Hello there, reader. I’m going to try something new this year—a weekly Tuesday notes column throughout football season. Tuesday is a logical day for this, as it’s the day of the week we the media speak to both players and head coach David Cutcliffe. As for the title, I’ll try to have at least three points each week. Some week (like this one) there will be more.
I have this internal debate when it comes to notes columns in general—I don’t want to waste any material that might make it into a larger story in a note. And I don’t like the idea of repeating quotes, if it’s at all avoidable—I like everything I write to feel fresh. So, basically, this is just a forewarning that this whole thing might continue to be a work in progress for a while. Maybe at some point I’ll add some video! We shall see.
I’ll also use it to highlight some story links you may have missed. And today’s paper was full of Duke football information
***The main preview story for the 2014 Duke football season was on redshirt senior offensive guard Laken Tomlinson. There are so many interesting aspects to Tomlinson’s story that it’s real hard to sum it up in just one tweet.
Here are a few bullet points instead.
*He came to Chicago from Jamaica when he was 10. When his uncle suggested he play football, Tomlinson thought he was referring to "soccer."
*His grandfather’s death in Jamaica—which Tomlinson believes could have been prevented had he been in the U.S.—inspired him to become a doctor.
*Just to get to high school everyday, Tomlinson would walk (in the Chicago cold) to the bus stop, ride a bus, get off at a train station and then take a train.
*Tomlinson’s mentor, Bob Sperling, was on the board of trustees at Illinois and was instrumental in the hiring of Ron Zook. Despite this, he acted against his own self-interest and didn’t steer Tomlinson to the Illini. Pretty selfless.
*And, yeah, Tomlinson is a pretty good football player, too. Duke hasn’t had a player go in the first three rounds of the NFL draft since 1999—a streak Tomlinson has a good chance to break.
It’s truly an inspirational tale.
***If you want a visual for Tomlinson’s piece, this YouTube video of him signing his letter of intent for Duke as a senior in high school is pretty moving.
***Also in the preview section, a look at what trends and conclusions can be drawn from Anthony Boone’s 13 interceptions last year
***At the bottom of the Tomlinson story were some nuts and bolts, best- and worst-case scenario outlooks for the Blue Devils
Onto the notes!
***This is actually a holdover from last week, but it goes to illustrate my thoughts on LB Kelby Brown’s injury being the difference between Duke winning the division and not.
"Kelby has been the difference for us every year that he has been able to play," Cutcliffe said. "If you’ll watch, you can even just go back and look at the games. He is a unique, all-coherence football player every time he steps on the field."
As you know, David Helton is taking Brown’s spot at the Mike, and, for now, redshirt senior C.J. France is starting where Helton did last year at the Will. Keep an eye on redshirt freshman Chris Holmes, who is listed as France’s backup. The former safety was limited in camp with a hamstring injury, so he is not as far along as the coaching staff would have hoped. Still, he should see the field for the first time Saturday.
***Three freshman that I would be the house on playing Saturday: RB Shaun Wilson and CBs Alonzo Saxton II and Zach Muñiz. The latter two are listed as the backups at CB behind sophomores Breon Borders and Bryon Fields. Fields and Borders played well last year, so I have a hard time imagining either freshmen being much better. Regardless, sounds like the Blue Devils are set at that position for awhile.
***Probably not a big surprise, but QB Anthony Boone, in as many words, called D.J. Reeves the better blocker and Erich Schneider the better route runner at tight end. Reeves has 15 pounds on Schneider, a former wide receiver (6-foot-5, 255 for Reeves versus 6-foot-7, 240 pounds for Schneider). Both will be used to replace Braxton Deaver, who is out for the year with a torn ACL.
While I think the loss of Brown is the biggest deal, Boone iterated the magnitude of the loss of Deaver, too. The two of them have been playing together since middle school, and he was Boone’s second-most used target last year (behind Jamison Crowder).
"It’s a big blow, just emotionally and mentally," Boone said. "He brought a lot of energy to our offense. But it’s one of things where it’s college football. It’s football, period, you have to be deep in this league to be effective."
Or, in the preferred words of Duke sports information director Art Chase, that’s why they give you 85 scholarships.
***When asked about the gap between Jameis Winston and the rest of the ACC quarterbacks, Boone had this to say:
"As a competitive, you want to be the best on your team, you want to be the best in the league," he said. "That’s something that I’ve taken into account this summer. I competed a little bit with him (Winston) at the Manning Passing Academy. Every time he threw, I was trying to be next to him, seeing each other, and we’d talk about it. The last thing he told me was, ‘I’ll see you in Charlotte.’"
That’s an ACC Championship game reference, in case you missed it.
*** Thomas Sirk is the clear No. 2 quarterback, Cutcliffe said. Sirk also might be the fastest quarterback Cutcliffe has ever had, period. If Parker Boehme is going to see the field this year, it’s most likely to happen Saturday.
*** Josh Snead said a friend of his made these custom Duke shoes for him. Something you don’t see every day.
A better picture of Josh Snead's customized Duke shoes pic.twitter.com/lHEvnG5hsu— Laura Keeley (@laurakeeley) August 26, 2014
***Back to Boone quickly. In the reporting for the story on his interceptions, he mentioned that a few of them were due to failure of what they call " Peyton Manning"—knowing where the quarterback wants to throw the ball and where the receiver is supposed to be.
"If Jamison is running a curl route, he is running it through 10, and then he is coming back to me, and I’m seeing his indicator, and I’m throwing it right at a spot," Boone said. "That’s what we call Peyton Manning. When you watch Peyton work, it may not be the prettiest spiral, but every ball thrown is right where a receiver knows it is going to be."
Just interesting to know that Cutcliffe’s most famous protégée is still actively remembered at his practices.
***Coming soon: the third annual breakdown of Duke’s schedule with games ranked in order of difficulty. This debuted my first year on the beat in 2012 and continued last year. Pittsburgh was in the wrong place, but I’m pretty alright with the rest of it.