Commentary

Recruits noticing changes at Duke

Duke's makeover helps recruiting, plus notes on Vols' surge and more commits coming

Originally Published: July 22, 2011
By Jamie Newberg | ESPN Recruiting

Things are quietly changing in Durham, N.C., as David Cutcliffe has shaken things up a bit entering his fourth year as the coach for the Duke Blue Devils.

"Duke doesn't look like the Duke of four years ago," Cutcliffe said. "We are raising the bar in recruiting and that's something we will continue to do. We are raising the bar with the athletes we are bringing in here and that's starting to show."

When Cutcliffe arrived on campus, the Blue Devils were the only team in major college football that didn't have a 100-yard practice field. They practiced on a 70-yard field. That was changed quickly. Now they are less than a month away from completing an indoor practice facility. They added a media center and full training facility and other things were giving face lifts. Basically, there's been a complete renovation and restoration of the Duke football program, including the roster.

"We are thrilled," Cutcliffe said. "It shows a complete commitment to the football program. This has been a real change for us. And that means we have had real changes in recruiting."

Sirk They are young and good. Duke went 3-9 last season but I know things are changing with Coach Cut. They are building new indoor facilities and they are bringing in better and better recruiting classes. Duke has committed some guys from my area that I know are good. We will be a competitor for the ACC championship and eventually be a competitor for the national championship

-- Duke QB commit Thomas Sirk

Changes for the better. State of the art facilities are easier to sell to prospects than a 70-yard field.

"We are very excited about this group," Cutcliffe said. "We think it can be special. Last season was a special class for us. The class before that one is turning out better than we ever thought."

So far Duke has 13 commitments, led by prospects like quarterback Thomas Sirk (Glen Saint Mary, Fla./Baker County), tight end Daniel Beilinson (Cary, N.C./Panther Creek), defensive ends Allen Jackson (Ownings Mills, Md./McDonough) and August Wolf (Tarrytown, N.Y./Hackley School), offensive tackle Casey Blaser (Charlotte, N.C./South Mecklenburg), safety Dwayne Norman (Jacksonville, Fla./University School), and wide receiver Erich Schneider (Jacksonville, Fla./Jacksonville Episcopal).

In all, the Blue Devils have seven three-star commitments so far. Look for Duke to get three or four more players and bring in up to 17 players for this year's class.

"We will not have a very big class," Cutcliffe said. "We are really focusing in on quality. We would like to add some depth on the defensive line and speed at receiver. As a whole, we want to get faster on defense. We were much faster in 2010 than in 2008 and we will be even faster in 2011. We should have a very good offensive team. We are just about done."

A typical Duke prospect is Sirk, an under-the-radar QB who slipped through the cracks in the Sunshine State but is a prospect Cutcliffe and Duke believe has a whole lot of upside. Funny, the feeling is mutual from Sirk about Duke.

"They are young and good," Sirk said. "Duke went 3-9 last season but I know things are changing with Coach Cut. They are building new indoor facilities and they are bringing in better and better recruiting classes. Duke has committed some guys from my area that I know are good. We will be a competitor for the ACC championship and eventually be a competitor for the national championship."

They believe at Duke. The Blue Devils are recruiting better and better each season. And they already have a head start on their next class, especially considering Duke's just about finished with their 2012 edition.

"We will really benefit," Cutcliffe said. "I mean it's huge. We have already evaluated a lot of guys for 2013 and had a lot of those guys at camp. We are evaluating that camp too. It's really putting us ahead. We will work in-state and then focus with out of state guys. Recruiting is something we do every day here. Every day."

Vols picking up steam
Many around Volunteer nation were wondering what's going on with Tennessee recruiting. Going into the week, Derek Dooley and the Vols have been very quiet with only a pair of pledges. Meanwhile, others in the SEC have been making noise at some point or another. Even in-state rival Vanderbilt has had more of a recruiting '12 splash.

But it's been a very good week for Tennessee with four commits, including quarterback Nathan Peterman (Jacksonville, Fla./Bartram Trail), ESPNU 150 wide receiver Drae Bowles (Jackson, Tenn./Jackson Christian), running back Alden Hill (Alliance, Ohio/Marlington), and linebacker Justin King (Dunwoody, Ga.) since Monday.

"I think it's great," Peterman said. "The week they are having is awesome. I have talked with some guys that have been offered by Tennessee and they all seem excited about the Vols. The thing with me is that I have not spent much time up there because they really just started recruiting me about two weeks ago. I have a great vibe with the Vols. This staff is great and they have a great vision for what they want to do."

More commits coming?
Look for the commitment flurry to continue through this weekend and into next week. Several teams are hosting their primetime camps, including Friday Night Lights at the University of Florida. Expected to be in attendance are defensive linemen Tyriq McCord (Tampa, Fla./Jefferson), Dante Fowler (St. Petersburg, Fla./Lakewood), and Jordan Jenkins (Hamilton, Ga./Harris County) and cornerback Tracy Howard (Miramar, Fla./Miramar).

There will also be plenty of younger talent in the Swamp, including wide receivers Chris Thompson (Gainesville, Fla.) and Demarcus Robinson (Ft. Valley, Ga./Peach County), defensive tackle Jay Ellison (Hamilton, Ga./Harris County), defensive back Marcel Harris (Groveland, Fla./South Lake), running backs Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glades, Fla./Glades Day) and Greg Bryant (Delray Beach, Fla./ American Heritage) and quarterback John O'Korn (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas).

Mississippi State will host its Big Dog in Starkville night on Friday and Dan Mullen and his Bulldogs should reel in their share.

2013 commitment rewind
In case you have missed it there have been a slew of 2013 commitments in the South over the past week. It's really is extraordinary just how accelerated the recruiting process has become and there seems to be no sign of things slowing down any time soon.

So far, seven of the 24 teams in the SEC and ACC have 2013 commitments. Georgia picked up three rising juniors last Friday night at their Dawg Night camp in Athens in running back Derrick Henry (Yulee, Fla./Yulee), quarterback Brice Ramsey (Kingsland, Ga./Camden County) and wide receiver Tramel Terry (Goose Creek, S.C./Goose Creek). The Bulldogs also added a 2014 running back in Stanley Williams (Bethlehem, Ga./Apalachee).

Alabama has three 2013 commitments in tight end O.J. Howard (Autauga, Ala./Autauga Academy), offensive lineman Bradley Bozeman (Roanoke, Ala./Handley), and linebacker Reuben Foster (LaGrange, Ga./Troup County). Foster and Howard committed to the Tide earlier this week.

Arkansas has committed rising junior running back Jamel Jones (Katy, Texas/ Cinco Ranch), while Auburn has '13 defensive tackle Dee Liner (Muscle Shoals, Ala.)

In the ACC, FSU has a pair of '13 commitments in offensive lineman Austin Golson (Prattville, Ala.) and cornerback Sojourn Shelton (Plantation, Fla.). Clemson and Miami have one each in wide receiver Drake Grisham (Birmingham, Ala./Spain Park) and athlete Levonte Whitfield (Orlando, Fla.) respectively.

August announcement dates
The nation's No. 2 quarterback, Jameis Winston (Hueytown, Ala./Hueytown), has scheduled his announcement date for August 3. Winston, a four-star prospect and the nation's No. 15 overall recruit, will likely decide between Florida State, Alabama and LSU.

ESPNU 150 five-star offensive tackle D.J. Humphries (Charlotte, N.C./Mallard Creek) will announce his college intentions on August 5. It's expected that the nation's top tackle prospect will pick between Florida and Tennessee.

ESPNU 150 wide receiver Chris Black (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) will make his decision on August 24th. The country's No. 3 wide receiver is expected to select Florida State or Alabama.

Cavs land WR
Virginia picked up a commitment No. 16 with a pledge from three-star wide receiver Anthony Cooper (Virginia Beach, Va./Bayside).

"Virginia is a really good school," Cooper said. "It's close to home and I have a really good relationship with the coaches. It was a very hard decision between them and Vandy. Those are two very good programs with very good academics."

Cooper, 5-11 and 181 pounds, had over 900 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns last season as a junior.

"I just go out there and catch the ball," Cooper said. "I am a receiver that can make the big play."

Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at jamienewbergbw@yahoo.com.