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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).

Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell and coach Derek Jones on the Blue Devils' secondary

Ross Cockrell has spent plenty of time teaching Duke's young secondary. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY

DURHAM—Duke defensive backs coach Derek Jones recently called all-ACC cornerback Ross Cockrell his personal GA, or grad assistant. He wasn't being too facetious.

There's a story in today's paper about Cockrell's transformation from overwhelmed redshirt freshman to borderline staff member. He's the lone returning starter in the secondary and has spent the summer brining the younger defensive backs along.

"I was talking to my dad and mom about it the other day, just how much things can change in a couple years, even after a couple games. It’s kind of funny though, but I like it," Cockrell said. "Yeah, three years ago I was just a redshirt freshman trying to make it (laughs). Now I’m looking at people asking me to run meetings and stuff. But it’s been good. It’s been a good experience."

Top 10 most important players for 2013 Duke football: No. 3, Ross Cockrell

Ross Cockrell is the ACC's active leader in interceptions and second in pass break-ups. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY

With football season just around the corner (practice starts Aug. 5), it’s time to turn some focus to the gridiron and what lies ahead for the 2013 Blue Devils. There are two major goals that need to be checked off the list to further separate Duke’s present and future from it’s disastrous past: clinch the program’s first winning season since 1994 and make back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time…ever.

To do that, Duke will need some players to step into new roles and others to take on larger ones. With that in mind, here’s a look at the 10 most important players for the upcoming season. Be sure to check back daily for the unveiling of the full list.

No. 3: cornerback Ross Cockrell

Duke football postseason awards

Conner Vernon is one of many Blue Devils to pick up a few postseason awards. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY

A one-stop rundown of all the Duke postseason awards:

CB Ross Cockrell—honorable mention All-American (Sports Illustrated), first-team coaches' All-ACC team, first-team coaches' All-ACC team, first team All-ACC

Ross Martin—honorable mention All-American (Sports Illustrated), Freshman All-American (Sporting News, CBSCollegeSports.com), honorable mention coaches All-ACC team, honorable mention All-ACC

QB Sean Renfree—Jim Tatum Award (top senior ACC football senior-athlete),  National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete, Pop Warner National College Football Award, AFCA’s Good Works Team, Senior CLASS Award finalist, East West Shrine Game participant

David Cutcliffe chosen ACC Coach of the Year by his peers

 

David Cutcliffe was voted ACC Coach of the Year by the other league coaches. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY

Mirroring the media's selection one week ago, the ACC coaches voted Duke's David Cutcliffe Coach of the Year. Cutcliffe received seven of 12 possible votes.

Cutcliffe, in his fifth year at Duke, took over a program with 10 total wins in the eight seasons before he arrived. Since he came to Durham prior to the 2008 season, Duke is 21-39 (.350) and, this year, competed for the ACC Coastal Division title until the penultimate week of the regular season, finishing 6-6 and earning a berth in the Belk Bowl against Cincinnati. 

Cornerback Ross Cockrell, punter Will Monday and wide receiver voted for an All-ACC football team, as well as Players of the Year, Rookies of the Year and a Coach of the Year award. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own players and cast ballots for two points for first-team and one point for second-team selections. were also named first-team all-ACC by the coaches. Vernon was one of three players chosen for the first team that the media picked for the second-team. 

A brief history of the Belk Bowl

 

While Conner Vernon may have briefly doubted Duke could make a bowl, the 2012 Blue Devils have made that dream a reality. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY

DURHAM—When asked what his first choice was for a bowl destination, cornerback Ross Cockrell said Miami.

While an ACC title and a trip to the Orange Bowl would have been nice, Duke players are plenty satisfied with Charlotte's Belk Bowl as a consolation prize.

"I’m excited to be in a pro stadium, in a pro locker room and see what that’s like," Cockrell said of the venue, the Carolina Panthers' Bank of America Stadium. "At the end of the day, it’s still a football game, and we have to go out and do what we have to do."

Duke CB Ross Cockrell and P Will Monday earn first-team all-ACC honors

 

Duke punter Will Monday was one of two Blue Devils to receive first-team all-ACC honors. Credit: CHRIS SEWARD

For the first time since 2003, Duke had two players selected for the first-team all-ACC squad. Overall, nine Blue Devils received all-ACC honors

CB Ross Cockrell and P Will Monday both made the first team. Cockrell, a redshirt junior and co-captain, leads the ACC with five interceptions, and he ranks third in total passes defended (17). In 12 games, he has amassed 63 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, and 12 pass breakups. Monday, a redshirt freshman, leads the ACC and ranks 14th nationally in punting average at 44.12 yards per punt. 

Here are two feature stories from earlier in the year, one on Cockrell and the other on Monday

For the third year in a row, Duke WR Conner Vernon was a second-team all-ACC selection. This year, he has caught a team-best (and school single-season record) 75 passes for 955 yards and seven touchdowns. Earlier this season, Vernon became the ACC’s all-time leader in both pass receptions and receiving yardage with 273 catches for 3,630 yards. In 2009, Vernon was on the freshmen all-ACC team. 

Vernon received 51 votes this year—two fewer than Boston College, WR Alex Amidon, who made the first team ahead of him. Amidon has 78 catches for 1,210 yards on the year. 

Ross Cockrell's personal rise mirrors Duke's rise

 

Now that he's had success, Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell can laugh off memories of his struggles.

DURHAM—Two years ago, on a nearly every-week basis, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe told the media that Ross Cockrell was going to be a great football player.

And every time, the reporters would pause, put their hand to their mouth or reveal whatever was their personal tell that indicated disbelief.

But now, two years later, a question was posed to Cutcliffe: is Ross Cockrell the best cornerback in the ACC?

Duke's Ross Cockrell named ACC defensive back of the week

Ross Cockrell is both the statistical and vocal leader for Duke's defense. Credit: TAKAAKI IWABU 

Duke CB Ross Cockrell, who leads the nation is total passes defended and pass breakups, was named the ACC defensive back of the week Monday after his performance last week against NC Central.

Cockrell, a redshirt junior, added two pass breakups and two interceptions against the Eagles, giving him nine total passes defended for the season, which ties him with Stanford's Jordan Richards for the highest in the nation. His second interception, which he took 32 yards for a touchdown, marked the second time he has scored this season (he returned a blocked field goal for a score against FIU in week one).

"I do enjoy scoring touchdowns," Cockrell said after the 54-17 win over NC Central. "On the second interception, everyone got up and blocked. It was a team effort."

Cutcliffe on FIU, freshmen debuts and travel advice from Peyton Manning

 

Duke redshirt freshman Kyler Brown (56) picks off a pass in the fourth quarter. Credit: CHRIS SEWARD-cseward@newsobserver.com

Duke head coach David Cutcliffe holds weekly Sunday teleconferences during the season in which he looks back at the previous game and will talk a bit about the game to come. Here are a few highlights from today’s look at the 46-26 win over Florida International and a few thoughts on Stanford. Duke is currently a 14.5 underdog for its road game against the Cardinal.

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