Although Duke football head coach David Cutcliffe isn't spending December planning for a bowl game this year, that doesn't mean that he and his staff aren't hard at work preparing for the future of the program.
On Wednesday's Early National Signing Day, Duke announced a 16-player class ranging over eight states and every position group except for running back. Each member of the class ranks as at least a three-star recruit according to ESPN.
“I think diversity would be the way I would describe this class," Cutcliffe said. "Not enormously large in number, but starting with the offensive line and the defensive line, we helped ourselves. Size, strength and explosiveness.”
If there is a headliner prospect to this balanced class, it would have to be quarterback Luca Diamont, a California native rated as a four-star by ESPN and the 18th-ranked dual-threat signal-caller. Though a true freshman has never become a full-time starter under Cutcliffe, the Blue Devils' head coach anticipates Diamont to play a part in "a very competitive situation." The incoming freshman will battle with redshirt sophomore Gunnar Holmberg and redshirt junior Chris Katrenick for the starting quarterback position in 2020.
“He is a very versatile athlete, greed speed, a great arm," Cutcliffe said on Diamont. "He’s dedicated to the game. He’s a football junkie and I really love that about him. He’s worked all his life to be what he is today, and that’s a quarterback.”
The Blue Devils should start to see a boost in the trenches with linemen on both sides of the ball who have the size to compete in the ACC. On the defensive line, look for defensive tackle commit Aeneas Peebles to fly around the field with a tremendous blend of size and athleticism.
“I love the defensive line that we have coming in. And, of course Aeneas is a North Carolinian, coming in early.… He’s very explosive, and if you watch clips of him, you’ll see what I’m talking about. He’s got really good hands where defensive line play is more and more a big part of that, your hands and your ability to use them and combat.”
With the rest of the class, Cutcliffe highlighted many of the position groups, including a linebacking corps that "may be the quickest [Cutcliffe has] seen", a secondary full of "proven tacklers", and a group of pass catchers who are "dynamic with the ball."
Out of the 16 signees, five are expected to enroll at Duke early in January to get an early start with classes and spring practice, including Diamont and Peebles.
“It’s a very difficult thing,” Cutcliffe said on enrolling early. "You have to have room [on your roster] for that… If someone wants to that, i’m going to support it. But, I have a little bit of a problem taking the best people in a high school, the best leaders in a high school [away early].”
Cutcliffe also mentioned that with some current players opting not to return to Durham next fall as fifth-year seniors, the program does have the space to potentially add a couple more prospects to the recruiting class. He would like to target players for either the offensive line or secondary if he were to take another player.
“We’re well aware who didn’t sign [Wednesday] and what is happening in that regard," Cutcliffe explained. "In particular, people that we’ve been involved with over a long period of time. What I’m not likely to do is just go stab at somebody I don’t know. I’ve never seen those circumstances work out.”
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Regardless of whether or not this class is Duke's finished product, it is very evident that the Blue Devils continue to welcome more and more physical and athletic recruits every year, something that could elevate the program to new heights in the coming years.