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  1. #1
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    Duke football notes, 9-22-15

    First, the good news. Jela Duncan practiced this morning.

    And it was a physical practice. Cutcliffe said you have to take risks to prepare for Georgia Tech. Those risks include having the scout team employing chop blocks. Cut noted that Duke also plays Army this fall and spent a lot of time in pre-season working on defending triple-option offenses.

    Back to Duncan. No guarantee he will play Saturday. Duke will have to see how he responds to his first contact work in some time. But the trend lines are positive.

    Not so positive for Cody Robinson, who is out indefinitely. Back problems.

    With Robinson out, Duke wants to evaluate the backups and get some of them on the field more. Playing five guys too many plays.

    Back to Northwestern. About those passes to the running backs. They were plays designed to be thrown downfield.

    Here’s what Sirk had to say. “I think our plan going in was good. We have to play physical on the offensive side of the ball. They were a cover team that dropped back and we got put into a lot of third and long situations and they had a lot of eight-man coverages and you have to take what the defense gives you and they give you the check-down, that’s what you have to take. We believe in getting the ball into the hands of our running backs in those situations. We just have to maintain the ball. Turnovers and penalties hurt us.”

    Here’s what Cut had to say. “They tackled extremely well. We got no extra yards, very few explosives. We were inconsistent and when you do that, you don’t make first downs. Most meaningful plays in the second half, Northwestern won. We take pride in getting better as the game goes on and we didn’t. . . . [Sirk] He’s still young in that process and we put him in a challenging mode today. We put him a lot of pressure today. We’re going to continue to train him.”

    Cut cited turnovers and special teams as crucial to the loss.

    Cut also cited inconsistency on offense, specifically citing a completed pass that T.J. Rahming fumbled backwards, turning a second and six into a third and 16.

    Several Duke players conceded that Duke did not match Northwestern’s physicality. One was Matt Skura. “After watching the film and getting to see what was going on, I think we were hesitant at carrying the fight to Northwestern. We just kept waiting for a big play.”

    Skura added that the loss lingered for most of Sunday. “You’ve got let it go. It hurts for about 24 hours. Watching the film on Sunday, it hurts, seeing the mistakes and knowing that one play could have made the difference.”

    Duke’s goal is to put the previous game in the rear-view mirror by the end of Sunday and focus on the next game.

    Cutliffe acknowledged the poor special-team play Saturday but said it was too early to panic and make personnel changes on special teams.

    The kick-off return? An unnamed Duke player had hurt a hamstring but “didn’t realize how hurt he was. He was trying to be a tough guy but couldn’t run. It is unfortunate. . . . When he couldn’t get downfield, the other players were trying to fill in behind him. And we went to sleep a little bit on the back side.”

    Braxton Deaver has one catch in three games, not what anyone expected. Deaver says he’s as healthy as he was two seasons ago but he and Sirk need to work harder to get on the same page.

    Georgia Tech. Look for Duke to play an extra safety. Cut says Duke’s goal is to match “speed versus speed.”

    Jeremy Cash says “Everything is assignment football when you’re playing Georgia Tech. It’s at a premium. You have a man, you watch your man, no matter what. You have to do your job. You can’t do anyone else’s job.”

    Skura adds that Duke needs to sustain drives. That’s been a priority this week, eliminating the three-and-outs which send the defense back on the field.

    Cutcliffe added “You can’t turn the ball over, you can’t get behind the chains, you can’t have plays that lose yards. When you’re playing Georgia Tech, you can’t have penalties, you can’t have plays that put you behind schedule."

    And yes, I asked a senior staffer about beer sales. No state or ACC law or rule prohibits beer sales at Duke but the Duke administration doesn't allow it.

    Predicted weather Saturday, high in the mid-70s, overcast, 40 percent chance of rain.

  2. #2
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    Thanks again for these invaluable notes, Jim.

    Quote Originally Posted by jimsumner View Post
    First, the good news. Jela Duncan practiced this morning.
    This news makes my day! He might not play this Saturday, but his season debut can't be far off.

    Quote Originally Posted by jimsumner View Post
    Georgia Tech. Look for Duke to play an extra safety. Cut says Duke’s goal is to match “speed versus speed.”
    So that means we play only one linebacker? A 4-1-6. Or, we play only 3 down linemen? A 3-2-6. I assume we will play a one linebacker 4-1-6 line-up.
    Bob Green
    DBR Survivor Football Champion
    2010 & 2016

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Green View Post
    Thanks again for these invaluable notes, Jim.



    This news makes my day! He might not play this Saturday, but his season debut can't be far off.



    So that means we play only one linebacker? A 4-1-6. Or, we play only 3 down linemen? A 3-2-6. I assume we will play a one linebacker 4-1-6 line-up.
    Duke played a 4-1-6 last season, with Norman moving up to LB. I tried to tease some additional info from Cut today but he wasn't having any of it.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimsumner View Post
    Duke played a 4-1-6 last season, with Norman moving up to LB. I tried to tease some additional info from Cut today but he wasn't having any of it.
    Thanks for the confirmation and the effort to gain added info.
    Bob Green
    DBR Survivor Football Champion
    2010 & 2016

  5. #5
    Dev11's Avatar
    Dev11 is offline Commissioner of Statistics, DBR Podcast
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    The notes related to Sirk are concerning. I don't think NU was giving him the running back, because if they were, those passes would have been more productive. Most of them went for minimal gains.

    I believe I said on the podcast a couple weeks ago that Sirk will be effective if he can move the ball around to different receivers, and Deaver is absolutely one of those guys. Let's hope that whatever they need to do get in sync happens soon.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimsumner View Post
    First, the good news. Jela Duncan practiced this morning.

    And it was a physical practice. Cutcliffe said you have to take risks to prepare for Georgia Tech. Those risks include having the scout team employing chop blocks. Cut noted that Duke also plays Army this fall and spent a lot of time in pre-season working on defending triple-option offenses.

    Back to Duncan. No guarantee he will play Saturday. Duke will have to see how he responds to his first contact work in some time. But the trend lines are positive.

    Not so positive for Cody Robinson, who is out indefinitely. Back problems.

    With Robinson out, Duke wants to evaluate the backups and get some of them on the field more. Playing five guys too many plays.

    Back to Northwestern. About those passes to the running backs. They were plays designed to be thrown downfield.

    Here’s what Sirk had to say. “I think our plan going in was good. We have to play physical on the offensive side of the ball. They were a cover team that dropped back and we got put into a lot of third and long situations and they had a lot of eight-man coverages and you have to take what the defense gives you and they give you the check-down, that’s what you have to take. We believe in getting the ball into the hands of our running backs in those situations. We just have to maintain the ball. Turnovers and penalties hurt us.”

    Here’s what Cut had to say. “They tackled extremely well. We got no extra yards, very few explosives. We were inconsistent and when you do that, you don’t make first downs. Most meaningful plays in the second half, Northwestern won. We take pride in getting better as the game goes on and we didn’t. . . . [Sirk] He’s still young in that process and we put him in a challenging mode today. We put him a lot of pressure today. We’re going to continue to train him.”

    Cut cited turnovers and special teams as crucial to the loss.

    Cut also cited inconsistency on offense, specifically citing a completed pass that T.J. Rahming fumbled backwards, turning a second and six into a third and 16.

    Several Duke players conceded that Duke did not match Northwestern’s physicality. One was Matt Skura. “After watching the film and getting to see what was going on, I think we were hesitant at carrying the fight to Northwestern. We just kept waiting for a big play.”

    Skura added that the loss lingered for most of Sunday. “You’ve got let it go. It hurts for about 24 hours. Watching the film on Sunday, it hurts, seeing the mistakes and knowing that one play could have made the difference.”

    Duke’s goal is to put the previous game in the rear-view mirror by the end of Sunday and focus on the next game.

    Cutliffe acknowledged the poor special-team play Saturday but said it was too early to panic and make personnel changes on special teams.

    The kick-off return? An unnamed Duke player had hurt a hamstring but “didn’t realize how hurt he was. He was trying to be a tough guy but couldn’t run. It is unfortunate. . . . When he couldn’t get downfield, the other players were trying to fill in behind him. And we went to sleep a little bit on the back side.”

    Braxton Deaver has one catch in three games, not what anyone expected. Deaver says he’s as healthy as he was two seasons ago but he and Sirk need to work harder to get on the same page.

    Georgia Tech. Look for Duke to play an extra safety. Cut says Duke’s goal is to match “speed versus speed.”

    Jeremy Cash says “Everything is assignment football when you’re playing Georgia Tech. It’s at a premium. You have a man, you watch your man, no matter what. You have to do your job. You can’t do anyone else’s job.”

    Skura adds that Duke needs to sustain drives. That’s been a priority this week, eliminating the three-and-outs which send the defense back on the field.

    Cutcliffe added “You can’t turn the ball over, you can’t get behind the chains, you can’t have plays that lose yards. When you’re playing Georgia Tech, you can’t have penalties, you can’t have plays that put you behind schedule."

    And yes, I asked a senior staffer about beer sales. No state or ACC law or rule prohibits beer sales at Duke but the Duke administration doesn't allow it.

    Predicted weather Saturday, high in the mid-70s, overcast, 40 percent chance of rain.
    All good stuff, as usual. Thanks, Jim. Cut's gonna stop liking you if you keep asking him all those prying, information-seeking, plot-divulging questions.

    Two best parts for me: Duncan practicing with contact and down to a 40% chance of rain. Last forecast I looked at this am was 80-90% chance of rain and high of 68.
    [redacted] them and the horses they rode in on.

  7. #7
    Awesome report as always Jim, thanks! Like the rest of you, I love the Jela news!!! It wouldn't hurt Duke what so ever if Duncan were ready to go this Saturday. The Blue Devils need a momentum kick in the pants on offense as we all saw this past weekend.

  8. #8

    Running Backs arent the Problem

    Quote Originally Posted by duke blue brewcrew View Post
    Awesome report as always Jim, thanks! Like the rest of you, I love the Jela news!!! It wouldn't hurt Duke what so ever if Duncan were ready to go this Saturday. The Blue Devils need a momentum kick in the pants on offense as we all saw this past weekend.
    I'd love to see Jela back and it would give us more depth at RB, but the problem seems to be more at QB than RB.
    Last edited by Bob Green; 09-22-2015 at 06:53 PM. Reason: Fix quote tag

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Dev11 View Post
    The notes related to Sirk are concerning. I don't think NU was giving him the running back, because if they were, those passes would have been more productive. Most of them went for minimal gains.

    I believe I said on the podcast a couple weeks ago that Sirk will be effective if he can move the ball around to different receivers, and Deaver is absolutely one of those guys. Let's hope that whatever they need to do get in sync happens soon.
    I'm not tremendously concerned, and am willing to chalk it up to a young QB going up against a solid defense that gave Sirk some looks that made him uncomfortable. During the game, I was critical of the play-calling, but in retrospect [particularly given Cut's comments] it seems that it was likely not so much the play-calling that was at fault but rather Sirk checking out of called plays or checking down to safety valves because he was uncomfortable with what the defense was throwing at him. Growing pains...

    The solution is exactly what Cut indicated—to better train Sirk so that he is more comfortable with the offense that we're trying to run. We can't forget that this is a young quarterback being thrust into the lead role here, and I think it's fair to say that Northwestern is a lot better than folks projected coming into the season (and their defense is their strength).

    That said, agree completely that Sirk and his receivers need to work hard to get on the same page with one another—ball distribution is the key to our offense running fluidly, and that will best happen if everyone is singing in tune off the same sheet.

    The Northwestern loss stung so much because it's a game we could have, and arguably should have, won. You win and lose as a team, and in this contest in particular our special teams and offense were simply not on point. However, despite the fact that Northwestern is no offensive juggernaut, I think we should feel very good about our defensive performance. The strength of their offense is power rushing, and we held that at bay...

    We're now heading into GaTech, a team whose powerful offense was neutralized last weekend by a Notre Dame defense that attacked it aggressively with speed—the exact strategy that our coaching staff has chosen for our defense [primarily due to the fact that we simply lack size and agility along the defensive front]... Given last year's game against Tech, and what we saw out of GaTech v ND, I actually feel pretty good about this coming weekend... Tech does not have an outstanding defense, so I think we will be able to gain yards and score points The key will be how effective we are at neutralizing their potent option attack, and I feel good about this phase of the game...

    Go Devils!

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Papa John View Post
    I'm not tremendously concerned, and am willing to chalk it up to a young QB going up against a solid defense that gave Sirk some looks that made him uncomfortable. During the game, I was critical of the play-calling, but in retrospect [particularly given Cut's comments] it seems that it was likely not so much the play-calling that was at fault but rather Sirk checking out of called plays or checking down to safety valves because he was uncomfortable with what the defense was throwing at him. Growing pains...

    The solution is exactly what Cut indicated—to better train Sirk so that he is more comfortable with the offense that we're trying to run. We can't forget that this is a young quarterback being thrust into the lead role here, and I think it's fair to say that Northwestern is a lot better than folks projected coming into the season (and their defense is their strength).

    That said, agree completely that Sirk and his receivers need to work hard to get on the same page with one another—ball distribution is the key to our offense running fluidly, and that will best happen if everyone is singing in tune off the same sheet.

    The Northwestern loss stung so much because it's a game we could have, and arguably should have, won. You win and lose as a team, and in this contest in particular our special teams and offense were simply not on point. However, despite the fact that Northwestern is no offensive juggernaut, I think we should feel very good about our defensive performance. The strength of their offense is power rushing, and we held that at bay...

    We're now heading into GaTech, a team whose powerful offense was neutralized last weekend by a Notre Dame defense that attacked it aggressively with speed—the exact strategy that our coaching staff has chosen for our defense [primarily due to the fact that we simply lack size and agility along the defensive front]... Given last year's game against Tech, and what we saw out of GaTech v ND, I actually feel pretty good about this coming weekend... Tech does not have an outstanding defense, so I think we will be able to gain yards and score points The key will be how effective we are at neutralizing their potent option attack, and I feel good about this phase of the game...

    Go Devils!
    I like your optimism and tried to spork you, but I'm not sure what happened. GO DUKE!

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by stals View Post
    I'd love to see Jela back and it would give us more depth at RB, but the problem seems to be more at QB than RB.
    Big picture, yes, Sirk must continue to grow as a QB and get better...agreed. Immediate future, the more Duke can possess the ball against a clock milking, run focused offense like GT, the better off they will be. It will take some pressure off of the D, and hopefully have them a lot fresher for the 4th Qtr. The fresher, the better when hoping to get off the field on 3rd down, and avoid giving up home-run plays to the very difficult to defend GT offense.

  12. #12
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    Sirk is a redshirt junior, which suggests a certain level of experience.

    But he didn't become a full-time quarterback until his senior year in high school.

    He was a true redshirt as a freshman. He practiced mainly on the scout team, meaning he was running the other team's plays.

    Then he missed all of the next season with an injury. No practicing at all.

    He was largely a situational guy last season, playing either in short-yardage sets or mopping up already decided games.

    So, he's pretty inexperienced for a guy in his fourth year in college. The Northwestern game was his first experience as a starting QB against a top-level defense and he demonstrated that he has some things to learn.

    But by numerous accounts, Sirk has a very high work ethic, lives in the film room and is very intelligent. And Duke has some folks with experience coaching up quarterbacks.

    Considering all that, I think it's reasonable to expect improvement in from Sirk this weekend and down the road.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimsumner View Post
    Sirk is a redshirt junior, which suggests a certain level of experience.

    But he didn't become a full-time quarterback until his senior year in high school.

    He was a true redshirt as a freshman. He practiced mainly on the scout team, meaning he was running the other team's plays.

    Then he missed all of the next season with an injury. No practicing at all.

    He was largely a situational guy last season, playing either in short-yardage sets or mopping up already decided games.

    So, he's pretty inexperienced for a guy in his fourth year in college. The Northwestern game was his first experience as a starting QB against a top-level defense and he demonstrated that he has some things to learn.

    But by numerous accounts, Sirk has a very high work ethic, lives in the film room and is very intelligent. And Duke has some folks with experience coaching up quarterbacks.

    Considering all that, I think it's reasonable to expect improvement in from Sirk this weekend and down the road.
    Agreed with all of this. And would add, the loss is primarily on the shoulders of special teams and not Sirk IMO. Which is what is frustrating/surprising. because we have excelled in that part of the game and it has been a staple of Cut's program. On offense, once we got down after the opening kick-off of the second half, Northwestern took away the downfield and then tackled very well when we had to keep the ball short. Tip of the cap.

    Next play, I am sure there is hard work going on across the board this week. Sirk will be fine, I am comfortable with him as the QB.
    “That’s just, like, your opinion, man.”

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimsumner View Post
    Considering all that, I think it's reasonable to expect improvement in from Sirk this weekend and down the road.
    Agreed. We should see Sirk improve week to week as the season unfolds. He is the guy getting the snaps in practice and running the offense in games this year, which is new to him so an adjustment period is normal. The problem we saw last Saturday is twofold. First, Northwestern's defense is top notch and second, us fans have unrealistic expectations. I'm optimistic Sirk and the offense will bounce back against the Yellow Jackets.
    Bob Green
    DBR Survivor Football Champion
    2010 & 2016

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Green View Post
    Agreed. We should see Sirk improve week to week as the season unfolds. He is the guy getting the snaps in practice and running the offense in games this year, which is new to him so an adjustment period is normal. The problem we saw last Saturday is twofold. First, Northwestern's defense is top notch and second, us fans have unrealistic expectations. I'm optimistic Sirk and the offense will bounce back against the Yellow Jackets.
    Here's to a long future of unrealistic expectations!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnb View Post
    Here's to a long future of unrealistic expectations!
    “The future ain't what it used to be.”

    http://forums.dukebasketballreport.c...RIP-Yogi-Berra
    [redacted] them and the horses they rode in on.

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