If head coach Ted Roof is going to turn the Duke football program around, Feb. 2, 2005 may be remembered as one of the most important dates in Duke football history.
Twenty-four football players from across the country solidified their commitments to play for the Blue Devils Wednesday by sending in their National Letters of Intent. Ranked among the nation"s top 30 by some recruiting analysts, the class is one of Duke"s best in decades.
'We wanted to recruit the best players in the country and recruit them hard and go after them and set our sights on getting the very best,' Roof said. 'I think it"s a big step for our football program in building a foundation.'
Duke"s class includes seven three-star players, two four-star players and one five-star player. In comparison, the Blue Devils" last three classes have combined to produce just five three-star recruits and one four-star prospect.
'I think recruiting is on the upswing,' Jamie Newberg, national scout.com analyst, said of the Duke program. 'Coach Roof has surrounded himself with guys like [Associate Head Coach] David Kelly, who know how to get out and get kids. I think this is a real good sign of things to come.'
The star of the class, defensive tackle Vince Oghobaase, is already on campus after graduating early from high school. At 6-foot-6 and 335 pounds, Oghobaase has both the size and the talent to make an immediate impact for the Blue Devils, Roof said. Oghobaase spurned Miami, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Arizona to become Duke"s first five-star football commitment since ranking prospects became popular.
'Obviously it was a big coup for us, as it came down to Miami, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M,' Roof said. 'I think Vince has a chance to be a very good football player.'
But Oghobaase is not the only defensive lineman in the class that the Blue Devils anticipate will contribute as soon as he arrives in Durham. The commitments of players like four-star defensive end Ayanga Okpokowuruk, three-star defensive end Clifford Respress, three-star defensive end Ryan Radloff, two-star defensive lineman Kinney Rucker, two-star defensive tackle Joe Suder and two-star defensive end Norman Gee combined to give Duke one of the nation"s top-10 incoming defensive lines, according to scout.com. Many of the linemen will have opportunities to play as freshmen and will add depth to a front line devastated by injuries last year, Roof said.
The recruiting class" next highest-profile position is place-kicker Joe Surgan, who was a Florida All-State selection and the nation"s No. 4 kicker on scout.com. Like the defensive linemen, Surgan will challenge immediately for the starting job. Inconsistencies in the kicking game cost Duke opportunities to beat Connecticut and Wake Forest last season.
Quarterbacks Gene Delle Donne and Zack Asack are the players from the class who will lead Blue Devil offenses down the field. The loss of Chris Dapolito to graduation and Duke"s failure to recruit a quarterback in two consecutive recruiting seasons made it imperative to take two signal-callers in this year"s class, Roof said.
And the two quarterbacks Roof signed both have the potential to challenge for playing time next season. Delle Donne, the Delaware State Player of the Year, has earned praise and accolades for his strong and accurate throwing arm. Asack, who is also a Massachusetts state champion in the 55-meter hurdles, has the ability to beat defenses with his arm and sub-4.5 40 speed. Both quarterbacks are three-star prospects and rank among the nation"s top 40 quarterbacks, according to scout.com.
Delle Donne and Asack will have plenty of weapons to throw to, as Duke inked two three-star running backs and a three-star athlete Wednesday as well. Marcus Jones played five positions in high school and could potentially be the Blue Devils" go-to guy in the red zone as a receiver or even as a dual-threat quarterback. He ranks among the top 45 receivers in the country.
Meanwhile, running back Clifford Harris is a second-team all-state selection in Louisiana after a senior campaign in which he rushed for 1,600 yards and 28 touchdowns as an option quarterback. In North Carolina, Re"Quan Boyette rushed for more than 1,900 yards his senior season, earning him a place among the state"s best players in the annual North Carolina-South Carolina Shrine Bowl. Harris is a top-40 running back, and Boyette rates among the nation"s top 100.
'Like every coach across America, we"re very excited about this year"s group and where we think we"re going with it,' Roof said.
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