Duke turns digital to help with draft process
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Duke turns digital to help with draft process

Duke's Cutcliffe provided NFL teams with information normally gained at Pro Day

Photo: Koby Quansah

The past week NFL general managers and their scouts, prior to social distancing, assembled in a room to tie up loose ends prior to making their draft picks. The gatherings include “readings” to finalize their strategy.

Scouts read their evaluations of players that ranged from national LSU to NAIA schools. From there, teams refined their board priorities for the draft Thursday through Saturday that is taking place electronically due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But this year the virtual readings stage not only may have been shorter due to the campus shutdowns canceling various Pro Day workouts. The “readings” meetings may have broken up before that fifth cup of coffee or second pizza delivery.

Yes, there is plenty of information available to weigh projected first-round picks. In fact, overload information on the quarterbacks can contribute to the wrong choice.

But the area where the scouts may have come up short -- sifting through their laptop files or old-fashioned sheets of paper -- was drawing upon information on late-round draft picks or undrafted free agent picks.

Duke coach David Cutcliffe had that in mind when he huddled with the digital age personnel in the athletic department. They sent each NFL team draft capsules on their seven Blue Devils that are hoping to hear their name called or to receive an offer to sign as an undrafted free agent.

“As soon as this happened that went to my mind back in March,” Cutcliffe said. “What we did is built a really attractive manuscript electronically. What I wanted to do was follow their trail as incoming (freshmen), height, weight, speed. What they accomplished had a accomplished from work ethic -- just seeing the mere numbers. Where they on their records; we keep all of that.”

There were seven Duke players that were looking forward to Pro Day:

--- Edgar Cerenod, defensive tackle (6-1, 305).

--- Quentin Harris, quarterback (6-1, 195).

--- Tre Hornbuckle, defensive end (6-4, 255).

--- Trevon McSwain, defensive tackle (6-6, 285).

--- Austin Parker, punter  (6-1, 190).

--- Koby Quansah, linebacker (6-1, 230).

--- Dylan Singleton, safety (6-1, 185).

In addition to the numbers, a scout might pull Cutcliffe aside for more information regarding a player's work ethic and personality. Cutcliffe, with his experience as a head coach and assistant coach the past four decades, recognized that void to fill and put on a Sports Information Office hat.

“I wrote a bio on each player with commentary -- their strengths and the process of who where they were,” said Cutcliffe, Duke’s head coach since 2008. “You know type of people they are; other pertinent information that I felt general managers and scouts would want. Then we attached football clips to that.”

The four-minute packages were emailed out across the league, with Cutcliffe including his name in the subject line to avoid the message overlooked as junk mail.

“I got a incredible response from general managers across the board saying, ‘Wow. We haven’t seen anything like this. This is really helpful.’ I think it was a great way to introduce (Duke’s players). They got basically information they get on a Pro Day – maybe little more individualized attention with each one of them.”

Duke said it was his responsibility to help the players while also preparing on a 2020 season that is in limbo.

“I put my cell number on every one of them, and I’ve had tons of phone calls. I thought it was my responsibility. They’re our guys. We say ‘Duke Gang’ for life, and I mean it.”


I invite you to follow me on Twitter @shanny4055

Tom Shanahan, Author: Raye of Light 

-- Book on Michigan State's leading role in the integration of college football. It explains Duffy Daugherty's untold pioneering role and debunks myths that steered recognition away from him to Bear Bryant.



Don’t believe the myths at Duffy Daugherty’s expense about Bear Bryant’s motivation to play the 1970 USC-Alabama game or myths about the Charlie Thornhill-for-Joe Namath trade. Bear Bryant knew nothing about black talent in the South while he dragged his feet on segregation. 






David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize winner and biographer; "History writes people out of the story. It's our job to write them back in.”





Tom Shanahan

Tom Shanahan

Tom Shanahan is an award-winning sportswriter and the author of "Raye of Light". Tom spent the bulk of his career in San DIego writing for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He has covered NCAA Tournaments, Super Bowls, Rose Bowls, the NBA Finals and the World Series in a career that included writing for Voice of San Diego, the San Diego Hall of Champions and Chargers.com. He contributes to the Detroit Free Press, Raleigh News & Observer, MLB.com, Rivals.com and the National Football Foundation's Football Matters. He won multiple first-place awards from the San Diego Press Club and first place from the Copley News Service Ring of Truth Awards. The National Football Foundation/San Diego Chapter presented him its Distinguished American Award in 2003. USA Track and Field’s San Diego Chapter presented its President’s Award in 2000.

Raye of Light: Jimmy Raye, Duffy Daugherty, the integration of college football and the 1965-66 Michigan State Spartans. It explains Duffy Daugherty's pioneering role and debunks myths that steered recognition away from him to Bear Bryant.

By Tom Shanahan; Foreword by Tony Dungy; August Publications

David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize winner and biographer: "History writes people out of the story. It's our job to write them back in."