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Plagued by injuries, Duke ends spring workouts

The football team wrapped up a spring practice season Wednesday that was replete with injury and burdened with the difficult task of adjusting to a new offensive coordinator. Despite the challenges team has faced during preliminary workouts for the 2005 season, head coach Ted Roof’s outlook for the fall remains positive.

“Overall, I’ve been pleased with the enthusiasm and effort I’ve seen at practice,” Roof said. “We’ve been missing several players due to injury, but it’s allowed some of the guys who maybe hadn’t gotten many reps last season a chance to play.”

One of the players sidelined by injury is Duke’s top recruit Vince Oghobaase. After suffering a torn medial collateral ligament during the course of spring practice, the defensive end was unable to work out with the team. Oghobaase graduated from high school early and enrolled at Duke in January to acquaint himself with the Blue Devils.

The highly-anticipated Oghobaase was ranked seventh nationally among defensive tackles by scout.com as a high school senior, and Roof said he had been performing well in practice before his injury.

“I can’t say much more except that I expect everybody that’s hurt right now to be ready for the season,” Roof said.

As a result of injuries to several anticipated Blue Devil starters, backup players received an opportunity to spend more time on the field this spring. Roof anticipates this circumstance will improve the team’s depth next season, which he cites as one of the major problems Duke combatted last year.

Another issue the Blue Devils dealt with in 2004 was a lackluster offense. Consequently, one of the main focuses of spring practice was introducing new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien’s system. O’Brien, a former Maryland running backs coach, replaced Marty Galbraith at the position in early January.

“It’s going to be a multiple offense,” O’Brien said in January. “It’s based really on how much the quarterback has learned and how well the quarterback can play.”

Roof said junior signal-caller Mike Schneider demonstrated leadership during spring practice and committed himself to learning the plays in O’Brien’s offense.

“I’ve been pleased with the way players have worked to pick it up,” Roof said. “We’ll continue to rep it until we get it right.”

Roof expects wide receiver Ronnie Elliott, tight end Ben Patrick and tailback Ronnie Drummer to lead the Blue Devil offense. Roof said he hopes the movement of rising senior Malcolm Ruff from linebacker to fullback will add a new dimension to the Duke running game.

Other players who impressed Roof over the past month were defensive end Eli Nichols and linebacker Patrick Bailey, who is learning the position after transitioning from defensive end. The coach said he was also excited by the overall performance of the secondary.

“We’ve got a lot of work left to do,” Roof said. “But when people are passionate and excited, that’s a fun environment to be around.”

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