Blue Devils greet fans at indoor facility
There is simply no one better than Kenny Anunike to speak about Duke football’s growth.
The 23-year-old defensive end arrived on campus in 2008, the year David Cutcliffe became Duke’s coach. Because of injuries, Anunike is playing his sixth season with the Blue Devils.
On Saturday, when an estimated 1,700 fans attended the team’s Meet the Blue Devils Day, Anunike experienced two things he couldn’t have when he got to Durham.
First, the players, coaches and fans were completely dry despite rainy weather and they were comfortably inside the Pascal Field House, Duke’s indoor practice facility that opened in 2011.
Second, the fans wore Belk Bowl apparel in celebration of Duke’s appearance in that game in December — the first time since 1994 the Blue Devils qualified for a postseason bowl game.
“Being in the Pascal makes a huge difference,” Anunike said. “Just seeing all these people so hopeful, so happy to see the changes in Duke football is amazing. It’s never been like this. Last year was a huge step, and this year there is even more people. I’ve gone through four or five pens already.”
Duke won six games a year ago, the first time since the 1994 season it had accomplished that feat. A five-game losing streak to end the season left the Blue Devils at 6-7, which means it’s been 19 years since Duke had a winning record.
But that blemish did nothing to diminish the excitement among the fans who attended what was scheduled to be a two-hour event. The final autograph actually wasn’t signed until around 4:40 p.m. as Cutcliffe had to work 40 minutes of overtime to whittle down the line that routinely stretched more than 50 yards in front of table.
“This was incredible, starting with the number of fans,” Cutcliffe said. “A large number.”
Having started his career at Ohio State, Jeremy Cash is accustomed to seeing a large number of people at fan-centered events. After all, Ohio Stadium’s capacity is 102,329.
But Cash nevertheless enjoyed interacting with Duke fans on Saturday.
“Everybody is excited to see where the program is going from last year to this year,” said Cash, a redshirt sophomore safety who sat out 2012 under NCAA transfer rules. “Everybody is excited to see me play. I’m happy being back on the field. A lot of people actually know who I am, so that’s a pretty good feeling.”
The Blue Devils and their fans have less than two weeks to wait until the new season arrives. Duke opens Aug. 31 at Wallace Wade Stadium against N.C. Central in the Bull City Gridiron Classic.
In 100 seasons of football, Duke never has played in bowl games in back-to-back seasons. Changing that is a main goal for this season’s team. For a change, there were plenty of people inside and outside the Pascal Field House who believe the Blue Devils have good chance to do so.
“When it comes to the culture change of Duke football, I’m thankful to a lot of people,” Cutcliffe said. “It starts with the Duke administration, athletics administration and the fans and certainly the young men and the coaching staff that has worked so hard to elevate the level of football that we play.
“That’s what a lot of people forget. A culture change will never happen just because you want it to or you say it does. It only changes if your football squad changes.”
Dewalt-Ondijo out for opener
Cutcliffe said Saturday that redshirt junior defensive end Jordan Dewalt-Ondijo will not play when Duke opens the season against N.C. Central.
Dewalt-Ondijo, who played in 12 games and started twice a year ago, had surgery on his left ankle on May 22 and has not practiced with the Blue Devils this month.
“Dewalt-Ondijo is not going to be ready to play,” Cutcliffe said.
The news is better for Justin Foxx, another veteran defensive end recovering from an offseason injury. A redshirt senior, Foxx had knee surgery on Jan. 7 shortly after the Belk Bowl.
He missed spring practice and has been limited in his work this month. But Cutcliffe believes he could see action against NCCU.
“I’m hoping that we may be able to get some snaps out of Justin,” Cutcliffe said. “I don’t see him playing the entire game. But somewhere in here, we’ve got to get his confidence back in his knee. He is running real good and doing his drills full speed. But 11-on-11 he is not comfortable in enough in that yet.”
Mellencamp on hand
Sophomore walk-on cornerback Hud Mellencamp signed autographs and posed for photos Saturday.
Mellencamp was charged with felony battery on Thursday in his hometown of Bloomington, Ind. His younger brother, Speck, and a third teenager also face charges stemming from a July 29 incident where police say they beat and kicked a Bloomington man.
Cutcliffe said Thursday night that Hud Mellencamp would be allowed to miss team activities and return home to deal with his legal issues. He is expected to return to Indiana today.
Speck Mellencamp and Ty Smith turned themselves into Bloomington police on Thursday and were released on bond.
The Mellencamp brothers are sons of rocker John Mellencamp.