ACC: Catron Gainey

Duke spring wrap

May, 7, 2010
5/07/10
10:30
AM ET
DUKE

2009 overall record: 5-7

2009 conference record: 3-5

Returning starters

Offense: 9, defense: 6, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

WR Donovan Varner, WR Conner Vernon, WR Austin Kelly,T Kyle Hill, RB Desmond Scott, C Bryan Morgan, DE Patrick Egboh, P Kevin Jones, PK Will Snyderwine

Key losses

QB Thaddeus Lewis, DE Ayanga Okpokowuruk, DT Vince Oghobaase, LB Vincent Rey, CB Leon Wright, SS Catron Gainey


2009 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Scott* (262 yards)

Passing: Lewis (3,330 yards)

Receiving: Varner* (1,047 yards)

Tackles: Rey (98)

Sacks: Okpokowuruk (6)

Interceptions: Wright (5)

Spring answers

1. Depth at receiver. The Blue Devils found enough helping hands that they were able to move Johnny Williams, who caught 31 passes last year, to defensive back. Tyree Watkins, who didn’t lose last year’s eligibility despite an injury, had an impressive spring, as did Cory Gattis, who redshirted last year.

2. More multiple on defense. The defense will be a little different under Marion Hobby, who will take over the play-calling for Mike MacIntyre, now the head coach at San Jose State.

3. The need for Snead. The running game got a much needed boost from rookie Josh Snead, who graduated early and enrolled in January. He’s a compact, explosive player who came physically prepared to play. He had a handful of runs of 50 or more yards in scrimmages throughout the spring that showed he can be a contributor.

Fall questions

1. Renfree’s health. All indications are that quarterback Sean Renfree is healing from a torn ACL on schedule and will be the starter this fall, despite missing the contact portion of spring drills. He’s the only player who has taken a snap in a game, and the staff is encouraged by him, but he’s still a rookie who hasn’t been tested since his injury.

2. Defensive line concerns. Can the defensive line be productive and deep enough to have a positive impact? Overall it’s thin and inexperienced. Patrick Egboh and Wesley Oglesby, two fifth-year seniors, need to lead the way. It will be Charlie Hatcher’s first year seeing significant playing time after helping out on the interior last year. True freshmen could help immediately because of the low numbers.

3. Bowling, anyone? Coach David Cutcliffe made noticeable strides in the win column his first two seasons, but Duke is still searching for that bowl bid. How Duke will fare in its toss-up games against conference opponents will answer that. If the Blue Devils can get wins against Wake Forest, Maryland and Virginia, the postseason will be within reach.

Duke's Williams making the transition to corner

February, 18, 2010
2/18/10
4:00
PM ET
Duke cornerback Johnny Williams is a fan of YouTube, and it has become a supplemental version of film study to help him make his transition from wide receiver to cornerback this spring.

Williams has been watching NFL corners to pick up some tips and techniques since he hasn’t played the position since high school, but so far, so good.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Williams
G Fiume/Getty ImagesJohnny Williams is excited about his transition to cornerback.
“I think it was a great move,” Williams said. “Me and Coach Cut [David Cutcliffe] talked about it for a while. I just think that going to corner would be a great move for me and the team. I played it in high school, so it’s not that big of a change from high school to college. It’s a big difference, but from me knowing things offensively, it’s going to really help me out.”

It should also help out the Blue Devils, who need a boost in the secondary. While Duke is stocked at the wide receiver position, the Blue Devils have to replace safety Catron Gainey, who had 84 tackles last year, and cornerback Leon Wright, who had five interceptions. Williams caught 61 passes for 712 yards over the past two seasons, but Duke returns three wide receivers who each had at least 50 catches last year.

“We’ll see how Johnny does,” Cutcliffe said. “He’s a starter on Day 1 as a corner. We can be more athletic and deeper there. We redshirted a lot of young men there, so I’m real excited about some competition at all of the positions in the secondary.”

There is still the possibility that Williams could help out the offense on occasion, but for now, he’s concentrating on stopping his former friends on offense.

“Conner [Vernon] always comes out and says, ‘We better get another DB out here, because Johnny never played this position,’” Williams said. “I laugh about that, but it’s competition, and they’re making me better.”

Duke's Tauiliili had an 'All-American' performance

September, 29, 2008
9/29/08
8:52
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Duke coach David Cutcliffe summed up the play of senior linebacker Michael Tauiliili this past weekend against Virginia: "I think he played like an All-American lineman, personally."

He did.

Tauiliili had a career-high 16 tackles in Duke's 31-3 win over Virginia and was named the National Defensive Player of the Week by the Walter Camp Football Foundation. He also contributed to three of the six turnovers forced by the Blue Devils' defense and currently leads the ACC with 46 tackles.

After recovering a fumble in the second quarter, Tauiliili intercepted his fourth career pass in the fourth quarter. Later, he caused a fumble that was recovered by teammate Catron Gainey.

The Blue Devils limited Virginia to just three points and 304 total yards, including just 178 yards over the final three quarters.

"He's playing like that, for the most part, all season," Cutcliffe said. "He's had a tremendous start to the season. He's about 25 pounds lighter than he was a year ago. He's certainly improved his game. He's playing at a much faster pace, and become a much better tackler. Mike is one of our captains and I think he's probably grown as much as anybody on our team at this point since we've been here."

Duke position battles

July, 10, 2008
7/10/08
1:25
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich 

Each day I've been breaking down the position battles to watch this summer, and Duke happened to fall today, which is good because the focus is on the Coastal Division. Here's a look at the spots still up for grabs in Durham:

KICKER
*Joe Surgan -- A senior who started in 2005 & 2006, but lost the job midway through 2007.

* Nick Maggio -- The sophomore who won Surgan's job.
* Paul Asack -- True freshman and backup quarterback Zack Asack's brother.
* Will Snyderwine -- He's a sophomore walk-on who didn't play last year, but has a heckuva last name for a kicker.

RIGHT SAFETY
Catron Gainey -- Junior who started three games in 2007. He was listed as the starter following spring practice.
Adrian Aye-Darko -- Senior who started 20 career games including 9-of-12 in 2007. He has 122 career tackles.

RIGHT DEFENSIVE END
Wesley Oglesby -- Sophomore who started 10 games in 2007 and was listed as the starter following spring practice.
Greg Akinbiyi -- Senior who started 7 games last year opposite of Oglesby.

No. 3 WIDE RECEIVER
Sheldon Bell -- Redshirt sophomore who was listed as the starter following spring practice, but will have some competition from sophomore Austin Kelly.

Want to know how quickly David Cutcliffe can elevate this program? Check back later - I asked him.

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