Mark Dolejs-US PRESSWIRE
Cutcliffe knows FSU will be quite the challenge.
COACH CUTCLIFFE: First I want to comment on Sean Renfree, deserved recognition. I guess in the last seven or eight days now, he's one of the ten finalists for the senior scholar award in the NCAA, and now really appreciative of the National Football Foundation announcing that he was one of the 15 finalists.
Sean is a complete football player, certainly a complete student. Almost a 4.0 right now in Duke in graduate school. Also just a complete person. So we're very happy for Sean, his family, and certainly very proud of him.
With that said, I saw Florida State early in the season as we prepared to play Wake Forest. Obviously, you can't help but watch a team like that pretty closely. Even though I was focusing on Wake Forest. I thought it was the most complete team I've seen in quite some time. I still believe that now after seeing them and focusing on them, they may be the most complete team in the country. A lot of people question this about one team or this about another, and every position across the board, certainly their specialists in the kicking game, their coverage and return ability in the kicking game, I don't think I've seen a more complete team in a number of years. So, this will certainly be a huge challenge for our team. But they've done a tremendous job in Tallahassee. So with that, I'll take your questions.
Q. How do you keep your team focused when you're facing Florida State coming off such a high bowl eligibility for the first time since 1994?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: There are some challenges associated with that, because that's all people around them are talking about. They're good when they're with us. They have practiced well. I thought they responded well Sunday. You're a little emotionally spent after a late game anyway, but certainly one like that, I thought we were a little emotionally spent. But we have a light workout Sunday, but it's full speed. That helps. Win or lose, it helps to get out there and sweat. Monday they had the day off. They were better Tuesday, we practiced in the morning and much better today. But I think they realize they played Florida State last year and that helps. They know how good they are. They know they have to prepare to even have a chance in a game like this. So hopefully we get our energy as emotionally charged as well as we'd like, but certainly I think they've prepared well to this point.
Q. What are your thoughts on Florida State's running game now that Chris Thomsen's out for the year?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: I hate that for him, number one, and I mean that sincerely. He's a really fine football player, and I enjoyed watching him early in the year, as I said, as I was watching that team. He's been through some really difficult times. But they've got quality players there. Everybody knows that. Truly have quality players that can step up and do what they have to do.
That's part of having a great program, and they'll be fine running the football. You not only have to worry about their backs, but you have to worry about the quarterback who is a fine runner, and their receivers that do a nice job with their reverse game and different things with their receivers. So they've got a lot of weapons on that offense.
Q. Earlier today we were talking to Coach Fisher. He said one of the things that really impressed him about the game and about you guys was Will Monday and how he has‑‑ his length and his ability to avoid run backs has kind of flipped the field a little bit and makes the field position thing. Can you talk about that and the job Will has done as a freshman punter?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, he's been tremendous. What it shows to me is that Jimbo, they understand, they put the same kind of emphasis on the kicking game. Watching their kicking game, I think they're really well coached, And a good football coach would notice that's helped us win games.
Will has been accurate. Will has great hang time. He's got a lot of good football left in front of him. He really has stepped up and taken challenges. I think that last punt in that last ballgame was indicative of the year he's had when he put that ball and pinned them inside the 10‑yard‑line we ended up giving up the score.
But the kicking game and what he did is exactly what you want a guy to do, so he is a weapon. We're very happy he's on our team, and of a great deal of confidence, because Will is a great, great worker at practice. I was out there with him this morning. I thought he had a great morning this morning. He is a focused young man. I'm very appreciative of his work ethic.
Q. You have another freshman kicker too who is leading the ACC in field goal percentage. 14 of 15, I think this year. Can you talk about the job Ross has done?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Well, Ross has been so consistent, and it's because of how he works. He's had two really good days. He had a good day to day in the area of kickoffs has been good also. He's done a good job with location. He's done a good job when we ask him to try to get a touchback. He's moved the ball around into different locations so it's not just the field goal kicking, the place kicking.
They're both very mature for their age. They're a joy to work with. Certainly the best freshman pair, and I've had some good ones. But this is the best freshman pair that I've had as a coach, so that's exciting in that regard.
Q. Ross's long attempt is 43 yards. I saw him preseason, he kicked some quite a bit longer. How far out would you be comfortable asking him to kick?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: I'm a go for it on fourth down rather than try to make three points. But in a game winner, he's 55 yards, he's pretty darn accurate. The one he hit the other day would have been good, probably, from 60. He's got a very strong leg, but you just don't want to make a living attempting those kinds of field goals. He's having to try to attempt a game winner. I feel good about his preparation and his confidence level. We do those all the time or each week at practice. I think that 55 yards is never a great percentage, but he's certainly in range there.
Q. There's been already I think five or six instances this year of an ACC kid throwing for at least 400 in a game, and that is as many as we've seen in the last decade coming into the year. From where you sit, any rhyme or reason for it? Are we just seeing more skill right now in the passing game than we've seen in the conference in a while?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: I think it's across the board, across the country. It's like every sport, I don't know when it stops, but it just continues to accelerate the athleticism, the ability, the speed, the size of receivers help completion percentage. The number of attempts, obviously, have increased, because people see the explosives. They used to say how many bad things can happen when you throw the ball. Well, you don't see it as much anymore.
I think most of it is not just the quality of the quarterbacks and their ability to spin it and put it where they want it. When we're playing a receiver this week that's 6'5", 240 pounds and can run as fast as a guy that used to be a 6'1", 180 pounder, that's a good target. So I think it's a combination across the board. But it's also not just the Atlantic Coast Conference. I think it's Nationwide.
Q. As you speak right now the rumors are flying on Twitter about the possibility of you going to Tennessee. How committed are you to this program right now? I know we've had this conversation before.
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Well, you're the first one to mention that to me, and I've got a Twitter account, and nobody has tweeted me on that, Heather. I'm not focused on any other job other than this one. We're in a great place. The most important thing to me are the people. I have great admiration and friendship with our leadership here at Duke, right through the director of athletics, our entire program, our family, our staff is very, very happy here, so the only thing we're thinking about is Duke University.