DURHAM – Duke football received binding National Letters of Intent from 20 recruits on Wednesday, closing National Signing Day with what coach David Cutcliffe called an “impact class.”
“There’s strength, there’s size, there’s height, there’s quickness,” said Cutcliffe, whose team has finished with back-to-back 3-9 seasons. “There’s no question in my mind that we have recruited some immediate help there. I couldn’t be more excited.”
Scout.com ranked this Duke recruiting class 10th in the ACC and 63rd overall in the nation. The class includes 10 three-star recruits, while featuring five in-state products.
The Devils added one quarterback, one kicker, eight linemen and 10 backs – meaning a specialty position such as running backs, defensive backs or wide receivers.
While most of the class, including the nation’s top kicker Ross Martin, had committed early to the Devils, two in-state recruits, Jela Duncan and Keilin Rayner came on late.
The Devils beat out East Carolina, N.C. State, North Carolina and Wake Forest to land Rayner, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound prospect from North Brunswick High in Leland. “Grown man,” said Cutcliffe, referring to Rayner’s 450 bench press and impressive size.
Rayner is ranked the No. 36th middle linebacker in the nation by Scout.com.
Duncan, a 5-10, 200 pound running back from Mallard Creek in Charlotte, is ranked as the No. 3 running back in the state and listed as the 12th overall state prospect.
One of Duke’s first offers in this class went to Panther Creek tight end Dan Beilinson, a 6-5, 240 pounder who caught 67 passes for 965 yards in his final two seasons. He's rated as the No. 40 tight end prospect in the nation.
“He’s that new tight end,” Cutcliffe said. “That 6-5 guy who can run.”
The Devils also landed three-star recruit Shaquille Powell, a running back from Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas. He rushed for 2,458 yards and 44 touchdowns as a senior.
Powell was one of two running backs the Devils brought in.
Martin, a top-ranked kicker from Solon, Ohio, will arrive on campus as the probable starter to replace kicker Will Snyderwine who graduated.
Martin, who’s ranked No.1 in the nation by Rivals.com and No. 2 by Scout.com, collected 81 points on 10 field goals and 51 PATs as a senior. His career-long is from 50 yards.
“Ross has got the chance to prove that he’s got to be beat out,” Cutcliffe said.
The team brought in a variety of positions, yet focused much attention on adding talent to its defense. For the past two seasons, the Devils have stocked redshirt defensive talent in an effort to build speed and depth, particularly on the defensive line.
“We’re going to give these guys a chance to help,” Cutcliffe said. “We’re going to throw the ball out in the middle of a bunch of linemen to see what ends up happening. We have some competition thank goodness.”
Cutcliffe, who enters his fifth season at Duke when spring camp opens on Feb. 22, said recruiting efforts over the past few years have put the team in better position to win. He said the team has more athletes who can compete physically in the ACC.
“I hate to say that with the records we’ve had,” Cutcliffe said. “We’re pretty good right now physically. We’re ahead of where I thought we would be, honestly, because of the way we’ve recruited.”
Cutcliffe said he’s received compliments from coaches on the recruiting trail who have recognized the growth.
Added Cutcliffe, “We’ve recruited very hard since we’ve been here.”
Now, he said, the Devils have to show it on the field.