by Mike Potter
WALLACE WADE STADIUM/DURHAM Ever since David Cutcliffe had open-heart surgery four years ago, the Duke football coach said he has tried to take his challenges one day at a time and also apply that thinking to his team.
So when the second-year Duke mentor was happy about the Blue Devils' most intense practice day of the week, it became one more victory in his column.
"Tuesdays, all that matters is Tuesday," Cutcliffe, whose team has a huge challenge in its opening game here on Saturday at 7 against defending NCAA Division I (Championship Subdivision) champion Richmond, said at his first weekly press conference of the season at the brand new Brooks football building. "We don't have to beat Wednesday on Tuesday."
Duke went 4-8 last season, the program's best finish since a matching mark in 2003, while Mike London's Spiders finished 13-3 are on a nine-game winning streak. The last meeting was a long, tough night for the Blue Devils, as Richmond won the teams' 2006 opener to kick off Duke's only 0-12 season in school history.
Cutcliffe nicknamed the day "Bloody Tuesday," since he lets his team loose for some more serious hitting than is going to happen until - he certainly hopes - Game Day on Saturday.
"Good gracious, it just came out of my mouth one day," the coach said of the moniker. "Our players seem to know what we're talking about. We kind of name every day of the week."
But he said he'd leave it up to his players to reveal the other days' nicknames, perhaps in piecemeal fashion.
"I'm not going to go through all that," he said with a smile. "The enemy is watching. ... I thought (today) was our best day today throwing and catching the ball. Route-running - great gains in that area ... Our footwork in our offensive and defensive fronts, people being where they were supposed to be. The contact was crisp. We maintained consistency from the minute we broke stretch to the end of practice."
Senior tight end Brett Huffman (pictured) said Tuesday has its special name for good reason.
"Tuesday is definitely our most physical practice," Huffman said. "I haven't shed any (blood) today. Not today at least. I'm sure there were some nicks and cuts ... This is something coach Cut brought with him last year. ... Every day in camp was a Bloody Tuesday, but that's camp."
Cutcliffe said he has high hopes for the season as a whole, but that it all needs to start with a successful opener.
"Our team a year ago should have been a bowl team, and I didn't get it done - It makes me cringe when I think about it," Cutcliffe said. "I know that throws a lot of pressure on Duke. I know people look at me like I'm crazy, (but) we're going to be a bowl team if we play up to our capabilities, and as far as I know that's in my job description."
Cutcliffe said he will select game captains each week this season, and may or may not have permanent captains by season's end. Seniors running back Re'quan Boyette, quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, defensive tackle Vince Oghobaase and middle linebacker Vincent Rey will have the duties this week.
The coach said that redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Renfree is going to get some playing time on Saturday along with seven true freshmen: wide receivers Conner Vernon and Tyree Watkins; cornerback Zach Greene; safety Walt Canty; and linebackers August Campbell, Austin Gamble and Tyree Glover.
He said that the kicking situation between Nick Maggio and Will Snyderwine is not set, and that it will probably be some sort of "combination" on Saturday.
Offensive tackle Kinney Rucker (right foot) is questionable, while cornerback Randez James is out with a broken hand.
The coach said more than 30 Duke players had had the swine flu in August, but that the disease appears to have left the team.