Talking Blue Devils Football with Duke Sports Blog


No bowl game preparation is complete without a Q&A with a fellow blogger. We can talk about the stats and data until we die of boredom but we can’t really, truly understand a team without talking to someone who follows the team as closely as possible. It’s always a great way to dive into the story of a season that go beyond the numbers.

So I’ve commandeered the help of Mike Kline from the Duke Sports Blog to answer a few questions about his favorite team and provide some insight on Blue Devils football:

Bearcats Nation: What can you attribute to Duke’s marked improvement on the football field this season?

Duke Sports Blog: The biggest thing has been experience and a significant upgrade in talent since David Cutcliffe took over the program. Duke is not quite getting the 4/5 star recruits but picking up solid football players who within a few years can be terrific football players, while still getting a few gems that can contribute early. They are just a bigger, stronger, faster football team than they have been in years and it is finally starting to show.

BN: After racing out to a 5 – 1 start, Duke seemed to hit a wall when ACC play came around. In as few words as possible, what happened?

DSB: Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Florida State in Tallahassee, Clemson and Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Their schedule was just brutal and they had to get off to that good start to get to six wins and they did. A much better team but just not good enough to knock off the upper echelon of the ACC yet.

BN: The Blue Devils’ passing attack scares me with Sean Renfree really shining as a senior. What makes him such a dangerous quarterback?

DSB: Renfree is just a super smart player. He is very cerebral and studies and prepares like no one else. He has a quick release and is tough. He will stand in the pocket, sometimes longer than you want him to, or he will scramble to pick up some extra yards. He doesn’t always make the right plays but he is always looking to make a play.

BN: Who are some of Duke’s other playmakers on offense?

DSB: Freshman Running Back Jela Duncan has been a pleasant surprise and runs hard. He will only get better and Duke isn’t a great running team but he is by far the best back. Duke’s wide receivers Conner Vernon, Jamison Crowder and Desmond Scott are arguably three of the best receivers in the country that few have ever heard of. Vernon became the ACC’s all-time leading reciever, Crowder is a speedster that can get behind defenses and Scott always seems to be able to make big catches when Duke needs them.

BN: On defense who are some of Blue Devils we should keep an eye on in the Belk Bowl?

DSB: Ross Cockrell is one of the best corner’s Duke has had in a while. He is All-ACC and lead Duke in interceptions and pass breakups. He is Duke’s best cover corner as well. Walt Canty is a safety that plays all over the field and makes big plays seemingly when the Blue Devils need them. And then there is Kenny Anunike who is Duke’s best defensive lineman is the Blue Devil’s best pass rusher.

BN: If you were a Cincinnati coach, what area of Duke’s offense and defense would you try to exploit?

DSB: Duke has not been very good against the rush on defense so if the Bearcats have a running game I’d run, run and when they get tired of running, run some more. They are the better team but to make it easier on themselves keep their offense on the field and avoid a shoot out. Duke’s offense is the strength of this team and Cincinnati would be smart to keep them off the field.

BN: Given the close proximity to Durham, do you think we can expect Charlotte to be jam packed with Duke fans?

DSB: Duke fans have not had the chance to see Duke play in a bowl game in 18 years so I expect a pretty good turn out. The Blue Devils have recruited Charlotte hard and the families and friends of those players will show. It may not be jam packed but I expect a much better than average attendance from Duke fans for a game not played at Wallace Wade Stadium.

BN: Finally, who you got in this game?

DSB: As much as I want to believe in this game being the culmination of a great season for Duke, I’m just not sure they are ready to compete with a team like Cincinnati that is far more established as a respectable football program. This game could be a high scoring affair but I think the Bearcats win comfortably. Cincinnati- 42 Duke-24


Thanks to Mike for working his way through my slurry of questions. He gave some solid, informational answers and I especially love his prediction of a Bearcats victory. Remember to check out Duke Sports Blog and be sure to follow Mike on Twitter to learn up on all thing Blue Devils.