Signing Day: Coach David Cutcliffe on Duke's 20-man class
Duke’s football season didn’t end on the best note as the Blue Devils lost to Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 28 in Charlotte.
Just playing in that game, a reward for winning the necessary six regular-season games for the first time in 18 years, paid off anyway for Duke.
On Wednesday, the Blue Devils completed a 20-man recruiting class that includes two players who had originally committed to programs that had regular postseason participants during Duke’s extended downturn.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe said moves like that are a direct reflection of the improvement the Blue Devils showed last season while going 6-7, including 5-2 at Wallace Wade Stadium.
“I was happy we waited and had some room to finish off this class at the end,” Cutcliffe said.
Duke’s incoming freshman class features linebacker Dominic McDonald and defensive back Chris Holmes, who at one point planned to play for Tennessee and N.C. State, respectively.
McDonald, from Longwood, Fla., decommitted when Tennessee fired head coach Derek Dooley in November. When the first-team Class 8A all-state linebacker reopened his recruitment, Duke assistant coach Jim Collins informed Cutcliffe he thought the Blue Devils had a chance.
McDonald visited Duke in December, when the Blue Devils were in the midst of their on-campus practices for the Belk Bowl, and made committed a short time later.
“It was one of those good, late stories that I was talking about,” Cutcliffe said. “People saw us differently, and they should have.”
McDonald is one of four incoming freshmen who enrolled last month and will be able to participate when spring practice begins on March 4. Duke’s other early enrollees are quarterback Parker Boehme, cornerback Evrett Edwards and defensive back Quay Mann.
Duke added Holmes, a 6-2, 200-pound safety, who reopened his recruitment when the Wolfpack fired Tom O’Brien in November.
Cutcliffe said the Blue Devils could have filled all 20 available slots with commitments last summer. Instead, anticipating a strong season on the field, he had the staff hold a couple of scholarships open. McDonald and Holmes were able to become Blue Devils because of that decision.
Duke received 16 signed National Letters of Intent from incoming freshmen on Wednesday, the first day NCAA rules allow high school seniors to officially follow through on their verbal commitments.
As has been his theme since his arrival at Duke in December 2007, Cutcliffe sought to improve the team’s athletic ability with this class.
The group is heavy on defensive backs, running backs and wide receivers. Boehme and Quay Chambers, a running quarterback from Monroe, are the two quarterbacks in the class.
“I would call this class a class of playmakers,” Cutcliffe said.
Because of the speed and skill in the incoming players, who all drew either two or three stars from recruiting analysts using five-star rating scales, Cutcliffe said they bring versatility.
“There are a lot of athletes in this class that can show up one day playing a number of different positions,” Cutcliffe said.
In addition to filling available scholarships, Cutcliffe also has two assistant coaching openings on his staff.
Recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach Matt Lubick left Duke to join Oregon’s staff last month. On Tuesday, associate head coach Ron Middleton, who coached Duke’s tight ends and was special teams coordinator, resigned to take a job with the Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL.
Cutcliffe said Wednesday he will take his time with both hires, going so far as to say he would be comfortable starting spring practice on March 4 with those openings unfilled.
“There is an enormous amount of interest that is out there,” Cutcliffe said. “I am not one to hire people that I don’t know.”
Cutcliffe said most of the people he is already talking with are currently employed so he is being discreet with his search. He also said core values will win out over an impressive resume.
“That’s one of the reason why I like to hire people I know is because I know what their value system is,” he said.
2013 DUKE FOOTBALL SIGNEES
|Joseph Ajeigbe||back||5-9||215||Norco HS||Riverside, Calif.|
|Terrence Alls||back||6-1||180||Dade Christian HS||Miami Gardens, Fla.|
|Johnell Barnes||back||6-0||175||Dunbar HS||Lehigh Acres, Fla.|
|Parker Boehme||qb||6-2||220||Sandalwood HS||Jacksonville Beachl Fla.|
|Breon Borders||back||6-0||175||Statesville HS||Statesville|
|Gabe Brandner||line||6-6||255||Heathwood Hall HS||Blythewood, S.C.|
|Phillip Carter||back||6-1||200||Folsom HS||El Dorado Hills, Calif.|
|Quay Chambers||qb||6-3||215||Monroe HS||Monroe|
|Austin Davis||line||6-4||290||Mansfield HS||Mansfield, Texas|
|T.J. Douglas||back||6-1||190||Fort Myers HS||Fort Myers, Fla.|
|Evrett Edwards||back||5-11||175||Woodbridge HS||Woodbridge, Va.|
|Bryon Fields||back||5-11||185||Providence Day HS||Charlotte|
|Chris Holmes||back||6-2||200||Chancellor HS||Fredericksburg, Va.|
|Jake Kite||back||6-0||185||Hidden Valley HS||Roanoke, Va.|
|Sterling Korona||line||6-7||260||Ronald Reagan HS||San Antonio|
|Quay Mann||back||5-9||185||Northern Nash HS||Rocky Mount|
|Dominic McDonald||back||6-2||240||Lake Brantley HS||Longwood, Fla.|
|Mike Ramsay||line||6-2||280||Walker School||Smyrna, Ga.|
|Deondre Singleton||back||5-11||175||Archer HS||Dacula, Ga.|
|Ryan Smith||back||5-7||165||Bishop Gorman HS||Las Vegas|