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Duke Athletics: The Week That Was

 

Duke's Desmond Scott (33) and Jamison Crowder (3) celebrate Crowder's second-quarter touchdown. Credit: CHRIS SEWARD-cseward@newsobserver.com 

While I was off in Scotland and Ireland, it was quite a busy week back in Durham. A quick rundown of what I missed, just in case you missed something, too:

Duke football: closing out camp

First, a programming note: I'll be on vacation, without a working phone, for the next week. The rest of the staff will handle the Duke football duties leading up to and including the game against FIU, so be sure to check the site's main Duke page throughout the week and follow me on twitter (@laurakeeley), as I've rigged my feed to automatically post new stories as they appear on the site.

My season preview, complete with a lengthy look at how, exactly, Conner Vernon ended up at Duke will run in Tuesday's paper, so look for that to appear online Monday night. 

See you next Sunday.

Switching directions, we are officially seven days from the start of Duke's college football season. I wrote a camp wrap-up for today's paper focusing on Brandon Connette's new role, the possibility of a stronger run game, and, of course, all of the injuries.

With Jordon Byas joining the list of starters lost for the season Friday, I actually went and revised my prediction for Duke's record. There are just so many missing players, and the schedule is just so unfavorable. I'm not sure the Blue Devils have caught a lucky break in the five years David Cutcliffe has been in Durham. But that's football.

Know one thing, though, in case it isn't obvious: Cutcliffe and his staff work incredibly hard. They're fully committed to turning the program around and are constantly looking for any type of advantage. Case in point: the Blue Devils ditched their old, paper playbooks and have become one of the first teams to go completely digital. In case you missed the story earlier in the week, give it a read. It's pretty intriguing technology. 

Blair Holliday walks for the first time

 

Blair Holliday, seen here last season against Tulane, continues to make progress after his jet ski accident. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY-cliddy@newsobserver.com

When Blair Holliday was critically injured in a July 4 jet ski accident, no one knew what to expect as far as his recovery.

So far, he has exceeded even his doctors' expectations, and Wednesday, he walked without assistance for the first time.

Duke safety Taylor Sowell out for the season and other injury updates

 

In the first major injury news from the preseason, Duke S Taylor Sowell had surgery Monday to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon in his right leg, the team announced in a statement. Sowell, a redshirt junior who was listed as the backup to Jordon Byas at the "strike" safety position on the summer depth chart, has played 80 career snaps and registered six tackles last season. He will miss the entire season.

While Sowell is the first casualty from the fall, the Blue Devils came into camp with several players out indefinitely. WR Blair Holliday (head), TE Braxton Deaver (fractured left kneecap), NG Jamal Bruce (right foot) and LB Kelby Brown (right ACL) were all projected to start. And key backups including LG Lucas Patrick (fractured left ankle), Jared Boyd (ACL) and DE Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo (ankle) are all still recovering from offseason injuries and also do not have timetables for their returns.

Video: Sean Renfree's touchdown pass to Brandon Connette

 

Now, no one is about to confuse me with Sofia Coppola, but I did manage to shoot this clip of Sean Renfree's 15-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Connette in Duke's Friday scrimmage (read all about the do-it-all Connette and said scrimmage here).

A viewing guide: Connette (18) lines at at tight end on the left side of the formation. He runs a nice little seam route and catches the ball in the end zone despite Jordan Byas's (38) best effort at safety. Connette said catching passes, specifically catching pass in traffic, has been the hardest adjustment to his new role, but, as you can see, he has made some progress in that area. 

"Upgraded Swag" and Notes from Meet the Blue Devils day

 

Duke freshman DB Hud Mellencamp signs autographs for fans. Credit: yours truly, lkeeley@newsobserver.com

 

Sunday marked the first day of camp without any on-the-field work for Duke. The term "off day" might not be completely appropriate though, as the team was planning on going to church and lunch together as well as getting in some classroom work. Below, though, is a recap from Saturday's Meet the Blue Devils day, which was attended by 1,500 fans—the biggest crowd in at least 25 years (no Duke officials cold vouch for further back than that).

DURHAM—“Upgraded Swag” is the term DE Kenny Anunike used to describe Duke’s new helmets at the annual Meet the Blue Devils day this weekend. But, really, that term could be applied to the way the Blue Devils feel about the program in its entirety.

Connette, Butler (and a Mellencamp appearance) highlight Duke's second scrimmage

 

Look for Brandon Connette to appear at multiple offensive positions this season. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY-cliddy@newsobserver.com 

DURHAM—When David Cutcliffe announced that Brandon Connette was no longer the backup quarterback, he didn’t specify a new position for the redshirt sophomore.

Turns out Connette can’t give a simple answer either.

Meet the Blue Devils set for Saturday

 

Duke will host its annual Meet the Blue Devils Saturday, rain or shine at 6 p.m. in the Pascal Field House, the team’s indoor practice facility, which is adjacent to Wallace Wade Stadium. The forecast calls for a steady stream of air conditioning and balmy 68 degree temperature.
 
All fans in attendance will have the opportunity to tour the field house, which opened in 2006 thanks in large part to a $6 million donation from Bob Pascal, a former Duke football player. Attendees will also receive a free 2012 team posture and have the opportunity to collect autographs.
 
Parking will also be free in the Grounds lot off of Bassett Drive.  
 
Yours truly will also be there...if you see someone with blonde hair running around in black dress pants, say hello.

Notes from Duke's first scrimmage

Third-year starter Sean Renfree performed well in Duke's first scrimmage. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY - cliddy@newsobserver.com

While Mike Krzyzewski addressed the media at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, the Blue Devils held their first scrimmage of the preseason, getting in 80 snaps. A few performances to note, with stats coming from the Duke sports information office:

New Helmets for Duke

 

A wardrobe announcement for your Tuesday afternoon: Duke has a new trio of helmets for this season.

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