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Duke: Program Hopes To Raise Roof With New Staff, System, Attitude

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff

  By William Elliott Warnock
Chapel Hill (N.C.) News

April 26, 2004 SPRING 2004 OVERVIEW DURHAM — One fine spring afternoon recently, Duke was able to find enough healthy young men to play a game of football. That in itself was good. There were times this year that members of the coaching staff must have wondered if they would be pressed into duty to fill out a scrimmage squad. Several of Duke's top returnees missed the spring game, most notably quarterback Mike Schneider, whom coaches tabbed as the clear starter among three contenders heading into the fall. His fractured thumb, dinged on the helmet of a rushing teammate, will heal soon enough. Nothing would darken this bright, if somewhat suspiciously Carolina blue, sky. The Blue Devils who played performed well enough that still-new head coach Ted Roof was satisfied. "I thought the spring went well," Roof said. "I was pleased with the overall operation. We made some strides from a physical standpoint, from a speed and contact standpoint, with timing. I was pleased with that." Roof begged off "for just one minute" from the reporters circling him on the floor of Wallace Wade Stadium. He quickly greeted a father and son who were on a recruiting visit. He then stretched the one minute into two, as he worked through a group of well-dressed alumni, smiles and handshakes abounding. The final spring game was over, marking the end of organized offseason drills. But Roof was far from done with coaching. Barely months into his first head coaching job as Duke's replacement for Carl Franks, Roof already knows the priority of logistics in his chosen profession. Others can talk about play-calling. Head coaches want to talk about recruiting and fund-raising. "It's everything. Everything," Roof said sotto voce, as if protecting some trade secret. And that's what Roof will spend much of his time doing between now and late July: trying to bolster the fragile Duke program with fiscal and player commitments. In the meantime, he expects his players to hit the weight room and the track. "Bigger and faster and stronger is obviously one thing you want from the offseason," Roof said. "And we need our football team to work on developing some leadership." It is his team, they are his players now, officially. Roof took over as interim coach in midseason of 2003, as the Blue Devils were foundering in their ninth straight losing season. His full-time appointment became official Dec. 6, with the players virtually drafting Roof. After he led them to a 2-3 finish in their last five games, the players made it clear that they wanted Roof. "If anyone didn't want Coach Roof," defensive back Kenneth Stanford said, "they sure didn't say it." "I guess they felt they could trust me," Roof said. "Dealing with football players, you're honest with them, you show them that you care and then you push them and drive them. Then you show that you care some more." Since taking over, Roof has done virtually everything right. He instantly made the Blue Devils competitive. And they won the two games they probably wanted more than any others — against Roof's alma mater, Georgia Tech (41-17), and archrival North Carolina (30-22). The season-ending victory over UNC gave Duke possession of the Victory Bell, token of the rivalry, for the first time in 14 years. "Morale is great," backup quarterback Chris Dapolito said. "The end of the season, winning those ACC games, getting the Victory Bell back, we proved to ourselves that we can compete in the ACC, and now we want to build on that and win even more games." Winning has that effect, Roof noted. "We're excited about finishing up the way we did at the end of last season," Roof said, "and taking some momentum into the offseason." The cornerstone necessary to build on that momentum, Roof felt, was a change in what was now his staff. He switched about half of his assistants, mostly on offense. He brought in Jerry Azzinaro, a former assistant at Syracuse, as defensive co-coordinator to work with nine-year Duke defensive coach Scott Brown. Roof also brought in Tom Knotts, a Duke alum who coached West Charlotte High School to a North Carolina state championship and Charlotte Independence to four straight (2000-03) state titles. David Kelly, the associate head coach at Stanford for the past two seasons, was brought in to be Duke's associate head coach and to work with wide receivers as a position coach. A former defensive coordinator himself, Roof put the most time and effort into securing a new offensive coordinator. He eventually came up with Marty Galbraith, a 30-year coaching veteran of the college game, the ACC and the NFL. "When I was an assistant, I promised myself that, if I ever got to be a head coach, I was going to put together a terrific staff, and I have," Roof said. "We've been fortunate with the commitment that Duke has made to hire quality coaches and quality people." No one expects Duke's offense this fall to be as high-powered as the one Galbraith installed for Chad Pennington at Marshall or for Philip Rivers at N.C. State, where the Wolfpack set school marks for passing yards (3,486), total yards (5,486) and points (460) in 2002 under Galbraith's direction. "It won't be the Florida fun-and-gun, definitely not, but it's different," Dapolito said, like all of the Blue Devils keeping the details vague. "Right now, it's just a challenge to learn the offense." Roof intentionally avoided an apple-cart turnover among his assistants, some of whom are close friends and many of whom have developed close relationships with the players they personally recruited or coached. "Coaching is based on relationships," Roof said. "I'm a firm believer that if they believe you care about them more than just as a player, they'll come along for you. "The first thing I asked myself in choosing a staff was if I would want that person to coach my son. If the answer to that was a yes, we moved onto the next thing, which was expertise. I'm the third-youngest guy on the staff, which is good. I want a lot of guys who have been there before, who have been around the block and guys for me to lean on." As Stanford said, Roof "surrounded himself with guys who are like himself." Realistically, Roof agreed. The coach mentioned trust, too. "You've got enough bullets coming at you from the front," Roof said. "You don't need any bullets coming at you from the back." Duke's problems are still there. The Blue Devils are thin. They will be out-manned by most of the teams on their schedule, and the schedule is just going to get tougher with the additions of Virginia Tech and Miami to the ACC. Three of Duke's first four opponents played in bowls last season, and the quartet finished with a combined record of 35-18. "We don't need to be worrying about how big and how fast other teams are and how many games the opponents have won," Roof said. "We've got to control the things we can control: take care of the football and give great effort and enthusiasm. That is the kind of blue-collar football team we're going to have to be. You can drive yourself bananas worrying about things you can't control."