As the days til the start of Duke Football season now enters single digits, the Blue Devils are beginning prep work for their opener against NC Central.
Head coach David Cutcliffe, during his teleconference on Wednesday, said they were starting the game-week off on Wednesday, and would be implementing the game plan and game scenarios moving forward. He emphasized the need for his team to get and remain focused so that the can play well in the season opener.
“We can’t afford to overlook anybody. We’re nowhere near that point,” Cutcliffe said. “We’re a team that needs to be hungry. Any first game our focus has got to be on being the best team Duke can put on the field.”
It is also a team that he feels is as ready to start a season as any he has had since he’s been in Durham.
“There is no question this team is experienced in the right places. I expect and anticipate them to play well–hopefully extremely well,” Cutcliffe said. “Schematically they are very experienced with what we are doing but now you’ve got to go perform on game day at a high level.”
“We expect to do just that.”
The Blue Devils head into the year relatively healthy but currently have eight players who are injured right now, though Cutcliffe said he hopes by mid week to have a few of those guys back. As of now Jordan Dewalt-Ondijo, Britton Grier, as well as Marcus Aprahamian, in addition to those injured earlier, look to be likely out for the first game, but Cutcliffe said he wouldn’t be sure until next week.
Cutcliffe was upbeat about the chances of getting defensive end Justin Foxx back for at least some game action. Foxx has been recovering from off-season surgery and Cutcliffe indicated he was going at full speed in practice. The only concern is conditioning and that may limit the number of snaps he gets, but otherwise he should be able to play and that should be a big boost for the Blue Devils defensively.
The offense was another reason for optimism for Cutcliffe who praised quarterback Anthony Boone’s big play potential, as well as his command of the offense, which Cutcliffe said was “beyond what I thought.” He is also excited about the running backs and receivers who he feels should be big-time weapons. The only real concern was the offensive line depth.
“The biggest concern offensively is the depth of the offensive line. When you lose both second team tackles that is a big blow,” Cutcliffe said. “It has been a challenge for (offensive line) coach (John)Latina. I love our starting five but when we get beyond that right now– there are a few iffy spots.”
Cutcliffe who has become very proud of the cross-town match up with NC Central did not want to comment on the recent news that head coach Henry Frazier was arrested and subsequently suspended for a violation of a domestic order. He did, however, express his excitement for the matchup and its benefits for the city of Durham.
“This is a nationally televised game (ESPN3). It is a chance to display Durham as well as both institutions,” Cutcliffe said. “I certainly hope people turn out in great numbers.”
Cutcliffe immediately addressed the latest on Duke walk-on defensive back Hud Mellencamp, who was recently charged with battery along with his brother while back in Indian. Mellencamp, according to Cutcliffe, will continue to practice with the team until more information from the charges emerges.
He stated that Duke would let the legal due process occur before a final determination on his status is made.
Also NC Central head coach Henry Frazier was fired on Thursday. He will be replaced by assistant head coach Dwayne Foster, who will serve as interim coach.