‘More of me’ — Cutcliffe takes more active role with practice

Duke coach holding players and coaches accountable for details

Oct 21, 2017; Durham, NC, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers defensive back Dane Jackson (11) knocks down a pass intended for Duke Blue Devils wide receiver Scott Bracey (11) in the fourth quarter at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

DURHAM — After losing his fourth straight game on Saturday, Duke coach David Cutcliffe made a promise to his players.

“They’re going to see a lot more of me,” he said in his postgame press conference.

Cutcliffe has kept his promise as the Blue Devils prepare for a trip to Virginia Tech.

“He’s definitely been down on the practice field a lot more,” defensive lineman Mike Ramsey said, “walking around, talking to us.”

Duke at Virginia Tech
Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Va.  |  Saturday, 7:20 p.m.  |  ACC Network

“He’s out there,” center Austin Davis agreed. “He’s yelling. He’s making sure that we’re staying energized, because it’s a huge opportunity this week. You have Virginia Tech — a team that’s been historically good in the ACC. You have them at their place. They’re a ranked team. That stadium is one of a kind. He’s making sure that we have that energy, and he’s starting it up front. He’s the leader, and he’s making sure we’re ready for the game.”

Cutcliffe is making sure no detail goes unexamined as he looks for a way to get the Blue Devils’ once promising season back on track.

“It starts in meetings,” he said. “It starts with me in staff meetings. It starts with our review of previous games. We’re studying what we’re doing, the direction we’re going to go. You want to take as fine-toothed a comb as you can to every detail. All of that culminating in, once you’re out there on the practice field, it’s not just good. It’s exceptional.”

Cutcliffe hasn’t noticed anyone loafing or slacking at practice, but that hasn’t stopped him from examining everything anyway.

“You know what something can always be?” he asked. “Better.”

Cutcliffe admitted he was angry after the Blue Devils lost a very winnable game against Pitt. He didn’t need to scold his players, who were just as upset as he was.

“It hurts,” Davis said. “For all of us seniors, it hurts losing a game. We don’t want to take it for granted, because there’s only four more guaranteed in our career. We’re fighting our butts off to make it five. We don’t want to take those games for granted, because it’s limited. So we’re all angry. We’re competitors. That’s what got us here to Duke — we’re competitive.”

Duke has had moments on offense and defense this season, but the problems — too many explosive plays given up on defense and drive-killing mistakes on the other side of the ball — result from inconsistency. That can only be fixed with Cutcliffe’s fine-toothed comb.

“Consistency comes in focus, first,” Cutcliffe said. “There’s no way, whether I’m a punter, kicker, quarterback, safety or linebacker, if I’m not totally focused on that play, then I have no chance to try to win the game. It may be the most difficult task that coaches face. I think it’s the most difficult task an athlete faces. Loss of focus can cost you games. It’s the most difficult task we have in life.”

Hopefully, Duke’s focus on the details will allow the Blue Devils to tackle the other difficult task facing them — traveling to Lane Stadium.

If not, expect to see even more of Cutcliffe.