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With Extra Time To Prep, Duke Looks Ahead To Virginia Tech

The Hokies aren’t all the way but they’re making progress.

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NCAA Football: Duke at Middle Tennessee
 Sep 14, 2019; Murfreesboro, TN, USA; Duke Blue Devils head coach David Cutcliffe during warm ups prior to the game against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at Johnny Red Floyd Stadium. 
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Duke has a week off before playing Virginia Tech next week.

Well, not really. There is extra time to nurse the wounded back to health. But there’s also extra time to prepare for the Hokies

“We have to work,” David Cutcliffe told the media Thursday. “We know that. But we’ve been able to get work we needed, a lot of it Virginia Tech but a lot of it Duke-based things that we can self scout and look at and improve. And we can rest certain players. Noah Gray needed a break; it gives Brittain [Brown] more of a chance to heal. We’ll see what a week brings us in that regard.”

Duke plays VT next Friday, not Saturday, which messes things up even more.

“This is the most unusual open date because tomorrow is our Sunday. So we will start tomorrow morning with our Sunday-style practice so Saturday will be Monday. I will not know what day it is next Tuesday.”

Cutcliffe says Brown is not practicing and his return is TBD.

“We’re waiting. It’s day-to-day. Just trying to get him to where he can go again.”

Mataeo Durant is playing well in Brown’s absence but Duke may have to go with Durant and Deon Jackson for awhile. Marvin Hubbard is still rehabbing from several surgeries and true freshmen Jaylen Coleman and Jordan Waters are still learning the ropes.

“How much they play remains to be seen” Cutcliffe says.

The news is better on the wide-receiver front. Jake Bobo is practicing without restrictions and Cutcliffe says the sophomore can be Duke’s jack-of-all-trades.

“We’re kind of rolling Jake in a lot of places,” Cutcliffe said. “Jake can fit in in a lot of spots. In our empty package, he can play almost all of them. He will play some slot.”

Duke is building depth at the position.

“We’ll keep Jalon Calhoun on the field. I love where Eli Pancol is coming. I hope Dennis Harding is stepping into that role, Dennis Smith [also]. I told Trooper [wide receiver coach Taylor] we’re going to try to play those guys if they earn the opportunity. I want to keep them hungry. But you’ve got to play Jalon when he’s playing like he is.”

Redshirt senior receiver Aaron Young is putting it together early. Young missed most of last season with hamstring issues but a candid Cutcliffe indicated that there was more than that going on.

“Aaron’s an interesting young man, a complex thinker. We’re trying to keep him on the top side of things, to always being a person that’s an optimist. . . . He’s matured. He’s been through an injury, had some emotional times where he’s not sure what’s he’s going to do. . . . Just come out here and focus on your work. You’ve got enough with the amount of work we have to do. If you’re carrying some other stuff, it’s going to eat you up. . . . I think it’s less about the hamstring and more about emotional stuff.”

Other notes.

After 12 years of going against Bud Foster coached defenses, Cutcliffe says there are “not going to be a lot of secrets.”

Lots of competition at offensive line. The young guys are playing better than expected but the veterans who lost starting jobs are fighting to get them back. Asked about Robert Kraeling, Cutcliffe responded “he has no choice. You’ve got to compete, you’ve got to be consistent.”

Duke is working Kraeling at both tackle and guard.

Daniel Jones, Eli Manning and the New York Giants? For the time being at least Cutcliffe is sticking with the statement he released earlier in the week.

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