Thanks to the power of twitter, we were able to find some Duke folks who were willing to talk Duke Blue Devils football. North Carolina radio host Joe Ovies put us in touch with The Devil Wolf, contributor to the DukeHoopBlog. Only it's not JUST hoops. Football is a conversation as well. In anticipation of our matchup against the Dookies, why don't we peer into the Duke football mind?
1. What do Duke fans think about ACC expansion as a whole?
I think a lot of Duke fans don't get expansion because it's a football decision and, quite frankly, Duke fans by nature are mostly basketball/olympic sports fans. The old ACC was very North Carolina-centric, and it still is to a certain extent, but I think old school Duke fans liked the idea of Duke and UNC's basketball rivalry being the defining event in the conference. Personally, I think expansion has been fantastic for the league. Sure, I'd like to see us get the return on investment from Miami that we expected, but I think it's brought a nice balance between football and basketball. The ACC still has ground to make up in on-the-field success in football, but expansion has brought attention to ACC football that never existed before. As a fan, I can go through a whole season and see every Duke football and basketball game on TV, or at worst, on ESPN3.com. That's a benefit that never would have come without expansion. In terms of bringing in Pitt and Syracuse, and with the possibilities out there of a Notre Dame, UCONN, Rutgers, and so on, I think we're all for it. Just like everyone, we pile a huge amount of criticism on John Swofford for the way he handles day-to-day operations within the league, but expansion 2.0 was a power move and showed incredible strategic thought on his part. We see schools like Stanford and Vanderbilt and Northwestern who are able to bring in enough athletes to compete for a bowl game each year mixed in with the outside chance of finishing first in their league, and they're able to do it because of the prestige of the conference they play in. I'm all for Coach Cut being able to go into a kid's home and offer a chance at a Duke diploma mixed with the chance to play in a super-conference.
2. David Cutcliffe has made Duke more competitive but that's about it. What's his position like at Duke right now? Is he close to being on the hot seat at all?
There's two major groups of Duke fans ... those who are so conditioned to be disgusted with everything relating to our football program, and those who don't really pay attention. In the middle, there's a small faction of "swing voters" who really pay attention to what's going and think things through before forming an opinion. That's where Cut's challenge lies, in that middle group of fans. Speaking personally, as a member of that group, I know how hard Cut's job is, and I know how bad it was before he got here. Fans are quick to point out he's finally at the stage in his career at Duke where he's coaching his own players, but in reality, Cut's players are playing at other programs. So much has to change at Duke to start winning some of those recruiting battles, it would set us back tremendously to think about making a change at the head coaching position. Cutcliffe has sold tickets, he's raised money for a beautiful indoor practice facility that's the envy of the ACC, he's improved our outdoor facilities, and he's raising money to improve the stadium on a plan that he got approved. There was so much work that needed to be done away from the field to even begin to have any sort of expectation relating to the on-field results. Having said that, the close losses, they build up and they feed the frustration of the fanbase. In the end, I don't think Cut's anywhere close to the hot seat. What's the worst that could happen by giving him a few extra years? Duke fans stop coming to games? Recruits stop pouring into the program? There's too much upside to keeping Cutcliffe, and there's very little actual pressure on Kevin White to get rid of him.
3. What are some missing pieces that need to be obtained to get Duke to that 6th win and bowl eligibility?
The easy answer is "players". To go a little deeper, I'd say playmakers. Duke has to work so hard for every yard, every point, every stop, that the margin for error is absolutely microscopic. You look at a team like Clemson who played an awful game last week against Wake Forest, they're able to come out with the win because they got big plays from big time playmakers at the most opportune times. Even against us, you see Virginia Tech winning the game because they hit on a couple of big plays to Coale, or Wake Forest getting the big touchdown to Givens ... both of those plays were very much against the way the game was going at the time. Cutcliffe has done a nice job of building a team of solid players, and even has built some depth during his time here. But we've lacked that super-explosive playmaker that can shift momentum with a big score or a big first down just based on their own individual effort.
4. Unfortunately, Tech fans don't know a lot of the players that play football for Duke. Who should we look out for on Saturday?
Unfortunately Duke fans don't know a lot of the players that play football for Duke either. For Tech fans, I think you can look out for the usual suspects ... quarterback Sean Renfree, receivers Donovan Varner and Conner Vernon, and running backs Desmond Scott and Juwan Thompson. Varner and Vernon both are coming off a game where they had some awful drops. Renfree has a reputation as a top quality quarterback, but I'm honestly starting to wonder how much of that is based on Cutcliffe's status as a quarterbacks guru. He's accurate and throws a nice ball, but his decision making has not been very good this season. He's too quick to rely on his checkdown routes, which usually allows him to wind up with statistics like 78 yards on 13-16 passing. Defensively, the conversation starts and ends with safety Matt Daniels. Daniels is a guy who will play on Sundays. He defends the pass, he defends the run, and he hits really hard. Our defensive line has been ruined due to injuries, so I'd expect a lot of tackles to be made in the secondary on Saturday. And you can't talk about Duke without talking about kicker Will Snyderwine and quarterback Anthony Boone. Expect to see Boone any time the Devils get into the redzone, and expect him to run. Anytime you see Snyderwine, expect him to miss. Snyderwine was a pre-season all-American, but is less than 50% on the season and is completely done mentally. If Duke's going to be successful on Saturday, it will be up to our secondary to defend the big play as I'm sure we'll be crowding the line trying to get into your backfield. Ross Cockrill is our best defensive back outside of Daniels. Offensively, expect us to run heavily with Thompson and Scott and try to play keepaway from your offense.
5. Ok finally, you've made it through FOUR questions. Now, what was it like for Mike Kryzaweosascheski to notch win #903. Feel free to gloat as necessary.
The number itself is insane. If a coach got his first job today, he'd have to win 30 games for 30 straight seasons to get within three games of where K is right now. And that's not even taking into consideration that Krzyzewski, in my opinion, isn't close to being done. I think he'll end up with around 1100 to 1200 wins for his career, and that record's not being broken unless there's a drastic change in the number of games played in the NCAA in the future. I'm all about gloating, but it's tough to gloat about a guy you know is a once in a lifetime coach and a living legend. It's more humbling than anything else to know that I've had an opportunity to watch him coach my favorite team, to go to his basketball camps, to go to school with his kids, for my kids to go to school with his grandkids, and just to know that I'm in some way connected to one of the best who has ever done it. It's just one of those rare things where it's more special to know what we have at Duke than it is to gloat about what everyone else doesn't have. Except for Carolina. They can go to hell.
Many thanks to the Devil Wolf and Go Jackets!