Duke's Holliday takes first steps since accident

August 21, 2012 

Duke receiver Blair Holliday


— When Blair Holliday was critically injured in a July 4 jet ski accident, no one knew what to expect as far as his recovery.

So far, he has exceeded even his doctor’s expectations, and Tuesday, he walked without assistance for the first time.

“They took his wheelchair away from him today,” Duke football coach David Cutcliffe said. “How great is that? And the reason they did it is because he is so tough.”

Holliday has set goals for himself, Cutcliffe said, and still has an uphill battle ahead of him. Holliday’s mom, Leslie, sends the team pictures every day.

“It’s definitely heartwarming to see the progress he is making,” Conner Vernon said. “I know he is going to make it, and we see what kind of fighter he really is. It goes both ways for us. It shows that if he can come through something like this, than we can deal with anything that takes place on a football field.”

•  The NCAA denied safety Jeremy Cash’s transfer waiver Tuesday. Cash, a sophomore, left Ohio State when Urban Meyer was hired and enrolled at Duke in January. He worked with the first-team defense in Duke’s scrimmage.

“I’m extremely disappointed and extremely upset,” Cutcliffe said. “ I would go as far as to say the entire ruling of transfers needs to be looked at pretty close. When we see people graduate because they’re backups somewhere and get beat out, and they transfer and are immediately eligible. When we see people quote ‘move closer to home,’ and they’re immediately eligible.

“I’m most disappointed for the young man because he has done absolutely everything we have asked him to here academically. Athletically, he has worked like a Trojan on that field, and he will continue to do that. But it hurts me for Jeremy because this is not right.”

•  Tuesday’s scrimmage, Duke’s last of the preseason, featured a perfect passing night from quarterback Sean Renfree. The redshirt senior went 10-for-10 for 235 yards and two touchdowns, including a 75-yard strike down the right to Vernon and a 15-yard pass to tight end Issac Blakeney. Laura Keeley

Fedora turns attention to defense

North Carolina coach Larry Fedora believes creating turnovers is a matter of the mind more than anything, that “if you believe you’re going to get turnovers on defense, you’re going to get turnovers on defense,” he said after practice earlier this week.

But it also helps to be in position to create turnovers, and Fedora’s team at Southern Miss a season ago often was. The Golden Eagles ranked second in the country – behind only Texas – in passes broken up, with 75.

Southern Miss intercepted 19 of those passes to rank sixth nationally. Emphasizing the importance of forcing turnovers has been a priority as much as anything else throughout Fedora’s first preseason with the Tar Heels.

“That’s something that our coaches are working on every day,” he said. “We talk about it every day. We do drills every day to emphasize turning the ball over, and getting balls taken away on defense.

“And not only that, but scoring on them.”

Southern Miss was good at that this past season, too. Of those 19 interceptions, the Golden Eagles returned eight for touchdowns. That set an NCAA record.

Fedora’s coaching roots are on the offensive side, but he doesn’t mind seeing a defense score – as long as it’s his own.

“I don’t want to just get it, I want to score with it,” he said. “I’d rather score with it on defense than have to go out on offense and do it.” Andrew Carter

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