ACC: Tony Foster

Duke starts spring practices today and it does so with plenty of questions as the program tries to build upon last year’s postseason success of making it to a bowl game for the first time since 1994. Gone are quarterback Sean Renfree and his favorite target, record-setting receiver Conner Vernon, and there have also been several staff changes. I spoke with coach David Cutcliffe to get his take on the state of the program heading into spring ball, and we talked at length about a variety of topics. Here are the highlights of the first part of our interview:

[+] EnlargeDavid Cutcliffe
Peter Casey/US PresswireCoach David Cutcliffe has his hands full this spring season, as new coaches and new players get acclimated to Duke football.
From an insider’s perspective, how big of a deal are these staff changes and what kind of an impact do you hope they make?

David Cutcliffe: We lost two great people in Ron Middleton and Matt Lubick. You can trade different, but you can never trade down when you make staff hires. That’s one of my rules. I don’t have to have an identical match. In this case, we certainly traded a little different, as you look at it, but we did not trade down. I think the impact, we have two North Carolinians, two former Duke football players there (Re’quan Boyette and Scottie Montgomery). They’ve invested their athletic careers here at Duke, both of them great players in this state, groomed in this state. They will have a lot of energy and enthusiasm on the practice field. Scottie is 34, Re’quan 26. When you’re getting as old as I am, you need to surround yourself with young people. I love it. I truly do. I think their energy is going to be infectious to our squad.

What are your top priorities heading into practices?

DC: We’ve got to look at the offensive side first, and get our people in the right place to replace playmakers, a guy who started at quarterback for three years. Our all-time leading receiver in the history of the ACC. And an unusual athlete in Desmond Scott, a guy who produced a lot of yards in receptions and rushing, one of the top three in the history of the league in that regard -- rushing yards, return yards, and reception yards. You can’t ignore that. We’re going to look at people. We’re going to move Brandon Braxton back to offense, who started for us two years ago and played as a true freshman. We’ve got some other people who mix in there well. We will certainly accentuate Jamison Crowder. We’ve got to solidify our circumstances at quarterback. Anthony Boone comes in this spring as the starter. We have some talented people around him, so I expect this team to be a very athletic team on offense.

On defense, certainly the attention goes first to the secondary, where we have to replace three starters there, Tony Foster at corner, Jordon Byas and Walt Canty at safety. I think we’ve got a good start there. The biggest concern I have other than the secondary is building quality and depth. It’s going to be interesting. On both sides of the ball, we’ve gotten better. We’ve run it a little better, and we’ve got to continue that path offensively, but we’ve got to stop the ball being run against us, particularly in big plays. And then we certainly have to stop explosives on the defense in the passing game. That’s our areas of biggest emphasis.

Check back in a bit for Part II.

Weekend rewind: Scrimmage reports

August, 20, 2012
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Not every school in the ACC gives scrimmage reports, but for those that do, we will gladly post the highlights. Here's a look back at what happened in the ACC this weekend, according to each school's report:

Boston College

Offensive highlights: Junior receiver Alex Amidon had seven catches for 84 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown reception, in the situational scrimmage Sunday. The scrimmage featured six end-of-half/fourth-quarter situations with limited time on the clock and a limited number of timeouts. Chase Rettig went 18-of-32 for 168 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Defensive highlights: Justin Simmons had two interceptions off second-team quarterback Josh Bordner. Manuel Asprilla intercepted Rettig at the goal line, and linebacker Nick Clancy intercepted a Rettig pass that was deflected by Mehdi Abdesmad a few plays later.

Special teams: Gerald Levano punted four times and averaged nearly 48 yards per punt. His first punt landed at the 2-yard line, while his second attempt went 60 yards. Kicker Nate Freese made his only field goal attempt, from 40 yards, and is now 6-for-6 on field goal attempts in the preseason.

Quotable: “We got a lot of nice young guys on this football team, and if they come through and play well, good things can happen, and Justin [Simmons] is one of them,” coach Frank Spaziani said. “He’s as advertised. We did our homework and everything that you do on kids. He’s a good prospect.”

Clemson

Offensive highlights: Tajh Boyd threw for 218 yards and three touchdowns Saturday, while Martavis Bryant had four catches for 97 yards and had two touchdowns. Boyd was 13-of-22 for 218 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Backup Cole Stoudt went 4-of-9 for 61 yards and led a touchdown drive on his first possession. Andre Ellington had an 8-yard touchdown run, while Roderick McDowell led all running backs for a second straight scrimmage with 65 yards on four carries.

Defensive highlights: Coach Dabo Swinney praised the defensive line, where Josh Watson, Grady Jarrett and DeShawn Williams made plays. Xavier Brewer made a brilliant breakup of a long pass and added five tackles. Jonathan Meeks added an interception. Tony Steward made a big play with a 25-yard interception return.

Special teams: Williams had a blocked a field goal. Backup kicker Spence Benton made a 53-yard kick that could have been good from 63 yards.

Quotable: “We have two weeks to get dialed in,” Swinney said. “We are going to turn the page on Monday after our last two-a-day (practices) and start getting ready for Auburn. We will have our guys penciled in on where they need to be.”

Duke

Offensive highlights: Quarterback Brandon Connette caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Sean Renfree and ran for another in a 95-snap, controlled scrimmage Friday night at Wallace Wade Stadium. Renfree went 14-of-21 for 116 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Freshman Shaquille Powell had eight carries for 30 yards, while Jela Duncan had 28 yards on nine attempts. Garrett Patterson, who moved from defensive back to receiver this week during practice, had five receptions for 80 yards.

Defensive highlights: Cornerbacks Lee Butler and Tony Foster each had interceptions while linebacker Deion Williams recovered one fumble. Freshman defensive end Michael Mann had one sack and one forced fumble.

Special teams highlights: Freshman kicker Ross Martin made field goals of 43 and 48 yards and converted his only extra-point attempt.

Georgia Tech

Offensive highlights: Broderick Snoddy had a 70-yard touchdown run on the second series, while quarterback Vad Lee threw two touchdowns to A-back B.J. Bostic. Lee later added a touchdown run as he continues to work at quarterback and A-back. Synjyn Days and freshman Justin Thomas also took snaps at quarterback, and each led scoring drives.

Defensive highlights: Nick Menocal had an interception he nearly returned for a touchdown. Jimmie Kitchen recovered a fumble, while defensive lineman Anthony Williams had two sacks.

Special teams highlights: Justin Moore had a 29-yard field goal, while David Scully made a 31-yard field goal and all five of his extra-point attempts. There was no punting on Saturday.

Quotable: “The guys are ready to play someone else,” quarterback Tevin Washington said. “We’ve been hitting each other for two weeks and all summer doing drills against each other. Guys are just ready to go and get some new faces in front of us.”

Maryland

Freshman Stefon Diggs continued to impress, as he had three first-half touchdowns -- a 68-yard punt return, a 98-yard kickoff return and an 11-yard reception. Quarterback Perry Hills ran the first-team offense and led Maryland to scores on three of his five drives.

On the opening drive, Hills took the Terps on an 18-play, 76-yard touchdown drive, He went 5-of-6 for 27 yards on the drive and also rushed for 36 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown run.

"I thought Perry [Hills] had a good day," coach Randy Edsall said. "I thought he did some good things. Of course there's going to be plenty of things that he could learn from, and get better, but I think that we didn't have any issues with delay of game, really didn't have any false starts. When you talk about the mechanics and the operation of the offense I thought he handled it really well."

Miami

The Hurricanes' scrimmage Saturday was cut short in the middle of the second quarter because of lightning in the area. Among the highlights in the abbreviated scrimmage: Mike James and Duke Johnson each had touchdown runs, and Kelvin Cain recorded a sack in the end zone for a safety.

Virginia Tech

Offensive highlights: Logan Thomas went 8-of-15 for 112 yards and a score, while backup Mark Leal went 6-of-16 for 111 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. Kevin Asante led all receivers with four catches for 79 yards, while Corey Fuller caught three passes for 68 yards. The Hokies also rushed for 174 yards. J.C. Coleman played with a broken hand and had 54 yards -- 52 coming on one run -- and Trey Edmunds added 45. Tony Gregory rushed for 36 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown run. Projected starter Michael Holmes had three carries for 21 yards.

Defensive highlights: The projected first-team defense allowed a little more than 120 yards in four series (24 plays) and gave up just two field goals. Walk-on Zach Snell had six tackles, while Ronny Vandyke had five. Desmond Frye and Antone Exum each recorded four. The defense had five total sacks and Bruce Taylor had an interception.

Special teams highlights: Cody Journell made two field goals and missed one, while Brooks Abbott made one and had a 37-yarder blocked by Kyle Fuller.

Quotable: “I thought it was one of the more productive offensive first scrimmages we’ve had around here,” coach Frank Beamer said. “I think we did some good things, and I think we’ll see some things we can improve. Overall, I think the effort was good. I always say this, but it’s hard to come out pleased because if the offense makes plays, you’re worried about your defense. If the defense makes plays, you’re worried about your offense. Overall, I thought it was a good first scrimmage.”

ACC injury reports: Week 4

September, 23, 2011
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Here are your updated injury reports from the schools that filed them this week:

BOSTON COLLEGE

The Eagles have opted not to release an injury report this week because they are playing a nonconference opponent, but running back Montel Harris is listed as probable. Coach Frank Spaziani said he plans to play him "for limited reps" if everything went well in Thursday's practice.

CLEMSON


Out
Joe Gore, DE, Knee

Questionable
D.J. Howard, RB, hamstring (suffered in practice Tuesday)

Probable
Andre Ellington, RB, hamstring
Mason Cloy, OG, shoulder
David Smith, OG, shoulder

DUKE

CB Tony Foster (foot) – Probable
CB Ross Cockrell (leg) – Questionable
K Will Snyderwine (foot) – Questionable
WR Tyree Watkins (leg) – Questionable
QB Brandon Connette (upper body) – OUT
LB Britton Grier (illness) – OUT
C Brian Moore (arm) – OUT
RB Desmond Scott (leg) – OUT
RB Josh Snead (foot) – OUT
TE Jack Farrell (leg) – OUT FOR SEASON

FLORIDA STATE

Out
WR Willie Haulstead (head)
OL Henry Orelus (head)
WR Jarred Haggins (hand)
WR Josh Gehres (knee)

Questionable
QB EJ Manuel (shoulder)
WR Bert Reed (ankle)
WR Kenny Shaw (head)
CB Greg Reid (knee)

GEORGIA TECH

Questionable
Jeff Greene, Fr., WR
Preston Lyons, Sr., RB

Out
Morgan Bailey, So., OL
B.J. Bostic, So., AB

Out for year
Fred Holton, So., S
Jimmie Kitchen, r-Fr., DL

MIAMI

Doubtful
Malcolm Bunche-Lower Extremity
Seantrel Henderson-Lower Extremity
Shayon Green-Lower Extremity

Out
Curtis Porter-Upper extremity
Luther Robinson-Lower Extremity

Surgeries/Out for the Season
Blake Ayles-Upper Extremity
Cory White -Lower Extremity

NORTH CAROLINA

Out
Casey Barth, PK, thigh
Devon Ramsay, FB, knee

Doubtful
Josh Adams, WR, illness
Matt Kolojejchick, RB, thigh
Jabari Price, CB, finger

Questionable
Erik Highsmith, WR, ankle
TJ Leifheit, OT, ankle
Terry Shankle, CB, knee

VIRGINIA TECH

Out for Season
Kwamaine Battle (knee)
Dyrell Roberts (arm)

Out
Jarrett Boykin (hamstring)
David Wang (foot)

Probable
J.R. Collins (ankle)

Duke scrimmage highlights

August, 16, 2011
8/16/11
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Duke held an 85-play scrimmage on Monday evening at Wallace Wade Stadium. Here are the highlights, according to the team's scrimmage report:

Offensive highlights
  • Quarterback Sean Renfree completed 10 of 17 passes for 150 yards and one touchdown. He had four completions of 20 or more yards, including a 20-yard touchdown to wideout Tyree Watkins.
  • Watkins and Preston Scott each caught three passes for 53 yards while freshman Jamison Crowder added three grabs for 20 yards.
  • Running back Juwan Thompson was the leading rusher with 47 yards on six attempts.
  • Quarterback Brandon Connette had eight carries for 39 yards including a 1-yard touchdown while running back Desmond Scott had 31 yards on seven carries. Connette completed 5 of 9 passes for 62 yards while redshirt freshman quarterback Anthony Boone completed 3 of 8 passes for 14 yards while rushing six times for 16 yards with a 5-yard touchdown run.
Defensive highlights
  • The Duke defense forced two turnovers, and cornerback Tony Foster and safety Jordon Byas each recovered fumbles.
Notable
  • Associate head coach Ron Middleton will be off the sidelines indefinitely after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon late last week. Middleton is scheduled to undergo surgery on Tuesday morning. Shaun Sarrett, a member of the Blue Devil staff since 2008, will assume Middleton’s coaching duties with the tight ends.

Duke spring game rewind

March, 28, 2011
3/28/11
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While some other programs in the ACC are just beginning spring practices this week, Duke wrapped things up on Saturday with the White team's 21-14 come-from-behind win over the Blue team in the Blue Devils' annual spring game. Anthony Boone’s 32-yard touchdown pass to Tyree Watkins with 11:15 remaining in the fourth period clinched the win for the White team. Here are the highlights:

OFFENSE: Quarterback Sean Renfree completed 8 0f 14 passes for 105 yards and one touchdown while Boone was 7-of-15 for 94 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Desmond Scott led the White team with 56 rushing yards on 13 carries while Juwan Thompson gained 35 yards on nine rushes. For the Blue team, quarterback Brandon Connette completed 10 of 16 throws for 102 yards while rushing for 34 yards on eight attempts. Josh Snead had 54 yards on six carries. Watkins finished with six receptions for 67 yards while Brandon Braxton (21 yards), Cooper Helfet (64 yards) and Conner Vernon (19 yards) had three catches apiece.

DEFENSE: Jamal Wallace made a game-high seven tackles while Austin Gamble had six total stops. Issac Blakeney, Walt Canty, Matt Daniels, C.J. France, Tyree Glover and Jonathan Woodruff had five tackles each, with Blakeney also contributing two tackles for loss, one quarterback sack, one caused fumble, one quarterback pressure and one pass breakup. Charlie Hatcher, Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo and Tony Foster each recorded one quarterback sack while Garrett Rider’s interception in the fourth quarter was the game’s lone turnover.

QUOTABLE: “We’re going to have some fun on offense,” coach David Cutcliffe said, according to the team's spring game release. “Anthony Boone, you watched there at the end, as a redshirt freshman he is entering the picture. We’ll have a little unique package or two just to see where we are headed with it. Sean Renfree is our starter. These are dangerous words, but he’s come close to having a great spring. He’s really been good all spring.”

AWARD WINNERS: Juwan Thompson was named the spring's Most Improved Offensive Player, Ross Cockrell the Most Improved Defensive Player and Preston Scott earned the Blue Devil Heart Award.

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