ACC: Jamal Bruce

Why Duke will win the Coastal

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
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The ACC's Coastal Division is wide open entering the 2014 season. With six of seven teams receiving at least one first-place vote in the preseason media poll, the possibilities for how this race shakes out are seemingly endless. Here, we take a look at the six teams that garnered first-place votes, examining reasons that are working for and against them in their quests to get to the ACC title game.

Why Duke will win the Coastal

[+] EnlargeAnthony Boone
Kevin Liles/USA TODAY SportsAnthony Boone playing with a chip on his shoulder could be good for Duke's ACC Coastal Division title hopes.
1) The Blue Devils are the defending champs. The program has had a steady climb under David Cutcliffe, most notably in the last two seasons, with a six-win campaign in 2012 preceding a 10-win, division-winning season last fall. Similar improvements this season, particularly on defense, will have Duke running away with the division, though one has to wonder how much higher this group has left to climb. Still, Cutcliffe has said that Duke is here to stay. And despite finishing second in the preseason media poll, the Blue Devils had the most first-place votes (33) of anyone, six more than the next-highest total, North Carolina at 27. They are good, and they know it. As does everyone else.

2) They have the skill players. Don't be surprised if Anthony Boone enters this season with a chip on his shoulder after seeing multiple preseason All-ACC teams list UNC's Marquise Williams ahead of him as the second-team quarterback. Boone took his Blue Devils into Chapel Hill last season and beat Williams and the Tar Heels, and Williams isn't even assured of starting this season. More importantly, Boone is throwing to one of the nation's most versatile receivers in Jamison Crowder, along with tight end Braxton Deaver and a talented stable of running backs who will be protected by an offensive line that brings back three key starters.

3) Their secondary is strong. The loss of All-ACC cornerback Ross Cockrell is not nearly as devastating as it probably could be, given the talent returning among the defensive backs. Safety Jeremy Cash is coming off a 121-tackle, four-interception season. DeVon Edwards is flexible in the back end and has a knack for making plays wherever he is on the field, including on kick returns. Breon Borders is looking to build off a freshman campaign that featured him picking off Jameis Winston twice in the ACC title game. Given the youth up front on the defensive line, this group will probably get tested more often, and it appears well-equipped to handle the workload.

Why Duke won't win the Coastal

1) The Blue Devils are the defending champs. Yes, Duke's success could -- could -- be the reason for its downfall, if there is one. As stated above, this program is no longer a secret commodity. In fact, some Coastal teams are probably still irked by the fact that Duke finished ahead of them in football. It's silly, yes, but it also presents a whole new set of challenges for a program that had not experienced much recent success until the last two seasons. How well Duke can handle having the target on its back will go a long way toward determining its fate in the division race.

2) Brandon Connette's legs will be missed. Connette is the program's career leader in rushing touchdowns (31), and his running ability was crucial in the red zone, which helped his efficiency as a passer as well. With Connette having transferred to Fresno State to be closer to his sick mother, more will be on Boone's plate, as the new No. 2, Thomas Sirk, has yet to take a college snap. Cutcliffe is high on the redshirt sophomore, but asking him to do what Connette was able to accomplish might be a tall task this early.

3) The defensive line is an unknown. Tackle Jamal Bruce is the only returning starter up front, though the other three linemen joining him on the first team are upperclassmen who have seen extensive time before. And, to be fair, the line was hardly dominant last season, averaging less than two sacks per game. Having a pair of 100-tackle linebackers back in David Helton and Kelby Brown sure helps, as does that secondary, but the pass rush cannot afford to take a step back in 2014.
Duke’s defensive linemen combined for six sacks, and safety Jacques Bristow intercepted a pair of passes to highlight Wednesday morning’s 85-snap scrimmage at Wallace Wade Stadium.

Here are some notes, according to the team's practice report:

ACC injury report: Week 8

October, 19, 2012
10/19/12
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Here are the ACC injury reports for Week 8 from the schools that emailed them:

CLEMSON

Out for the season
DUKE

Probable
Questionable
Out
Out for season


FLORIDA STATE


Out


Out for season
MARYLAND

Probable
Questionable
Doubtful
Out
Out for season

MIAMI

Doubtful
Surgery/Out for season
NORTH CAROLINA

Out
NORTH CAROLINA STATE

Probable
VIRGINIA

Probable
Questionable


Out
Out for season
VIRGINIA TECH

Probable
Out
Out for season

ACC injury report: Week 7

October, 12, 2012
10/12/12
11:00
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Here are the ACC injury reports for Week 7 from the schools that emailed them:

DUKE

Probable
Questionable
Doubtful
Out
FLORIDA STATE

Out
Out for season
MARYLAND

Out for season
Out
Probable
MIAMI

Probable
Out
Surgery/Out for season
NORTH CAROLINA

Out
VIRGINIA

Out
Questionable
Probable
Out for season
VIRGINIA TECH

Out for season
Out
Doubtful

Week 6 injury reports

October, 5, 2012
10/05/12
11:00
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Here are the ACC injury reports from the schools that emailed them:

CLEMSON

WILL PLAY

WR Sammy Watkins (virus)

C Dalton Freeman (thumb)

PROBABLE

OG Kalon Davis (hamstring)

OUT

WR Martavis Bryant (groin)

RB D.J. Howard (shoulder)

OUT FOR SEASON

DB Martin Jenkins (hernia)

CB Tony McNeal (torn ACL)

LB Justin Parker (groin)

DUKE

PROBABLE

LB David Helton (leg)

QUESTIONABLE

CB Lee Butler (lower body)

QB Sean Renfree (arm)

DT Jamal Wallace (lower body)

OUT

CB Jared Boyd (leg)

S Brandon Braxton (upper body)

LB Kelby Brown (leg)

NG Jamal Bruce (foot)

TE Braxton Deaver (leg)

DE Justin Foxx (hand)

S Chris Tavarez (leg)

OUT FOR SEASON

TE Jack Farrell (leg)

WR Blair Holliday

DE Allen Jackson (shoulder)

S Corbin McCarthy (shoulder)

S Taylor Sowell (leg)

FLORIDA STATE

OUT

DB Justin Bright (head)

LB Ukeme Eligwe (hand)

OL Garrett Faircloth (hip)

OL Daniel Foose (back)

DT Moses McCray (head)

DT Derrick Mitchell (back)

OL Trey Pettis (head)

OUT FOR THE SEASON

DB Colin Blake (shoulder)

DE Chris Casher (knee)

TE Dan Hicks (knee)

DE Brandon Jenkins (foot)

DT Jacobbi McDaniel (ankle)

RB Mario Pender (sports hernia)

MARYLAND

PROBABLE

WR Kerry Boykins (hamstring)

LB Kenneth Tate (knee)

DL Joe Vellano (foot)

QUESTIONABLE

DB Matt Robinson (groin)

OUT

PK/P Nick Ferrara (hip)

OUT FOR SEASON

QB C.J. Brown (knee)

DL Andre Monroe (knee)

MIAMI

OUT

DL Curtis Porter (upper extremity)

DB Rayshawn Jenkins (upper extremity)

DL Olsen Pierre (upper extremity)

OL Ben Jones (lower extremity)

OUT FOR THE SEASON

WR Malcolm Lewis (lower extremity)

LB Ramon Buchanan (lower extremity)

LS Sean McNally (lower extremity)

NORTH CAROLINA

OUT

RB Connor Gonet

OL T.J. Leifheit

LB Darius Lipford

RB Travis Riley

PK Miller Snyder

WR T.J. Thorpe

NC STATE

OUT

OT Rob Crisp (lower back)

OG Andrew Wallace (foot)

RB James Washington (ankle)

OUT FOR THE SEASON

OG Zach Allen (foot)

DT Jacob Kahut (knee)

LB Michael Peek (knee)

VIRGINIA

PROBABLE

OT Oday Aboushi (upper extremity)

DT Will Hill (medical)

S Brandon Phelps (upper extremity)

DOUBTFUL

WR Tim Smith (lower extremity)

OUT

DE Billy Schautz (lower extremity)

DT Buddy Ruff (medical)

S Darius Lee (lower extremity)

OUT FOR THE SEASON

S Pablo Alvarez

LB Adam Caplinger

DT Marco Jones

S David Marrs

WR Mario Nixon

VIRGINIA TECH

PROBABLE

DT Luther Maddy (ankle)

WR Christian Reeves (hamstring)

G David Wang (ankle)

DOUBTFUL

RB Tony Gregory (knee)

OUT

WR Joshua Stanford (knee)

OUT FOR SEASON

OT Nick Acree (knee)

WR D.J. Coles (knee)

Week 5 injury reports

September, 28, 2012
9/28/12
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Here are the ACC injury reports from the schools that emailed them:

DUKE

PROBABLE

CB Lee Butler (leg)

OG Lucas Patrick (ankle)

QUESTIONABLE

QB Brandon Connette (leg)

TE Erich Schneider (lower body)

OUT

CB Jared Boyd (leg)

LB Kelby Brown (leg)

NG Jamal Bruce (foot)

TE Braxton Deaver (leg)

DE Justin Foxx (hand)

S Chris Tavarez (leg)

OUT FOR SEASON

TE Jack Farrell (leg)

WR Blair Holliday

DE Allen Jackson (shoulder)

S Corbin McCarthy (shoulder)

S Taylor Sowell (leg)

FLORIDA STATE

OUT

S Justin Bright (head)

DE Chris Casher (knee)

LB Ukeme Eligwe (hand)

OL Garrett Faircloth (hip)

OL Daniel Foose (back)

DT Moses McCray (head)

DT Jacobbi McDaniel (ankle)

DR Derrick Mitchell (back)

OUT FOR SEASON

DB Colin Blake (shoulder)

TE Dan Hicks (knee)

DE Brandon Jenkins (foot)

RB Mario Pender (sports hernia)

MIAMI

PROBABLE

Raphael Kirby-Lower extremity

OUT

Denzel Perryman-Lower Extremity

SURGERY/OUT FOR SEASON

Ramon Buchanan-Lower Extremity

Malcolm Lewis-Lower Extremity

Sean McNally-Lower Extremity

NC STATE

OUT FOR SEASON

Jacob Kahut, DT - knee

Michael Peek, LB - knee

OUT FOR GAME

Rob Crisp, OT - lower back

Andrew Wallace, OT - foot

James Washington, HB - ankle

VIRGINIA TECH

OUT FOR SEASON

Nick Acree (knee)

D.J. Coles (knee)

OUT

Tony Gregory (knee)

Joshua Stanford (knee)

PROBABLE

David Wang (ankle)

Week 4 injury reports

September, 21, 2012
9/21/12
11:00
AM ET
Here are the ACC injury reports for Week 4 from the schools that emailed them:

CLEMSON

Out
Probable
Practice note: Coach Dabo Swinney said redshirt freshman Eric Mac Lain has begun to work at offensive guard in addition to tight end. He will be an offensive guard full time at some point this season, but in the short term will continue to play the tight end position in games.

DUKE

PROBABLE
QUESTIONABLE
OUT
OUT FOR SEASON
FLORIDA STATE

OUT
OUT FOR THE SEASON
MARYLAND

OUT FOR SEASON
OUT
QUESTIONABLE
PROBABLE
MIAMI

Out
Surgery/Out for the season:
VIRGINIA TECH

Out for Season
Out
Probable

ACC injury reports: Week 3

September, 14, 2012
9/14/12
11:00
AM ET
Here are the injury reports from the schools who emailed them this week:

DUKE

PROBABLE
OUT
OUT FOR SEASON
FLORIDA STATE

OUT
OUT FOR THE SEASON
GEORGIA TECH

OUT
QUESTIONABLE
MARYLAND

OUT FOR THE SEASON
OUT
QUESTIONABLE
PROBABLE
VIRGINIA

Out
Doubtful
Questionable
  • Billy Schautz (lower extremity)
Probable
VIRGINIA TECH

Out for Season
Out
Probable

ACC injury reports: Week 2

September, 7, 2012
9/07/12
11:00
AM ET
Here are the injury reports from the schools that emailed them (ACC schools don't have to give injury reports for nonconference games, and not all schools release them to the media anyway):

DUKE

PROBABLE
OUT
OUT FOR SEASON
FLORIDA STATE

OUT
OUT FOR THE SEASON
MARYLAND

OUT FOR THE SEASON
OUT
QUESTIONABLE
PROBABLE
MIAMI

OUT
NORTH CAROLINA

OUT
VIRGINIA TECH

OUT FOR SEASON
OUT
QUESTIONABLE

ACC injury reports: Week 1

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
4:00
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Here are your updated injury reports from the schools that filed them this week:

Clemson

DB Martin Jenkins (hernia) -- OUT FOR SEASON

WR Daniel Rodriguez (shoulder) -- probable

QB Tony McNeal (torn ACL) -- OUT FOR SEASON

LB Justin Parker (groin) OUT FOR SEASON

Note: OT Gifford Timothy (knee) will start at right tackle

Duke

DE Kenny Anunike (leg) -- probable

DE Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo (leg) -- probable

S Anthony Young-Wiseman (leg) -- questionable

DE Jonathan Woodruff (leg) -- doubtful

CB Jared Boyd (leg) -- out

LB Kelby Brown (leg) -- out

NG Jamal Bruce (foot) -- out

S Jordon Byas (leg) -- out

TE Braxton Deaver (leg) -- out

LB Britton Grier (hand) -- out

TE Jack Farrell (leg) -- out

OG Lucas Patrick (ankle) -- out

WR Blair Holliday -- OUT FOR SEASON

DE Allen Jackson (shoulder) -- OUT FOR SEASON

S Taylor Sowell (leg) -- OUT FOR SEASON

Florida State

OL Daniel Foose (back) -- out

DL Anthony McCloud (chest) -- out

DL Moses McCray (head) -- out

DL Jacobbi McDaniel (ankle) -- out

DL Derrick Mitchell (back) -- out

WR Josh Gehres (hamstring) -- doubtful

TE Dan Hicks (knee) -- OUT FOR SEASON

RB Mario Pender (sports hernia) -- OUT FOR SEASON

Maryland

DL Keith Bowers (knee) -- out

QB C.J. Brown (knee) -- out

OL Josh Cary (knee) -- out

WR Tyrek Cheeseboro (ankle) -- probable

QB Dustin Dailey (ankle) -- out

PK/P Nick Ferrara (hip) -- out

DB Isaac Goins (sickness) -- out

DB A.J. Hendy (ankle) -- out

LB Abner Logan (quad) -- out

DL Andre Monroe (knee) -- out

DB Matt Robinson (shoulder) -- out

RB Brandon Ross (hamstring) -- out

DL Isaiah Ross (hamstring) -- out

LB Kenny Tate (knee) -- out

Miami

LB Raphael Kirby (lower extremity) -- Out

DL Curtis Porter (upper extremity) -- Out

Virginia Tech

Nick Acree (knee) -- OUT FOR SEASON

What to watch in the ACC: Week 1

August, 30, 2012
8/30/12
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With all 12 teams playing in Week 1, including two conference games, there will be plenty to watch in the ACC, from Friday through Labor Day. Here are 10 things to keep an eye on, in no particular order:

1. NC State’s secondary vs. Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray. The Pack will be without starting cornerback C.J. Wilson, who has an “eligibility issue,” according to coach Tom O’Brien, but All-American David Amerson returns to help the Pack against Bray. Despite missing five games last season with a fractured thumb, Bray threw for 1,983 yards and 17 touchdowns.

2. Clemson in the trenches. Much of the focus leading up to the Auburn game has been on how Clemson will survive without suspended leading receiver Sammy Watkins, but more important is how Clemson will fare up front, on both the offensive and defensive lines. Depth on the offensive line remains a concern, and overall, Clemson had to replace six starters up front from last season.

3. True freshmen in College Park and Chestnut Hill. Maryland and Miami both will be depending heavily on true freshmen in their season openers. The Terps will have true freshman Perry Hills starting at quarterback, are likely to use two freshman running backs and will use receiver Stefon Diggs in several roles. Miami has more than a dozen freshmen in its two-deep.

[+] EnlargeLogan Thomas, Jeremiah Attaochu
AP Photo/John BazemoreGeorgia Tech's Jeremiah Attaochu gets another chance to bring down Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas this weekend.
4. Special teams in Blacksburg. Georgia Tech’s group was abysmal last season, but the Jackets hired special-teams coach Dave Walkosky, the first special-teams coach Paul Johnson has hired during his tenure in Atlanta. The Hokies are trying to get Beamerball back, but questions in the kicking game persisted through summer camp.

5. Jeremiah Attaochu vs. Logan Thomas, Part 2. In this game last season, Attaochu was about to complete a third-down sack of Thomas but couldn’t bring the lumberjack down. Attaochu let his frustration and adrenaline get the better of him, and took a swing at Thomas, drawing a personal foul. The two have been friendly since, but getting pressure on Thomas will be key in this game.

6. Florida State’s offensive line. If there is one reason not to snooze on the Murray State game, this is it. The Seminoles showed a lot of progress up front this offseason, but they must continue it if FSU is going to live up to the expectations this season.

7. ACC vs. SEC. The ACC hasn't had a winning record against the SEC since it went 5-4 in 2003. The ACC could help itself change that this weekend with a 2-0 start against the SEC with victories by NC State and Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff.

8. North Carolina’s tempo. We finally get to see the “Fed Spread” in Chapel Hill, as UNC will unveil its new up-tempo spread offense under first-year coach Larry Fedora. How many more plays will the Tar Heels be able to run, and how well will they execute them? Bottom line: How fast can this team score? Time of possession could be deceiving.

9. Duke’s backups. The Blue Devils will be missing about a dozen injured scholarship players against Florida International, including receiver Blair Holliday, tight end Braxton Deaver, defensive tackle Jamal Bruce, safety Jordon Byas and linebacker Kelby Brown.

10. Virginia’s revamped secondary. UVa has no seniors in its secondary after having three senior starters last season. Only three other schools (Florida State, LSU and North Texas) have a senior-less secondary. More specifically, there are no upper-classmen at the cornerback position. Sophomore Demetrious Nicholson is now the elder statesman of the group.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe could field half a starting lineup with the number of players who are injured heading into Week 1.

It’s astounding, really, as 11 scholarship players will miss the season opener against FIU. Duke has previously announced most of these injuries, but the school hasn’t released its official injury report for the week yet.

“I don’t understand it,” Cutcliffe said. “I tell you, I’ve never even been close to this. We have minimally now 12 scholarship players who will be out of the first game. At the end of June, it didn’t look anything like that. July was a difficult month for us, and August has continued on the same path. Our guys are resilient; they’ve been resilient since we’ve been here. This is a resilient staff. If a group can handle it, it will be this team.”

They don’t have much of a choice. Florida International is a rising program that has been to back-to-back bowl games. A win in the season opener will be critical to the Blue Devils’ hopes of reaching the postseason. Both sides of the ball will be affected, though, as the offense will miss receiver Blair Holliday and tight end Braxton Deaver, and the defense will be without defensive tackle Jamal Bruce, safety Jordon Byas and linebacker Kelby Brown.

That’s literally, though, only the half of it:
  • WR Blair Holliday (suffered head injuries in a boating accident)
  • Defensive tackle Jamal Bruce (had foot surgery to repair a stress fracture of the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot)
  • Tight end Braxton Deaver (had surgery to repair a fracture of his left patella)
  • S Jordon Byas (had surgery to repair a torn left meniscus)
  • S Taylor Sowell (ruptured Achilles tendon in his right leg, will miss entire season)
  • LG Lucas Patrick (fractured left ankle)
  • S Jeremy Cash (Ohio State transfer who’s waiver to play immediately was denied by the NCAA)
  • TE Jack Farrell (leg surgery in the spring)
  • LB Kelby Brown (surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee)
  • Jared Boyd (ACL)
  • DE Allen Jackson (surgery to repair a 360-degree labral tear in his right shoulder.)

“We can’t take many more hits,” Cutcliffe said. “I’ll be honest with you, it’s made me a little more cautious at practice. I don’t have any choice. You just have to be. I told our staff, I’d like to have a little more contact, but like doesn’t have anything to do with it. Here’s our circumstances and this is what we’ve got to do. There are some challenges involved in that.”

Winning the season opener without so many key players will be the biggest challenge to date.

Opening camp: Duke

August, 6, 2012
8/06/12
2:00
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As ACC teams begin to start practicing again, Heather and I will have a quick preview of each team to get you caught up on the basics. Next up to open camp ...

School: Duke.

Start date: Today.

Predicted finish at media days: Last in the Coastal Division.

Biggest storyline: Does Duke have what it takes to make it back to a bowl game? During ACC media days, defensive end Kenny Anunike and receiver Conner Vernon talked with confidence about their team's expectations to make it back into the postseason. I don't need to remind you that Duke has a 17-year bowl-less streak, dating back to 1994. But there are reasons for raised hopes. For one, Duke was close in nearly every game last season, losing five by a touchdown or less. Finishing games has been a huge point of emphasis for the Blue Devils this offseason. For another, they have 17 starters returning, including four players who should form a pretty good offensive line. Then there are quarterbacks Sean Renfree and Vernon, an All-ACC preseason selection. Coach David Cutcliffe has repeatedly said Renfree has pro potential. Now he just has to let the game come to him and cut down on the mistakes. There is talent here, but is there enough to get to six wins?

Biggest position battle: Duke has been hit particularly hard by injuries over the last few years, especially on defense. So the recent news that projected starting nose guard Jamal Bruce is out indefinitely following foot surgery means the Blue Devils are going to need to find another inside presence. Steven Ingram was listed as Bruce's backup, but the Blue Devils are particularly thin inside, with only five healthy nose guards or tackles on scholarship headed into camp. There has been no timetable for Bruce's return. The play along the defensive line is critical this season, because the Blue Devils have to get better pass rushing. After Anunike got hurt last year, that pass rush was nearly nonexistent. As for other injuries, linebacker Kelby Brown (torn ACL), tight end Braxton Deaver (knee) and receiver Blair Holliday (head injuries from jet-ski accident) also are sidelined.

Who needs to step up: Renfree. Cutcliffe has some pretty high expectations for Renfree, who has been a good quarterback already for the Blue Devils. But Renfree also had 11 interceptions last season, a number Cutcliffe knows can be cut down. In fact, Cutcliffe points to the touchdown-to-interception ratio as one that has kept Renfree from getting more headlines. If Renfree makes better decisions and cuts down on the mistakes, he has a chance to place himself into the discussion as one of the top quarterbacks in a league brimming with outstanding signal callers.

Duke DT Jamal Bruce sidelined with injury

July, 25, 2012
7/25/12
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Projected starting defensive tackle Jamal Bruce had foot surgery Tuesday to repair a stress fracture of the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot and is out indefinitely, Duke announced Wednesday.

Bruce played in all 12 games last year as a reserve, totaling five tackles. He was honored as the program’s most improved defensive player following spring practice.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed with this setback for Jamal,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said in a statement. “He showed improvement and productivity during spring practice, and his presence on the interior of our line will be temporarily missed.”

This is exactly the kind of headline Duke wanted to avoid this summer. Injuries have been a major problem for the Blue Devils, particularly on defense, and the lineup simply can't afford any more. The program doesn't have enough depth yet. The sooner Bruce can get back on the field, the better for Duke's defense.
Duke's spring season will end at 1 p.m. this Saturday, when the Blue Devils take the field at Wallace Wade Stadium for their spring game. I caught up with coach David Cutcliffe over the phone earlier this week to talk about injuries, expectations and the next step for the program.

What would count as a successful spring for you guys, and how close do you think you are to that with just a few days left?

David Cutcliffe: We've had an unusual spring. We've had a lot of starters that have missed the entire spring. So it put us in a little different light. Brian Moore, Conner Vernon, Braxton Deaver, Kenny Anunike, Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo, Kelby Brown, August Campbell, all guys that were returning starters. Desmond Scott on offense. So they've miss the entire spring and it's been difficult in that regard. So what was successful was to go out and kind of think players. Not plays, not systems. And see if we could go from kind of Point A to B with a lot of younger players and some of our more experienced players that are out there just being able to go to another level. So kind of really evaluated our team by evaluating individuals. So to this point I would tell you we've had a very successful spring in that regard. I think we've made more improvement with more players than any spring since we've had since we've been here. Hopefully when we get everybody available that computes to a much better football team, because with our schedule, Matt, it's going to take that.

[+] EnlargeDuke's David Cutcliffe
Mark Dolejs/US PRESSWIRE"This is a good team," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said, "now you just got to go win games, and that sounds simple, but that's about how simple it is."
That was going to get to my next point. Injuries aside, you obviously return a lot of starters. How important was it to build depth this spring and how much did you learn about some of those younger guys?

DC: I think it's been good. Right now we've got a good football team. And what we have learned here, at this point, we've been really, pretty good here. The record hasn't indicated anything. We've played a lot of good football. So there's another level we're hunting, and that's the next step for Duke football. Everybody asks you all the time: When is it going to come through? Well it already kind of has come through. This is a good team, now you just got to go win games, and that sounds simple, but that's about how simple it is.

You've said before publicly that good isn't good enough. What will it take for Duke to make the next step?

DC: I think that where you get into making critical plays. We need maybe some great playmakers that can do that to that level on a consistent basis, if you think about the teams winning in our league, there's a number of great playmakers. You just take the two teams that played for the championship. They had guys, both of them, had guys that just made great plays at critical times in critical opportunities, and they did it time and time again. We played Virginia Tech. We know at quarterback and at running back and [Jarrett] Boykin at receiver, and there were defensive players that made those critical plays. And you certainly look at Clemson, and they had the most playmakers in the league. And I think we've made great strides there in the recruiting parts of things and for us to go from being just a good team, we've got to have guys make some great plays for us at critical times that win games, and we haven't had enough of that, quite frankly. I think we have more of those guys and we're more equipped -- I don't think it, I know we're more equipped than we've ever been. I'm really excited and looking forward to seeing this team play.

Sean Renfree, Conner Vernon -- you have a lot of skill players returning. How high offensively do you set the bar?

DC: I would expect us to play very high. All of our backs have played. We have three quarterbacks that have played a lot. Not many people have that — certainly a starter in Sean Renfree that's very, very experienced. But [Anthony] Boone and [Brandon] Connette are as well. With Conner Vernon and Jamison Crowder and Blair Holliday, it allowed us to move Brandon Braxton to safety. But all of our receivers have played, and played well. Deaver at tight end, and we get him back. But we've got some young tight ends that are exciting, that have made plays all spring. I think our weapons are far deeper, and I think the beauty of all that is our line is kind of maturing at the same time those other guys are maturing. So I look for us to be much better offensively in production.

What did you take away from the scrimmage this past weekend?

DC: Again, thinking players, we had on both sides of the ball some huge plays made. Walt Canty in the secondary, [Lee] Butler and [Ross] Cockrell, people that have played again. Jordon Byas is playing the best football. Our secondary made some big plays. Up front Jamal Bruce and Dezmond Johnson and Sydney Sarmiento, and guys made big plays in the game. And then on offense just about everybody got in on the look. All the quarterbacks. Renfree had a big day, but David Reeves and Issac Blakeney, these young tight ends. Then Holliday, Crowder, Tyree Watkins -- just the people we had available to us made huge plays. And then our backs. Having Josh Snead back healthy, and Juwan Thompson, those two really got your attention Saturday. So I just felt good about the number of people that were contributing, and it was pretty well-played on both sides of the ball.

What would a bowl game mean for your players?

DC: There's no question that's part of the goal. What it would mean for me is not just these players but there's some vindication for the amount of work that's gone in to what we've done here with all the players that we've had in recent times. And certainly this staff, who, they're very close to each other. And this is an exceptional staff. All of the staff and the families, and then certainly the people, the fans of Duke football that have endured a long drought. It's a big deal, and it should be a big deal around here. And I don't think an average team with this schedule can be a bowl team. We can't be average; we've go to be well above average. You've got the schedule, you know what I'm saying is accurate. I'm not making an excuse, I'm just stating a fact: We're not going to be good enough if we're average.

How do you tell your players that? How do you get them to buy into that and know that it will take more than a typical performance from them this season?

DC: I've told them that. All I had to do was kind of just put the schedule, and just start writing up on the board and tell them that a lot of lesser people than them would crumble under this. You start looking at, we're playing Clemson, Florida State, not to leave anybody out. Miami and Florida State are two of the more talented teams in the country every year. Stanford. North Carolina's been as talented as anybody I know of in the country the last few years. Virginia Tech, Virginia. I could go on. Opening up with an FIU team that's a bowl team the last two years, all kinds of talent on that team. South Florida talent. We've got a lot of people that have played a lot of football. They know what's in front of them. And you've got to push and strive and do what you got to do to get past it. And I think this team is really looking forward to that challenge. Rather than worrying about it, I think they're looking forward to the opportunity that exists with it.

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