Cutcliffe: Staff is reason to expect more success
Coming off the most successful Duke football season in nearly two decades, Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe found himself with recruiting to do.
There were players to add, of course, but Cutcliffe talked Wednesday about the work he did in filling a pair of coaching staff openings.
During a speech to the Durham Sports Club meeting at Croasdaile Country Club, Cutcliffe said things worked out well when he added former Duke football players Scottie Montgomery and Re’Quan Boyette to the staff.
“I’m really happy the way things have fallen,” Cutcliffe said. “You never like to lose good people.”
Cutcliffe made the hires to replace wide receivers coach Matt Lubick and tight ends coach/special teams coordinator Ron Middleton. Lubick, who also was Duke’s recruiting coordinator, left for Oregon, while Middleton was hired by the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.
“In both cases, it was a difficult decision for them,” Cutcliffe said. “(It was) amazingly difficult in both circumstances for those men.”
Lubick left first and Cutcliffe said he immediately thought of Montgomery, who had coached at Duke for both Ted Roof and Cutcliffe before joining the Pittsburgh Steelers staff in 2010.
Cutcliffe said Montgomery, one of the better receivers in Duke football history, was smart to coach in the NFL for three years. But it was time for him to return to Duke.
“Scottie did the right thing and took that job,” Cutcliffe said. “He’s grown as a coach, grown as a man, grown as a father, grown as a husband. But I made my mind up. I called him, and I said, ‘Scottie, this is the right move for you right now. I want you to sit and listen closely.’”
Montgomery did, and he agreed to return to Duke as the Blue Devils associate head coach/wide receivers coach.
“He is going to be so helpful with in-state recruiting, out-of-state recruiting,” Cutcliffe said. “He is a dynamic individual and an extremely talented football coach. Scottie Montgomery will be a head football coach.”
Cutcliffe stayed even closer to home to fill Middleton’s job. Boyette played running back for Roof and Cutcliffe, and he was a graduate assistant coach at Duke this past season.
Cutcliffe hired Boyette as running backs coach, shifting Zac Roper to coach tight ends and handle Middleton’s special teams duties.
“Re’Quan has done a great job as a graduate assistant,” Cutcliffe said. “He’s proven himself as a GA and in recruiting. He’s an excellent football coach.”
Cutcliffe called his current staff the best he’s been a part of in his 38 years of coaching in terms of “integrity, character, recruiting and certainly coaching on the field.”
In response to a question, he said the Blue Devils haven’t had to overpay, compared to other ACC schools, to employ such talented coaches.
“We’re probably middle of the road in the ACC, not anything close to what Clemson and some others pay,” Cutcliffe said. “We’re not even in their neighborhood. Our budgets are not in their neighborhood.
“The reason we can attract these coaches is because we treat them the way that they want to be treated. They love working with our young people.”
Duke went 6-7 this past season, qualifying for a bowl game for the first time since 1994. The Blue Devils lost the Belk Bowl in Charlotte to Cincinnati 48-34.
Duke held its fourth spring practice on Wednesday, and Cutcliffe said the defense will need better play in the secondary.
“We have got to find the right people on the back end,” he said. “We can’t keep giving up those big plays.”
Duke returns all-ACC cornerback Ross Cockrell, whom Cutcliffe called “the best corner returning in all of college football.”
But he said safeties such as Jeremy Cash, Anthony Young-Wiseman and Dwyane Norman will have to produce.
“The secondary is going to be a work in progress through August,” Cutcliffe said. “I love the athleticism.”
However, Cutcliffe expects Duke’s defensive line — which returns starters Kenny Anunike, Justin Foxx, Jordan Dewalt-Ondijo and Jamal Bruce — to be a force.
“I told them at practice, ‘You are not rookies anymore. There are no free passes any more. It’s time to show you are grown men,’” Cutcliffe said.