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April 25, 2012

David Cutcliffe

DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  Well, as Mike just said, we've been finished for quite some time, and about to wind down the semester academically.  But we had good work this spring.  It's unfortunate we had eight starters that missed all of spring, four on offense and four on defense, and it just was a product of our last season where we had so many injuries and things that required surgery.  But we're on the mend.
I think that's probably the most important thing to me right now is the progress our guys are making, not only in the weight room but in the training room.  This team is an interesting team.  It's a very athletic team.  It's got experience in a lot of the right places, yet it's youthful.  We can run, and any time you can run, you've got a chance.
I feel good about what our coaches did.  I thought our planning for spring was outstanding.  We developed a lot of young players that are talented, and because of so many guys being out, it gave them more reps than what they normally would have got.  So I think this was the best spring we've had to this point at Duke.

Q.  Can you give any sort of forecast on Kelby Brown's health status after his second ACL surgery, and where does that leave you at linebacker?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  Well, it's obvious that Kelby has got a long road in front of him.  This is the second summer in a row that he has been in a rehab mode.  Very difficult for him.
He's not long out of surgery, so the prognosis is hard to tell.  If he can't play, if he ends up red shirting, I think our guys did a really good job, and Kelby was one of those starters that didn't practice at all.  His brother Kyler is a red shirt freshman, is definitely capable of stepping up.  Austin Gamble is a big part.  Austin needs to play like a senior.  David Helton had an especially good sophomore‑‑ he's a true sophomore to be, but especially good spring.  CJ France, another good sophomore linebacker, had the best spring that we had.
But one of the more exciting things is we moved Britton Grier from safety to linebacker, and I thought Britton might play better when he got closer to the ball and had to think maybe a little less, and he absolutely finished strong and is a very, very fast athlete, and we have two good prospects coming in at linebacker.  So if Kelby can't play, Jim Collins and I talked about this last night, if he can't play, then I think we can put together a good rotation.
And I think we have some competition there.  I'm not sure who's going to start.  So that's one of the positive things.  Kelby certainly would if he's healthy.  After that, I think it's a battle that's up in the air.

Q.  You mentioned the incoming freshmen at linebacker.  How much do you think they could really be a factor this fall?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  Well, you don't know for sure, but Keilin Rayner and Deion Williams are both extremely talented physically.  One of the reasons you think there's a real chance they can play is they're both so physically developed.  They're really, really strong kids, really strong kids.  Deion was an outstanding wrestler as well as the best football player defensively that Orange Lutheran had, and Keilin is just so big, so physical, so strong in the weight room, it's incredible, and a very active player.
I think they may have a chance to come in and compete.  I hope they do.  That makes your team better.  So certainly we're going to look at them.  But you and I both know the transition sometimes is not as easy as you might think.

Q.  What were you most relieved about coming out of spring practice and what will you still have some concerns about as you head into August?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  Well, I think our quarterbacks just played at an extremely high level most of the spring.  We have got three coming back that have played a lot.  Sean Renfree a whole lot.  I thought it was the best spring those guys have had.
Our passing game, I like it right now, but we moved Brandon Braxton to safety, one of our starting receivers, and he has been tremendous in that role, so I am not going to move him back, and we're a little thin with the dismissal of a receiver.  That's an area of concern at this time.
Our offensive line, on the offensive side, pleased me, as did the running backs.  Our tight ends, our starter Braxton Deaver missed all of spring.  We only had two scholarship tight ends at practice, so there's a concern there.
The defensive front as long as we've been here has been a challenge.  But we've already just discussed the linebackers, but I have some concerns about our defensive line, but I think for the first time we have some serious competition.  Hopefully we will stay healthy, but I think if we get all our people back, Kenny Anunike and Jordan DeWalt‑Ondijo, if they get back, they missed all of spring, then I think we'll have a chance to be much better on the defensive line.

Q.  I wanted to ask about something a little off topic.  You've got Dave Harding and a bunch of your offensive linemen are going to Ethiopia in a couple of weeks, and I wanted to ask you, how does that help you in terms of camaraderie and team chemistry, and are you at all worried about them leaving the continent?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  Well, yeah, I worry just naturally.  But David Harding lived in Jordan for five years with his parents who were missionaries, and their work is in Ethiopia bringing potable water through well drilling and building of these wells.  It's been amazing, Dave's parents are very experienced, as is Dave.  Dave's been to Ethiopia probably eight to ten times.  They asked me about it, and I said, you know, I'm 100 percent in for that ten‑day trip if everybody's parents sign off on it, which they've done.
They're really excited, really excited, and I've got a young coach going with them.  I would go myself, but I've got a daughter graduating from college during that time, and I'm not going to miss her graduation.
I'm excited for them.  It will certainly build camaraderie.  But I think the best part of it is I think it makes them aware of a responsibility that we all have to help others around the world, not just at home.  It should be a big eye‑opening experience for all of those young men.

Q.  It's been a long time since Duke had a quarterback drafted in the NFL.  With the draft coming up tomorrow night, I was just thinking about Sean's situation going in.  He seems to have the size.  Obviously you've tutored some guys that have done pretty well in the pros.  What does he have to do this year as a senior to put himself in position to be a draftable quarterback next year?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  Well, the one thing they're going to look at is that ratio of touchdown passes to interceptions, which is just a production number.  That's why it carries such weight in that quarterback rating.  And it's about production.  So I think he's got to handle that.  He's got to handle pressure.  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.  But good gosh, what a worker, what a great mind.  He's got a tremendous arm.  He's very, very accurate, and he's‑‑ you just can't believe the work he's putting in right now on his own.  He is a very dedicated youngster, and I'm excited about his summer and what he plans to do this summer.

Q.  You talked about the team as a whole having Peyton around last fall a lot, fall and winter, his work ethic.  Anything specifically with Sean being around Peyton?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  Yes.  Number one, having all this Peyton film available to him to study.  I put Peyton through thousands of drills, and we've got all of that on tape, and he looks at Peyton's movements, his footwork, his habits.  That's a huge resource, even with Peyton gone.
During Peyton's time here, Peyton was good enough to share with those guys, to talk to them about habits just playing quarterback.  He was great with Kurt Roper.  Peyton spent time with him.  It's immeasurable, but it's continued because of the resource.
And now Sean has really studied it and sees some of the things that you try to tell him would make a difference, and now he can see it because I have all of this drill tape of Peyton right here, which is just an unbelievable resource for a young quarterback.

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