For the first time this season, head coach David Cutcliffe held his weekly press conference. Here are some highlights from his 30-minute Q&A. The Blue Devils open their 2012 campaign this Saturday at 7 p.m. against Florida International.
Injuries will leave Duke short-handed in season-opener.
According to Cutcliffe, Duke will have 12 scholarship players unavailable for the Blue Devils' season-opening matchup with the Golden Panthers, for what the coach described as "due to injury or whatever reason." Cutcliffe also cited that two other players' eligibility will be questionable for Saturday, and with the loss of Blair Holliday from his jet skiing accident, the Duke could be forced to face FIU with as few as 70 scholarship players on the field, as opposed to the usual 85 players.
Blue Devils name four captains for the 2012 season.
Fifth-year senior quarterback Sean Renfree, senior wide receiver Conner Vernon, redshirt junior cornerback Ross Cockrell and senior safety Walt Canty will serve as Duke's captains this year. Cutcliffe lauded his captains for both their dedication to the team and leadership abilities and added that a large number of players received votes for captain.
"It made me realize as I was looking at those this morning how many fine young men and fine leaders this team have," Cutcliffe said. "We're leaning on this fact because of the adversity we have face. We've got some big shoulders to stand on on this team."
"They're as fast as anybody we'll play this year."--Cutcliffe
Coach Cutcliffe was wary of FIU's speed and experience on both sides of the ball, calling Duke's matchup with the Golden Panthers "the toughest non-conference opener in the ACC." After a tough loss to open the 2011 season against Richmond, Cutcliffe hoped his players would play up to a higher level of competition in week one.
"You want to see a really good football game? There's going to be one out here on Saturday night," Cutcliffe said.
"There's no question that this is the best stable of backs that we've had since we've been here."
Emphasizing the importance of the running game this year, Cutcliffe cited his depth at running back as a major strength the Blue Devils have not had in the past. Juwan Thompson sits first on the depth chart and will lead the way as the season begins, and the team is glad to have redshirt sophomore Josh Snead back in action after an injury-plagued 2011 season.
Senior Desmond Scott has moved from running back and will start as the team's slot receiver, but will still see time and touches in the backfield on occasion. Brandon Connette, who served as a backup quarterback last season, will also play running back and fullback this year in addition to seeing time at quarterback, wide receiver and tight end as well. Shaquille Powell rounds out the bunch–as one of nine true freshmen to suit up for Duke this season, Powell has looked promising in training camp. A native of Las Vegas, Powell will have chances to make an impact on the field during his first year and could make his way up the depth chart later in the season.
Cutcliffe and members of Duke coaching staff to visit Blair Holliday tomorrow in Atlanta.
The team announced Tuesday that members of the Blue Devil coaching staff will fly to Atlanta tomorrow afternoon to visit wide receiver Blair Holliday, who is currently recovering from a near-fatal jet skiing accident he suffered in July. Holliday is now beginning to walk and has remained in contact with his coaches and teammates. The Duke staff are hopeful that Holliday may be able to move from Atlanta's Shepherd Center to an outpatient facility in the near future to continue his rehabilitation.