It’s not too often that the Duke Blue Devils make any waves in college football recruiting.
At first glance, you’d think Duke would be competing year in and year out: the school is located in a football recruiting hotbed, with plenty of local talent. They have a very well-respected and successful head coach in David Cutcliffe. The academics at the perfectly manicured school are internationally well-known and respected. On top of all that, they’re in a major BCS conference (ACC) with big bowl tie-ins.
Unfortunately, first glances rarely tell the whole story. It is and always will be a basketball school. That’s that, end of story. The football program literally has no history or prestige whatsoever. And while they’re surrounded by talented prospects, they’re also surrounded by competitors (North Carolina, Wake Forest, North Carolina State, East Carolina) going after that same talent.
But it is possible to win in Durham. Steve Spurrier proved it once, and Cut is seemingly right on the brink after improving to 6-7 last year.
Needless to say, recruiting can be hard for the Blue Devils — but it’s getting better. They’re finally beating out some of their top competitors for prospects. Trip McNeill is proof of that.
McNeill is a highly-touted offensive tackle from Davie High School (Mocksville, NC), with offers from all up and down the east coast. The 6-foot-5, 295 pounder, who can play anywhere along the line, is choosing ‘The Dukies’ over every other program in the state, and that’s something Cutcliffe and co. can hang their hat on.
No, McNeill is not a 5-star prospect, but there’s a reason every school in the state is clamoring for him. Also, remember not all good football players enter college with a plethora of stars attached to their name. McNeill is a tough and hard-nosed kid who isn’t afraid to mix it up with fellow big-uglies in hand to hand combat. He actually reminds me a lot of Doug Buckles, a former all SEC guard who played under Cutcliffe at Ole Miss.
Changing Duke from a basketball school to a football school will never happen. Having a football team that competes for conference championships? That’s possible. To do that, more guys like McNeill are going to have to be brought in. Duke will have to keep winning recruiting battles like they just did.
If I was a Duke fan, I’d be excited. Slowly and steadily, things have been on the upswing for the Devils.
Cutcliffe is a proven winner who was wrongfully fired by Ole Miss less than a year after winning the SEC Coach of the Year. Now, he’s getting it done at Duke as well (2012 ACC Coach of the Year).