Notes from Duke coach David Cutcliffe's Tuesday press conference
Notes from Duke coach David Cutcliffe’s Tuesday press conference:
The Blue Devils (1-0) hit the road to play Memphis at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in what will be the Tigers’ season-opening game. That presents a bit of a hurdle for the Duke staff since Memphis plans to start redshirt freshman Paxton Lynch at quarterback.
In order to get a read on the player making his college debut, Cutcliffe had to dig deep in his film archives.
“I’ve looked at him on high school tape to get a little read on him,” Cutcliffe said.
Lynch won the starting job over redshirt senior Jacob Karam during training camp last month.
The 6-6, 225-pound Lynch came to Memphis from Deltona (Fla.) Trinity Christian Academy. Karam started all 12 games for Memphis last season when the Tigers went 4-8.
In Duke’s 38-14 win over Memphis on Sept. 22, 2012, at Wallace Wade Stadium, Karam completed 13 of 22 passes for just 81 yards. He was sacked four times. Only four of his completions went for 10 or more yards and his longest pass play against Duke was for 15 yards.
Speaking of last year’s game, both Duke and Memphis have that game film to fall back upon while game-planning for Saturday’s game. But the Tigers were playing perhaps their worst football of the season when the Devils beat them a year ago.
Memphis lost its first four games in coach Justin Fuente’s first season and started 1-8. But the Tigers won their final three games, beating Tulane (37-23), Alabama-Birmingham (46-9) and Southern Mississippi (42-24) to enter the offseason with confidence.
Cutcliffe said Tuesday that his staff has studied Memphis from the end of the season in particular.
“That’s what we did,” Cutcliffe said. “They did get better. I know a lot of their coaches and have a great deal of respect for their head coach. You can see them all the way through the season getting better. They became a good football team by the end of the season.”
Duke was without linebacker C.J. France (ankle) and defensive end Jordan Dewalt-Ondijo (ankle) for last Saturday’s 45-0 win over N.C. Central. France was a projected starter at linebacker while Dewalt-Ondijo was No. 2 on the depth chart and expected to see playing time.
Cutcliffe doesn’t anticipate anyone who missed the NCCU game to play at Memphis. But France and Dewalt-Ondijo are making a push to get back. Even though they are running better, they haven’t passed a major test.
“One of the things that’s rough in particular about the lower body is they have to pass the contact test,” Cutcliffe said. “They can’t just run well. You’ve got to be able to load it. You can’t just assume. So we are picking and choosing today and tomorrow (Tuesday and Wednesday) whether it looks like they can do it. The last thing I want to do is re-injure anything.”
Duke wide receiver Jamison Crowder was named the ACC’s specialist of the week on Tuesday for last weekend’s games.
Crowder returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown against NCCU.
He was also named the national punt returner of the week by the College Football Performance Awards organization. Crowder averaged 22.6 yards per return while fielding five NCCU punts.