The high temperatures and a three-digit heat index haven’t kept Duke’s Blue Devils off their new practice fields in fall camp.
“The heat has certainly been an issue,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said Wednesday. “We’ve been able to stay out in it about 90 percent over the last three days, being outdoors. Thank goodness for grass practice fields. I don’t think we could have done that any other way.”
The Blue Devils have an indoor facility and have used it at times. But a lot of work has been done under a hot sun, in sultry conditions.
“We have tested our team,” Cutcliffe said. “We just finished our third practice in a row where you had to want to finish it. It wasn’t very easy and that was by intention.”
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Cutcliffe said the staff would back off “quite a bit” Thursday and the Blue Devils then will conduct a scrimmage Friday that is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. The starting time could help simulate the playing conditions in the Devils’ Sept. 3 opener against N.C. Central, which will have a 6 p.m. start at Wade Stadium.
“We’ll know a little bit more about the execution level,” Cutcliffe said. “We’re going to scrimmage about the time we’re going to play North Carolina Central, by design, so it will be interesting to see what the temperature is like.”
The forecast for Friday is for temperatures in the mid-80s at 6 p.m.
Cutcliffe said the Blue Devils’ medical staff has been busy, but apparently with few heat-related issues. Mostly the usual bumps, bruises and muscle pulls, the coach said.
“All statistics will tell you that training camp is where most injuries, whether people want to talk about concussions, hamstrings, ankles … there’s a lot of things that go into play — hydration, fatigue,” he said.
Cutcliffe noted the players would be in pads four times this week, including the scrimmage, saying, “This is the only time of the year we can challenge them like that. … It’s definitely the most fatiguing time of the year.”
Linebacker Zavier Carmichael said the hot work and dealing with the fatigue should only help the Blue Devils be a better team late in games, especially games early in the season.
“You can’t be mentally tired,” Carmichael said. “When you’re practicing in a 100-plus degree heat index, you get tired. You’ve got to keep pushing yourself, telling yourself, ‘One more play, you can push through this.’ ”
That includes the coaches, who are always on the move during those practices in the sun.
“You can probably see it in my face,” Cutcliffe said after Wednesday’s practice. “It has been brutal.”