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Duke making moves on the trail

19h

The rise of Duke football is no secret. Under coach David Cutcliffe, the Blue Devils have turned from perennial ACC cellar-dweller to a team competing for conference titles, coming off a 10-win season and Coastal Division title in 2013 and a nine-win campaign last fall.

Now the effects of those seasons are being felt elsewhere too.

ESPN's RecruitingNation released its first ESPN 300 rankings for the Class of 2016 this week, and Duke's presence is certainly felt. The Blue Devils have three verbal commits among the rankings: Four-star receiver Scott Bracey (Richmond, Va./Benedictine), four-star offensive tackle Robert Kraeling and four-star tight end Mark Birmingham (Ashburn, Va./Briar Woods). Those players are ranked Nos. 222, 270 and 281, respectively.

Kraeling became the most recent of that group to pledge his future to Durham, N.C., on April 12. And Duke made more noise this week by landing its fourth-highest recruit, four-star athlete Chazz Surratt (Denver, N.C./East Lincoln), who could be the program's quarterback of the future after picking Duke on Tuesday over North Carolina, Wake Forest and Clemson.

Duke's three current ESPN 300 commits trails just Florida State (10), Miami (9) and Clemson (4) in the ACC. Duke currently has 10 players committed from the 2016 class.

Asked during the ACC teleconference Wednesday about the effect Duke's recent on-field success has had on the trail, Cutcliffe pointed to one night in particular that he thinks has played a pivotal role.

"I can go back to pinpoint all the way back to playing Texas A&M in a great slot, national television slot on New Year's Eve, where so many people saw us," Cutcliffe said of the 52-48 Chick-fil-A Bowl loss in Johnny Manziel's college finale. "I think that was a turning point in recruiting because people view you differently, and they do view us differently, thank goodness. So it's helped without question. We've always had great name recognition. I think people know that and believe that we do things the right way, but kids want to win. When you win, it certainly impacts everything about your program.

"Also, the other part of it is, when you win, you have a lot of continuity within your staff, and I'm very pleased with our coaching staff. I think we have as fine a coaching staff as there is in the country."

At this rate, Duke won't be slept on much longer.