DURHAM, N.C. – Duke football head coach David Cutcliffe met with members of the media virtually on Monday afternoon for his weekly press conference.
The Blue Devils welcome Virginia Tech on Saturday for their fourth game of the 2020 season. The contest will be broadcast on the ACC Network with Chris Cotter, Mark Herzlich, and Tiffany Blackmon on the call. Kickoff is slated for 4:00 p.m. The game can also be heard on the Blue Devils IMG Sports Network through the TuneIn app or goduke.com
David Cutcliffe Duke Football Head Coach
(Ref.: Opening Statement)
“I’m going to start with a couple of notable men that have passed away. Last Thursday, Joe Johnson, who’s been a member of our chain crew for the past 20 years and had been battling cancer. You know really hated to hear that news and what a great contributor to Duke football he’s been. And then my good friend Dr. Charles Kernodle at 102 years old, a month away from being 103. It’s been an inspiration to me. Sam Story a former player and a coach over in Burlington was a good friend of Dr. Kernodle that introduced him to me. I had him talk to the team in his 90’s. A man that lived extremely well. Dr. Charles Kernodle completed his residency in 1946. He served Burlington Williams High School as a team doc. Grew the best tomatoes in the United States. I certainly enjoyed those. But he passed away Saturday. Deeply saddened to hear the news. But at the same time, if there ever was a life to celebrate and a man to learn from it would have been Dr. Charles Kernodle. So rest in peace Joe and rest in peace Dr. Kernodle.
“From a perspective of football, it does become a groundhog thing when you step up every Monday after a loss talking about getting better. I think the thing that we have to focus on is reloading our motors and reshaping the path of preparation. You look at every little detail of everything you’re doing. Yes, it’s been challenging and it’s going to continue to be challenging when you have to alter the way you prepare. So, when you alter anything you have to increase the quality of everything you’re doing. I think our team is pretty special in that regard. They’re willing.
“I have to put them in a position and get them to where they want to be. But they’re willing to work. We have some talent. We need a little good fortune, but we’ve got to create that. And again, the path that I know to get things done, to get on the other side of the ledger and win football games is that you have to get it done on the practice field and certainly an example would be ball security. There’s not a play on the practice field, not one play, that we’re not coaching ball security better. Obviously, it’s not been done well enough on my part. So, all of the little things, and it’s not just that. Every aspect of our game. You might not believe this, but we’re close. And we’re certainly not going to lose hope. We’re not going to run from the challenge. We’re going to run to it. And we’re going to be prepared to play Virginia Tech this Saturday afternoon at home.”
(Ref.: On his concerns of his teams’ level of conditioning)
“Well, I think it’s the biggest off the field concern. We have a limited amount of time. We’ve done some running-conditioning but what I’ve told our coaches is that we have to condition every minute, every drill at practice and to do that, we’ve got to make sure that we’re resting well, and getting enough sleep. These guys are college students, even though they’re not doing anything. You got to hydrate well, you’ve got to eat well. So, every aspect. I mean, we’re at a point where winning is an all the time thing. At this point, to condition in practice like we need to play. We’ve got to take measures that the players contribute their portion and then we’re coaching every minute out there. Coaching on the run is what I like to call it to where the energy level is at its highest peak and we can play four quarters of football at a level that we’re capable of playing.”
(Ref.: On if there is a difference between game conditioning and practice conditioning)
“Well, there’s no question what you’re doing is different because we measure it. We have the science. We wear those monitors that give us player load, give us velocity, give us explosive numbers and you can’t hardly match game numbers in a practice. But we measure every practice. And we try to increase that load. We started back in August and my eyes are pretty well trained eyes and I know when we’re getting there when your legs are under you. But there’s that fine line. We did a lot of running back in August. A lot of conditioning we normally don’t have to do. But this team was away 129 days without an organized workout.
“It’s a process that’s still in place. But we have to practice. We have no choice. We’ve got to practice with the kind of quality that you have to have to get better. And one of the challenges is when your numbers get lower it makes it very much difficult to practice with the kind of tempo we like. So we are reinventing the wheel a little bit. I’m not surprised. I was hopeful that we would stay healthy. And that we would have a full contingent at practice. But that’s not happened that way. So, you’ve got to go kind of go to plan B. And I think we will see this improve hopefully over the next two to three weeks to a level that we’re going to hit everything that we can hit. But we can’t wait. We’ve got to do it now, this week Virginia Tech. We’ve got to put 60 minutes out there to have an opportunity to beat these guys because they’re really good.”
(Ref.: On what he believes is the first thing that needs to be fixed after watching the film)
“We need to finish blocks. We need to finish every play, which would include ball security. A play is five or six seconds long. We have to compete through those times. We’re so close. I met with the whole offense Sunday. We watched the film down in our indoor together. 50 something clips that they all saw what I saw. I watched this tape all the way back on the bus. I watched it once I got home again. I watched it again early Sunday morning. You have to finish. You have to finish every route. You have to finish every detail as a quarterback. Finish every detail in running the ball. Every detail in every block. That’s my job. My job is to put us in position to do those things. And so every part of our game, running the ball, throwing, catching, taking care of the ball is going to be better. We’re going to continue to strive. We’re going to have to go do some of the practice schedules as if COVID never happened. We’ve got to go and do things that we know we’ve tried and have been proven in the past to get you where you need to be offensively and just quite honestly, you take a few risk when it comes to practicing like that. You know it’s going to be a little bit more physical; it’s going to be a little bit more taxing. But our team has to do a good job of taking care of themselves by getting more rest, hydrating, eating. It’s a challenging time, but it is for everybody it’s 2020. Let’s take the challenge.”
(Ref.: On the defense not finishing tackles or plays)
“I think it’s a little bit of the conditioning that we’re talking about and this was the lack of live work that we normally get. We do a good job of practicing here. Really good job. And when you limit the number of practices that you get. We only had one scrimmage in August. We had none in the spring and now we’ve played three games. So, you’re going to be to some degree, a work in progress. But the bigger and stronger you are in any case, you’re going to tackle a little bit better. We’ve got to increase technique in places where we need it. We tackled well early. But if you go look in the fourth quarter where a lot of the issues come, we didn’t tackle nearly as well. We didn’t tackle nearly as well in the second quarter. So again, we have to find a way to compete 60 minutes in all areas of the game.”
(Ref.: On his emphasis of the quote ‘don’t let your circumstance change your standard, let your standard change your circumstance’)
“Yeah, you know first of all, you better live to your standards every day. We change some of the standards again. Well not change. We reinvested in some standards last week that we have to have. We have to continue on that path. Everybody that’s a part of Duke football has to understand that’s a 24/7 standard for us to do well here. We have to be there. If you don’t like what you’re getting then change what you’re doing, right? That’s the bottom line. And as we look at this, how critically important are the standards of just running on and off the field at practice. Sprinting out there and getting a full speed rep in the kicking game. Every one of these things are conditioning a football team to get more and more ready to play games. And so you’re exactly right, that’s how we’ve built the program. That’s the culture of the program. Is to live to the standards. And again, if you don’t like what you’re getting you better reload and you better rework things at every level to get the reward that you expect. That’s what I expect our team to do and respond.”
(Ref.: On what he needs to see from the quarterback position, whoever it is, moving forward)
“You know, I think it’s a couple of things. Number one is just flawless in the run game. The mechanics of everything we’re doing in the run game. We’ve got to make great exchanges, great fakes. Put ourselves in position to be successful. That one position can make 10 people right. And you know our quarterback plays a big role in that regard verbally and otherwise in the run game. Secondly, in the passing game is be true to our progression reads. If you read progression, and you get into the progression you’re going to have a lot of times the ball’s going to get out of your hand and you throw the ball to an open receiver before you get into trouble. So just throwing the ball on time and going through our progression reads will prevent late throws or some form of force or taking risk with the football. So, we’ve got to play faster. We’ve got to play within our system. And if we do those things we will reap the benefits of a really good offensive team.”
(Ref.: On having to approach his game plan differently this year than in year’s past)
“Completely differently. First of all, you don’t sleep. I mean, everything that we’ve done in the past has had to be altered in our planning. I would like to have more live work on Tuesday. We don’t have the numbers that allows us to do it. We didn’t really have a camp. When you use camp to get yourself a lot of physical work. We were only in camp for six days. And then you get one scrimmage, and then you start school. So, the environment changes completely. Everything we’re doing, we’re kind of doing new for the first time. Our coaches have done a great job. Been a lot of long hours. A lot of thought goes into this. I think sometimes maybe if I would say we’re guilty about something is trying to do too much rather than being OK with do less better. And I think if we continue on the path of trying to do too much, it’s going to bite us. We’re taking long, hard looks at every little thing we’re doing. But what we have to do is put a very well-prepared football team on the field regardless of our circumstance.”
(Ref.: On Virginia Tech having players out last game and having to game plan around that)
“Yeah, I mean, I don’t really worry about who’s not back. I’m expecting everybody to be back. I think they did a great job. I’ve known Coach (Justin) Fuente very well. Known him for a long time. They do a great job of coaching. They’ve got a lot of talent, a lot of returning players that are outstanding players and those players went out there and did what they do, and they did it very well. It was an outstanding win under any circumstances. But I do again, I expect everyone to be available and that’s not the concern. Obviously more importantly right now, we’ve got to focus on what we’ve got to do better to get ourselves ready to play well.”
(Ref.: On kicker Charlie Ham, his progression, and him responding to adversity)
“Yeah, I mean, I think we’re all there. We’ve got two redshirt freshmen specialist that are very talented. Charlie is an outstanding young man. I have not ever and didn’t lose confidence in him from the week before. He’s again, very conscientious as is Porter. That entire group of specialists works very well under Kirk Benedict I mean, that’s what you do. You go earn confidence. Nobody gives it to you. You earn confidence by how you perform on that practice field. So absolutely that’s how we deal with adversity in life. And one of the other things we’ve talked a lot about as a family — how do you deal with adversity, you always take care of other family members. And I think we need more and more of that. And that’s been one of the bigger challenges in 2020 with two different locker rooms just the setting that we have. But we have absolutely got to come together, lock arms and march forward. And Charlie set a good example. You can come back from the deepest pit whenever you put your mind to it if you go out and prepare well.”
(Ref.: On what is it going to be like coaching against Virginia Tech without Bud Foster on the sidelines)
“Well, I just miss Bud as a friend. Bud is at the top of the list when it comes to defensive coordinators that we’ve had to compete against through a lot, a lot of years. And he was great for college football. The game will certainly miss a man like that. But they’ve got a lot of the same things that Bud did and people that he trained well and a lot of the same players. Somewhere out there Bud’s legacy is certainly going to be there.”