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Cutcliffe On Duke’s Pre-Season Progress And A Lot More

It’s good when the coach is getting excited

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 30 Miami at Duke
DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 30: Miami Hurricanes cornerback Te’Cory Couch (23) attempts to make a tackle on Duke Blue Devils wide receiver Damond Philyaw-Johnson (85) during an ACC football game between the Duke Blue Devils and the Miami Hurricanes on November 30, 2019 at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, NC.
Photo by John McCreary/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

David Cutcliffe met with the media Friday afternoon in a free-wheeling conversation that touched on lots of topics.

Not all of them football.

Back last May Cutcliffe released a statement on the social-justice movement I’ll refer to as Black Lives Matter for sake of simplicity. Cutcliffe acknowledged that he was “not much of a fan of tweeting my opinions on social issues” but followed with a demand for “real change.”

That was three months ago, back when Duke’s program was scattered to the seven winds.

Now they’re back in Durham and Cutcliffe confirmed that Black Lives Matter conversations with his team are on-going.

“We actually met this morning for an hour and that was the topic of conversation, growth, learning, togetherness, a focus on how we all can make a difference. When you’re a football coach you’re dealing with the next generation, always. One of our jobs is to help them understand how they can be effective going forward. . . . I love listening to them, I love letting our coaches talk and reflect on their past and it’s just a continuation of growth.”

Cutcliffe added that he was “excited” at Thursday’s rally, “looking at how many student-athletes were out there together.”

He also threw in words like “private conversation,” “fluid” and “I don’t think it goes away. Growth comes day to day, from how you live your life.”

It certainly doesn’t seem like any kind of collective action by the football team is on the horizon.

Back to more mundane stuff.

College-football coaches seemed to have decided some time ago that some advantage accrues the longer one waits to announce the starting quarterback, or even the pecking order.

So, nothing announced. Chris Katrenick was praised for his understanding of the system, Gunnar Holmberg for his running ability and Chase Brice for, well being able to throw the ball; specifically Brice is “throwing the ball exceptionally well” a trait that Cutcliffe later suggested mattered a lot.

The offense is pretty healthy, with wide receiver Damond Philyaw-Johnson and tight end Noah Gray coming in for praise.

Cutcliffe seemed most pleased with the development of his offensive line, which he says is ahead of last year’s unit. A cynic might say that’s setting the bar low but Cutcliffe said that 10 offensive linemen are competing for playing time. Casey Holman and Jacob Monk were Duke’s starting offensive tackles last season but both are getting looks inside, not only at guard but even at center in what Cutcliffe calls a “what-if” scenario.

On the defensive side of the ball linebacker Rocky Shelton has been “really outstanding” and has emerged as the clear second starter, alongside Shaka Heyward.

Veteran defensive linemen Derrick Tangelo, Victor Dimukeje, Chris Rumph and Drew Jordan came in for praise, as one would expect, along with generic comments about the young defensive linemen competing. It appears that none of the youngsters has yet to separate himself from the pack.

Cornerback Mark Gilbert and safety Lummie Young have been banged up but are still practicing, just with no contact. And Gilbert’s injury is an upper-body injury not related to his earlier hip issues. So, it’s okay to exhale.

Safety Marquis Waters has emerged as the leader of the secondary.

Charlie Ham has kicked well but is dealing with some leg tightness, so he’s being closely monitored. Recruited redshirt freshman Porter Wilson and walk-on Jackson Hubbard are fighting it out to take Austin Parker’s punting spot.

Hubbard and snapper John Taylor have been awarded scholarships.

A final word about depth charts. Using words like “fluid” and flexible,” Cutcliffe implied that the depth chart might go the way of the Thursday injury report.

Cutcliffe says Duke is ready to play a game right now. But another Saturday scrimmage is what they have to look forward to.