In the season-opener against East Carolina, Drummer started an otherwise dismal season with a bang by trucking 100 yards to paydirt on the opening kick.

"Every time I get the ball, I feel like I can make something happen," Drummer said.

The sophomore from California has been making things happen on the track, as well. His 10.68 100-meter dash is the fastest in Duke history. He also owns Duke's top 200 time. If you were wondering, No. 40 runs a 4.4 40-yard dash.

"Speed," Duke coach Ted Roof said. "You saw what happened at Miami on the 81-yarder he broke with a bad ankle. He can really run.

"We are trying to find ways each week to get him the ball in space. He is not a guy who we want running between the tackles 20 times a game but to get him the ball on the perimeter with some space so he can use some of his athleticism is one of the things our offensive staff has tried to do. The more opportunities we can get Ronnie the ball is better because the ratio of number of touches to big plays is pretty good right now."


Senior defensive end Phillip Alexander has played in three Florida State games but injuries have hampered him at several other junctures in his career.

Last season, Alexander entered his first senior campaign with high hopes after snaring 18.5 tackles for loss - second in the ACC - in his junior year. However, Alexander broke his left fibula and tore ligaments in his ankle in the second game of the year against UConn. The injury is similar to the one that Matt Meinrod suffered two weeks ago.

Alexander has started every game this season and keeps the screws that were once holding his ankle together in a jar above his locker.

"I have the screws they took out of my leg in my locker, just as a reminder of all I went through to get back," Alexander told the Herald-Sun. "It reminds me of where I've come from and how far I've come to get to where I am today.

"Every once in a while I pick them up and look at them and take them out of the jar they're in. It just makes me thankful that I've got a chance to play."


Wallace Wade Stadium was raucous, sold out and packed with screaming fans one point this fall - for a Rolling Stones concert.

Over 60,000 packed the venue for the Oct. 8 show. Chairs and temporary flooring were installed over the turf to increase capacity.

"The field actually looks pretty good," Mitch Moser, the associate athletics director who oversees football game operations, told the Durham Sun-Herald. "I think they did a really good job with their attention to detail, and our grounds crew will do a really good job of getting it back in shape.

"There will be a few blemishes on the field still, but for the most part, I think everything is going to be fine."


(by Duke SID)

"The old saying that football comes down to five or six plays in any game was certainly true on Saturday. I felt the effort was there and we had some real grit. I talked about our small margin for error earlier this year. Very few teams in America can make the mistakes that we made deep in our own end and recover from that against a good football team. Unfortunately that is what happened. If you go back and look at a play here or a play there, it is four or five plays during the course of that game that really decided the outcome."

On Evaluating Goals

"I don't discuss our team goals publicly but we certainly have goals. We have yearly goals, weekly goals and daily goals for what we are trying to get done. They are as specific as each player working on what they need to get better in that particular day. If we all make that much improvement every day then we get that much better as a team."

On Backup Quarterbacks This Week

"We have Marcus Jones and Curt Dukes available. We will go through practice this week and see where we are. We will evaluate what goes on at the practice field. I would anticipate both of those guys getting a lot of reps and we will see what transpires from there."

On The Defensive Line

"Clifford Respress, who at the beginning of the season we wanted to play 10 or 15 plays a game to bring him along, is now playing 70 plays a game. He played 68 against Miami and 73 against Georgia Tech. He is certainly growing up in a hurry and is playing well. His growth curve has certainly accelerated. A guy like Phillip Alexander, who is probably about 70-percent, keeps going in there and fighting. He was part of that goalline stand. It is not a lack of fight or lack of want to. Those guys are fighting their tales off and trying to get us a win. Within our system there are people who play in multiple places. We can do a lot of similar things from different packages. That is by design so when we have injuries we can do different things. I think our defensive coaches have done a good job developing a system that takes into account the things that happen throughout the football season."

On Zack Asack

"He is such a competitive kid and really is a strong leader for a freshman. In some of the statements he made the other day he said it was his fault. That is so far from the truth but you have to admire a freshman who stands up and says that. That is a young man taking accountability. Those are some real leadership qualities and he is such a confident kid who is very resilient. A quarterback has to have those qualities and he has them. That is one of the reasons why I think he has a bright future."

On Progress of the Freshmen

"They are getting a lot of firsts through the course of each game. You can put them in positions on the practice field to try and simulate those situations but there are things that come up during the course of each game that are firsts. The ability to grow and to recognize things and make the necessary corrections so they don't happen again is the real joy."

On Playing A Lot Of Freshmen

"You hear old experienced ball coaches who have one a lot of games talk about for every freshman you play it is going to cost you a football game. That is where we are. At the same time you need to have a lot of respect for the older players who have been through it. Our freshmen really do respect the older guys who have fought and struggled and I think the older guys respect our young players too for their attitude, the way they work and their approach. I think there is a lot of mutual respect which lends itself to a healthy team environment. We are not losing games because of our freshmen and certainly they have helped us stay in some of the games we have been in, especially the game we won. There is a real positive buzz about that within our football program."

On Florida State

"On the tape I have been watching upstairs, they look pretty good to me. That is the thing, there is no exhale. Each week it seems like there is a top-25 team that we are teeing it up against. That is part of the wonderful thing about being in this league."

Defensive Lineman Eli Nichols Q and A

On Playing Three Positions On Defensive Line Against Georgia Tech

"I played just about everything I could. I normally play two positions in every game. After Casey Camero sprained his ankle and was out for a couple of series, I had to go play inside for a couple of series."

On Playing Against Bigger Interior Offensive Lineman

"I play some snaps at nose guard every week so I'm used to it. My end position is similar to a defensive tackle a lot of times so I held my own. I like playing inside, it's a nice change."

On Duke's 1-6 Record Through First Seven Games

"I try not to think back on it too much because I know there's nothing we can do about it and if you get caught up in that, you can end up going downhill. I definitely thought we would have more wins at this point but there's nothing we can do about it now. Looking at this week's game is what we have to do."

On Duke's Improvement As A Football Team,br>
"The score does not dictate our improvement. This league has gotten so good and everyone else is getting better at the same time we are so it's hard to see from the score. If you look at the first half we played against Georgia Tech, we played really good football. If we could just put four quarters of that type of performance together, I think we would turn some heads."

On Duke's Third Quarter Troubles

"Coming out of halftime, we are just kind of missing a beat. Somebody said this week that halftime kills us. The intensity has been good after halftime but there are a few little things that have gotten us the past few weeks in the third quarter. The enthusiasm from our side is just as good in the second half as it is at the beginning of the game, there are just a few execution mistakes made. We haven't lost our enthusiasm and we haven't given up once this year, we've played hard for the entire game."

On Freshmen Challenging Upperclassmen For Playing Time

"One thing we do here on defense is if there are two guys at one position who can play, they are both going to play. That helps us out a lot compared to last year when we didn't have as much depth. As far as the older guys being upset, I haven't sensed that at all. Everybody's rooting for each other."

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