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September 13, 2017

David Cutcliffe

Greensboro, North Carolina

DAVID CUTCLIFFE: I think people probably don't realize it outside of us who are looking at Baylor that this certainly will be the best team we've played to this point of the three. This is a team that has speed, they have depth, they're kind of learning new systems and piecing it all together, but I have great respect not only for the talent they have, but also I think Matt Rhule put together an outstanding coaching staff, and we all know he's an outstanding football coach, so we have got to prepare well and play our best game this coming Saturday hopefully.

Q. Coming off the convincing win over Northwestern, what did that indicate to you? Did that tell you that maybe this team or this program is going to be capable of more this year than people thought? Did you see this coming in the preseason?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, we know we're better. Better doesn't always compute to winning, but we're better, we're deeper. We said from the beginning we felt like this team was the fastest team we've had. There's no question it is. We're still a work in progress, like most teams are early in the season. There's a few teams that are just dominant physically that are going to play well start to finish, but we're a team that's got to continue to get better. But we've got an opportunity to have a good football team. We're just going to work on that one day at a time.

Q. In what sense are you better than last year, offensively, defensively, both?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: All the way around, just talent, just deeper, better, better prepared. We haven't faced some of the preseason adversity that we had to deal with a year ago, but we did a lot of growing up a year ago. Nothing wrong with our program; our program is outstanding. I think the biggest issue we had, we had a team that didn't play very well, and certainly that's the head football coach's fault. I take total responsibility for that. But this team has got a chance to be a good team if it'll work like I hope that it will.

Q. Speaking of the difference in the team's performance this year against Northwestern compared to last year was obviously significant. Do you think it's helpful for people like me to make those types of comparisons in terms of talking about how far you guys have come, comparing those two performances against the same opponent?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: I think it's fair, and I think the thing that we all know is that nothing stays the same. We were better, and I think if you ask Northwestern, they would tell you that we're significantly different than we were a year ago. This team has been tested. We've tested this team.

But I will say this: All football teams, and particularly the way we're built, you're either going to get better or you're going to have the alternative, you're going to get worse. And so we've got to prepare well. We've got to stay focused. That's just who we are, and that's a good thing to be honest with you. We're dependent upon our preparation, our attitude, our spirit, our maturity. All of those things have to be done well. But if you want to go game to game and compare them, absolutely. And we are more capable. We are a more talented football team than we've been.

Q. The offensive line in particular, I know there were some injuries last year, some depth concerns, but that unit seems to be also performing at a much higher level. How pleased have you been with the performance of the offensive line in the first two weeks?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: I am really happy, happy for Marcus Johnson, our offensive line coach, who's in his second year, who played for us at Ole Miss. I don't know of any coach in America that's worked harder than he's worked in bringing a unit up to another level. Certainly Evan Lisle has helped us, but Austin Davis, Gabe Brandner, Zach Harmon, Julian Santos, Rak Chambers, Ron Craeling, there's a lot of guys that are better football players than what we were a year ago, and that's got to be a trend that's got to keep going. We're better in both lines of scrimmage, and that may be the biggest difference in the Duke team right now.

Q. As well as he played down the stretch last year, I think Saturday was probably the first time that a lot of folks around the country that hadn't necessarily been paying attention to Duke got a real sense of just how good Daniel Jones is. Where would you say that he belongs in terms of the echelon of quarterbacks out there, and what's his ceiling in your opinion?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, I think we're only seeing just the beginning of what I think of a guy that has a chance to be a great player. He's not there yet, to what I would call a great player, but he is a really good player. His ceiling is -- he does have an opportunity to be a great player. He's a big guy. He's 6'5". He's over 220 pounds. He's really fast. He's got great accuracy throwing the ball. He's smart. We've just got to keep -- and I know he will. He's got great work ethic. But we've just got to keep doing all, each and every little thing right, and that's got to become more and more important to him as he moves forward.

But he's certainly got a great opportunity to have an incredible career. I think he's one of the more talented guys out there more than likely.

Q. I know Jones looks much improved this year; can you talk about the improved weapons he has around him?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Sure. We're deep at receiver, and we're deep at tight end, and he's played a big role in that. Good quarterbacks that plan on being great quarterbacks teach their people around them how to work. You know, you look at TJ Rahming that leads our receiving corps, but we've got people there that have caught a lot of balls, Quay Chambers Johnathan Lloyd, Scott Bracey, Aaron Young. There's talent, there's youth. At tight end, Daniel Helm, Davis Koppenhaver, we've got a couple of freshmen, Mark Birmingham and Noah Gray, that are playing that are really good receivers, and then our backs are good receivers, and I think we're going to be playing three backs quite a bit. So Daniel is comfortable with all of them, and as I said, we're better in the line, or these weapons don't matter if you can't play up front. So hopefully Daniel is -- and his team elected him a captain as a sophomore. That tells you how they feel about his work ethic. That's why those weapons around him have gotten better.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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