Coming off its first bowl game in 18 years, Coach David Cutcliffe has the Blue Devils football program riding high. While he hasn’t been able to land the big fish that some of the other schools in the conference can, through a stable coaching staff and the selection of the right players to fit Duke’s style of play, new levels of success have been realized for what was once the worst FBS program in America.
Improvements to the football facilities began in earnest around the time Cutcliffe arrived and have been noticeably picking up steam over the last few seasons. The installation of the Pascal Field House, Duke’s full length indoor practice structure, is a tangible piece of evidence that Cutcliffe can use to show recruits that the school is serious about competitive football. Wallace Wade enhancements are coming and what was once a football power decades ago is slowly but surely being resurrected. None of the success that Duke has seen would be possible without bringing in talented players, and the class of players that just graduated (Cutcliffe’s first group) played a huge part in getting Duke to the Belk Bowl this past December.
The beauty of college athletics is that every four years (or five in college football) the players wearing the jerseys are rotated over. Sean Renfree and Conner Vernon are gone now, and there are a number of young guys on the roster who will try to fill their shoes. There are at least 20 guys who get the chance to wear that Duke jersey next season, and at least 14 of them will be signing their Letters Of Intent on February 6th. I say at least because there is the chance for Duke to pull a couple of signing day surprises as they did last year with in-state stars Keilin Rayner and Jela Duncan.
The class so far looks strong, with the majority of players being brought in to play in the defensive backfield. Because of the defensive scheme that Duke employs, the 4-2-5, defensive backs are needed in bunches. Just this year, Duke is losing starters Walt Canty (safety), Jordon Byas (S), Lee Butler (cornerback), Tony Foster (CB), Taylor Sowell (S), Chris Tavarez (S) and Tim Burton (CB). Next season they lose Ross Cockrell (CB), Brandon Braxton (S), Garrett Patterson (S) and Anthony Young-Wiseman (S).
Because of that many departures in the secondary, Duke loaded up on them in this year’s recruiting class. Of Duke’s 20 commits, 8 of them will play either safety or cornerback. Evrett Edwards, Chris Holmes, Deondre Singleton, Jake Kite, Breon Borders, Bryon Fields, Philip Carter and Dequavais Mann round out the group. Mann and Edwards were early enrollees, so they won’t be signing an LOI on the 6th but the other six will.
The rest of the defensive recruits are former Tennessee commit Dominic McDonald (Linebacker) and Mike Ramsay, a 6’3″ 260 lb defensive tackle. McDonald is the third of four early enrollees.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Blue Devils filled some positions of need. At the skill positions, the Blue Devils will add three wide receivers – TJ Douglas, Terrence Alls and Johnell Barnes and at running back Joseph Ajeigbe. The offensive line will also get a boost with three very large young men in 6’7″ Sterling Korona, 6’6″ Gabe Brandner and 6’4″ Austin Davis. Quarterback Parker Boehme, the fourth early enrollee, and Quayshawn Chambers will likely redshirt as Duke has both Thomas Sirk and Anthony Boone manning the QB position for the next four years.
I’ll link breakdowns of the positions over the next five days until Signing Day on February 6th below:
Skill Positions (Wide Receivers and Running Backs)
Offensive and Defensive Lineman
Defensive Backs and Linebackers