Since David Cutcliffe’s arrival at Duke in 2008, there has been a noticeable and genuine respect between Cutcliffe and the Virginia Tech program. Former Hokies head coach Frank Beamer was effusive in his praise for Cutcliffe and the job he’s done at Duke, and the current Virginia Tech staff is no different.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for David Cutcliffe and the job he’s done there, and really everywhere he’s ever been,” Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente said on Monday. “You don’t have to look at the film very long to figure out they’re a very well-coached and talented football team. I know they’ve lost a couple of close games here the last couple weeks, but we certainly know that we’ll have to be ready.”
“(Cutcliffe) has a great reputation with quarterbacks obviously, but you look at his track record as a head football coach, it’s outstanding,” said defensive coordinator Bud Foster. “He’s done a marvelous job at Duke, and I personally think — they’re 4-4 right now — they’re a lot better football team than their record indicates. They’ve lost some really tight football games against some really good people.”
Part of the respect for Cutcliffe is his honest and open demeanor, but also his coaching ability. His coaching prowess is no more obvious when looking at the quarterbacks that he’s worked with and developed. Cutcliffe has coached both Peyton and Eli Manning, both of whom have won Super Bowls in the NFL. He also coached quarterbacks like Heath Shuler and Thaddeus Lewis, who both played in the NFL.
For Fuente, who also has a reputation for developing quarterbacks, Cutcliffe’s ability to work with passers is right up there with the best.
“I think the first thing, never having worked for him or with him, just watching kind of from afar, I would say technically just how sound they are fundamentally is the first thing that kind of jumps out at you,” Fuente said. “Not that they’re all cookie cutters, but you can tell that there’s a belief system in how they should play and what their drops should look like, what their posture should look like in the pocket. So I mean, to me, that’s what jumps out when I watch those guys, is they’ve been drilled in their techniques thoroughly and are able to execute during high-pressure situations.”
Cutcliffe’s signal caller in 2017 is Daniel Jones, a redshirt-sophomore. Jones put up solid numbers in 2016, but has struggled slightly this season. Jones has seen a drop in completion percentage (62.8 percent to 54.5 percent), touchdown percentage (3.72 percent to 2.76 percent) and yards per rush (3.4 yards per rush to 2.7 yards per rush). Despite the drops in stats, Foster sees Jones as just as much of a threat as he was last season.
“I don’t think he’s regressed by any form,” Foster said of Jones. “He’s a young player still. He does some really, really good things as a young football player. He’s strong, he’s athletic, he can throw the ball, he’s big, he shows a lot of toughness in the pocket, standing in there when the rush is coming in, and staying in there and not letting the rush affect him as much as maybe some quarterbacks. I just see a guy that is continuing to develop and continuing to blossom into being a big-time football player at this level.”
In all, Foster sees a very good Duke team that’s better than their record. After starting the season 4-0, the Blue Devils have lost their last four games, all of which were conference games.
“What we did this last week, we’ve got to turn the page and we’ve got to move forward, because this will be a much better football team this week than we faced last week, in all three phases of the game,” Foster said.
Hokies hoping to boost intensity on offense
Virginia Tech put up 59 points last weekend vs. North Carolina, but the offense didn’t put on the rout you might think. The Hokies totaled just 383 total yards on offense, and scored just 14 offensive points in the first half.
What caused the mediocre offensive showing? Little intensity and effort, according to Fuente.
“We know we’ve got young guys out there and all that sort of stuff, but there’s a level of toughness and intensity we expect on a daily basis,” Fuente said on Monday’s Tech Talk Live. “Whether you’re scoring points or getting yards, I mean I know that’s the object, but there’s a way of playing I guess is what I’m saying. In my estimation, we fell short in living up to that.”
The message was spread loud and clear to the offensive assistants and players.
“I think by that, he meant we just needed to finish a little bit better,” said Kyle Chung. “Just a little extra effort type of things that we preach here. We just need to start doing that a little bit more. Throughout the season, we kind of forget about the little things that we do day in and day out, and we kind of realized we’re not doing it as well, and we brought that back to our attention, so we’re going to get it right this week.”
Virginia Tech will undoubtedly try to bring an extra fire vs. Duke, but will face a much better defense this week than they did last Saturday. Duke ranks 27th in total defense, 33rd in scoring defense and 15th in opponent third down conversion attempts, and are better than North Carolina in every meaningful defensive category.
“I think we’ve got to finish plays,” said running backs coach Zohn Burden. “Speaking from my position, we’ve got to finish runs, and just do our job a little bit harder than we did this past weekend. Just looking at the film, we think we can be better than we were offensively.”