Duke began fall practice August 2 and David Cutcliffe began his 12th season as Duke’s head coach. With the retirement of Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech Cutcliffe is the ACC’s longest-tenured head football coach.
How time flies. Twelve years is a lifetime in this business and Cutcliffe counts his blessings.
Cutcliffe was asked if being the veteran in the room was a good thing or a bad thing.
“It is great,” he responded. “Any coach who would answer that differently is a fool. It’s the hardest thing to do in our profession, is to stay at one place for very long. The benefits when people come out here and people know where to go, what to do, what to expect, that comes from length of time. I hope you guys know how pleased we are here. I love my surroundings here, the people included.”
It’s hard to draw a lot from one practice, especially one where players are not wearing pads. But Cutcliffe cited depth as a strength, especially on the defensive end of the ball.
But that depth did take a hit. All-ACC cornerback Mark Gilbert missed most of last season with a hip injury that required major surgery and significant rehab time. Duke hoped to have him back sooner rather than later this season but that timeline is in doubt. Gilbert had additional surgery this week, as did reserve running back Marvin Hubbard, who had ACL surgery last year.
“There were things that had to be addressed,” Cutcliffe said. “Not as major a surgery. More of a clean-up circumstance. We don’t know long-term outcomes. But they’re not out here. That’s the bottom line.”
There was better news on the Edgar Cerenord front. The NCAA granted the defensive tackle a sixth year after Achilles surgery ended his 2018 season.
Cerenord still hasn’t been cleared for full contact. But the trend lines are positive for a change.
“He had limited reps but he felt great,” Cutcliffe said. “He’s had a great summer. When you’re a big man like that it’s big for Edgar to get this day out of the way. I can run, I can chase, I can rush the passer. He had a smile on his face. He will be a significant part of this team.”
Cutcliffe said the key takeaway from opening day. “Everyone of us learns something we could have done better going in. What you find out is what you know from an assignment level. You really embrace your conditioning level, learn how to use your time. We had a good start. The third period of the day we were able to line up and go full speed teamwork and not bat an eye. It was good to see.”
Cutcliffe said they have been no significant position changes. Jacob Monk is still at right tackle, while Leonard Johnson remains at cornerback, both changes instituted late last spring.
Johnson had an interception off Quentin Harris. Johnson, who played safety last season, may have to make up for Gilbert’s absence at corner.
“You don’t have as much help over the top,” Johnson says of his new position, adding that “we have a lot of guys who can play different positions. We have some young guys.” Johnson cited freshman Jalen Alexander as one of those young guys who’s making a case for seeing the field.
Quentin Harris talked about the work he and his teammates did over the summer.
“We threw at least three times a week, twice during the week and once on the weekend as well, running the same routes that we’ll be running this fall. We did a lot of work over the summer. I’ve seen a lot of good things from our receivers.”
Harris says he likes where the program is going.
“We’re confident in our body of work. We expect to win. Our goal is to get to an ACC championship and then the playoffs. We’ve established a winning culture here and we expect to go to a bowl game.”