Signing Day: Duke’s Cutcliffe likes his recruits

According to Rivals, Mater Dei linebacker Ben Humphreys is the highest rated prospect in Duke’s class.
According to Rivals, Mater Dei linebacker Ben Humphreys is the highest rated prospect in Duke’s class. FOR THE REGISTER

Signing day is the equivalent of opening day in baseball: Optimism abounds.

Wednesday, Duke football coach David Cutcliffe shared his hopes and projections for several members of the Blue Devils’ 17-member class.

“We have taken playmakers,” he said. “We’ve really got some guys who can catch the football and do something with it afterward. We have a return element on offense. We have a quarterback that’s had a tremendous career, that’s a great, great leader, and I really like our offensive linemen. I think the versatility of the skill guys is pretty incredible.

“We’ll have a lot of fun piecing these guys into our defensive system and our offensive system. For some of these guys, it will be a battle just to figure out what side of the ball they’re on. Our defensive front has gotten bigger and stronger and faster.”

That pretty much covers it. Here is a bit more information on a few guys who could have major impacts if they continue to develop:

Ben Humphreys, LB: According to Rivals.com, Humphreys is the highest-rated prospect in Duke’s class. He is a consensus four-star recruit, and he shined in January’s U.S. Army All-American Bowl, with three tackles for loss and a 21-yard interception return for a touchdown, in addition to one forced and one recovered fumble. In high school, he also played wide receiver, catching 30 passes for 500 yards and nine touchdowns.

“He might be the most versatile defensive back-end that we’ve ever seen,” Cutcliffe said. “He has played in the secondary, he has played linebacker, he can come off the edges, he’s a great pass rusher. He has really great hands. He’s an outstanding baseball player. He’s got middle infielder-type hands and center fielder-like speed. I love athletes like that.”

T.J. Rahming, WR: Rahming is the other Army All-American in the class, and he, too, had a standout performance in the game, scoring on a 63-yard reception with a 41-yard run. Rahming caught 70 passes for 1,548 yards and 22 touchdowns his senior year – just 107 yards short of the Georgia high school season receiving yards record. He also returned a punt for a touchdown – he’ll have plenty of opportunities in the return game for Duke, too.

Rahming likely will wear No.3 for Duke, taking that number over from Jamison Crowder. The two have a similar frame (Rahming is listed at 5-foot-10). Cutcliffe is hoping they have similar careers.

“If you’ve ever seen T.J. play football,” Cutcliffe said, “I wouldn’t care if he was 133 pounds, I’d sign him.”

Quentin Harris, QB: Duke zeroed in on Harris early, and he committed in May. On Wednesday, Cutcliffe was asked why, given his reputation as a quarterback guru, he doesn’t try to sign higher profile, five-star signal-callers. Cutcliffe responded with what he liked about Harris.

“He was in camp two years ago, coming out of the 10th grade,” he said. “And he was here, our coaches had their hands on him. He has been here a bunch. He may be as good of leader – all his intangibles are just incredible. I went up to Taft (School in Watertown, Conn.), and I think he’s the president up there. I’m telling you, it’s pretty impressive. He is so highly thought of, and rightfully so.

“And he ran for us. It’s interesting, a lot of quarterbacks come here, and we even have quarterback camps, and they won’t run the 40-yard dash because they really don’t want you to know. People have advised them, don’t run. Quentin outran everyone we had in here, even at receiver.”

Austin Parker, P: Cutcliffe always has been serious about special teams – so serious that he used a scholarship to sign Parker, the heir apparent to redshirt senior punter Will Monday. Like Monday, Parker likely will redshirt, giving him a year to learn Duke’s system. Parker also was one of two signees from the state of North Carolina.

“This young man took his high school team to a state championship (semifinal) game as a quarterback,” Cutcliffe said. “He was a guard in basketball. An exceptional athlete and gifted in so many ways. He’s going to be a weapon.”

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer