NCF On The Trail: Duke Blue Devils

Top sleeper commits: ACC 

December, 15, 2014
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Five-star and ESPN 300 prospects create the most buzz, but with more than a hundred FBS programs competing for talent, it takes more than just those top-rated prospects and rosters are built with mainly prospects that enter college with little fanfare, but their development and contributions are key to a program’s success. Every year we see prospects who flew under the radar, but developed into some of their conference's top players.

Throughout our evaluations we come across many players who show promise and based of their upside for development or scheme fit are great additions.

Here are five unheralded commitments in the ACC worth keeping an eye on.

OG Wyatt Knopfke, Boston College
While Knopfke is an ESPN 300 player, he’s not as well-known as other interior linemen in the rankings. The big man out of Florida is a physical, strong player with the tools to be a good well-rounded player. And while listed at guard, he could be a candidate to develop at center as well. With an Eagles line that was loaded with seniors this season, head Coach Steve Addazio, an O-line coach himself, has a player who can develop into a key contributor in Knopfke.

DE LaSamuel Davis, Clemson
Four-star prospects like OT Zach Giella and athlete Van Smith are talented prospects and still rated highly, but they could be overlooked in a Tigers’ class that features double-digit ESPN 300 prospects. Another prospect in that group is Davis who notched over 100 tackles and 16 sacks this season. A rangy defender with wiry strength, he can use his hands well, flashes a good first-step and displays the tools to at least develop into a productive edge rusher. He needs to work to fill out his frame and be more consistent with his motor, but among this great collection of talent, Davis could emerge in time as a productive defensive contributor.

David Cutcliffe of Duke said young coaches should turn to Kenny Rogers for advice on how to get ahead on the recruiting trail. Plus, Florida's Jim McElwain has been busy since he was hired.

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The good news Thursday was that both Florida and Nebraska filled their open coaching positions in a timely manner, but the bad news is we’re less than 60 days until signing day. Plus, what type of recruiter is Nebraska getting?


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Duke has upped its recruiting efforts in ACC territory and that has helped reel in talented recruits such as ESPN Junior 300 TE Mark Birmingham. Plus, Arizona State already has three pledges from Louisiana thanks largely to the recruiting efforts of offensive coordinator Mike Norvell.

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While Duke didn’t get the outcome they wanted on the field Saturday in a loss to Virginia Tech, David Cutcliffe and staff scored once again on the recruiting trail in the class of 2016 following the game picking up a pledge from ESPN Junior 300 tight end Mark Birmingham. Birmingham becomes the third ESPN Junior 300 commitment for Duke joining No. 32 Scott Bracey and No. 238 Elijah Deveaux.


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Duke now has the ability to sell a winning program and new facilities to recruits, and prospects like what they're seeing. Plus, the nation's top 2016 quarterback was slated to be at Florida State for the Notre Dame game, but he wasn't able to make it and now is looking for a return date.

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ESPN 300: Five who could flip 

October, 22, 2014
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The Class of 2015 has seen more than 35 prospects in the ESPN 300 flip or decommit during the cycle. As many as 30 more prospects in the ESPN 300 could flip between now and national signing day. With that possibility in mind, here are five to keep tabs on less than four months away from national signing day.


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The Duke Blue Devils are riding high on the recruiting trail. Not only does Duke have a Top 40 recruiting class in 2015 currently committed, but has the early look of a 2016 class that will follow suit. When ESPN Jr300 No. 32 Scott Bracey committed July 25, it was a first sign that the Blue Devils have arrived on the national recruiting stage. With No. 238 Elijah Deveaux committing Oct. 10, it’s a second sign that David Cutcliffe and staff can go toe-to-toe with any program in the state of North Carolina early, which has not always been the case.


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Help is on the way: ACC 

October, 8, 2014
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Each year on the recruiting trail, schools are met with needs that need to be addressed to shore up depth issues both immediately and down the line. With four months until national signing day for the class of 2015, many teams have addressed and met needs.


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UA jersey tour: TE Tyler Petite

September, 30, 2014
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Football has always taken a back seat to other sports at Moraga (California) Campolindo High School when it comes to famous alumni. Matt Biondi leads the way for men's swimming, and five former baseball players, along with announcer Matt Vasgersian, made their way to the major leagues. While the football program hassent kicker Giorgio Tavecchio and punter Jackson Rice to California and Oregon, respectively, it's about to get a significant boost from ESPN 300 tight end Tyler Petite, the No. 132 prospect in the country.

Petite will be the first highly recruited position player from Campolindo. He was honored for that Tuesday afternoon, when Petite was presented with his Under Armour All-America Game jersey in a ceremony sponsored by American Family.

"It's crazy," Petite said of the attention heaped upon him Tuesday. "I don't really have a manual on how to take it all in or handle it. It's surreal almost. I'd watch the Under Armour Game on TV and always thought it would be so cool if I could play in that."

Petite said there were a lot more people than he expected who showed up for the ceremony, though he probably shouldn't be too surprised considering the family atmosphere that's been established with his football team. It was one of the things that led him to commit to Duke this past summer.

"This is one of those places -- it's a little hard to explain if you don't go to Campo," Petite said. "Our team is to tight-knit. It's like Duke in how we aren't expected to be the best team in the area, but we're starting to build that rep. We have four losses in four years and we're playing some top-tier teams. That's what Duke is doing. They're playing with incredible teams and winning games."

Petite said he still speaks with USC coaches -- one of his two finalists, along with Duke -- but added that at this point, he is still "100 percent" committed to the Blue Devils.

Five questions with Tyler Petite

What one player are you looking forward to competing with or against at the game?

"Honestly, I'm just ready to go up against some of the top players in the country, but I want to see what these quarterbacks have. There's a lot of hype around [Josh] Rosen and [Blake] Barnett and I want to go out there and play with them. I want to show everybody what I have and play with the top dogs.

What was your earliest football memory?

"My first memory in football was my first play. Back in third grade -- we played flag football back in the day -- I was playing quarterback and faked a hand off on a bootleg and went 60 yards for a touchdown. That feeling you get running by everybody. I was watching college football later that day and I started thinking about how much I would love to play college football."

If you could take on any pro player in their sport who would it be?

"I would love to go up against LeBron in the NBA. I would get totally murdered, but it would be crazy to see that guy fly around."

Why do you wear your number?

"Right now I wear No. 8. There's a tradition at our school with that number. Two of the best quarterbacks to come through here wore it and Vince Graziano, who was here my freshman year when our team went to State. He played tight end too and is a guy with a mind set that I want to follow.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

"I'm kind of rocking a beard right now so I look like I'm about 28 years old. But really I'm like a little kid, always ready to have fun."

A rival recruiter believes Kevin Sumlin’s not-so-subtle message to former Texas A&M pledge DaMarkus Lodge could come back to haunt the Aggies. Plus, one of Florida’s top defensive commitments appears to be looking around.


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Georgia has offered boxing great Evander Holyfield’s son a scholarship, and the Dawgs seem ready to deliver the knockout. Plus, Kansas State hosts Auburn in one of the biggest games ever in Manhattan, but there won’t be a lot of recruits in the stands.


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Early Offer: OU's big chance to impress 

September, 11, 2014
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Oklahoma is the place to be this weekend as the Sooners are bringing in a number of elite recruits for what is shaping up to be the biggest recruiting weekend by any program so far, and despite losing last week to Virginia Tech it looks like Ohio State is still in good shape with prospects.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

September, 9, 2014
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Despite the weak slate of SEC football games over the weekend there was still a lot of news in the world of recruiting. From commitments, to big offers, to decision dates to sick one-handed interceptions, this weekend was full of news. Here’s a closer look at the latest happening from around the SEC.


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#SceneAndHeard Lunch Break: Sept. 3 

September, 3, 2014
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ESPN 300 Hines to cut list today

ESPN 300 No. 149 Nyheim Hines will announce his Top 7 at 7 ET tonight. While he's not technically cutting schools from consideration, programs that don't make the Top 7 are essentially out of contention at this point. Among those that are near locks to make the seven are NC State and Duke with North Carolina, West Virginia and Ohio State also good bets. Also in serious contention are Vanderbilt, Georgia, Florida, Virginia Tech and Virginia. The major factor in the speedster's recruitment is his twin sister, Nyah. Nyah has been offered by NC State as a hurdler. Duke was considered the favorite last spring, but things are certainly pointing to the Wolfpack as the current team to beat with the track offer resting with Nyah.


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