Duke football launches fall camp ahead of Mike Elko’s first season

Coaches: hired. Captains: elected. Fall camp: ongoing.

Head Coach Mike Elko and the Blue Devils took to the field at Brooks Training Center for the first time this year on Tuesday night with a fall camp that ran throughout August . Donning unnamed blue and white practice jerseys, this year’s Duke team is starting to take shape. With nearly an all-new coaching staff, players from freshmen to graduates are getting a serious sense of what the year ahead and Elko’s tenure could look like.

During the first days of training, with the first Friday morning, players and coaches were excited to get to work. It’s unlikely anyone is more excited for the next two weeks than Elko, who entered his first press conference of the new season with the same energy he’s brought to the program since day one.

“It must be football season,” he exclaimed with a smile.

Culture has been the theme so far since Elko arrived last December after a dismal final season under head coach David Cutcliffe. Speaking after the first practice, junior defensive tackle DeWayne Carter said, “We left it all in the past.”

“It’s a whole new mindset,” added the recently elected team captain.

With tough decisions looming — none more important than deciding the quarterback job still up in the air — for now, Elko can savor his first few weeks as the head coach of a college program. .

“I have been truly blessed with this group. I think that band bought into our messages, they bought into what we’re trying to do, the way we want to do things. So there have been a lot of changes from them,” the first-year head coach said. “We still have a ways to go – the details and the fundamentals and that kind of stuff – but I come to work and I come to practice every day, excited to be with these guys.”

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That excitement of getting out there, Elko says, has helped the team go further in their training regimen. And part of providing that energy is the responsibility of Elko and his team.

“We just tried to re-energize him. You just demand a certain level of excitement. You behave like coaches with a certain level of energy and excitement. You hope it all fades away,” he said on Friday.

After the Blue Devils’ nine-game losing season in which they went winless in the ACC, it seemed too easy to lose that energy, but Elko, 45, believes he can instill that fervor in his players.

In practices so far, players on the sidelines can be seen jumping up and cheering on their teammates after a big play, whether it’s an interception, a long completion or a broken tackle. The energy is there, even in the scorching August heat that turns the training ground, tucked behind the Wallace Wade Stadium scoreboard, into a sauna.

“If you go there and play 25 games before the first game, you’re ready for the first game,” said Elko, praising his team’s thirst for competition.

However, as head coach and no longer defensive coordinator – a position Elko has held for the past 16 seasons – he sees “all the bad” in those big plays. A bad throw, bad coverage or a missed tackle, Elko sees it all. Fortunately for him, there is still time to work.

For Elko and the team, he says the roles and positional battles all started with a clean slate, whether it was real freshmen or experienced leaders. To help grow the roster and determine who will line up on September 2, the coaching staff has a detailed plan for each practice with a clear goal and specific goals for each role.

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As for the quarterback situation, both sophomores Riley Leonard and Jordan Moore took starting reps, and Elko suggested on Friday that the battle for the starting job was only between those two – unsurprisingly, the only two quarterbacks on the roster to have taken a snap in a Devil’s Blue Uniform.

” We have [given starter reps] about as evenly as possible to give them both the same opportunity to see how it goes,” Elko said.

As several more positional battles take shape, veteran leaders establish their presence on and off the pitch, and Elko’s coaching staff continues to develop relationships with players, we will see this group of young men become a crew.

But for now, the Xs and Os are cleansed, ready for a fresh start.


Micah Hurewitz
| sports editor

Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity junior and sports editor of the 118th volume of The Chronicle.

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