Durham, NC – Duke opened its 2021 football preseason camp Thursday morning with its first official practice at the Brooks Practice Facility.
Head coach David Cutcliffe, who begins his 14th year at the helm of the Blue Devil program, as well as junior Eli Pancol and graduate student Josh Blackwell met with the media after practice.
“I thought our spirit, energy and attitude is what it’s been since last January.” Cutcliffe said. “They are very willing to do what it takes to be successful. Do we have a lot of work to do? Absolutely. But, we’re in a new world of practice. That’s one down and 24 left and then you play football. We’ve got to have a sense of urgency about what we’re doing. We’re fortunate. We have most of our players out there. We’ve got a few that are still out. We got a few that are working at a little bit of a limited basis. But, I like the way this squad looks and we got 110 people that are healthy and ready to rock.”
Pancol will bolster the Duke offense in a deep group of wide outs. In addition to the veteran receiving corps, the Duke offense is expected to be led by preseason All-ACC running back Mataeo Durant and projected starting quarterback Gunnar Holmberg.
Pancol spoke highly of the energetic buzz around the program to begin preseason camp.
“We’ve already started with a great culture, that’s what Coach has been preaching,” Pancol said. “It’s been showing. I’ve had three first camps and this is the one that has been the most fun. The culture has been so good and everybody’s just wanting to work together. We all have the same goal of winning championships. Our culture is everything.”
Blackwell returns for Duke after missing the majority of the 2020 season due to injury. The cornerback is excited to be back on the field and will be Duke’s projected punt return specialist.
“I feel great,” Blackwell said. “My rehab was hard, but I had the time in the summer and the spring to kind of get my feet back wet and get back into the swing of things. Definitely was needed, but I feel great now. I’m healthy. I’m actually stronger than I’ve ever been, really.”
Cutcliffe echoed the players sentiments and expressed his joy to be back after an abnormal 2020 season. Although COVID protocols are still in place, the program has grown accustomed to mitigation efforts and feel more comfortable heading into the 2021 season.
“I hadn’t done that in over a year, and that may not look like fun to you all, but that is a bunch of fun,” Cutcliffe said after blowing his whistle. “But God bless all of us. We still got to fight. We all know we’re in a pandemic and we’re doing a great job in our building and indoors. Let’s not forget hygiene and being smart, all of us. I think it’s all about respect, personally.”
Duke is set to kick off the 2021 season on Friday, September 3 at Charlotte. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. at Jerry Richardson Stadium.
Season tickets are available online at GoDuke.com/FootballTix or by calling the Duke Athletic Ticket Office at 919-681-2583.