Duke’s Cutcliffe offers Tech coaches backhanded compliment

At his weekly news conference on Tuesday, Duke coach David Cutcliffe paid a compliment to the Georgia Tech coaching staff. However, in so doing, he made comments that could be interpreted as a dig at the Yellow Jackets in answering a question about why more teams don’t use Tech’s spread-option offense. The two teams play Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium in a critical ACC Coastal Division matchup.

Cutcliffe’s first reason was a lack of coaches who know the system.

“The other part of it is, it’s a little more difficult to recruit high-end players, because, if you’re a defensive player on that team, you’re really not excited about spring practice, and you’re not seeing what you’re going to see in pro ball, if you think you’re a pro football player,” Cutcliffe said. “If I’m a receiver, why (play at Tech)?”

Cutcliffe went on to praise Tech’s coaching staff for finding players who fit their system and “coaching them very, very well and being very successful.”

As a follow-up, Cutcliffe was asked about wide receivers who have followed Tech greats Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas, such as DeAndre Smelter.

“They’re not anything like Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas,” Cutcliffe said. “Let’s just go back to the first (players). None of them would have gone to Georgia Tech in that offense. Just, end of story.”

Tech has had difficulty recruiting blue-chip prospects to Tech since coach Paul Johnson’s hire. Supporters of Johnson and Johnson himself, though, have pointed out that Tech historically has faced the same challenge.

Regardless, Cutcliffe brought up critiques that Johnson has heard virtually since his hire in Dec. 2007 and that typically have raised his hackles. Johnson, who spoke earlier in the day at his weekly news conference, was not made available for comment, as he had not heard Cutcliffe’s comments.

The pre-game visit between the head coaches Saturday figures to be interesting.

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