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View Full Version : Some observations on tonight's scrimmage



jimsumner
08-20-2010, 09:07 PM
First the bad news. Cooper Helfet went out with an injury to his right foot. Ironically, it was the end of the best play of the night, a 49-yard pass from Renfree.

Keep your fingers crossed here, because Helfet is a keeper, big and fast, with great hands.

Missing from the scrimmage were Varner, Kelly, King, Lederman, Oglesby, Sarmiento (of course), Parker and some others, I'm sure. Williams used sparingly.

A situational scrimmage so I'm not sure stats mean much.

Renfree started slow but made some big-time throws. Threaded the needle several times.

None of the other QBs stood out.

Tony Foster, Josh Trezvant and Matt Pridemore took advantage of the absence of Varner and Kelly to make some catches. Foster looks good.

But I love Brandon Braxton, a true freshman WR from Charlotte. Good bloodlines. His father played six seasons in the NFL. His teammates are talking about him. Is going to be a real good one.

Snyderwine missed two FGs. Maggio and Asack made theirs. Curious.

Running game was so-so. Duke has five RBs and they're using them all. Kurunuwne looked the best tonight but there really hasn't been much separation so far.

The biggest upgrade, IMO, is in the defensive backfield. Duke has increased depth and athleticism there and these guys like to make plays. Some big hitters. A couple of names to remember; Ross Cockrell and Garrett Patterson, both redshirt freshmen. It looks like DB is going from liability to asset.

Duke used lots of OLs. Another improved area, especially depth. But some youth, also, therefore some growing pains.

chrishoke
08-20-2010, 09:31 PM
Thanks Jim. We sure have a lot to worry about, How did the d-line look?

Bob Green
08-20-2010, 09:32 PM
Duke scrimmaged again on Friday night. Here is a write-up:

http://www.goduke.com/ViewArticle.dbml?SPSID=22672&SPID=1843&DB_OEM_ID=4200&ATCLID=204980654

It appears the offense executed much better than they did in the first scrimmage:


"Offensively, I think our line did a fantastic job the entire scrimmage," Renfree said. "We improved overall as we went."

Four receivers - Brandon Braxton (53 yards), Tony Foster (47 yards), Matt Pridemore (38 yards) and Conner Vernon (43 yards) - each caught four passes while Helfet (53 yards) and Corey Gattis (39 yards) had two receptions apiece. Braxton had two touchdown grabs covering 19 and 14 yards, respectively.

jimsumner
08-20-2010, 09:42 PM
Thanks Jim. We sure have a lot to worry about, How did the d-line look?

The D-line managed to control the running game. Not sure if that's good news or bad news.

Redshirt freshman Justin Foxx put some pressure on the QBs and Damian Thornton is playing DE now. Not sure if he'll move back to LB when Oglesby gets back. Hatcher anchored the interior but he needs some help. Absolutely critical, IMO, for Duke to gert Sarmiento back and healthy as soon as possible.

Duke has four true freshmen DL listed at 300+ pounds but none of them look ready for prime time. Ingram has to lose a lot of weight. Bruce and Sink might be better bets right now but they're in the 270 range. Duke will try to compensate with speed, changing schemes and blitzing. But I suspect teams will simply try to run the ball down Duke's throats until and unless Duke proves they can stop them.

Make no mistake, DL, especially the interior parts, are Duke's biggest question marks. John Drew's loss hurts. Really hurts.

Bob Green
08-20-2010, 09:48 PM
Make no mistake, DL, especially the interior parts, are Duke's biggest question marks. John Drew's loss hurts. Really hurts.

Thanks for the reports Jim! The defensive line situation is a major concern. Hopefully the staff can pull a rabbit out of the hat.

Olympic Fan
08-21-2010, 09:37 AM
Agree that the biggest negative with the scrimmage was Helfet's injury. He was looking GREAT -- he had the longest play in both scrimmages. No word on how serious the injury was ... it could be something that sidelines him a few days or something that will keep him out an extended period.

The second negative was that Snyderwine missed two straight field goals from what should be short range. He had been automatic all preseason before last night. That's a concern -- I know Coach Cut would trade extreme range for consistency at that spot.

If there is a third concern, it's the big gap between Renfree and the next best QB ... which is Connette. He's going to be good, but if he has to play in September under the gun, we're going to be in trouble.

I wanted to get those out of the way so I could get to the good stuff.

No. 1 is Renfree. No, he wasn't perfect. During one situational drill, they put them at the one-yard line, third and goal ... and he fumbled two snaps in a row. Arrrghh! But he was mostly good -- often very good -- threading passes through tough coverage to his receivers.

He had to thread it because coverage was so good. As Jim mentioned, Cockrell and Patterson were outstanding at cornerback. Both have good size (6-foot) and the ability to smoother receivers. Both had interceptions, but the really impressive thing was the way they broke up numerous passes and delivered some solid hits -- the best hit of the night was either Patterson on Helfet (not the one that caused the injury) or safety Lee Butler on Corey Gattis (who amazing bounced off and kept running).

I love the safeties. Matt Daniels is an all-star, while Butler, Canty and Byas are all solid.

Got to be honest about the receivers. I know Tresvant and Pridemore put up good numbers, but neither was impressive to me -- especially Pridemore, who got his catches against what was essentially a freshman team late.

On the other hand, Tony Foster and Brandon Braxton both looked GREAT. Foster, as noted before, has good size and is one of the fastest players on the team (4.40 in the 40). He's been a special teams guy for two years. With Varner and Kelly out and Vernon on a tight leash, he looked like the best receiver on the team now.

Except maybe for Braxton. He has better size (6-2, 195), good speed (don't know his 40 time), but mofre importantly he has the ability to catch the ball in traffic. He had two TD catches last night -- both times on what were essentially jump balls, where he was well covered and used his hands, his body and his jumping ability to take the ball away. I'm so sick and tired of seeing that kind of play go against us, it's great to have a guy who can do it for us.

If we needed help at WR, I could see him making as much impact as a freshman as Conner Vernon did last year, but with our depth at that position (don't forget Tyree Watkins and Corey Gattis), don't know what his role will be -- but he's going to be awesome at some point.

I like what's happening on the OL. The surprise to me was that Perry Simmons was starting at right tackle. Jon Needham, listed as the preseason starter there, was alternating with Brandon Harper at guard. True freshmen Tokoby Cofield and Laken Tomlinson are running with the second team -- although that doesn't mean they'll play this season (Brandon Moore in 2008 and David Harding last year ran second team all year and still redshirted).

Hard to tell what's happening on the DL. They played with a lot of fire and spirit -- Hatcher seemed to be the leader. Jim is right -- Damien Thornton is playing DE at the moment. Justin Foxx had his first real standout night at DE. Anunike looks solid. The problem is that we have a bunch of guys playing well at DE, but I couldn't name another DT making a contribution after Hatcher. As I said in an earlier post, we may have to forget the designation of DT, NG and DE and just talk about DL.

Hard to tell just how far they've come, but it seems like they're doing enough to free up the linebackers to make plays. I really like what I see from Campbell and Gamble -- much better athletes than Duke has had at LB in a long, long time.

Obviously, scrimmages make it tough to evaluate team progress -- if the defense looks good, does that mean the offense is bad? Or vice versa?

All I can say is that I see a lot of talented young players. Whether it pays off this year or not, Duke has better athletes at the skill positions than I've seen in a long, long time.

CameronBornAndBred
08-21-2010, 09:44 AM
If there is a third concern, it's the big gap between Renfree and the next best QB ... which is Connette. He's going to be good, but if he has to play in September under the gun, we're going to be in trouble.

Does anyone know if there are any plans to redshirt Connette? It sounds like he and Boone are both playing better than Schroeder. I still would love to see him redshirt, but if there is a chance of Renfree getting hurt, I want the best qb available as his backup.

sandinmyshoes
08-21-2010, 12:30 PM
Thanks for the observations.

Scrimmages often raise as many questions as they answer. If the offense looks good, you wonder if it's because the offense is good or the defense is bad. The opposite is also true, of course.

But, you can get a feel for athleticism, execution and decision making.

jimsumner
08-21-2010, 12:31 PM
i do not believe a decision has been made yet on redshirting Connette. In the best of all possible worlds, he would redshirt and Schroeder would be the backup. But right now Connette appears to be well ahead of Schroeder, so that complicates things. Don't know what is going on with Schroeder but he doesn't look like he's improving much.

Barring lots of bad things happening, Boone will redshirt. He did have some nice snaps last night but they came late against a defense of walk-ons and freshmen.

Speaking of walk-ons, Duke's plan to beef up the roster with targeted walk-ons seems to be paying off. Walk-ons abound, including at least three 300-pounders. One of these, a kid named Hood was Arizona defensive player of the year last season but curiously wasn't offered by either Arizona or ASU. He's a 5-11, 305-pound noseguard who could come in handy as early as this season.

Dukeface88
08-21-2010, 01:51 PM
Does anyone know if there are any plans to redshirt Connette? It sounds like he and Boone are both playing better than Schroeder. I still would love to see him redshirt, but if there is a chance of Renfree getting hurt, I want the best qb available as his backup.

As I understand it, there's nothing that actually makes a redshirt player ineligible. A redshirt player is still on the roster and can be inserted if needed (although they lose the redshirt in the process). So we could redshirt Connette and reactivate him if Renfree is injured (knock on wood).

jimsumner
08-21-2010, 02:08 PM
"As I understand it, there's nothing that actually makes a redshirt player ineligible. A redshirt player is still on the roster and can be inserted if needed (although they lose the redshirt in the process). So we could redshirt Connette and reactivate him if Renfree is injured (knock on wood)."

True. It's not like the NFL, where you have a practice squad, waiver wires and such.

But there's another side of the equation. Renfree is the only QB with any real-game playing time. A prudent coach--and Cutcliffe is nothing if not prudent--will want to get some snaps for the backup as quickly as possible, in the case of an injury to Renfree. It makes no sense to give those snaps to Schroder if he's not going to be the guy in the event of a Renfree injury.

OldPhiKap
08-22-2010, 11:04 AM
The D-line managed to control the running game. Not sure if that's good news or bad news.

Ah, the key question. As good a passing game as we may be developing this year, it is of limited use if we cannot keep the defense honest. I am hopeful that the offensive line can open up some holes and we can establish a more-than-credible threat on the ground.

Having not seen the game, I don't know if the D-line was that good or if there were good reads and filling by the linebackers. There are a lot of ways to shore up the D-line. Although I am as curious as anyone to see what we have up front on the defensive side, as a practical matter it is easier to work around and support a thin D-line than having a weak defensive backfield or thin offensive line. So if we have to have a challenge, I think we have shored up the positions that are harder to hide.

jimsumner
08-22-2010, 11:24 AM
Until we see Oglesby and Sarmiento healthy, it's hard to totally evaluate the DL. But except for Hatcher, all of the meaningful experience on the DL comes from players in the 230-255 pound range. I'm pretty sure we'll see a fair amount of smokes and mirrors. By that I mean, stunts, blitzes, disguishing the formation as long as possible. Experienced size likely will not be an asset. Quickness might be. So, yes, use what you've got.

barely
08-22-2010, 09:19 PM
I have to wonder why we aren't seeing Brandon Harper on the DL. Obviously, there is some reason the staff moved him to OL, but, other than Hatcher, there does not appear to be anyone with his size, strength and (at least some) experience on the DL. I understand that he's one of the strongest players on the team. Does anyone have any light he can shed on this?

jimsumner
08-23-2010, 11:11 AM
"I have to wonder why we aren't seeing Brandon Harper on the DL. Obviously, there is some reason the staff moved him to OL, but, other than Hatcher, there does not appear to be anyone with his size, strength and (at least some) experience on the DL. I understand that he's one of the strongest players on the team. Does anyone have any light he can shed on this?"

I thought the same thing when I heard the news about Drew. After all, Duke moved Harper to DL at the beginning of last season when Rucker was injured and then moved him back to OL when Rucker returned.

I asked and basically was told that Duke thought Harper would help the team more on offense than on defense. He was recruited to be an OL and he is running first team. So he must be doing something right.

roywhite
08-23-2010, 11:21 AM
Until we see Oglesby and Sarmiento healthy, it's hard to totally evaluate the DL. But except for Hatcher, all of the meaningful experience on the DL comes from players in the 230-255 pound range. I'm pretty sure we'll see a fair amount of smokes and mirrors. By that I mean, stunts, blitzes, disguishing the formation as long as possible. Experienced size likely will not be an asset. Quickness might be. So, yes, use what you've got.

Not to be a downer, but it sounds like Duke will be at a major disadvantage against a big, physical team that can run the ball well. This would include Alabama, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and UNC, and perhaps others.

I, too, am optimistic about the general direction of the program under Coach Cut, but I'm afraid our weakness on the defensive front is going to be a major theme this season.

CameronBornAndBred
08-24-2010, 08:50 PM
Anyone have any news from the last scrimmage tonight? I know this was a big one for the depth chart as far as who is starting against Elon and who will be backing up. Bright side for the backups...they are gonna have plenty of playing time.

"What I've told these young guys is, 'It's your job to make it where I have to play you. Don't be asking me to play you. You make it where I have to play you with your performance on the field,' " Cutcliffe said. "This season we'll be playing twice as many people as we've been able to play here. I think personally that's how you build a football program. You need to play your depth. It not only helps this team in the fourth quarter, it helps your program in the next year and the next year to be able to do that. We haven't been able to do that like we want to."

http://www.heraldsun.com/view/full_story/9251484/article-To-the-wire?instance=main_article

jimsumner
08-24-2010, 10:20 PM
I covered the Bulls game tonight, so was unable to attend the scrimmage, the laws of physics being what they are and all.

GoDuke has this write up.

http://www.goduke.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=4200&ATCLID=204982213

CameronBornAndBred
08-25-2010, 12:50 AM
I covered the Bulls game tonight, so was unable to attend the scrimmage, the laws of physics being what they are and all.

GoDuke has this write up.

http://www.goduke.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=4200&ATCLID=204982213

Thanks Jim. I'm not a fan of the goduke stuff..too much sugar coating. But they gotta make the home team look good. The Herald-Sun has this up..looks like the running game is coming around. ;)
http://www.heraldsun.com/view/full_story/9263968/article-Devils-hit-the-ground-running?instance=main_article

Great to hear Varner was in action. And for the biggie...Connette won't redshirt..he's the backup.



Meanwhile, Cutcliffe confirmed a noteworthy decision about who plays behind Renfree. True freshman Brandon Connette took all the snaps as the No. 2 quarterback and has won the job over redshirt freshman Sean Schroeder.
"
I think we are at the point right now that Connette is our backup quarterback and we may have some opportunities for him to play in certain situations,'' Cutcliffe said

airowe
08-25-2010, 07:43 AM
From ESPN:

http://espn.go.com/blog/acc/post/_/id/13774/duke-scrimmage-highlights

jimsumner
08-25-2010, 09:38 AM
[QUOTE=CameronBornAndBred;428468]Thanks Jim. I'm not a fan of the goduke stuff..too much sugar coating. But they gotta make the home team look good. The Herald-Sun has this up..looks like the running game is coming around. ;)
http://www.heraldsun.com/view/full_story/9263968/article-Devils-hit-the-ground-running?instance=main_article

Speaking of the Herald-Sun there's a new kid on the block.

Bryan Strickland left the H-S in early July to become the online writer for the Panthers.

The job was advertised as a "Duke beat job."

Steve Wiseman got the job. Steve used to work for the State in Columbia but was let go during one of McClatchy's periodic blood-lettings. He was stringing in the area until he was named as Strickland's replacement.

I had a chance to talk to Steve last week at some Duke media events and was impressed. He seems knowledgeable, thorough and approachable.

The Herald-Sun seems determined to use Steve on the Duke beat as much as possible. I think last night is telling. The Durham Bulls are very, very important in Durham but the
H-S sent Wiseman to cover a Duke scrimmage, not the Bulls game.

Note also that Robbi Pickeral will be the Duke football beat guy--gal, actually--for the N&O. She knows what she's doing. Not sure if she'll be doing hoops or not.