Duke winter conditioning at root of improvement

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

The root of the transformation within Duke's football program began in the weight room this past winter, where over 500 collective pounds were shed for a vast physical improvement that appears to have had a correlation with the Blue Devils' win column this fall.

"I told them, I said, 'You're going to feel like different players if you buy in to what we do,'" first-year coach David Cutcliffe said. "We're big in that regard, as far as being able to run."
Now, the Blue Devils not only look like an FBS football team this season, but a pretty good one at that.

Duke, a program that won a total of four games in the past four seasons, is 3-1 overall and off to its first 1-0 start in the ACC since beating Maryland in the 1994 season opener. Saturday's game at Georgia Tech suddenly carries significance not only in the Coastal Division race, but also for a program that is quickly stepping out of the shadow of irrelevance.

The difference can be seen in the second half, where Duke is outscoring its opponents 48-7 in the third quarter and 28-7 in the fourth quarter. It is a product of Cutcliffe's emphasis on finishing everything they do.

"I'm proud of that, but I know this," he said, "I told them, I said, 'This is great, but please start a little faster. I don't have much hair left in my head, and it's beginning to fall out in the first half of these games.'"

It's still too early to tell where Duke stands, or what it is capable of in the wide-open ACC, but for many outside the program, the Blue Devils have already exceeded expectations.