With the season close, Duke football players counting down the days

Posted by Laura Keeley on July 15, 2014 

Dezmond Johnson will likely fill one of Duke's open defensive end starting spots.


Football season is just around the corner. Forty-six days away, according to the Blue Devils’ countdown to kickoff against Elon. Head coach David Cutcliffe chuckled at that.

"I didn’t have the heart to tell them that it’s a lot less time until practice report date, August 3rd," Cutcliffe said. "Do the math, that one’s not very hard."

The Blue Devils were together Tuesday morning for their annual campus cleanup day, which puts into action one of Cutcliffe’s life philosophies: leave a place better than you found it. After the garbage bags had been loaded into the dump truck, a few players chatted with us scribes. Some highlights.

***Junior defensive tackle Carlos Wray provided what will from here on be known as the 2014 Duke football slogan: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. He was referring to continuing to work as hard as the Blue Devils have in previous offseasons. But it works for the season as a whole, as much of the cast from last year (eight returning offensive starters and seven returning defensive ones) is still around.

"If we change something, we might be 3-9 again or 0-12," Wray said. "We have to learn that nothing changes for us, we just keep working hard and setting new goals."

About those goals…

"We still haven’t won a bowl game," Wray said. "We made it to the ACC Championship game, but that’s not enough for us. We want to win it, whether it’s Florida State, Clemson or whoever. And when we go to our bowl game, we want to win it, whether we’re playing LSU or Florida or whoever. There are still goals that we haven't met yet, and there are still goals that we haven’t set."

***Wray is a leading candidate to earn one of the open starting spots on the defensive line. Just one starter, nose guard Jamal Bruce, returns to the four-man line. Wray is also listed as a nose guard, but look for one of the two to shift into a tackle spot. Wray played in all 14 games in 2013, recording 31 tackles, four quarterback hurries and 0.5 tackles for loss.

***Redshirt senior defensive end Dezmond Johnson will likely fill a starting spot as well. Johnson has appeared in 38 games with six previous starts (though none last year, a testament to the good fortune Duke had with health). He leads all returning defensive linemen with 65 career tackles.

He offered his thoughts on other potential defensive line standouts.

"Carlos Wray, who is a young guy but has game experience, is moving up," he said. " (Senior DE) Jonathan Jones is another young guy that has some experience that is moving up and improving. Even some of our young guys, Mike Ramsey, and the incoming freshmen even look good, Taariq Shabazz and Edgar (Cerenord)."

***In attempts to preemptively kill an empty talking point, redshirt freshman running back Joe Ajeigbe on what he expects from the offense this season (remember, offensive coordinator Kurt Roper left for Florida, and Scottie Montgomery moved up from receivers coach to fill his spot):

"It’s the same offense," Ajeigbe said. "Coach Mo wanted to keep it the same thing, not change up too much on us. Everybody is pretty familiar with the offense, so we haven’t really changed too much."

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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