Tag Archives: ESPN

Lewis, Riley Earn NFL Draft Buzz

Junior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis earned a mention from ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. Thursday. Photo by Max Masnick / The Chronicle

Junior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis earned a mention from ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. Thursday. Photo by Max Masnick / The Chronicle

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

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Cutcliffe Garners More Praise

As we said yesterday, expect a decent amount of linking to Heather Dinich, ESPN’s ACC blogger whose posts tend to fill our inboxes with Google Alerts and keeps our Google Reader on alert. (Hint: Embrace Google products, thank us later.) Today, she ranks the ACC’s coaches, putting David Cutcliffe fourth of 12 coaches. Not bad for a man fired from his last head coaching job (albeit for petty reasons and not necessarily linked to on-field success) who has yet to win a game at Duke. Her description:

While he has yet to prove anything in the ACC, Cutcliffe’s experience in the SEC speaks for itself. He led Ole Miss to four bowl games in six seasons and finished with a .603 winning percentage there. Cutcliffe also built an impressive resume during his time at Tennessee.

The reason we’ve linked to this poll, of all posts? First, the fact that Cutcliffe is deemed a better coach than most ACC coaches is noteworthy, given that Ted Roof surely would have finished dead last in this poll, as his teams did in conference standings. Second, Cutcliffe was ranked considerably higher than first-year Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson, the only other newcomer on the list, the former Navy man who Duke actively pursued before he decided to take his triple-option offense to Atlanta. Remember: As highly as Cutcliffe is revered now, he would never have been offered the job had Johnson thought higher of Duke.

And last, it’s worth questioning how much Cutcliffe’s public relations and confident words contributed to this relative honor. Yes, Cutcliffe’s resume is impressive enough to warrant Dinich’s praise. (Did you know he tutored the Manning brothers?) But now he’s at Duke, not Ole Miss. He’s at a program with little football tradition past 1938, whose biggest accomplishments in the last 70 years were hosting the Rose Bowl in 1942 (previous error edited out) and launching Steve Spurrier to stardom. Cutcliffe’s categorical refusal to acquiesce to past mediocrity is refreshing, both for outside perception and internal demeanor, and it, along with recruiting coups and other factors, has something to do with Duke’s newfound respect in the media–even if it’s not yet respect, at least Duke Football isn’t always the punchline of a joke.

–by Ben Cohen

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ESPN’s Dinich Answers Duke Questions

Heather Dinich is ESPN’s ACC correspondent, part of the Worldwide Leader’s new college football blog network, consisting of seven bloggers to cover every major conference. In just a few weeks, Dinich’s blog has become a go-to source for any ACC football fan, and the sheer bulk of posts usually guarantees at least a quip about Duke every day. Today, she answers three questions that will define Duke’s season:

  1. How will progress be measured in David Cutcliffe’s first season?
  2. How productive can the combo of quarterback Thaddeus Lewis and receiver Eron Riley be?
  3. How many games can Duke win this year?

The final question, obviously, is the one most weighing on the minds of Duke fans, and over the past few days, Dinich has made it known that she believes Duke can win three games–specifically, the first three, at home against James Madison, Northwestern and Navy.

We’re still a few weeks away from unveiling our staff’s predictions, but one pressing objection: If the Blue Devils can, somehow, win their first three games (and it’s not as completely outrageous as it sounds), then confidence and momentum builds immeasurably. Then up-in-the-air games become realistically winnable; Duke could capitalize on a bye week and a buzzing campus to knock off Virginia at home in their fourth game, or Paul Johnson’s Georgia Tech might be susceptible given possible problems in instituting a unique offensive system. Hypothetical, yes, and unlikely, probably. But if David Cutcliffe and Co. can notch wins in the first few weeks, it’s impossible to predict how the team will react.

How many wins do you think Duke is capable of?

–by Ben Cohen

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ESPN Joins Crowd of Football Previews

As seemingly every national media outlet is starting its college football coverage, it’s no surprise that ESPN came out with its ACC preview Wednesday. College football writer Heather Dinich broke down the Blue Devils, presenting three “Spring Answers” and “Fall Questions.”

In addition to question marks behind Eron Riley at wide receiver and in Duke’s woeful kicking game, Dinich presents an interesting query—one that will essentially define the upcoming season.

“Cutcliffe is eager to see if the tone he set this spring carries into summer camp, and if the players will maintain their improved physiques. If so, how much of an impact can Cutcliffe make in one season at Duke, and will the progress be measured in wins and losses?,” she writes.

What’s your answer?

—by Ben Cohen

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Thoughts from Press Row

OKLAHOMA CITY — Here are some initial thoughts from press row as Duke’s 7 p.m. Sweet 16 tip against Texas A&M approaches:

  • Duke is wearing its black jerseys for the third time this year. The other occasions? Losses to North Carolina in Chapel Hill and in the ACC Tournament.
  • The Aggies’ band and D.U.M.B. are going back and forth right now as the crowd begins to file in. The early verdict? Texas A&M, in a landslide. Duke fans should hope the actual basketball game isn’t as one-sided; the Duke players even gave an A&M trumpeter a standing ovation before after a nice improvised diddy.
  • I’m currently sitting on my computer, watching Davidson-Kansas on March Madness on Demand, and directly next to a TV monitor that will show the ESPN feed of this game. Pretty cool.

Back with more as the game progresses…

–by Ben Cohen

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