Blue Devils set for contact
The most important day of Duke’s first week of football practice originally was scheduled to be Friday.
Because the Blue Devils were so productive earlier in the week, Duke coach David Cutcliffe allowed them a break on Friday to make today’s practice their biggest so far.
Instead of practicing in full pads on Friday, the Blue Devils held a quick instructional sessions and will be hitting live today.
“I felt like, our first four days, we had gotten what we needed and wanted out of our squad,” Cutcliffe said. “We broke the tempo a little bit. Instead of it being our first day in full pads, we took the pads off and got a lot of corrections made, mental work done and a lot of little things that will make us better (today) when we put the full pads on.”
The NCAA requires that teams spend the first days of practice not wearing full pads in order to allow the players to acclimate themselves to working in the hot weather once again.
Cutcliffe has that rule in mind and he also remembers last season when Duke suffered a host of injuries that cut into its depth as the season wore on. Those injuries, he believes, played a major role in the Blue Devils losing their last five games of the season.
So his goal this month is to get the necessary work in while limiting exposure to injury as much as possible.
That exposure increases once the players are in full pads and the hitting gets real. For Duke, that is today.
“I want that practice (today) to be meaningful,” Cutcliffe said. “I thought it was the best way to be meaningful and our best way to stay as healthy as we can be. That’s going to be critical to our August.”
Duke defensive end Kenny Anunike, a sixth-year senior, knows all about the hazards of the sport. He was granted an extra year by the NCAA because of knee injuries that cost him two seasons.
Like Cutcliffe, he’s ready for the team to be hitting live today.
“I think its going to be great,” Anunike said. “Just going to be straight football, which we all want to do. We’ll get a chance to put the plastic on and hit a little bit. I can’t wiat. Hopefully they make the quarterbacks live because I can’t wait to hit them. That’s what I love doing.”
Duke quarterback Anthony Boone, who is taking over the starting job now that Sean Renfree is with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, said the upcoming practices will be a good internal measuring stick.
With a veteran offensive line, an athletic quarterback in Boone and a deep stable of running backs, Duke plans to utilize the running game more this season than it has in the past.
Today they’ll start to get a better look.
“See where our running game is,” Boone said. “That’s our baseline test when we are in full pads. And we’ll see how the young guys fare and what young guys can help us on Saturdays.”
Another change to Duke’s practices this season has been to split the younger players up from the more experienced players in practice settings. That’s allowed the different groups to get more repetitions and instructions from the coaches.
Cutcliffe made that decision to increase efficiency. But he also always has the health of his team in mind because of the injuries that have limited Duke’s ability to compete.
“It affects you,” Cutcliffe said. “You are not human if it doesn’t. I’m looking at comparative injury lists from this year to last year. It looks nothing like it. Nothing. If we can accomplish that and get our same number of reps. ... Our guys are being productive and not missing practice time.”