Duke

Scott Bracey top player in Duke football’s 2016 signing class

Duke football signing day

Duke football coach David Cutcliffe discusses the Blue Devils' 21-man recruiting class.
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Duke football coach David Cutcliffe discusses the Blue Devils' 21-man recruiting class.

Recruiting can be precarious at times for college football coaches, as Duke’s David Cutcliffe can attest.

Years ago, he once scared the bejabbers out of Randy Moss — and himself — flying the recruit through a snowstorm in a small plane for a recruiting visit. Cutcliffe wasn’t the pilot that day but it was a terrifying experience.

Things have changed. Cutcliffe said Wednesday he impressed Duke recruit Antone Williams in the mock cockpit of a jet at the Delta Flight Museum in Atlanta, explaining the pilots duties while “flying” the defensive back from Rome to Atlanta.

“It’s pretty cool to fly to Rome with a prospect,” Cutcliffe joked. “I don’t know if that’s an NCAA violation …”

Cutcliffe said a coach has to be imaginative as well as relentless in recruiting. Williams, from Woodward Academy in Atlanta, signed with the Blue Devils, joining Duke’s 21-player class announced Wednesday on national signing day.

Cutcliffe called the class “pure gold.” The class has two four-star recruits, according to 247 Sports — wide receiver Scott Bracey of Richmond, Va., and defensive back Dylan Singleton of Lawrenceville, Ga. — and Cutcliffe said he likes the overall athleticism and competitiveness of the group while stressing the 2016 signees were good people and good teammates.

The quality of the class is reflected in its ranking — No. 33 nationally by 247 Sports, fifth in the ACC. The Blue Devils, after an 8-5 season and their first bowl victory since 1961, finished ahead of their ACC neighbors in the Triangle — North Carolina (35th) and N.C. State (49th).

“Our goals are to sign 5-star people who are as good a players as they can possibly be,” Cutcliffe said. “I think there are some special athletes in (the class), some extremely special people. … It’s hard to say who’s going to help next year. You never know, but I think we have some young men ready to play and contribute out of this class.”

The Blue Devils had their 2016 class signed soon after 8 a.m. Wednesday. Cutcliffe said with that done, he was on the phone with more than two dozen 2017 recruits.

Cutcliffe, like most coaches, uses social media in recruiting. He handles his own Twitter account, he said, and direct messages recruits.

Cutcliffe, with a smile, noted that if he follows a player on Twitter and the recruit doesn’t follow him back, that saves a lot of time, trouble and money.

“People ask you what you do year-round and it would be this,” he said. “This is a 365 (day) thing.”

Best player

Scott Bracey, wide receiver: A consensus 4-star recruit, Bracey committed to Duke 18 months ago and has asked to play wide receiver. A quarterback his last two years of high school, the 6-2, 200-pound Bracey led Benedictine to Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association titles as a junior and senior, and Cutcliffe said his early commitment got the “rhythm going for this class ... You get an early commitment from a special player and no question … that can parlay into a tremendous class.”

Cutcliffe called Bracey a “natural” receiver who runs routes precisely and could give the Blue Devils the kind of big-play man they had in former wideout Jamison Crowder. Bracey, who rushed for 1,112 yards on 114 carries last season, also could be used in the wildcat scheme, the coach said.

Biggest need filled

Offensive, defensive lines: While the Blue Devils signed six defensive backs — the “cheetahs,” assistant coach Derek Jones calls them — Cutcliffe said there was a need on the offensive and defensive lines.

Duke has four signees — Robert Kraeling of Bishop, Ga., Jaylen Miller of Jacksonville, Fla., Julian Santos of East Lake, Fla., and Liam Smith of Little River, N.J. Miller is one of several dual-sport athletes in the Duke class, Cutcliffe said, and a basketball captain at Providence High.

Cutcliffe said the three defensive lineman recruited, like the four O-line signees, help balance out the overall team numbers.

Chip Alexander: 919-829-8945, @ice_chip

Duke signees

TE Mark Birmingham

3 stars

6-4

235

Ashburn, Va.

WR Scott Bracey

4 stars

6-2

200

Richmond Va.

RB Brittain Brown

3 stars

6-1

195

Canton, Ga.

RB Elijah Deveaux

3 stars

6-0

225

Waxhaw

LB Xander Gagnon

3 stars

6-3

225

Charlotte

DB Mark Gilbert

3 stars

6-1

175

Fayetteville

LB Brandon Hill

3 stars

6-3

220

Orangeburg, SC

DL James Hornbuckle-Smith

3 stars

6-4

235

Murray, Ky.

DB Myles Hudzick

3 stars

5-10

165

Reston, Va.

DB Javon Jackson

3 stars

5-11

180

Tyrone, Ga.

OL Robert Kraeling

3 stars

6-7

270

Bishop, Ga.

DL Terrell Lucas

3 stars

6-3

230

Hollywood, Fla.

OL Jaylen Miller

3 stars

6-3

315

Jacksonville, Fla.

DB Jacob Morgenstern

3 stars

6-3

215

New Canaan, Conn.

DL Chidi Okonya

3 stars

6-6

220

Riverdale, Ga.

LB Koby Quansah

3 stars

6-1

220

Manchester, Conn.

K AJ Reed

3 stars

5-11

175

Prattville, Ala.

OL Julian Santos

3 stars

6-3

315

East Lake, Fla.

DB Dylan Singleton

4 stars

5-11

190

Lawrenceville, Ga.

OL Liam Smith

3 stars

6-4

270

Little Silver, NJ

DB Antone Williams

3 stars

5-11

175

Atlanta

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