Spring game a misnomer at early-starting Duke

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 27, 2014 at 2:33 pm •  Published: February 27, 2014

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — For Duke, the spring game is a misnomer.

The Blue Devils got an early start on working on the defense of their ACC Coastal Division title, and they will wrap up spring practice before many other schools start.

Duke plays its spring game Saturday — nearly three weeks before the actual start of spring.

Quipped coach David Cutcliffe on Thursday: "I think I'm going to enjoy March Madness more than I ever have."

It hasn't even been two months since the Blue Devils capped the winningest season in school history with a last-minute loss to Texas A&M in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

And with the quick start to spring ball, the players say it doesn't feel like last season ever really ended.

"You don't have to focus so much on getting in shape, because we just came out of the season, doing all these little things like tackling drills because we're still in the flow of everything," running back Shaq Powell said. "It allows us to get back to where we were. ... We lost the bowl game, we need to finish, and now, a couple of weeks later, we can go back and build on that."

For many programs around the country, spring practice is sandwiched around the schools' spring break. Stopping for a week, then restarting, doesn't do anything for momentum or continuity.

The flip side is, Duke's early start also creates a longer-than-usual break of five months between the spring game and the start of preseason practice in August.

Cutcliffe calls that "one of our bigger gains."

"That gap is healing time. That gap is conditioning and team-building," he said. "That's a better run than when you break it up. That's a big part of the gain you get. ... They can put a much more efficient plan together, so our growth as a team ... we have the best chance in the country, in my opinion, of getting more done."

Continue reading this story on the...