The weekly Q&A with a beat writer who covers Georgia Tech’s opponent. This week, Steve Wiseman of the Durham Herald-Sun was gracious enough to answer some questions about the Blue Devils. Steve has been covering Duke for the Herald-Sun since Aug. 2010. He’s previously worked at the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, the Biloxi Sun-Herald and the State in Columbia, covering the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and South Carolina, respectively. You can follow him on Twitter here and read his stuff here.
1. To what degree have Duke’s injuries cost the Blue Devils? Could their record be a win or two better if they’d been healthy?
Injuries have really cost Duke this year. It started early when Will Snyderwine, the preseason all-ACC kicker, suffered a foot injury in preseason camp. He missed two chip-shot field goals in a 23-21 loss to Richmond and has never been the same. He also had a big miss in the 24-23 loss to Wake Forest. So that’s two wins right there. The Blue Devils will have seven players from their two-deep unavailable for Saturday’s game with Georgia Tech.
2. Duke has played a lot of teams close only to lose in the fourth quarter. Do you see any patterns in how those games have been lost?
In David Cutcliffe’s four years on the job, he’s upgraded facilities and improved Duke’s recruiting. The talent in the freshmen and sophomore classes is superior to the junior and senior classes. But Cutcliffe and his staff have been unable to teach the Blue Devils how to win games. One game, it’s a key penalty or turnover that costs them. In another it will be blown assignments on defense, the offensive line allowing a key sack or a running back not getting to the hole fast enough. The 14-10 loss to Virginia Tech is a good example, as are the Wake Forest and Richmond losses. Duke has yet to give Cutcliffe a signature win, despite several chances.
3. Is safety Matt Daniels that good or does he have that many tackles (10.2 per game) because he’s the last line of defense?
Daniels is a legitimate defender, particularly against the run. He has good size, decent speed and is smart about the routes he takes to the ball carrier. Cutcliffe is touting him as an All-American candidate, which is a tough sell because of the team he plays on. Daniels does tend to get exposed in passing coverage – Florida State burned him on a couple of deep routes – and that will keep him from being any more than a late-round pick or undrafted free agent in the NFL next year. But the kid is very smart, a hard worker and one of the team’s steadiest players for sure.
4. What are Sean Renfree’s strengths and weaknesses, and where do you place him among ACC quarterbacks?
Renfree is a classic drop-back, pro-style quarterback. He’s 6-5 and has the ability to see the field well. He suffered a torn ACL in 2009, which has limited his mobility. Many observers, myself included, thought he would take a big step forward this season and become one of the ACC’s top quarterbacks. But it just hasn’t happened. At times, he looks brilliant. At other times, he’s somewhat erratic. I believe he tends to over think things and it hamstrings him. When he is playing loose and free, he’ll lead a team downfield. But for now he’s in the middle of the pack in the ACC.
5. What would you say is the over/under on attendance Saturday?
22,000. It’s going to be cool and, frankly, the fan base has turned its attention to basketball. Duke is on a five-game losing streak and in real danger of closing out with seven losses. Not a pretty sight.
6. What are a few restaurants or bars you’d recommend to Tech fans going to the game?
The place nearest to Wallace Wade Stadium is the Bull Durham Bar and Grill at the Washington Duke Inn. It’s about a three-block walk to the stadium from there. Other than that, there’s really not much on campus. Two sports bars popular throughout the Triangle have locations in Durham – the Carolina Ale House and the Tobacco Road Sports Café. Tobacco Road is in downtown Durham and overlooks the left-field wall at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, so that’s different. Ale House has lots of seating and a long list of brew choices and good food. One other popular local place is Satisfaction, also in downtown Durham.
Thanks for reading. This is probably it until Saturday.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog