Durham, NC – Duke head football coach David Cutcliffe met with the media virtually on Friday to give an update on how fall camp is going.
“We’ve had really good work. It’s a unique time for everyone. I have no complaints. We got a week in before we started school, but it’s kind of different to be in camp and in school at the same time. So, a little less meeting time and we’re in our morning practice mode. We have stayed, knock on wood, relatively healthy. We’ve got a few people out, a little bit down in numbers anyway. But this team’s got great spirit. I think one of our biggest concerns watching us is to make sure we continue to make progress to get in the conditioning level of being game ready. We returned July 13. Minimally they missed a month to a month and a half of what they would normally get here. And even further back spring ball and some other things we do there. So, we’re making progress in that regard.
“I like this team. I like the speed on this team. I like their physical spirit and attitude. We’ll find out a lot tomorrow about our personnel. First scrimmage tomorrow and we’re going to take a good look at every position. And I mentioned it the last time, a lot of competition. So to tell you anything definitive today about battles for this or battles for that would be a little bit premature. So after tomorrow, we’ll know a little bit more.”
Duke announced a small change to its football operations during the spring when it revealed Cutcliffe would assume offensive play calling duties. When asked about how he’s transitioning to his additional responsibilities, he had this to say.
“It’s been a unique experience to manage the duties of a head coach. From counselor, to just dealing with all the stress and emotions that everyone feels throughout this pandemic, and then to throw in an offensive coordinator’s job with it has been unique. It’s been challenging. It’s been fun at times, but I’ll be real honest with you, it’s been a load. I think I’m finally finding my groove a little bit. The staff has been great. And you know just getting out on the practice field. Finally practicing has helped some and feeling a little bit more comfortable in that coordinator’s role has gotten better as we’ve gone through work. I am enjoying this. It’s a different relationship with players, meeting with the quarterbacks. Spending time with the offense and then still trying to get my time in with the team. But I think I’m going to enjoy this. It’s going to be, you know, better get my sleep because it’s going to be stressful and challenging physically.”
Duke returns seven starters on defense, including the dynamic defensive end duo of Victor Dimukeje and Chris Rumph II but Cutcliffe has been really impressed with his interior defensive linemen unit so far during fall camp.
“Well Derrick Tangelo has certainly set the pace inside at defensive tackle. He’s had a great camp. Just really has responded to being that leader. You know really the one guy in there that is experienced. We’ve also got Ben Frye, who doesn’t have a boatload of game experience, but he’s healthy and back practicing at a high level. We’ve got a number of young people that you know again, I’ll know more tomorrow about where we are. But we have some size and some strength. We have some redshirt freshmen and freshmen that have certainly caught my eye. I’ll be honest with you, I’m really excited about our interior defensive linemen and the depth that I think we’re going to surprise people with. So, I’m looking forward to that.”
Cutcliffe added that despite being short on numbers at the linebacker position this year he feels good about the process some of the less experienced players have made so far.
“Shaka Heyward has been really outstanding at linebacker. Rocky Shelton II has been tremendous to this point. Best start he’s had since he’s been here. And then you’re right, after that, we’re very young. We’re very fast. They’re physical they’re explosive. Lanier Goethie he does a great job. So, I think we may surprise a few people with the playmaking ability that we have. Dorian Mausi had a great interception this morning. He’s an extremely athletic guy. So, I’m excited about what I think we can build here defensively.”
Before wrapping things up, Cutcliffe explained his thoughts as to why Duke’s COVID-19 protocols have been working up until this point.
“Well, really knock on wood on this one. You know, I think our players have done an excellent job of being committed to the protocol and being committed to each other. It’s hard work you know, there’s no magic formula. It’s what every sign you walk by in this building says – great personal hygiene, wear your mask, stay six feet apart. We’ve gone to great lengths to live that in this building. I’m proud to say people tell me they see our players outside in a parking lot and they’re wearing a mask. They’re in a car with each other and they’re wearing a mask. It just takes a lot of work. Takes some good fortune. But I am very proud of our staff and our players. They really bought into this.
“This it’s a mystery. I mean, you don’t know what could occur. And I think everybody I’m sure is trying really hard to do the same thing. We’ve done testing twice a week. So, we’ve tried to stay on top of it. And we had a few early issues with people who brought things from home. They didn’t know a couple of parents that were sick with it and didn’t know it. And you get into a dorm setting, then you’re obviously going to have a transmission. I think we have found that the transmissions really occur in living spaces probably globally more than any other place. And so our guys are in individual rooms and they’re doing a good job of going to school and playing football. Whether we can continue that, we’ll see. But I think we’re all doing the right thing.”
The Blue Devils’ amended 2020 schedule has them scheduled to kick off their season on the road at Notre Dame on Sept. 12.