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Duke Now is your place for Blue Devil hoops and football. Beat writer Laura Keeley has up-to-the-minute news and analysis. Columnist Luke DeCock also contributes. Follow us on Twitter at @laurakeeley or @accnow.

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Blair Holliday speaks for the first time since his accident

Blair Holliday reached another significant milestone in his recovery from a jet ski injury: he spoke to head coach David Cutcliffe on the phone.

“We had him on speakerphone, and it was just great to hear his voice – a sound that absolutely filled the room with exuberance,” Cutcliffe said in a statement released by the school. “We talked about the rehabilitation process and how important it is, and when I asked him if he understood how much we loved him, he responded with a confident ‘yes’.”

Duke goes completely digital, gives each player an iPad

DURHAM—The image of a big, thick playbook binder has long been a staple of college football.

Starting this year, though, you won’t find any of those at Duke.

The Blue Devils have partnered with Apple and Baltimore-based Global Apptitude to go completely paperless as each player received an iPad with the playbook and all other necessary information, including the preseason camp itinerary, already uploaded.

 “We have the capability to send them practice video to study, and they download it wherever they are,” head coach David Cutcliffe said.  “When you go through the playbook, just as it was written in the old days, there’s a little clip at the top that says video, and you punch it with your finger, it’s magic, here’s a video that shows up, so you’re digitally seeing two of three reps of the play, then you flip the  page to the next one.

It’s a great toy. I cant’ sleep.”

Tom Long and Adam Barkley, the head and assistant football director of information technology, set up a videoconference with Global Apptitude last spring. The company has partnerships with several NFL teams, including the Indianapolis Colts and the Dallas Cowboys.

Every player, including incoming freshmen, received an iPad about two weeks prior to the start of camp. Desmond Scott, who is switching from running back to wide reciver for his senior season, joked that he has already worn his out.

“I just got back from Atlanta on Sunday before camp, and I was on the plane going through plays,” he said. “When I’m watching TV, I’m on my iPad, going through plays.”

Cutcliffe said the move will also help control costs—he was surprised to learn how much the team spent on paper—and it also works towards the Blue Devils’ one simple goal.

“Everything we do, from the playbook to what we are going to plan in practice, to treatment in the training room is about one thing: scoring more points than the other team. Don’t try to complicate it. There’s only one way to win the game. Period. And that’s to score more points than the other team scores.”

Duke vs. Ohio State set for Nov. 28 at 9:30 pm

Duke vs. Ohio State will headline the second day of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge with a 9:30 p.m. tipoff on Nov. 28. This is the second year for the Blue Devils-Buckeyes matchup—last season, then-No. 3 Duke traveled to Columbus and left with an 85-63 defeat at the hands of No. 2 Ohio State.

When the media kept asking Mike Krzyzewski after the game to comment on the play of specific Buckeyes, he told them "I wasn't focused on each of their guys; I was trying not to lose by 30."

This year, a Jared Sullinger-less Ohio State will come to Cameron, where Duke has won an NCAA-best 94 consecutive home games against non-conference opponents.

Quinn Cook shines in Four Nations Cup

 

Duke sophomore Quinn Cook arrived back in Durham Monday along with teammate Marshall Plumlee after competing in Estonia for the East Coast All-Stars in the Four Nations World Cup. And Cook brought back a souvenir: a spot on the all-Cup team.

John Mellencamp's son to walk-on at Duke

 

DURHAM—A quick scan down Duke’s roster reveals a notable surname: Mellencamp. And yes, Hud Mellencamp, a freshman walk-on, is the son of the legendary rock star, John.

Listed as a defensive back, the 5-foot-11, 165-pound Mellencamp was homeschooled throughout high school and has never played football before, but his family called the coaching staff and asked if they would visit with him after he was accepted to Duke.

Cutcliffe called him a “courageous” young man that was trying to do something new.

“We’re going to spoon feed him, let this thing go slow,” Cutcliffe said, adding that Mellencamp, who is one of two No. 17s on the roster, does have boxing experience.

Mellencamp is not the only person at Duke with a rock star dad—Bruce Springsteen’s daughter, Jessica, attends the school as well. 

Preseason personnel notes from Cutcliffe

 

DURHAM—David Cutcliffe wasn’t short on optimism or information at his first press conference of the preseason. In addition to Desmond Scott’s position switch, here are a few other odds and ends from Cutcliffe:

*Even though Cutcliffe opted not to single out any incoming freshman that he expected to play right away, he couldn’t help mentioning how impressed he was with kicker Ross Martin. The No. 1 rated high school kicker by Rivals and Under Armour All-American wowed Cutcliffe during Duke’s camp and impressed his teammates this summer.

“It was the most impressive thing I had seen in my career during a camp setting,” Cutcliffe said. “I kept trying to figure out a way to make him miss.”

Redshirt freshman Will Monday, who is expected to handle punting duties, and sophomore walk-on Jack Willoughby will compete with Martin for the job. Willoughby will miss the first five days of preseason while he is studying at Oxford.

The Blue Devils are looking for more consistency out of the kicking game this season. After an All-American junior year, Will Synderwine struggled during his senior campaign, going 8-for-17 in field goal attempts last season.

 

*In his 14-minute opening statement, Cutcliffe touched an a number of personnel issues:

            - Duke hopes to know Thursday whether Ohio State transfer Jeremy Cash, a four-star safety coming out of high school, will be eligible to play this season. Cash, a sophomore, appeared in five games last season for the Buckeyes and transferred to Duke in January.

- Despite losing tight end Braxton Deaver and wide receiver Blair Holliday to injuries, Brandon Braxton will not move back to receiver, the position he played last year. He is expected to start at safety.

- Linebacker Kelby Brown, defensive end Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo and nose guard Jamal Bruce—50 percent of the Blue Devils’ starting front six—are out indefinitely with injuries.

-Incoming freshman Keilin Rayner is moving from linebacker to nose guard. He is listed at 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, but Cutcliffe said he is now over 265. Redshirt sophomore Steven Ingram (6-foot-2, 315 pounds) is listed as the backup to Bruce on the depth chart.

-Redshirt sophomore Jamal Wallace, the backup left defensive end, has moved to defensive tackle. Wallace recorded 15 total tackles last season.

New season brings a new position for Desmond Scott

DURHAM—Desmond Scott first heard that he was switching positions on Twitter. The day before Duke opened its preseason practice, though, the senior—who had been listed at the starting running back on the preseason depth chart—received the official word.

“Coach (Kurt) Roper said, ‘you’re no longer a running back, you play wide receiver,’ and that was that,” said Scott, adding that he had worked a bit at the position in the spring. “No reluctance at all. I embraced it with open arms. I played it in high school. Of course there’s a difference between playing in high school and playing in college, but with this move, goals that I have are so much closer.”

Five August questions for football

On the eve of Duke's first practice, here are five questions the Blue Devils need to address before their Sept. 1 kickoff against Florida International:

 

1 . Can Sean Renfree continue to improve?

Renfree, a fifth-year senior, was much more effective as a junior, trimming six interceptions off his sophomore year total and throwing multiple interceptions only in the 14-10 loss to Virginia Tech. In order for Duke to improve, though, Renfree will need to take another large step forward in his development, cutting down even further on the turnovers. He threw interceptions in each of Duke’s last seven losses last year).

Cutcliffe, who knows a fair amount about quarterbacks (he advised Peyton Manning, whom he coached at Tennessee, during Manning’s offseason rehab), has said that Renfree has NFL potential.

“He’s got to handle pressure,” Cutcliffe told ESPN in May. “He’s got to do the things that at times have been a problem for us. Is he a pro prospect? Definitely. I think he will get drafted. To what level depends upon this year.”

2. Other than Connor Vernon, to whom will Sean Renfree throw?

Vernon, who is set to become the ACC’s all-time leading receiver this year, is the clear No. 1 of the group. After that, though, there are a lot of question marks.

Gone is Donovan Varner, Duke’s all-time receptions leader. Brandon Braxton, the second-leading returner behind Vernon, has been moved to safety, and Blair Holliday, a projected starter, suffered critical head injuries in a personal watercraft accident July 4. That leaves sophomore Jamison Crowder (14 receptions, 163 yards) and redshirt freshman Nick Hill as second and third options for now. Only one other receiver listed on the preseason depth chart—redshirt junior Corey Gattis—caught a pass last season, and his lone reception went for minus-three yards.

Duke has two true freshmen with decent size – Max McCaffrey (6-foot-2) and Anthony Nash (6-foot-5) – who will be in the mix, along with Jack Wise and Brandon Watkins.

Click here to read the rest and to see what head coach David Cutcliffe thinks about the possibility of a bowl game. 

Blair Holliday making progress, will transfer to rehab hospital

For the first time since sophomore Blair Holliday’s July 4 jet ski accident, his parents have provided an update on his condition. The wide receiver will transfer next week to the Shepherd Center, an Atlanta rehabilitation hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord and brain injuries, the family said in a statement.

Jabari Parker might make UNC, Duke and others wait

The Jabari Parker watch is on, and has been for a while. The question now is how long the nation’s top-rated basketball recruit might wait before choosing where he will play (likely for only one season) in college.

Parker, a 6-foot-8 small forward who plays at the Simeon Career Academy in Chicago, is considering North Carolina, Duke and eight other schools, according to a list of “finalists” he made public last month through his Twitter account. And it sounds as though Parker might deliberate for a while before making a decision.

Parker’s father, Sonny Parker, told ESPNChicago.com that Parker and the family “aren’t in a hurry” about reaching a college decision. ESPNChicago.com published the story on Thursday.