In Duke's Aaron Young, Cutcliffe hopes for consistency

Army Duke Football-2

Duke's Aaron Young and Deon Jackson celebrate following Young's reception against Army during the first half of the season-opener last Friday.


Sports Writer

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

In Daniel Jones, quarterback-savvy David Cutcliffe has his best and most NFL-prepared signal caller in his 11 seasons at Duke.

In Duke’s T.J. Rahming, the Blue Devils’ leading receiver from last year (65 catches, 795 yards), Cutcliffe has a defined No. 1 option for Jones to throw to.

“T.J. may be the quickest we’ve ever had here,” Cutcliffe said of his senior.

On Friday, in a season-opening win against Army, a new wrinkle may have emerged to add to an already-deep group of wide receivers for Jones to target: junior Aaron Young. He had a breakout game against the Black Knights, totaling 114 yards and a touchdown catch. In two prior seasons, he had only 343 yards.

There were a few bursts during his freshman and sophomore seasons, including an 89-yard, one-score game in last season’s opener against FCS opponent N.C. Central. The 6-foot-2 receiver’s most important moment as a college football player came on Friday, though, evidenced by the media scrum surrounding his presence after the game.

The question now is sustainability. Cutcliffe, whose Blue Devils travel to Northwestern on Saturday for a fourth showdown in four years with the Big 10 program, discussed those chances for Young on Wednesday.

“It’s important to him, and I think he probably is going into his junior year realizing maybe he hasn’t reached his expectations,” Cutcliffe said.

On Friday after the game, Young was asked when he found out he would be starting the opener. He responded that he’d been slotted in on the two-deep since the spring time, dreaming up ways to break big plays with new wide receivers coach Gerad Parker.

The offseason also involved some conversations with the head man.

“He and I sat down and had a conversation about (his expectations),” Cutcliffe said. “But you know, he’s been flashy in the past. Now, let’s see if he can put one week after another.

“He’s definitely capable of being a guy that can burst onto the scene, and I know Daniel Jones has a lot of confidence in Aaron.”

When asked about Young after the game, Jones confirmed as much, but his 61-yard catch and throw and his 25-yard touchdown connection with the junior were more telling.

Close game a positive to Doeren

The Wolfpack on Saturday beat James Madison for only the third time in the Dukes’ last 31 games.

It was plodding, hot and sometimes-sloppy, and it was a close game in the fourth quarter — a narrative that eludes most FCS vs. Power 5 matchups, though JMU is more than just another lower-level team.

N.C. State was forced to make some key third down plays to keep the Dukes from regaining possession with a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter.

In all of the necessary execution to improve to 1-0, the Wolfpack were more engaged than, say, ACC contemporary Clemson, which blew out FCS-level Furman, 48-7. There’s some value in those pressure situations, Doeren said on Wednesday.

“(The Dukes) are a team that’s used to winning football games, so that was really good for our guys to have to go through that,” Doeren said. “...There were some clutch plays that were made, clutch throws, clutch catches, good stops on defense... It was absolutely a great opportunity for our team to grow.”

JMU’s quarterback, Ben DiNucci, played against N.C. State last season as a Pitt Panther. He transferred, was named the starter a few days before the opener on Saturday, and, on a few occasions, carved up the Wolfpack defense.

Doeren gave DiNucci credit for his individual effort, but was quick to point out his defense’s wit in the red zone.

“I mean, they had 13 points, so at the end of the day, that’s what you care about that most,” Doeren said. “But I think a lot of the yardage, the biggest plays we gave up were on two quarterback scrambles on third down, third-and-long, and that’s not us as coaches doing a good enough job preparing them for the rush lanes.”