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July 14, 2017

David Cutcliffe

Bryon Fields, Jr.

Daniel Jones

Charlotte, North Carolina

DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, good morning, and first thing I want to say, I'm really thrilled to have two of Charlotte's finest with us. Both Daniel and Bryon are natives of Charlotte, played high school football here, so I think it's appropriate that they've accomplished so much in their careers. They've earned the honor to come back and see you guys on media days.

I don't think anyone is more excited that it's the 2017 season than we are at Duke. We have a squad that has the most depth that we've had. We do have some areas of concern that we've got to continue to work with, as most teams do, but we're excited about the opportunity this team has.

This team has been exceptional since winter. They had an exceptional spring, and they've had an exceptional summer. So I think we're all looking forward to opening camp and then opening our season against North Carolina Central at home. So with that, we'll move forward.

Q. I wanted to ask you, you played here in Charlotte in 2013, the championship game, with a backfield that had Edwards and Borders and Singleton; as a group y'all had essentially played together for four years because you had the injury. You're back, but it's with kind of a new group. Can you talk about the secondary that you'll be playing in now as opposed to what you played in the past four years?
BRYON FIELDS, JR.: Definitely. So the secondary we have I would venture to say that it's even more talented than the guys we had, the group I came in with. As Coach said, we have a lot of depth back there in the secondary, a lot of talent, lot of young guys that are hungry to come in that have been sitting in the ranks waiting, working really hard this off-season. They've really embraced it and they've really matured a lot, so I'm excited to see what they're going to come out and do this season.

Q. Just to go off of that a little bit, what you can say about some of those guys that maybe aren't household names now in that secondary that you believe will become household names.
BRYON FIELDS, JR.: Yeah, so we had a lot of guys that have seen some playing time, Jeremy McDuffie, Jordan Hayes, Dylan Singleton, just to mention a few, Mark Gilbert, as well. Young guys, extremely talented, more talented than I know I was coming in, and I'm sure Breon and DeVon would venture to say the same thing. Those guys have really matured a lot. They were young, and thankfully they got some great experience last season, but those guys have really worked extremely hard. They've really embraced their roles on the team, stepping into starter roles and stepping into roles as leaders on the defense, and I'm really excited to see how they contribute this season.

Q. 28 players here for this event, a whole bunch of them from North Carolina. I would say a disproportionate number and, of course, from here in Charlotte. What about playing high school football in this state prepared so many of you to play at this level?
BRYON FIELDS, JR.: It's extremely competitive starting at a young age. I know I recognized some of the guys from Pop Warner. I know Jaylen Samuels, NC State, I knew up growing up, played with Cameron Phillips growing up, as well. It's just so competitive from a young age, not only just only football but basketball, as well, going into other sports. Charlotte is a growing city but it's still a close-knit community, so a lot of us know each other, grew up playing against each other in different sports, and it's great to see all those guys succeeding at this level.

Q. I want to talk about respect and Duke trying to get that back after what happened last year. I know this program had achieved a lot, had a lot of good seasons, bottom kind of fell out last year. How important is this year to kind of get that back?
BRYON FIELDS, JR.: As far as gaining respect from the outside world, we don't worry about that too much. Even after we had a 10-win season, we still were picked to finish towards last in the Coastal. We can't really control that. We can control how hard we work, how much confidence we have in ourselves. We know what we're capable of. Last year was a bit of a disappointment, but we know we have to address -- we've had a great off-season so far, and we're looking forward to this season, so as far as respect from the outside world, we don't have much control over that, so we control what we can control, and we're looking forward to a great season.

Q. You just said that there was a bit of a disappointment last season; what would it take to classify this year, 2017, as a success?
BRYON FIELDS, JR.: It's hard to quantify that in wins and losses. We just want to go out and win every game we play, obviously, and get better week to week. We've already improved so much from our last loss, last season, starting in December, going into January, guys have worked so hard. I have the utmost confidence that we should be able to get back to where we were, definitely at least be in a bowl game. But as far as wins and losses, I mean, we just go out and try to win every game we play, and I think we have enough talent, and if we put in enough work to this point, and if we have a good camp, I think we definitely have a shot to do that.

Q. Daniel, I want to ask what turned your season around last year. Obviously you were thrown in, inexperienced, had a lot of interceptions, then all of a sudden no more interceptions, you're moving the chains with your legs and your arm, and Duke became a different offense. What clicked for you?
DANIEL JONES: You know, I'd say after the UVA game, things were different, but I don't know if you can say that there was a specific event or a defining moment, specifically at an exact time this is what clicked. I would say over the course of the season, I just was able to gain more and more knowledge and learn from some mistakes that ultimately kind of culminated and put me in a position to take care of the ball better and make a few more plays.

As far as a defining moment or an exact point in time where things clicked, I don't know if you can really say that, but in terms of kind of a process that kind of progressed throughout the season, I think that was more of the effect and more of kind of the situation.

Q. Similar question to what I asked Bryon about getting respect. How do you guys do that? How do you go about having people respect this program when you don't feel like you've had it in the past?
DANIEL JONES: Yeah, I mean, the biggest way to gain respect is to win football games. We're certainly aware of that and working toward that every day. In terms of how we're viewed outside, it's less important than how we see ourselves. I know we have a confident group of guys that are excited for what 2017 has in store, so that's probably the most important thing, and hopefully that translates onto the field, and as a byproduct maybe gain some more respect.

Q. Having David Cutcliffe as someone who's worked with so many successful quarterbacks over his time, just what you can say about having someone like that in the room with you and just the leadership that he brings to you and what he can teach you at that position.
DANIEL JONES: Yeah, so I'd say most people probably -- if you don't know exactly the Xs and Os of the game, you can get an idea that Coach Cut is as good as it gets with that, and the fundamentals and technical aspect of playing the position, he's second to none, and that's a huge advantage for me. But as a young quarterback, I'd say more than anything just his support and confidence in me with his background and what he's done in his career was very helpful for me as a young quarterback and something I'm very appreciative of and was a big part of my progression last year.

Q. Daniel, just to piggyback off of that, there is kind of a void in quarterbacks in the ACC after last year, and people are starting to hype you as first or second-team All-ACC, potential NFL Draft pick. Does that work with working with Coach Cutcliffe, or is that just kind of your talent?
DANIEL JONES: I mean, a large part of any quarterback's success is the people around them, and the coaches obviously have a huge impact on that. You know, I would say collectively as an offense, we have a great chance to be a dynamic, explosive offense when you look at the people we have coming back and some of the guys that even haven't played as much that maybe y'all haven't seen as much. We're certainly excited of the possibilities and what we can be as an offense. That's a big part of my success and everyone else's success is how many weapons and how many ways we can move the ball and score points.

Q. Your quarterback that was just up there, what's the difference in the guy that will go out against North Carolina Central this year versus the one that went out last year?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: He physically different. He is stronger, I believe faster. No question, there's a big difference in that year that has occurred physically. He mentioned it, knowledge, Xs and Os. All of that's better. I think the biggest difference is the confidence, the leadership, the knowledge that he knows what he's capable of doing, and his consistency is going to be outstanding based on his spring performance.

One of the things that Daniel did prove, any quarterback that's ever going to be a great player has to learn to fail and return quickly, and he has proven that he can do that. You're going to have some rocky roads, but he's a special young man from a special family, and he is a special talent. There's no -- the reason he's being talked about is that he is really an outstanding talent.

Q. The players in your program have known only winning until last year; is that really in your view, last season was kind of a hiccup, or is there rebuilding to be done?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: You know, I think every year can be looked at individually, whether you're winning time after time and you've got streaks going, it's earned all the time. You could probably pick 10 reasons things didn't go well, and there would be legitimate reasons. But the biggest one, and I mean this sincerely, is that I didn't have our team as ready as it needed to be. I believe in my heart of hearts, this team is the deepest, most talented team we've had at Duke yet. We are young in certain spots. We have concerns in certain little areas. But I think this team will display what we're capable of being at Duke, and we believe we can compete for championships every year. That's where we had gotten to, and that's where we intend to be.

But as Daniel said, the only way to prove that is win games. So no reason to talk about it, just go play.

Q. Last year you guys only made three field goals, last in the ACC. How do you plan on improving that?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: That's a point of emphasis, to say the least. It's one of the areas of concern. We have always been great in the kicking game, and our specialists have been outstanding. But a year ago it was somewhat of a nightmare. We've got a lot of competition in that area. That's not settled yet, but we're looking at snapper, holder, placekicker, kickoff man, even our punter, who -- our punter, Austin Parker, had a really good year but was hurt. We've opened a lot of competition in that arena. We got a lot of it done in the spring, but that's a big part of camp for me, and we're going to come out of camp being outstanding in that area.

Q. To go a little bit deeper into Daniel and his progression, just where you see him at as opposed to other quarterbacks that you've had at Duke, just where he is at this point and where you need him to be as you move forward.
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, we've been fortunate since we've been at Duke, started with Thad Lewis, who's still an NFL football player. Daniel is that type of talent. He's got arm talent. He's got the ability to beat you in other ways. He is an exceptionally bright young man. All of the things that we've seen -- guys we've had not only at Duke but previous, the reasons they were successful collegiately and on in the NFL, Daniel has a lot of those attributes.

The thing that I think he understands you haven't done it yet. He will reach his potential in my opinion, and he is right in line from an ability standpoint, and in some ways beyond because of his size, to have an opportunity to have an incredibly successful career as a college quarterback and potentially beyond that.

Q. Five of the seven teams in this division are replacing quarterbacks. You have one that's played last year. Do you feel in any way that may give you an upper hand, knowing how experience plays into that?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, it always is a bonus to have a returning quarterback. I don't know that it's an upper hand in a division like ours where, as you look at our teams, everybody in our division is growing and getting better. And we've got some physical football teams, so I'm as much concerned about the other positions as I certainly am quarterback. But I can promise you this: I am very grateful that we have a quarterback that's a returning starter. I just hope and pray we can keep him healthy.

Q. I was struck by Daniel saying one of the greatest things you've done as a coach for him is kind of imbue him with confidence. The Daniel we see is kind of a flat-line personality. Is he different in his persona on the field or on the practice field?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: He's not that much different, but you don't have to be exuberant to be confident. Sometimes a quiet confidence is the most deadly confidence you can have against an opponent. I think Daniel knows who he is. I think you've got to be a leader at quarterback. I think you at times have to be demonstrative.

But I think Daniel is growing in that -- when you're thrust like he was a year ago, and it's somebody else's team in reality, and now you're playing quarterback on that team, he doesn't feel that way.

So I've seen a different Daniel. I've seen that in our morning runs and him calling on people. I know he went to the Manning Passing Academy and worked as a counselor down there, and I got great feedback from all of the Mannings on his leadership, his coaching ability, and that made me feel good. I expected that, and I'm glad that I heard that.

Q. I wanted to ask you about your redshirts. You've had success in most of your tenure redshirting a lot of people. On paper, this is the strongest group of redshirt freshmen you will have, guys like Brittain Brown and Birmingham and Bracey. Can you talk about that group, and is it possibly the strongest redshirt class you've had, and can you talk about a few of the individuals that we may be seeing this year?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: I think our redshirt freshmen, particularly on offense, without doubt, is an exceptional group. But I think across the board -- I'll mention Brandon Hill and Xander Gagnon, for example, and then some of our defensive backs. But to go back to the ones you referenced, Mark Birmingham is a tight end, for those of you that don't know, for us, his last eight practices in the spring was dynamic. He made a difference on the field. Scott Bracey is a wide receiver that we probably would have played, but he had a hamstring early. He's big. He's fast. He's competing for a starting job. Brittain Brown was very difficult for us not to play. His August -- his scrimmaging, his ability as a return man, he is a gifted, skilled player.

But across the board, we really do -- and we intended to take a class and try to redshirt them. It's going to be interesting to see the class we have right now that are true freshmen blending with this group. Some of these true freshmen will play for us this year, and that's how you end up with great senior classes. I try to pay attention to that through the years, so it wasn't an accident that we were able to redshirt so many good players a year ago.

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