After a 2020 season that left much to be desired, Duke now turns its focus toward next year’s squad.
This past Wednesday marked the beginning of a new season for programs that won’t be competing in a bowl game or conference championship. National Early Signing Day brings in a new wave of hope for these schools, including the Blue Devils.
“The class is very balanced. A lot of speed and athleticism, a lot of strength. I’m thrilled with both sides of the football,” head coach David Cutcliffe said in a press conference Wednesday. “[We] meet a lot of needs in this class, and just from a character standpoint, from an effort standpoint and an ability standpoint, we are absolutely thrilled.”
Duke’s initial wave of signings isn’t going to rocket the team atop the ACC, but there’s a lot for Blue Devil fans to be excited about.
As it stands right now, Duke’s class sits at No. 54 in the nation per 247Sports, an increase of nine spots from last year. Eighteen signees and two transfers make up the class, including Notre Dame defensive tackle Ja’Mion Franklin. None of the recruits or transfers eclipse a three-star rating, but many of them address immediate needs.
Chase Brice entering the transfer portal created a shortage of depth in the Blue Devil quarterback room alongside current redshirt sophomore Gunnar Holmberg and true freshman Luca Diamont. Enter Riley Leonard and Jordan Moore, who rank 20th and 29th among dual-threat quarterbacks, respectively, in the Class of 2021. Both can extend plays with their legs and use their athleticism in every facet of the game.
“The character of both of those young men [and] the intelligence of both of those young men is outstanding,” Cutcliffe said of Leonard and Moore. “And so they’re gonna be great leaders and great contributors to our program. There’s no doubt in my mind.”
On the other side of the ball, Duke gains four new cornerbacks to add depth to a position that was depleted by injuries this past season. That new group is led by Cameron Bergeron, the No. 59 corner in the class. Cutcliffe also emphasized the defensive line, with the addition of Franklin helping make up for the likely losses of star defensive ends Victor Dimukeje and Chris Rumph II.
Overall, this year’s recruiting process was anything but normal. Cutcliffe and his staff had to swap out home visits and family dinners for Zoom meetings and text conversations in order to lock down his 18 new players. The new process was a challenge for every program, but especially Cutcliffe, who prides himself on being able to make personal connections with players before they even set foot on campus.
“It’s an unusual circumstance when you haven’t seen any of these young people in person in quite some time,” Cutcliffe said. “Not [being] able [to do] one of my favorite parts of recruiting—home visits and going into the home, meeting all of the family and extended family and spending an evening with them. Without that, it’s been really unique.”
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