David Cutcliffe Will Have Duke Football Bowling Next Year

Mike KlineAnalyst IDecember 7, 2009

DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 14:  Head coach David Cutcliffe of the Duke Blue Devils looks on against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Wallace Wade Stadium on November 14, 2009 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

It can not be overstated how different things are in Durham these days.

There isn't a football coach in the country that wouldn't love to end a season with a fan base and administration that was not only happy with your school's year, but ecstatic about it.

Yet probably the greatest satisfaction Duke Coach David Cutcliffe takes from this year is that his players are not.

This team wanted to play in a bowl game and played good enough for parts of the season to do just that. And it is because of that fact that the team in most disappointed.

After a respectable 5-7 season, the Blue Devils find themselves home yet again for the holidays. Duke like last season fell victim to a late-season swoon after early success kept them short of the seven wins they needed.

By dropping the last four games of the season Duke assured itself there would be no bowl game for the 15th straight year, but unlike seasons past there is a real reason to believe that is likely to change and soon.

In two years under Cutcliffe the Blue Devils are 9-15. It isn't a great record, or even a good record, but in the eyes of Duke fan's who haven't seen that many wins cumulatively during the entire decade, that is progress.

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How is Cutcliffe doing it?

For one he is taking the players and putting them in a position to compete and win. Duke now has players who are stronger, faster, and in shape to play four quarters.

One of the biggest setbacks for Duke has been their lack of depth, which Cutcliffe is certainly beginning to address in recruiting. While he may not be bringing in blue chip after blue chip prospect, he is bringing in the best athletes and football players Duke can hope to get.

That recruiting effort will begin to translate to more wins and greater interest from other recruits. Just this past weekend Duke secured a verbal commitment from an offensive lineman who was also considering and being pursued by Florida and Ohio State.

Duke still has a ways to go though. For one, the rushing game (if you can call it that), was horrible and put the Blue Devils at a huge disadvantage on offense.

The Blue Devils must improve on that. They have capable backs but must improve their run blocking to allow some holes for the backs to work with.

They must also replace some key contributors on defense in Vince Oghabasse, Vinny Rey, and Leon Wright. Offensively they lose Mr. All-Everything in Thad Lewis.

Cutcliffe must develop his existing quarterback depth and hope that projected starter Sean Renfree makes a speedy recovery from ACL surgery. If he misses significant practice time in the spring or fall, which isn't that unlikely given the nature of the injury, Duke's offense could be in trouble.

While next season's schedule hasn't been announced it isn't too far fetched to say Duke should compete for a bowl berth next year.

The Blue Devils have gotten better each year under Cutcliffe and the third year may just be the charm Duke needs to get off the bowl snide.

But any chance will not be given to Duke, they will have to earn it and in some cases take it from the other teams.

While the future is never certain, it doesn't take a genius to see that Duke is a team that is beginning to draw some attention as something other than a doormat.

Next season will tell use even more about Duke and how far they have really come.

If I were a betting man my money would be on seeing Duke suiting up for the Holidays this time next year.


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