While Duke seems to dominates ESPN fodder from November to March, it’s been a long time since anyone on the Worldwide Leader mentioned the Blue Devils for football outside of using Duke as the punch line for a cliched jab. It’s been even longer since the last time NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. seriously discussed a Duke player’s prospects in the NFL Draft.
On Thursday, though, ESPN devoted about a minute to the Blue Devils, and Kiper dropped the names of two Blue Devils in his QB stock report (and yes, we can put aside the fact that the Draft is still more than seven months away).
Never mind the fact that Kiper’s talking points were basically taken straight from David Cutcliffe’s Wikipedia or that he offers no fresh insight in this case. He says Lewis is a junior, has the size, arm and ability to play in the NFL and has not thrown an interception in six games, before adding a nugget about Riley, a smooth and athletic senior wideout who has apparently drawn the interest of NFL teams . Anyone who has watched a Duke game—or, you know, reads The Chronicle or the Sports Blog—could tell you all of that.
The substance (or, as we have determined, lack thereof) of Kiper’s monologue is less important than the fact that Duke Football received a mere mention in college football and, further, NFL Draft talk on ESPN. It’s almost passe, at this point, to credit Cutcliffe for turning the program around on the field, even if it is true. His biggest contribution so far has been revamping the public perception of the Blue Devils, and it’s been a priority since day one. It is a truth universally acknowledged that if the head coach is open and willing to talk, the reporter will always be willing to listen. Cutcliffe has never shied from chatting with reporters—even after Duke’s first loss of the season—and the positive coverage has rolled in almost as predictably as Lewis has rolled out of the pocket. And, of course, winning helps the cause, too.
—by Ben Cohen