When David Cutcliffe accepted the head coaching job at Duke in 2007, he inherited a team that had posted a 2-33 record in the previous three seasons. Five seasons later, Cutcliffe guided the Blue Devils to their first bowl appearance since 1994.
Now that Duke has broken the fourth-longest bowl drought in the FBS, Cutcliffe’s goal shifts from making bowl games to winning them, and competing for ACC championships in the process. And as the Blue Devils aim for higher performance on the field, it appears they are doing the same on the recruiting trail.
Cutcliffe earned his highest-profile recruit in his tenure with the Blue Devils Wednesday with a verbal commitment Wednesday from four-star quarterback Nico Pierre, ranked the No. 256 player in the Class of 2014 in the ESPN 300.
“I felt so comfortable that I knew it was the right choice for me, so I committed, and everybody was so excited,” Pierre said. “Committing wasn’t originally on my mind, but Duke is where I think I’ll be the most successful for my next four years.”
Pierre, who ESPN ranks as the seventh-best dual-threat quarterback in next year’s recruiting class, turned down offers from Wisconsin, Nebraska and Wake Forest to play for Duke in the fall of 2014. He is Cutcliffe’s first ESPN 300 commit during his time at Duke, and just his third commitment from a four-star prospect.
The Miami product, who stars at Coral Reef High School, is no stranger to a rebuilding program. The Barracudas had posted a 2-38 record in four seasons before head coach Chevas Clements took over five seasons ago. Pierre, who was Clements’ first major recruit now, has led Coral Reef to winning seasons in each of the last three years and could have the Barracudas vying for a state title in his senior campaign.
After he graduates from Coral Reef, Pierre will join a Duke program that has taken a strikingly similar journey in the last five seasons, but hopes to help the Blue Devils take their next step forward as a program.
“I would have loved to go to a big-name program, but I really wanted to go to a program on the rise and be one of the key impact players to helping them be one of the top teams in the nation,” Pierre said.
Clements did not hesitate to give credit to Scottie Montgomery, Duke’s new offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach, who spearheaded Pierre’s recruitment. Montgomery played a key role in recruiting during his first stint as a coach with the Blue Devils from 2006-09
Pierre’s visit to Duke last week was the first time he had set foot on campus. The Blue Devil commit said he was taken aback by campus’ architecture and renovation plans for Wallace Wade Stadium, but Pierre also mentioned academics as one of his main draws to the institution, citing Duke’s certificate program in markets and management studies as one of his potential areas of interest.
“Academically, Duke is off the charts—it’s a prestigious university,” Clements said. “And [Pierre] does plan to be there the entire time.”
Quarterbacks who suit up for Duke head coach David Cutcliffe on Saturdays during their college career have a knack for seeing the field on Sundays in the NFL as well. With a quarterback resume that includes Peyton and Eli Manning, Cutcliffe’s history of developing signal-callers speaks for itself.
When former Blue Devil Sean Renfree signed a two-year contract with the Atlanta Falcons Wednesday, the 2013 NFL draft pick became the seventh consecutive starting quarterback Cutcliffe has guided to the NFL.
Pierre said that Cutcliffe’s history of developing professional-caliber quarterbacks was a huge factor when weighing his list of suitors.
“He’s a very strong quarterbacks coach—he knows what’s he’s talking about,” Pierre said of Cutcliffe. “The majority of his quarterbacks have played in the NFL and are successful people in life. That’s tells you what type of coach he is.”
Pierre’s commitment is the exclamation point on what has been a successful summer for Duke on the recruiting trail. With commitments from Pierre and three-star defensive end Taariq Shabazz in the past week, the Blue Devils have already amassed 13 commitments for the Class of 2014.
Duke’s next recruiting class also includes another four-star prospect in Mobile, Ala. linebacker Zavier Carmichael, and a second highly-touted quarterback, Graham, N.C. signal-caller Johnathan Lloyd, who turned down offers from Notre Dame and Ohio State to play both football and baseball for the Blue Devils.
Clements said that with Pierre committed for the Class of 2014, a number of other high-profile commits could want to follow the quarterback to Durham. Duke only has a few available scholarships remaining for its next recruiting class, but among its priorities is another high-caliber target from South Florida—Cardinal Gibbons wide receiver Trevon Lee, who is ranked No. 228 in the ESPN 300.
“[Pierre is] well known in these parts. Our school is well known. He’ll be seen, we’ll be deep in the playoffs and he’ll be attached to Duke,” Clements said. “I already know there are some prospects that that have been contacted and are being told to take a good look at Duke. I think it will have an enormous impact on the program.”