By Al Featherston
February 20, 2007
DURHAM How can a coach successfully recruit players for an 0-12 football team?
In Ted Roof's case, the solution was simple line up as many prospects as possible before the losses start to pile up on the field.
"It was just a different year," the Duke coach said on signing day. "Of the 22 we signed, 17 were committed before starting the first day of classes their senior year of high school. That's the first time that happened to me, where so many committed so early."
Roof said the unusual tactic was partly by design and partly plain luck. He used his summer football camp as a springboard to target a number of prospects.
"So many kids were in camp, and there's not a better evaluation than having kids in camp," he said. "You know more about them as kids. You know more about how they work and take coaching and, obviously, (it gives you) the ability to evaluate their athleticism."
The early success took the pressure off as the losses mounted for Duke last fall.
"I think we'd still have done a good job, but that would have certainly been a factor closing on kids," Roof said. "It was a good year to have the bulk of our class in place before the season started."
Roof and his staff started the 2007 recruiting process determined to sign at least one quarterback, several linemen and to add speed in the secondary and at wide receiver. But unlike in his first two classes, there weren't the same glaring needs that had to be filled by players who were destined to be thrust into action as true freshmen.
"We're trying to get our numbers to the point where we don't have to be too heavily laden in one position," Roof said. "I think we're starting to accomplish that with our third full recruiting class. I think it's a very solid group."
Of course, all coaches have to say that on signing day. Both Roof and his predecessor, Carl Franks, sung the praises of the recruiting classes that have won a grand total of just three ACC football games in the last seven seasons.
Roof's first two full classes at Duke, in 2005 and 2006, were rated well above the Blue Devils' average historically. According to Scout.com, those groups rated No. 31 and No. 34 nationally.
But on paper, at least this year's 22-player haul is back at the bottom of the ACC.
That's not to suggest that the class doesn't include a number of promising prospects. While there are no nationally heralded superstars on the order of 2005 signee Vince Oghobaase, Roof and his staff did land a number of prospects who attracted considerable interest from other Division I-A programs.
The strength of the group may lie in the offensive line. Chris Shannon, a 6-5, 300-pound tackle from Andover, Mass., was one of the top line prospects in New England and was targeted by Maryland and Boston College. Kyle Hill, a 6-6, 260-pounder, was rated one of the top 50 prospects in Florida. Bryan Morgan was one of three finalists for Alabama's Class 6A lineman of the year in 2005, then earned more attention after a prep year at Mercersburg Academy.
There also is an injection of speed in the secondary, starting with Matt Pridemore, a cornerback from Gainesville, Ga., who actually signed with Duke last year but delayed admission until January. He's the son of former Atlanta Falcons defensive back Tom Pridemore.
A second NFL legacy also will compete for playing time in the Duke secondary. Colin Jones, one of two twin sons of former Duke and NFL wide receiver Cedric Jones, brings 4.4 speed to the cornerback spot. But he might not be as fast as San Antonio's Randez James, a contender for the Texas 400- and 800-meter prep titles, or Tony Jackson, a first-team all-state running back from New York who will make the conversion to defensive back.
Wide receiver Josh Trezvant is a track star and playmaker from Morrilton, Ark. A three-time all-state selection in Class 4A, the highest classification in Arkansas, he caught 74 passes for 1,353 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior. One of many outstanding students in Duke's 2007 class, he picked the Blue Devils over a scholarship offer from Stanford.
Then there's safety Eddie Morgan, a hurdles champion from McKinney, Texas, who just happened to be one of the five post-summer members of the class. In fact, Morgan, who spent most of the fall committed to Stanford, switched his allegiance barely a week before signing day and became the last member of Roof's haul.
"Just getting him here (for a visit) was a big deal," Roof said. "We get a very large percentage of the kids who visit. Once we get them here on campus, we get a large percentage, a larger percentage than any other school I've been at."
Of course, Duke doesn't get everybody who visits. Armando Allen, one of the nation's top running back prospects, visited the campus late last fall but committed to and signed with Notre Dame.
Duke also was hoping to steal Russell Wilson, an agile quarterback from Richmond, Va., who gave a commitment to N.C. State but re-opened his recruitment after Chuck Amato was fired. In the end, new Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien convinced Wilson to stick with the Pack, and Duke was left with relatively unheralded Mike Cappetto as the only quarterback in the class. While his numbers for a state championship team at Brother Rice High in Michigan look good, he did not get a lot of attention from major schools.
"He's efficient, very efficient," Roof said of his one QB signee. "He understands the game, he's got a live arm, is an accurate passer and has enough mobility to escape the first rusher and still deliver the ball."
While Roof was unable to drop a late recruiting bombshell, at least the Duke coach did hang onto his 17 early commitments, despite fears that other schools would snatch them away.
"They committed, but they were not signed," Roof said. "You recruit them just as hard, if not harder, and hope the relationships and the things like that stand over the course of time."
Duke's relationships did hold up in every case, or perhaps in every case but two. In-state offensive lineman Doug Weaver of Roxboro gave Duke a public commitment last summer, then switched to Wake Forest. Florida running back Brian Sumlar ended up at Bethune-Cookman.
Roof wouldn't discuss the details, but he did say: "Everybody who committed to school who was going to be admissible to school signed with us."
It may take a while to evaluate whether this class is as good as Roof hopes or as mediocre as the recruiting gurus suggested. Last year, Duke was able to redshirt 17 of 25 freshmen, and Roof believes his program is to the point where he can improve on that percentage.
"As you develop your program, that's what you want," Roof said. "There are always some freshmen who play. You just hope you don't lead America in the number of freshmen that played, like we did two years in a row. We certainly want to move that way, because if you look at the successful programs, they're playing with more 23-year-olds than 18-year-olds. Just a fact of life."
FAMILY AFFAIR KEEPS UP WITH JONES TWINS
Cedric Jones was a member of one of Duke's great recruiting classes.
Lured from Roanoke Rapids, N.C., the future NFL wide receiver turned out to be the jewel of a class that also included future all-pro defensive end Charles Bowser, All-ACC defensive back Dennis Tabron and 1982 ACC player of the year Chris Castor.
Jones caught more than 100 passes for 1,732 yards and 21 touchdowns in his career at Duke. His younger brother Walter followed him to Durham a few years later and ended his career with 119 catches for 1,968 yards and 15 TDs. Almost two decades later, their nephew Teilor Robinson joined the Blue Devils, after transferring from West Point. He turned in a stellar 2006 campaign at fullback.
Now Duke coach Ted Roof has added two more members of the Jones family Cedric's identical twin sons, Colin and Cameron Jones. Both are 5-10, 185 pounds, with 4.4 speed in the 40.
"I think they're built more like Teilor than Cedric," Roof said. "Big, compact and physically mature."
The Duke coach is planning to use Cameron at running back and Colin in the secondary.
"They're both similar type players," Roof said. "In evaluating them, I think both could play on either side of the ball. Due to our number situation, we recruited one as a running back and one as a defensive back."
Roof admitted that he used Duke's many connections with the Jones family to help land the twins. Colin Jones also cited the personal ties.
"That played an essential role in the decision continuing the family legacy," Colin Jones told the Durham Herald-Sun. "We want a chance to play with our cousin, and it's an opportunity to follow in our father's footsteps."
DUKE 2007 SIGNEES
Name Pos. Ht./Wt. Stars High School/Junior College
Adam Banks LB 6-4/230 2/2 Asheville (NC) Reynolds
All-conference (def. POY); DE in HS; early over I-AA
Mike Cappetto QB 6-5/200 2/2 Birmingham (MI) Brother Rice
Three-year starter (33-4); early over MAC interest (!)
Charlie Hatcher DE 6-3/275 2/3 Hamilton (OH) High
SP-28 OH; all-county; over Cincy, Md., Stan., Vandy (!)
Kyle Hill OL 6-6/260 3/2 Orlando (FL) Boone
SP-65 FL; 2nd-team 6A all-state; prep TE; over Cincy, NW
Tony Jackson DB 5-10/185 3/2 Rochester (NY) Bishop Kearney
SP-11 NY; 1st-team all-state (RB); early over BC, NW, Syr.
Randez James DB 5-11/175 3/2 Converse (TX) Judson
District, regional sprint champion; over Ariz., Pur., Tulsa
Cameron Jones RB 5-10/185 2/2 Mercersburg (PA) Academy
From Greenwich (CT) High; legacy (WR Cedric); over I-AA
Colin Jones DB 5-10/185 2/2 Mercersburg (PA) Academy
From Greenwich (CT) High; legacy (WR Cedric); over I-AA
Austin Kelly WR 6-3/195 2/2 Austell (GA) South Cobb
ST-69 GA; all-county; mostly QB in HS; over Ind., I-AA (!)
Nick Maggio P 6-4/190 2/2 Overland Park (KS) Aquinas
3-time all-conference, all-county; all-state as jr.; over I-AA
Bryan Morgan OL 6-3/255 3/2 Mercersburg (PA) Academy
RV-46 prep; from Hoover (AL) High; over UAB, Navy (!)
Eddie Morgan DB 6-0/185 2/2 McKinney (TX) High
All-district; HM all-state; Stan. switch; also Rice, TCU (!)
Jon Needham OL 6-7/305 2/2 Melrose (MA) High
SP-12 New England; all-region; team captain; early decision
Danny Parker TE 6-4/225 3/3 Wheaton (MD) Good Counsel
SP-11 MD; all-county; HM all-state; over Rut., Syr., USC
Sam Poggi LB 6-2/220 2/2 Baltimore (MD) Gilman
SP-16 MD; 2nd-team all-state (big schools); over I-AA (!)
Matt Pridemore^ DB 5-11/185 2/2 Buford (GA) High
Holdover from 2006; all-region; father (Tom) played NFL
Eriks Reks DE 6-5/225 2/2 Westwood (MA) Xaverian Brothers
SP-11 New England; conference MVP; early over UConn
Chris Shannon OL 6-5/300 3/3 Andover (MA) Phillips
SP-4 New England; all-region; captain; over UConn, Md. (!)
Damian Thornton LB 6-1/235 2/2 Lenoir (NC) Hibriten
ST-50 NC; all-conference, early over ACC/SEC interest
Josh Trezvant WR 5-11/175 3/3 Morrilton (AR) High
SP-11 AR; 3-time 4A all-state; 74-1353-7 sr.; over Stan. (!)
Garrett Utt^ TE 6-4/220 2/2 Chatham (VA) Hargrave Military
From Atlanta (GA) Lovett; injured as sr.; NFL dad (Ben)
Justin Wilkerson LB 6-3/245 2/2 Oxford (NC) Webb
ST-39 NC; all-conference, all-area; very early decision (!)
*-All-American (top 250 by two/more services) ^-enrolled (!)-strong academics (?)-unconfirmed academics
STScout.com RVRivals.com SPSuperPrep STARS: By Scout/Rivals.
WHO GOT AWAY?
The following prospects had firm scholarship offers from Duke and/or took official visits to Durham but signed with other programs: Miami Lakes (FL) High RB Armando Allen (ND), Suwanee (GA) Peachtree Ridge P Drew Butler (Ga.), St. Petersburg (FL) Catholic OL Elvis Fisher (Mizzou), Orange Park (FL) High RB Brian Sumlar (Bethune-Cookman), Roxboro (NC) Person OL Doug Weaver (WF).
The following prospects also claimed scholarship offers from Duke but eliminated the Blue Devils early in the recruiting process: Durham (NC) Hillside OL Quinn Barham (PSU), Celina (TX) High DE Jamie Blatnick (Okla.St.), Alpharetta (GA) Chattahoochee OL Clint Boling (Ga.), Helena (GA) Telfair County OL Tyler Bowen (Md.), Waukesha (WI) High TE Patrick Butrym (Wis.), Ft. Lauderdale (FL) Aquinas QB Wesley Carroll (Miss.St.), Hoover (AL) High WR Brandon Clear (Clem.), Chicago (IL) St. Rita DE Matt Conrath (UVa), Brewton (AL) Neal OL Jared Cooper (Aub.), Lakeland (FL) High TE Jordon Corbin (LSU), Cleveland (OH) Glenville LB Lebron Daniel (Iowa), Duncan (SC) Byrnes FB Chad Diehl (Clem.), Lakeland (FL) Evangel Christian WR Art Evans (Tenn.), Columbus (GA) Shaw TE Bruce Figgins (Ga.), Leander (TX) High WR Curenski Gilleylen (Neb.), Aberdeen (NJ) Matawan OL Anthony Grosso (FSU), Palomar (CA) Junior College P Jake Harry (Mizzou), Richmond (VA) Varina DE Jamar Jackson (FSU), Chamblee (GA) High RB Roddy Jones (GT), Paterson (NJ) Catholic DE Al-Ghaffar Lane (Rut.), Greensboro (NC) Page DE Kevion Latham (PSU), Brooklyn (NY) South Shore QB David Legree (Syr.), Durham (NC) Hillside WR Greg Little (UNC), San Diego (CA) Francis Parker OL Tyler Mabry (Stan.), Fredericksburg (VA) Massaponax DT Anthony Mihota (UVa), Andover (MA) Phillips TE Austin Monahan (Vandy), Greensboro (GA) Greene County QB Josh Nesbitt (GT), Royal Palm Beach (FL) High RB Brandon Pendergrass (WF), Cuyahoga Falls (OH) Walsh Jesuit OL Nick Schepis (BC), Paulsboro (NJ) High LB Alex Silvestro (Rut.), Nashua (NH) Bishop Guertin OL Mark Spinney (BC), Oakboro (NC) West Stanly LB Quan Sturdivant (UNC), Wilmington (DE) Salesianum TE Andrew Szczerba (PSU), Carrollton (GA) High DB Jerrard Tarrant (GT), Mountain Brook (AL) High DE Drew Traylor (Clem.), Killeen (TX) Harker Heights WR Nick Trice (Texas A&M), Valencia (CA) High RB Shane Vereen (Cal), Cairo (GA) High WR Cameron Wade (FSU), Ronda (NC) East Wilkes OL Landon Walker (Clem.), Ft. Myers (FL) Riverdale TE Mat Williams (USC), Richmond (VA) Collegiate QB Russell Wilson (NCSU), Westlake Village (CA) Oaks Christian WR Sean Wiser (Stan.), Poway (CA) High DT Nick Wood (Wash.), Marietta (GA) Walton TE Bailey Woods (Aub.).
Compiled by David Glenn