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David Cutcliffe To Take Over Play-Calling For Duke

A major change for Duke football

NCAA Football: Duke at Virginia
 Oct 19, 2019; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Duke Blue Devils head coach David Cutcliffe looks on against the Virginia Cavaliers in the first quarter at Scott Stadium. 
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

David Cutcliffe talked to the media Wednesday via teleconference.

The ostensible reason was the February signing day.

But the big news was his announcement that he’ll be taking over play-calling responsibilities, with Zac Roper retaining his role as quarterback coach.

Cutcliffe did so without any overt criticism of Roper.

“I needed it,” he said, adding that he missed calling the plays and had been wanting to get back into the role for some time.

“I can’t do this as a consultant. I have to be all in.”

That’s how you avoid throwing someone under the bus.

Cutcliffe also praised new offensive line coach Greg Frey, whom he described as a physical, old-school coach who specializes in teaching run blocking.

The new guys?

Duke only announced the February signing of center Addison Penn, whose commitment has long been known. Cutcliffe said the kind of nice things one would expect him to say. But assuming Jack Wohlabaugh’s ankle problems are behind him, Wohlabaugh and backup Will Taylor should have that position covered next fall.

Look for Penn to redshirt.

That appears to be it for late incoming freshmen. Cutcliffe didn’t categorically rule out signing anyone else but it looks like Duke lost some late recruiting battles.

Duke is bringing in three grad-student transfers.

Quarterback is the highest-profile position on a football team, which makes Chase Brice the highest-profile of the three.

Brice is still enrolled at Clemson, from where he will graduate in May before enrolling at Duke over the summer.

But in some respects he’s already a member of the Duke program. He will attend Duke’s spring game and is being brought up to speed on Duke’s personnel and schemes through video-conferencing and other aspects of our high-tech universe.

Cutcliffe says Brice is “a perfect fit for what we do here” and is a “football junkie.”

Three of his prep teammates are already at Duke, twins Will and John Taylor and Jalen Alexander.

But Cutcliffe emphasized that no promises were made and that Brice would have to come in and win the job over whomever comes out of spring ball as first team.

And we have no idea who that will be. Luca Diamont, Chris Katrenick and Gunnar Holmberg will all be given the chance in the spring.

Devery Hamilton played mostly guard at Stanford. However, Cutcliffe describes the 6-7, 300-pounder as a tackle at Duke, no offense to Stanford. Cutcliffe called Hamilton “a big tackle, rangy, strong” and says he will provide “immediate help.”

Duke returns both starting tackles, Casey Holman and Jacob Monk. But Monk was recruited to be an interior lineman and it makes sense that Hamilton’s arrival will allow Duke to move Monk inside to fill Zach Baker’s guard spot.

Cutcliffe said such a decision would not come without consulting with Frey.

Hamilton also won’t arrive until the summer. His prep coach at Gilman High School in Baltimore was former Duke lineman Biff Poggi, so there is a comfort level.

It was Poggi who alerted Duke that Hamilton would be entering the transfer portal.

Safety J’Marick Woods is already at school and will participate in spring ball, where he has a good chance to take Dylan Singleton’s safety spot.

Cutcliffe confirmed that cornerback Mark Gilbert is running and “looks really good. He’s a warrior.”

Gilbert hasn’t been cleared for contact yet, but the trend lines are positive.

Cutcliffe also confirmed that Daniel Jones, Jamison Crowder, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton are working out at Duke.

Duke is still finalizing the dates for spring football.