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2013 Duke football season preview

Newly minted captain Anthony Boone is pretty pumped for the start of the season. "Too excited," he said recently. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY

In today's paper, if you flip to the sports page, you'll see Anthony Boone front and center, serving as the headline our Duke football preview. Here are links to what's inside:

***A detailed look at Anthony Boone and the spread-option and zone-read schemes. Eight of David Cutcliffe's 10 starting quarterbacks have gone onto the NFL. Boone is next in line, and, as he's always done, Cutcliffe has tweaked his system to play to his quarterback's strengths.

In case you were curious, the two quarterbacks NOT to make it to the NFL are:

Duke football names Justin Foxx, Anthony Boone, Dave Harding, and Ross Cockrell captains

Anthony Boone will lead Duke on and off the field this year as a team captain. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY

The Blue Devils held their annual vote for team captains over the weekend, and four upperclassmen were picked to lead the team. They are:

QB Anthony Boone, R-Jr.: Never a huge surprise to see the starting quarterback named a team captain (and it's probably a little red flag when you don't see it). The players had said all camp that Boone had taken control of the offense and made it his own. This vote seems to confirm that.

By the way, look for a longer feature on Boone's place in head coach David Cutcliffe's quarterback lineage later tonight online and in tomorrow's paper. In the meantime, here is a profile I wrote on Boone last year (along with some extra details that didn't make the final cut).

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier: I’m a Dukie and games against UNC are special

After their 41-0 victory against North Carolina in 1989, Duke coach Steve Spurrier and the Blue Devils posed for a picture in front of the scoreboard at Kenan Stadium. DUKE SPORTS INFORMATION

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier on Sunday gave his pre-North Carolina game press conference. And, as you’d expect, Spurrier was asked what games against the Tar Heels mean to him. After all, you’d figure they’d mean something extra given he spent three seasons coaching at Duke.

And they do. Here’s a fun read from Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer about how Spurrier still enjoys games against UNC.

And the highlights, from Spurrier:

2013 Duke football schedule, ranked in order of difficulty

The 2013 football season is just around the corner for Jamison Crowder and the Blue Devils. Credit: CHRIS SEWARD

The countdown is on until Duke’s Aug. 31st opener against N.C. Central. That’s as close to an automatic win as physically possible. But what about the rest of the schedule?

Last year, I went through and ranked the games in order of increasing difficulty. I did pretty well—I was too down on Miami’s defense (it was bad, but not too bad that the offense couldn’t overcome its shortcoming), and FIU was worse than everyone thought (remember, that team got a few votes in last year’s preseason AP poll). But overall, a solid effort for August.

Here’s a look at how I think all 12 of this year's games stack up in order of increasing difficulty. Next week, I'll give you a prediction on Duke's regular season record.

Aug. 31 vs. N.C. Central (6-5 last season) Even before the Eagles fired head coach Henry Frazier III just nine days before the start of the season, NCCU was non-threatening on the field. The Eagles return just three defensive starters. This game accomplishes two things: it gives Duke as close to a guaranteed win as you can get and it’s a nice civic pride event with the all-Durham Bull City Gridiron Classic. Gone are the days when the Blue Devils were losing to teams from the lower Division-I classification.

Duke coach Scottie Montgomery putting his stamp on his wide receivers

Scottie Montgomery, shown here in his first coaching stint with Duke, brings a passionate fire to the wide receivers. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY

DURHAM—When Scottie Montgomery re-joined Duke’s staff after three years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he brought palpable energy and charisma to his introductory press conference in February. By July, he had already begun to make an impact on the recruiting trail, landing four-star quarterback Nico Pierre, a quarterback from Miami.

Now in August, he has put his stamp on his position group, the wide receivers.

Duke's Kelby Brown and Braxton Deaver ready to play again

Kelby Brown is one of two projected Duke starters that haven't played since 2011. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY

There are two projected Duke starters who haven’t played in a game since 2011: tight end Braxton Deaver and linebacker Kelby Brown.

Deaver, a redshirt junior, has the size (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) the Blue Devils’ staff wants in a tight end. He played in all 12 games in redshirt freshman year and earned one start, against Miami in week nine. For the year, he caught eight passes for 107 yards and also contributed on special teams.

Deaver, who was projected to start last year, missed the season while recovering from a broken kneecap. He was able to go full speed in the spring.

Duke's defensive stopper: Justin Foxx

Justin Foxx (92) took a few photos with his fellow defensive linemen at Meet the Blue Devils day. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY

For Sunday's paper, the N&O's beat writers for Duke, UNC and N.C. State had to pick a key defensive player from our respective teams. Here's what I wrote about for the Blue Devils.

If Duke is going to return to a bowl game this year, the defensive line will have to carry the defense.

“We have to make plays,” defensive tackle Sydney Sarmiento said. If we don’t make plays, we aren’t going to win games, and that’s the bottom line.”

David Cutcliffe looking for an up-tempo offense at Duke

David Cutcliffe is a believer in the no-huddle, up-tempo offense. Credit: TAKAAKI IWABU

Duke head coach David Cutcliffe doesn’t tote a can Red Bull. But he’s all about playing fast.

“I’m a torrid pace guy,” Cutcliffe said earlier in camp. “We call it tempo, and I’m always going to be a tempo guy. I don’t believe in dissertations on the practice field. When you’re on the grass, it’s about work. We have meetings. We have to go to the next play. That’s my impatience.”

Duke has run a no-huddle offense for several seasons, and last year the Blue Devils set a new high in the Cutcliffe era by running 990 offensive plays. That’s an average of 76.2 per game, third-most in the ACC (Clemson tops the league with 81.7 plays per game, and N.C. State was second at 80).

Record crowd for Duke's Meet the Blue Devils day

Duke head coach David Cutcliffe was a popular person at Meet the Blue Devils day. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY

Note: Be sure to check out the N&O's gallery to get the full flavor of the event.

Despite the cold, drizzly weather outside, about 1,700 people filed into Duke’s indoor practice facility to see the Blue Devils and collect autographs at their annual meet-and-greet event.

“This was incredible, starting with the number of fans,” Head coach David Cutcliffe said. “It was a large number.”

Notes from Duke football's second scrimmage

Always a competitor, Jamison Crowder has stayed true to form this camp. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY

DURHAM—Duke held its second preseason scrimmage Friday morning, offering a glimpse at the two-deep depth chart. Here are a few observations:

*Jamison Crowder, Issac Blakeney and Brandon Braxton were the wide receivers in with the starting offense. Braxton, a senior, spent his first two years as a wide receiver, starting 15 games, and moved to safety last season. After battling injuries that kept him out of five games last year, Braxton moved back to receiver, his natural position.

“It’s been going good,” Braxton said of his transition. “It was kind of slow at first. I had to relearn all the plays. My mind only works on one thing, so it was like restarting again, but I picked it up pretty fast.”

It doesn’t hurt that he has natural chemistry with quarterback Anthony Boone and tight end Braxton Deaver, his two roommates. All three hail from the Charlotte area.

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