Boone, a redshirt senior from Weddington, N.C., is on the watch list for both the Maxwell Award, given to the nation’s top player by the Maxwell Football Club, and the Manning Award, given to the best quarterback in the country. Boone finished the 2013 season by completing 206-of-322 (.640) passes for 2,260 yards with 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and added 214 yards and five scores on the ground.
Helton, a senior out of Chattanooga, Tenn., is a preseason All-ACC pick and was named to the Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List. Helton led the ACC in tackles during the 2014 season with a total of 133 and is the seventh-leading returning tackler in the nation.
GoDuke.com: How did you feel this year’s training camp went and how does it feel knowing that it was your last one as a Duke Blue Devil?
David Helton: I felt that it was really good, a really solid camp. For me – on the defensive side of the ball – it was definitely exciting to see that we have a lot of athletic guys out there and a lot of good playmakers. It’s definitely really exciting to see what we’ll be able to do this year.
Anthony Boone: It’s kind of cool being the top guys of the program. It’s the fifth time I’ve been through fall camp. Just being able to help the freshmen come along, have them ask me questions of what to expect and what’s the right way to do things and just lead by example was really cool. Obviously with our two injuries that just happened, just seeing guys step up and seeing guys feel the pressure that it’s time for them to go out and play on Saturdays and be a force on our team has been really special.
GoDuke.com: Who were some guys that stepped up during camp and surprised you?
DH: I wouldn’t say surprised. I knew that these guys were really good, but a lot of defensive linemen did really well this camp. A.J. Wolf, Carlos Wray and Jamal Bruce – those tackles are doing really, really well for us. It’s really exciting for us to see, especially as linebackers – the ones that are filling off of them. It’s really cool to see how well they’ve done.
AB: On the offensive side, our two young backs, Joseph Ajeigbe and Shaun Wilson, have done a great job this fall of coming along and progressing within our offense. The offensive line has done a great job – both groups of ones and twos – of being physical, being nasty and understanding their assignments. And our two quarterbacks, besides me, Parker Boehme and Thomas Sirk, have had a great fall. The sky is the limit for these guys. The more reps they get and the more game experience these guys are going to get, the better off they’re going to be. That’s just what it comes down to, and we’re looking forward to seeing what they can do on Saturdays and how they can help us win games.
GoDuke.com: How do you feel about the performances of the offense during camp?
AB: We’ve had our times, but I think we’re at a great place right now. Obviously with (tight end Braxton) Deaver going down, it’s a setback for a little bit, but it’s not a total letdown for our offense. We have another experienced tight end in David Reeves and another guy, Erich Schneider, who is going to step up and I know is going to do a great job. But I feel like our run game very strong. Obviously our passing game is going to be strong with Jamison Crowder still on the outside. Issac Blakeney has stepped up a lot moving to the outside and Max McCaffrey is a tough guy. I feel that we developed a very strong depth on the outside between the ones and the twos and definitely in our backfield. I feel that we have four backs who have the capability to go out there on Saturdays and be very effective running the ball strong. I’m looking forward to seeing what our offense does.
DH: We can see that there’s a lot of depth. They have a lot more dynamic receivers this year with Issac, Max and Johnell with Jamison. It’s definitely a very dynamic offense with a lot of depth. Not only the receivers, but the linemen – it’s really impressive how well they’ve done and how unified they are within each other. You can tell that they are a really strong unit. The running backs are a very good skill position and, of course, Anthony Boone and the quarterbacks. There’s a lot more depth across the board and that’s definitely exciting to see.
GoDuke.com: How do you feel about the performance of the defense during camp?
AB: I’ve felt that the defense developed a lot more uniqueness. They’re mixing up a lot more looks and trying new things. A lot of guys have bought into just being in positions that they may not have been in and working on their craft. A lot of guys on the opposite side of ball have come to me and asked me questions about what they can do better as far as disguising coverages, disguising blitzes and what I look for as a quarterback. You just see a lot of guys who have really bought into the system and want to be effective. That’s a good thing. It helps the guys who are starters. I said this in an interview earlier, it’s really competitive now. Ones and two are really competitive. Across the country, that’s hard to accomplish. Some guys are satisfied with being a two, but I feel that we have guys across the board who want to play, be better and be on the field. That’s going to help our defense be more and more effective. I feel like the depth of our D-line has grown. Just being able to rotate fresh bodies in on Saturdays is going to definitely be a big key for us to keep guys fresh and to try and reestablish the line of scrimmage.
DH: We’re a lot deeper and more athletic than I’ve ever felt like we’ve been in any fall camp. That goes from the D-line to the linebackers to the secondary. We’re very deep and very athletic. That’s really exciting to see. Aside from the loss of (linebacker) Kelby (Brown), the linebackers and the secondary have a lot of experience. That’s really cool to see. We have a lot of experience in the D-line. Although they seem like they don’t have a lot of experience, they feel like they do. They’re extremely athletic and extremely aggressive. That’s really fun for us to see, not only the linebackers, but the secondary and the coaches as well.
GoDuke.com: What was a funny moment that happened during camp with the team?
AB: You see some freshmen do some things they shouldn’t do. One time, a teammate came out in the wrong helmet, which was pretty funny. For the most part, it’s just fun to watch the freshmen not know what to wear to meetings or not knowing what time they’re supposed to be places. Just seeing how the freshmen adjust and find their way to fit in.
DH: It’s tough to find a lot of humor because camp is definitely a much more serious setting, but a lot of the freshmen will sing in front of us at dinner. That’s always a really fun time for all of us because we can just enjoy watching them really, really struggle in front of us. Some of them are great singers. Some of them aren’t, but they have a lot of heart. That’s probably been the most fun.
GoDuke.com: How does it feel to be making the transition from training camp to prepping for the first game of the season?
AB: It’s the best feeling ever. It means we get Monday off, time for us to relax our minds and get back into school-mode. We get to see other people that aren’t our team and our coaches, so that’s a refreshing feeling. Meet the Blue Devils was a refreshing feeling. These next couple months are what we trained all summer and all spring for. For it to finally be that time is just a really good feeling.
DH: Refreshing is probably a good word. Just to really get into the year again. I think a lot of guys actually like school when it comes around after camp because we’re ready to see other people, see our school and see everyone that supports us. We like to see that and be able to refresh our minds and bodies and really get ready for the season because, ultimately, the school, the students and everyone around us is tied to the season. It’s a really exciting feeling.
GoDuke.com: What are some of the team goals for the season?
AB: Repeat the Coastal and win the whole conference. Then get to a big bowl again and finish, win the bowl. That’s really what I would say our main team goal is, but if you would ask anyone, they would say the first game is our team goal: Elon. If you asked us every week, our team goal would be the next opponent. It’s one week at a time and everything will take care of itself.
DH: Just like he said, our team goals are to obviously win the Coastal again and then win the ACC Championship. And that, like he said, is a game-by-game thing. That’s something that we have to have goals for each week that are for that opponent. We can’t get ahead of ourselves.
GoDuke.com: What is your favorite part about playing for Coach David Cutcliffe?
AB: Really just playing for a man that is really genuine. Everything that he says, he means. He is just a guy who is a complete visionary guy. He had an extreme vision when he stepped on campus. It was a vision that, if he said it out loud, most people would have laughed at him. But that’s the kind of man you want to be around because, in the trenches, you know he’s going to fight for you. That’s just the guy I want to be around. And vice-versa. When I’m in the trenches, I’m going to fight for him. He’s truly what you want to be around as far as your leader and your centerpiece of your program. He’s someone that I would fight for any day of the week.
DH: The thing about Coach Cutcliffe is that he cares about each and every person on our team. I think he cares more for us than I could imagine any other coach cares for his players. That’s really rewarding for us, knowing that we have a guy that, like he said, will fight in the trenches for us and cares tremendously about us. From the top scholarship player to the lowest walk-on, he’s caring about everyone. He knows everything about everyone and wants to know everything about everyone. That’s probably the absolute best thing about being able to be coached by him.
The Blue Devils open the 2014 season at home against Elon this Saturday August 30th at 6 p.m. Tickets are available at GoDuke.com or by calling the Duke Athletic Ticket Office at 919-681-BLUE.