NCF Nation: Kevin White
The routine has become seemingly busier by the week. Sure, there is Father Mike Martin, a close family friend. But more and more visitors, mostly students, have come up before, after and sometimes even during the procession to congratulate Cutcliffe on the previous day's victory, and to thank him for providing another addition to the school.
Duke football might be doing the same for the ACC as well. The Blue Devils will play in their league's title game if they win Saturday at rival North Carolina, a scenario that seemed unfathomable before Cutcliffe's arrival, as the program went 13-90 in the nine years prior. But two straight years of postseason play and a number of new heights reached this fall have set the course for what the 59-year-old coach says is here to stay.
"We're not going away, I can promise you that," Cutcliffe told ESPN.com. "And I don't mean that to sound arrogant, but we're not going anywhere. We're going to be a good football team each year."
A win over the Tar Heels would give Duke 10 victories for the first time in school history. It would mark the Blue Devils' first eight-game winning streak since 1941, when they won nine straight. And it would give them consecutive wins over UNC -- which comes into Saturday's game on a five-game winning streak -- for the first time since 1987-89.
Cutcliffe, who would joke that his degree from Alabama is in "Knowology," believes he has now completed a PhD in the field.
"I've now changed it to 'Macro-Knowology,' by the way," he quipped. "I felt like I got a little smarter, so I just use that kidding with my wife. My wife's a Tennessee graduate."
Kevin White sees the matter as closer to reality than fiction. Arriving at Duke five months after Cutcliffe's hiring in December of 2007, the athletic director saw a guy who knew what he had to work with, and how to go about it.
On a scale of 1 to 10, White said, Cutcliffe's passion is a "14." The coach knows where to find all of the right buttons in a program, the AD added, and how to push them.
"He wasn't in a position to go and to recruit ready-to-play players, so he wasn't in the player-acquisition business," White told ESPN.com. "He very quickly understood that for him to be successful, he needed to move earnestly into the player-development business."
Win No. 6, last month at then-No. 14 Virginia Tech, served as a bit of a watershed moment for the program. Cutcliffe had seen 60 minutes of intensity before, but this featured a different kind of demeanor, from pregame through halftime and on the trip back.
More importantly, Cutcliffe said, his players left Lane Stadium hungrier than ever.
"There's just a whole new attitude and want for the football program to be good, not only by just the players but also the administration," sixth-year linebacker Kenny Anunike said. "I mean, President (Dick) Brodhead has been into our locker room numerous times to talk to us to tell us how proud he is. Everybody just wants to provide for our team, give us everything, all the tools we need to be good."
A team that dropped five straight once getting to 6-2 a year ago has gone about finishing stronger this time around. A defense that finished last in the ACC in scoring has improved to No. 5 in the league (22.8 ppg).
White is not surprised by the progress, insisting he had told anyone who listened in recent years that a sea change was on the way.
That sentiment has been echoed throughout the regime.
"There's one architect for this program, and that's Coach Cutcliffe, and the rest of us are builders," defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said. "We're all builders, and if you've been around us at all there's been that vision from Kevin White and Coach Cutcliffe that this was the way it was going to be. Even through the tough times, we all sold that to the defense, that this was going to happen. It was inevitable, because we knew we were doing all the right things, [like] how Apple knew 10 years before they were a success that they were going to be a great success."
Said Cutcliffe: "I appreciate Jim's comment. I think the key to this has been good people. I think the reason that it's been effective is I really don't lead from the top. I feel more like I'm kind of in the middle, in the traffic circle, and I'm just kind of holding up one for a second, moving the other one, and you seem like a traffic police officer in Columbus Circle."
He is what Brian Kelly calls a gentleman off the field and a tough guy on it, distinctions that will hardly be unique when the sophomore takes the field Saturday night for No. 25 Notre Dame in its regular-season finale at No. 8 Stanford.
The Cardinal are among the three teams the Irish have chosen to keep on their schedule annually moving forward. In a season that has seen Kelly discredit the tension with Michigan, the nation's winningest program, it was more than a little noteworthy to hear the coach call the game with Stanford a "great rivalry" Tuesday.
"Both teams want to be the smartest, toughest football teams in the country," Kelly said.
Last year's meeting was the first between schools ranked in the top 20 of both the football polls and the U.S. News & World Report's best colleges list.
This year Kelly is tasked with taking his operation almost 2,000 miles away on Black Friday, a considerably lighter chore given that the schools had once eyed a destination for this contest some 7,000 miles away: China.
The terrain this weekend in Stanford Stadium will nonetheless be familiar for many visitors, Jack Swarbrick among them. The Irish athletic director has trouble hiding his enthusiasm when talking about this matchup, as he received his Bachelor's in economics from Notre Dame before moving on to Stanford Law.
"There are obvious similarities," Swarbrick said. "Private [schools], among the smallest undergraduate populations in the FBS, excellent academic reputations, a broad commitment to collegiate sports model as reflected in number of sports and levels of success, passionate alumni scattered around the globe and very strong brands.
"Relative to football, the clear commonality is an insistence that the members of our teams be fully integrated into the university in the same manner other students are. They are truly student athletes. This is reflected in both graduation rates and the success of our student-athletes after football is over."
Swarbrick has company on both sides. College Football Playoff selection committee member Condoleezza Rice earned her master's from Notre Dame and is a professor at Stanford. Cardinal coach David Shaw has enlisted the assistance of the former Secretary of State in hosting recruits -- one of whom, TJ Jones, initially committed to Stanford but is now an Irish captain. (Rice has been no stranger at Notre Dame Stadium herself.)
Muir's new employer attracted headlines this summer when the Cardinal sold out of season tickets for the first time, underscoring the cat-and-mouse relationship between these two programs.
Notre Dame has sold out all but one home game since 1966, but it is Stanford that will make its fourth-straight BCS bowl with a win in next week's Pac-12 title game.
The Cardinal are quarterbacked by Kevin Hogan, who estimates he has 10-20 cousins and another five or six aunts and uncles who went to Notre Dame. Protecting Hogan is right guard Kevin Danser, whose uncle, John Gallagher, played hoops for the Irish and roomed with Joe Theismann. Reserve center Conor McFadden, whose photographic memory has become the source of attention that seemingly only the Cardinal or Irish could attract, has a grandfather and several uncles who went to Notre Dame as well.
"It's a fun game because you have the connections, family connections, and we all want to win it," Hogan said.
On Tuesday, Kelly fielded a question here about playing "Notre Dame football," sparking a response about how he does not want personalities like Russell's to be marginalized as just football players.
A few hours later in Silicon Valley, Shaw began his press conference by announcing that Stanford had won another off-the-field honor, this time its second straight AFCA Academic Achievement Award. The Cardinal coach then spent the next few minutes talking about how this would help in recruiting.
It only happened to be Notre Dame week.
"We understand how to manage your time so that you do well in school and you do well in football and you have a social life and you enjoy yourself here, that it is possible for all three of those," Shaw said. "When we graduate our guys and we play really good in football and they come to visit, our guys love it here. That helps a lot."
September is the time when new names start to emerge in the Big 12 and prove themselves as players who will be key components of their teams' success. Here's a look at one player from each school whose season-opening performance might have been overlooked, yet they could become important playmakers for their teams this fall:
Defensive end Shawn Oakman, Baylor: The Penn State transfer could end up being a terror for Big 12 offenses this fall. At 6-foot-9, 275 pounds, he brings terrific size and athleticism to the Bears’ defensive front. He was extremely disruptive against Wofford, recording six tackles including 3.5 tackles for loss in Baylor’s 69-3 win.
Linebacker Jared Brackens, Iowa State: Against Northern Iowa, Brackens was one of the few bright spots in a disappointing loss for the Cyclones. He recorded 10 tackles and one sack,as he is trying to help Cyclone fans forget about A.J. Klein and Jake Knott. If Brackens continues to play like he did against UNI, the Cyclones should fell terrific about their linebacking corps with Brackens alongside Jeremiah George and Jevohn Miller.
Safety Dante Barnett, Kansas State: Lining up alongside preseason All-Big 12 safety Ty Zimmerman, Barnett could give the Wildcats the conference’s top safety duo if he continues to play like he did against North Dakota State. The sophomore finished with seven tackles including one tackle for loss and an interception. He was a shining light in the upset loss to NDSU.
Defensive end Charles Tapper, Oklahoma: Sooners’ coach Bob Stoops has been consistent in his praise of Tapper leading up to the season opener. The sophomore didn’t disappoint on Saturday as he was able to consistently get pressure on Louisiana-Monroe quarterback Kolton Browning in OU’s 34-0 win. Tapper had three tackles and one quarterback hurry in his first collegiate start.
Running back Desmond Roland, Oklahoma State: The junior could emerge as a solid No. 2 option in the Cowboys backfield this season. The buzz in Stillwater says he’s matured and found a renewed focus that should help him be an impact player in OSU’s offense. He had 10 carries for 46 yards against Mississippi State and saw extensive time alongside Smith and quarterback J.W. Walsh in the Pokes’ diamond formation.
Running back Jalen Overstreet, Texas: The Longhorns have so many explosive skill position players it’s unfair. Add Overstreet to the mix after his nine-carry, 92-yard, two-touchdown performance against New Mexico State. UT moved Overstreet from quarterback because the coaches recognized he was too talented to be standing on the sidelines, and now Overstreet gives the Longhorns another weapon to allow offensive coordinator Major Applewhite to be creative with his play calling.
Cornerback Kevin White, TCU: Returning All-Big 12 cornerback Jason Verrett gets all the headlines, but White was consistently around the ball against LSU. With the Tigers picking on him, he won some individual battles and lost some individual battles but held his own with four tackles, four pass breakups and a fumble recovery. White made a strong case that the Horned Frogs have the Big 12’s top cornerback duo.
Linebacker Micah Awe, Texas Tech: Awe could emerge as one of the key players in the Red Raider defense as a sophomore. He’s an athletic, quick linebacker who plays with a physicality that belies his size. He was consistently around the ball against SMU with 5.5 tackles including 0.5 tackles for loss. If Awe can make plays from sideline to sideline in the Big 12, he’ll become more than just the other No. 18 for the Red Raiders.
Receiver Daikiel Shorts, West Virginia: The true freshman had been the buzz of WVU’s preseason camp and backed up the praise he received by leading the Mountaineers in receptions in his first collegiate game. He had seven receptions for 63 yards in their 24-17 victory over William and Mary.
Together, quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey had a hand in nearly four-fifths of West Virginia’s all-purpose yards last season.
“I’ve been talking to our guys about this all the time,” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “How are we going to score without three of the best players that ever played the game here?”
Holgorsen is banking that his Mountaineers can somehow do it with a collection of talented FBS and junior-college transfers. All told, West Virginia brought in four junior-college offensive skill players and two high-profile FBS transfers. All six could wind up with critical roles in the offense.
“We did a good job of getting guys who can make big plays,” said running back Andrew Buie, essentially West Virginia’s only returning skill player from last season. “I definitely think we can be explosive again.”
Whether the Mountaineers can hinges heavily on their transfers -- especially quarterback Clint Trickett, running back Charles Sims and wide receiver Kevin White.
“Clint Trickett has a presence to him; every rep he takes he gets better and does some good things,” Holgorsen said. “They all make good decisions at times but because of inexperience, they make poor decisions that get them in trouble. The guy that reduces the poor decisions will be the guy that wins the job. I think they are all capable of being pretty good.”
While backing up EJ Manuel at Florida State, Trickett showed flashes of being pretty good. After Manuel got hurt during the 2011 season, Trickett came in and delivered a pair of sterling performances against top-notch competition. He nearly rallied the Seminoles to a win over Oklahoma. Then the following week, he threw for 336 yards and three touchdowns in a shootout defeat at Clemson.
Trickett, whose father, Rick, is the Seminoles’ offensive line coach, elected to transfer to West Virginia after losing the battle for the starting job to freshman Jameis Winston this spring.
“All Dana said was he’s not promising me anything and that I’m going to get my chances,” said Trickett, who grew up in Morgantown while his dad was a West Virginia assistant. “That’s all I can ask for.”
The Mountaineers do have other options at quarterback. But outside their transfers, they don’t have many options at running back or receiver.
Buie, who rushed for 851 yards and seven touchdowns last season, figures to be the featured back. But he could have plenty of help from a pair of transfers.
Sims arrived in the summer after totaling 4,077 yards rushing and receiving for Houston in three seasons. His freshman season playing for Holgorsen, Sims was the Conference USA freshman of the year. Sims is eligible to play this season because he got his degree in Houston.
“We're extremely fortunate to have his services for one year,” Holgorsen said. “He's a great kid, a tremendous football player.
Sims has been just that. After missing the 2010 season with an injury, Sims bounced back the following year to earn first-team All-Conference USA honors. Like Austin, Sims has the skill set to operate out of the backfield or line up in the slot.
“This is basically the same offense I’ve been running since my freshman year,” Sims said. “The terminology is all that’s different.”
The Mountaineers are also hoping for a boost from Dreamius Smith, who was the nation’s No. 1 junior-college running back. Smith averaged 8.2 yards a carry for Butler (Kan.) Community College before joining West Virginia in January.
“He's got great ball skills,” Smith's position coach, Jajuan Seider, said. “He can catch the ball. The way he looks – you don't even think he's running. He's one of the fastest guys on the team – next thing you know, he's going for 70 or 80 yards and our safety can't catch him. He's a really good player. I'm glad we've got him.”
The Mountaineers are glad they got White, too, who since the spring has been vying to be the team’s go-to receiver.
White might not be able to replicate the production of Austin or Bailey, but teamed with fellow junior-college receivers Mario Alford and Ronald Carswell, White might lead a deeper receiving corps with more viable options than last year’s group.
“This offense is definitely going to be more than just three guys,” White said. “We have all the pieces to the puzzle.
“We just have to put it together.”
It got more bad news when coach Gary Patterson confirmed that reserve cornerback David Jenkins, coincidentally an LSU transfer, was kicked off the team amid burglary charges.
TCU 360 first reported the story.
Jenkins turned himself into police and was dropped from classes as well as removed from the football team. Patterson told the school news platform that he was "very disappointed" in Jenkins' actions. Jenkins posted bond and was released.
The sophomore had never taken the field for the Horned Frogs, but showed promise as a scout-team player and was listed behind Kevin White on TCU's post-spring depth chart, opposite Jason Verrett, the Big 12's best returning corner. Jenkins was the No. 21 corner in the 2011 recruiting class and the 6-foot-1, 204-pounder had a physical presence.
The Carrollton, Texas, native transferred closer to home after redshirting at LSU, but it's always sad to see a story like this take a tough turn.
"When our student-athletes do not conduct themselves as proper members of the campus community, they lose the privilege of representing Texas Christian University and wearing the Horned Frogs uniform,” TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in a statement.
It's a big loss for TCU's defense as a whole, but nobody's losing more from the situation than Jenkins.
Here are a few first-year players to keep an eye on this season.
Jake Waters, QB, Kansas State: Waters hasn't officially won Kansas State's quarterback job yet, but he was the nation's No. 78 overall juco prospect and earned plenty of notoriety for breaking some guy named Cam Newton's completion percentage record on the way to a national title last season. He's still got to beat out Daniel Sams to be able to replace Collin Klein, but the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder could bring some accuracy to the table that's been missing awhile.
Robbie Rhodes, WR, Baylor: Rhodes is one of the highest-ranked recruits to ever step foot on Baylor's campus, and could have an immediate impact for a receiving corps trying to replace Lanear Sampson and Terrance Williams. He was ranked as the nation's No. 3 receiver and No. 35 overall recruit, as well as the fourth-best player in Texas. The Bears beat out TCU and Texas for his services, and the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Fort Worth, Texas native could crack the field very early. Only two players in the Big 12 were ranked higher than Rhodes in the class of 2013.
Kevin White, WR, West Virginia: White is a big body at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds and a different kind of receiver than West Virginia is used to suiting up, but after losing Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, a ton of targets will be available in a receiving corps that has little experience, even with the boost of Ivan McCartney's return. He already showed his ability in the spring game, turning a screen pass into a 46-yard score. He'll get plenty of opportunities to do that some more this fall.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that athletic directors have seen their salaries grow as well.
USA Today, which annually compiles head coaching salaries, recently found FBS athletic directors make an average of $515,000. That is an increase of more than 14 percent since USA Today last reported on AD salaries in 2011.
The ACC beats that average. Of the available salaries compiled by USA Today, ACC athletic directors were set to make an average of $602,829 in 2013. All but two made more than $500,000 -- Kevin Anderson at Maryland ($499,490), and Randy Spetman at Florida State ($350,00).
That doesn't count incoming Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich, who makes a cool $1.4 million -- the highest paid athletic director at a public school. Only nine athletic directors make $1 million or more. The next highest paid public school AD is Dan Radakovich at Clemson, checking in at $725,000.
Boston College and Miami, two private schools, did not disclose figures.
While Spetman's salary has remained the same for the past several years, it still surprises me that the athletic director at one of the most high-profile football programs in the nation is the lowest paid in his league. And one of the lowest paid in the entire state of Florida. Florida AD Jeremy Foley makes more than $1 million; USF AD Doug Woolard makes nearly $500,000; Todd Stansbury at UCF makes just a smidge more ($375,000); and FIU AD Pete Garcia makes $441,832.
I know Spetman has faced his share of criticism, and the Noles have fought through some financial problems. They do pay Jimbo Fisher $2.75 million -- the highest paid coach in the ACC. But something seems off when the ADs at FIU, UCF and USF make more than the guy at Florida State.
Here are is the complete list of AD salaries in the ACC, thanks to USA Today.
- Tom Jurich, Louisville: $1.4 million*
- Kevin White, Duke, $906,536
- Dan Radakovich, Clemson: $725,000
- Ron Wellman, Wake Forest: $688,000
- Mike Bobinski, Georgia Tech: $625,000
- Jim Weaver, Virginia Tech: $621,529
- Steve Pederson, Pitt: $596,595
- Craig Littlepage, Virginia: $586,750
- Daryl Gross, Syracuse: $570,057
- Bubba Cunningham, North Carolina: $565,000
- Debbie Yow, NC State: $500,000
- Kevin Anderson, Maryland: $499,490**
- Randy Spetman, Florida State: $350,000
- Brad Bates, Boston College: NA
- Blake James, Miami: NA
*Louisville expected to join ACC in 2014
** Maryland will depart ACC in 2014
Academics: Duke. The Blue Devils graduate all of their players, and the institution is one of the best in the country when it comes to academics. If only I could get in.
Athletic director: Kevin White, Duke. Since White arrived on campus, Duke has won three NCAA titles -- women's tennis, men's basketball and lacrosse. Duke ranked 10th in the 2010 Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings, and White has given coach David Cutcliffe much needed upgrades in facilities.
City: Chapel Hill. Franklin Street is the epitome of a college town, and it's the place to be whether there's a game or not.
Coach: Frank Beamer. He's loyal to his staff, and they've returned the favor. He can recruit, and he can win.
Facilities: Florida State. This is the house that Bobby built, and it's huge. The Seminoles have everything they need to succeed, and one of the biggest stadiums in the conference. It's even better when it's filled.
Fans: Virginia Tech. What other fan base would travel to Atlanta three times in one season to see their team play?
Game day atmosphere: Lane Stadium on a Thursday night. You've got giant turkey legs and Metallica. What more could you want?
Mascot: Sebastian the Ibis. In a word: aww. But he can get feisty when he needs to. Besides, what is a Hokie?
Stadium: Death Valley. Clemson's Memorial Stadium has Howard's Rock, the Hill and the tradition.
Strength program: Miami. Longtime strength coach Andreu Swasey has trained the likes of Willis McGahee, Kellen Winslow II and Sean Taylor.
These are all tough picks, especially when choosing a coach and the fans. Clemson fans would actually probably tie Virginia Tech fans, but there is no better display of loyalty than a travelling fan base, and to sell out three times in Atlanta last season is going to be tough to beat. As for the coaches, this conference is loaded with good ones, but most of the ones who came to mind quickly (Paul Johnson, Jim Grobe and David Cutcliffe) lost this past weekend. I made my choice based on a longer period of time, and Beamer has owned the ACC since joining the conference, though CPJ is a two-time ACC Coach of the Year. And if Cutcliffe can win at Duke, he can win anywhere. So argue amongst yourselves and feel free to build your own ACC dream team in the ESPNU College Town game.
Carter and Grant both decommitted from schools in automatic qualifying conferences. Grant was committed to Oregon and Carter to Nebraska. They were two of the Frogs' seven players who switched commitments to play in Fort Worth.
TCU also signed Matt Brown, an Allen High (Texas) quarterback who was headed to Arizona before offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes became the head coach at Louisiana Tech.
Coach Gary Patterson said the goal of this class was to find speed. And while many of the 18 signees might not see the field in 2010 since the Frogs lose just six starters, several will get an opportunity in 2011.
“We wanted to get speed because we knew we were going to graduate four or five wide receivers and safeties,” Patterson said.
The immediate need for TCU was at cornerback where the Frogs graduate both starters this year. There are two good backups in place, but the depth is depleted. Cornerback Travaras Battle-Smith is already on campus and is expected to compete for playing time. Stony Point High (Round Rock, Texas) cornerback Kevin White is considered one of the sleepers of the class.
“We played six freshman last year,” Patterson said. “If you had asked me before the season I would have told you that we wouldn’t play any. I believe we’ll probably have to play at least one at corner because we lost two seniors.”
Loading up on defense was one of TCU’s priorities considering it loses five starters on that side of the ball for 2011. Defensive tackle David Johnson from Argyle, Texas, is ranked the 26th best defensive tackle in the country according to ESPN's Scouts Inc. He's already enrolled in school and will participate in spring football.
Patterson also noted that he loses five safeties in 2011, which prompted him to pick up three in this year’s class.
“No one ever gets everything they’d like,” Patterson said. “And right now they're just paper tigers. I guess we’ll find out whether they turn out to be any good or not.”
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Here's a quick look at what's going on in the ACC today:
Virginia Tech had gotten by with its questionable offense until it traveled to Chestnut Hill. If it continues to struggle like that, the Hokies have no shot of playing in the ACC championship game, writes Darryl Slater.
Hey Seminoles fans -- "Spirit, spirit, spirit," Bobby Bowden says. None of FSU's three previous home games have been sold out, and this one is so important that Bowden implored boosters to show up and be loud.
You would think this has to be one of the more entertaining radio shows on Tobacco Road, especially when the host, Duke AD Kevin White, is asked about something like, say, firing coaches.
Has anyone realized that NC State quarterback Russell Wilson has thrown one interception in 115 passes? Um, yeah, definite trap game for the Terps.
North Carolina coach Butch Davis took some of the blame for his team not having any timeouts left in the last 47 seconds of regulation after Virginia tied the score at 10. Whoops.
Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson
SMU athletics director Steve Orsini is staying at SMU, the school announced in a statement on Friday.
Orsini was a candidate for the athletics director position at Notre Dame, which was vacated by Kevin White at the end of May. White was named the vice president and athletic director at Duke University.
"I am pleased to announced that Steve Orsini will remain at SMU as Director of Athletics," SMU president Dr. R. Gerald Turner said in the statement. "I met with Steve today and reiterated my desire for him to stay. I am delighted that he has decided to continue to lead our athletic programs. Steve has created a sense of excitement here, and I anticipate many more achievements under his leadership."
Orsini was a three-year letterman as a fullback at the University of Notre Dame. He was one of four team captains on the 1977 national championship squad.
Orsini has been the athletics director at SMU since June 1, 2006.