DURHAM — The vast majority of Duke’s 2014 football class was committed before the Blue Devils played a game last season.
Imagine how excited those players are now.
Still, the Blue Devils were able to parlay their 2013 success into two impact players from south Florida. The pair Duke managed to find room for in the past two months – defensive tackle Edgar Cerenord (Plantation American Heritage) and wide receiver Trevon Lee (Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons) – have a strong chance to play next fall.
Lee, 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, is a four-star recruit in ESPN’s top 300 (No. 235 overall, 33rd at his position) who was high on Duke’s list at the beginning of the season. As the Blue Devils started (and kept) winning, eight in a row to claim the ACC’s Coastal Division championship, Duke coach David Cutcliffe could sense Lee’s interest building.
“South Florida recruiting, you’re liable to walk into a school and there will be 15 coaches at once,” Cutcliffe said. “So who are they going to listen to? Everybody likes a winner.”
There was no regret from the Duke staff that the class was virtually full last summer, with 13 of the 18 signees committed before Aug. 31 opener against N.C. Central. Three more committed before Duke went to Blacksburg and shocked then-No. 16 Virginia Tech on Oct. 26.
“If we’ve evaluated hard, if we’ve evaluated well, and we have to continue to do that, but if we fill up in the summer, I’m not going to have remorse,” Cutcliffe said.
This class, which Rivals.com ranked 58th nationally and tied with Wake Forest for last in the ACC, looks similar to last year’s – a group of mainly three-star players Cutcliffe believes his staff can coach into impact players. The Blue Devils won last year with mostly three-star players.
On a veteran team that returns nine starters on offense and six on defense, most of this class will have the luxury of developing for a few years before they are needed.
There are a few names to keep an eye out for this fall, however, following in the mold of a Bryon Fields (2013 three-star defensive back with no other BCS offers who played 630 snaps at corner last year) or DeVon Edwards (2012 two-star defensive back with no other Division I offers who became a freshman all-American, returning two kickoffs for touchdowns and intercepting key passes against North Carolina and N.C. State).
Cerenord, 6-1 and 300 pounds, was an Associated Press all-state pick for his classification (5A) and posted 74 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, five sacks and one interception as a senior. Cutcliffe was impressed with him off the field, too.
“Edgar Cerenord is a youngster that the more I found out about him, the more I liked him,” Cutcliffe said. “He was very quiet in the process. I thought, I’m just not connecting with him. What I found out about Edgar, Edgar might be one of the greatest listeners I’ve ever recruited.
“Probably a good lesson for all of us, if you’re a great listener, people like you a little bit more than if all they ever do is hear you talk.”
The Blue Devils are also excited about the other two players they recruited Florida: 6-2, 205-pound quarterback Nico Pierre (who will redshirt if all goes well but should be taking snaps for Duke in a few years) and 6-1, 170-pound receiver Chris Taylor, whom Cutcliffe specifically mentioned as a special talent, along with Lee.
One of the three North Carolina signees, 5-9, 180-pound running back Shaun Wilson from Charlotte West Mecklenburg, was also cited by Cutcliffe as a significant addition to the running game. Zavier Carmichael, a four-star recruit, according to ESPN, from Mobile, Ala., has the potential to be a linebacker-safety hybrid in the mold of Jeremy Cash.
The biggest need addressed by this class is along the offensive line, with five signees (33 percent of the class).
“You guys saw what our offense did as our line matured,” Cutcliffe said. “We’ve got some good young ones, but you can’t ever fall short there, you can’t play football in a good league because you’re going to face defensive linemen that are NFL quality.”
Duke’s recruiting will also mature, starting now as the hunt for members of the class of 2015 intensifies. The right four-star or elite player can be a game-changer, Cutcliffe said. With the Blue Devils’ recent success, more players like Lee and Cerenord could be coming their way.
“We’re all hunting a great player,” Cutcliffe said. “If you look at it, if you get what we think are two-three great players every year, and in three years you’ve got six to 10, you only have 11 on the field at one time.”
Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter: @laurakeeley