The Duke Football season is only three practices old, but head coach David Cutcliffe admits he is pleased with his team’s progress, though he also acknowledges they still have quite a ways to go.
Cutcliffe addressed the media following Duke’s third practice of the year on Wednesday night. The news was for the most part positive with no major injuries to report and lots of work getting accomplished. He was particularly complementary of the freshman who have just arrived on campus.
“We’ve really had a ton of reps and a better opportunity to evaluate some of our young people,” Cutcliffe said. “I’m really pleased with the people who have just come into the program. There are a lot of people that are performing at a really high level and that is extremely encouraging.”
Overall Cutcliffe has been pleased with the energy of the team but knows things haven’t even really begun yet.
“They’ve brought everything they’ve had. They’ve emptied the bucket out here. They are willing, they’re eager,” Cutcliffe said. “I really don’t have any complaints other than the fact it’s still not real football just yet.”
The Blue Devils have practiced only in helmets and shoulder pads one day, and it won’t be until Friday when they go into full contact. Cutcliffe has had the team practice at night as well. He said that he is going to test their conditioning Friday when the practice switches to the morning. Evaluating the team he said there are still a lot of decisions to make and right now it may just be a bit too early to know just where the team stands.
“I think by the time we turn into(next) Monday or Tuesday we’ll have a better feel for what this team is going to be,” Cutcliffe said.
He has been impressed with the work of some of the new guys including the non-scholarship guys who have been showing a lot of effort.
“Our secondary and receivers and running backs we’ve signed are extremely active, quick athletic and there’s some football IQ. They are catching on quickly. Just across the board you see a lot of people that are doing things well.”
The Blue Devils have been splitting the team into two to allow for the players, especially the new guys, to get extra work as well as a lot of reps and looks from the coaches which has created a lot of good competition. Cutcliffe said by splitting the squad it allows them to take things a bit slower with the new guys while they accelerate things a bit with the veterans who are already starting to install some of the team’s schemes.
“Nobody can run and hide,” Cutcliffe said. “They’re getting reps. They are getting all that individual work. So the coaches have got a lot of film to watch. They’re coaching hard basically two different practices.”
So far the team has stayed healthy, or as healthy as you can be after only three practices, though Cutcliffe indicated a couple lineman suffered a few minor ankle injuries Wednesday.
“We had a couple of people that were tweaked tonight. I hadn’t seen them but I hear ankle, nothing significant at this point.”
He said the coaching and training staff have done a lot of studying of injuries and researched different elements of how the team can train and prep, as well as practice during the season to try and help avoid some of the injury problems.
“You just don’t let things be. We have a base that will never change. But I’ve been changing from year to year as long as I’ve been doing this. I’ve never been afraid to try things.”
Cutcliffe was asked about the possibility of position changes and while he said it was early, he isn’t ready to completely rule that out right now.
“I’m looking, not ready to go there. There will be some,” Cutcliffe said. “We’ve got to play some real football before we can really evaluate what our depth is and who we might want to look at on the other side of the ball or different spot.”
He indicated they are looking at how guys might work in different spots on either side of the ball and he is also feeling there could be a lot of combinations to look at in the secondary, the area most feel is the Blue Devils greatest weakness with not as much experience and virtually no experienced depth.
Overall he is pleased with where is his team is even though it is still very early and they are just in the first quarter of their training camp to get ready for the season.
“It’s early but yeah, with the progress we expect in two days in helmets and a day in shoulder pads you feel good about this team,” Cutcliffe said. “They are showing all the signs that they should show. It is easier to do; this is just the very beginning. We are far from the fourth quarter of camp. The fourth quarter of camp is like in ball games, that’s where you win.”