Bomani Jones is a man of many talents. You can find him on the radio during the Three Hour Lunch Break on 850 the Buzz in RDU, at various blogs including his own and Thee Blog from 850 the Buzz. Jones has insight on Duke and its football team and was an adjunct professor at Duke. Of course, that probably means he either looked after one of the lab sections for Radio News or taught a Writing for Broadcast section that was worth one credit hour. Either way, Jones was kind enough to respond to my call for a Duke blogger to answer questions about the Blue Devils, unlike others. Thanks to him for helping us get ready for this weekend's game by enlightening us on the Fighting Cutcliffes.
Gobbler Country: My assertion in the preseason was we were going to see a lot of progress out of Duke but it wasn't going to translate into wins this season. Is that what you think were seeing so far from the Blue Devils? How close is Cutcliffe to making this a bowl team?
Bomani Jones: That's tough to answer because it's hard to imagine a team that was farther from a bowl than Duke was when Cutcliffe got there (that's not true, because it was way worse when Ted Roof took over). Duke still doesn't have a good first unit at offensive line, and making a bowl requires at least 8 serviceable offensive linemen. I can't even tell you the names of any of Duke's linemen off the top of my head. But elsewhere, they've built depth. They've got two quarterbacks other teams would love to have. Desmond Scott, a freshman, could turn into a very good running back. Lots of young receivers are getting time. There's depth on the defensive line, and the defense hasn't played badly. With Cutcliffe's offensive mind and the fact that they're building a defense, which is any "academic" school's biggest hurdle, it wouldn't shock me to see them make a bowl two years from now.
GC: What are the differences between quarterbacks Thaddeus Lewis and Sean Renfree and which one do you think we'll see more of on Saturday?
BJ: Renfree seems to take less sacks, which is a big deal behind that offensive line. Coach Cutcliffe told me last week that Lewis is getting back in the swing after missing a lot of reps in August with injuries and the flu, and maybe that will lower the time he needs to go through his progression and get rid of the ball. Renfree's looked good in the time he's gotten -- especially against Army -- but Duke can't win if Thad can't get it done. I was on the sidelines for the last drive against UNC last year. I know what Bud Foster does to young quarterbacks (we don't know if Mike Paulus ever recovered).
GC: Last year Duke's defense kept it in the game in Blacksburg and forced Tyrod Taylor into about 36 turnovers, give or take. What can we expect out of Duke's defense in this year's game?
BJ: Had Thad Lewis played, or Zack Asack been capable of completing a pass, Duke would have won in Blacksburg last year. Duke's defense played very well, and Virginia Tech's offense looked that anemic. This year's defense, even without Mike Tauiliili, looks to be better. Virginia Tech's offense looks about the same as it was, with Ryan Williams plugged into Darren Evans' role. Having a capable defensive line gives Duke a fighting chance at stopping the Hokies' running game, and team that can make Tyrod Taylor and Bryan Stinespring beat them has a chance to win.
GC: How much money will it take to just permanently move this game to Blacksburg?
BJ: Hey, Triangle Hokie fans appreciate having a home game 30 minutes from home. Let them see their team without burning all that gas. Plus, you can get that feeling of invading a country and taking it over. Be Napoleon for a day. Embrace your inner conqueror.
GC: How much does it piss off Duke fans when football schools beat them in basketball and their football team can never return the favor against teams like Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, NC State, Virginia Tech or Wake Forest?
BJ: There is nothing Duke's football team can do to piss off its fans. If they cared enough about football to get pissed, the team would have given them hypertension a long, long time ago. Staying somewhat detached is a medical decision, really.