Stating the obvious is a good place to start because it is, if nothing else, a necessary reminder: Duke's David Cutcliffe is doing as good a job as any head coach in college football.
Last season, the Blue Devils went 10-4, winning the ACC Coastal and recording double-digit wins for the first time in the program's history. Say what you will about the messy history of ACC divisional title races, but Cutcliffe won a division over Miami, Virginia Tech and even Georgia Tech with a roster full of 2- and 3-star players.
And since things are coming up Milhouse in Durham, Duke got a pleasant boost on the recruiting trail Wednesday with the verbal commitment of 4-star tight end Tyler Petite.
Petite, who is from Moraga, California, chose Duke over USC. Clearly, this is a big moment for Duke as a program, which grabbed a big-time recruit from across the country. However, since verbal commitments are non-binding, there's plenty of time for Petite to change his mind.
But Duke has quietly been improving on the recruiting trail. Though the Blue Devils didn't exactly see a surge following last year's landmark season—the 2014 class was ranked 13th in the ACC by 247Sports—the early returns on the 2015 class are different.
Duke has 17 pledges for the 2015 class, ranking sixth in the conference and 21st nationally. Though the quantity of pledges in a given class shouldn't be confused with quality, Duke is making more noise than ever before. ESPN's Andrea Adelson explains:
Perhaps most impressive of all? Duke is getting pledges from players who are spurning more prestigious football programs. Not only did Petite pick Duke over USC; ESPN 300 receiver Keyston Fuller chose the Blue Devils over offers from Auburn, Clemson and hometown Georgia to name three.
Just last month, Duke also picked up a commitment from 3-star offensive lineman Reno Rosene, who had offers from Notre Dame, Nebraska and Wisconsin.
If Petite's verbal commitment is viewed in a vacuum, it's somewhat of an aberration. The highest-profile recruits to sign with Duke under Cutcliffe have been running back Desmond Scott in 2009 and quarterback Sean Renfree in 2008.
In other words, blue chips have been a rarity for the Blue Devils.
|Duke's 4 and 5-star recruits through 10 years|
If Petite's commitment is viewed through a lens looking into the near future, it appears to be more of a trend. The overall quality of Duke's class would stand out if, by next signing day, it was still ranked somewhere in or around the top 25.
Building and winning at Duke hasn't been an easy task for a long time. It's taken Cutcliffe a few years to get things rolling, but there's momentum for the program now. Perhaps one good class leads to two and divisional titles aren't so monumental.
It has to start somewhere. Maybe it starts with Petite.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.