Duke's recruiting on the upswing under David Cutcliffe

Four-star running back Shaquille Powell of Las Vegas headlines Blue Devils' 2012 class

Duke coach David Cutcliffe (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Duke coach David Cutcliffe (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

As Duke coach David Cutcliffe and his staff continue working to transform on-field improvement into victories, the recruiting component comes into play as the Blue Devils win an increasing number of head-to-head battles with regional and national rivals.

Duke's far-reach and academic reputation helped Cutcliffe land one of the western states' top running backs in 5-9, 195-pound Shaquille Powell of Las Vegas, Nevada, who chose the Blue Devils over Arizona State and Vanderbilt.

Ranked as a four-star prospect by Rivals, Powell finished his prep career with more than 5,200 yards and 81 touchdowns, capped by a 2,500-yard senior season.

He'll bring a combination of speed and power to the Blue Devil running game, and is also an accomplished receiver out of the backfield.

Together with late-deciding Jela Duncan, from Charlotte, N.C. powerhouse Mallard Creek High, Powell helps give Duke one of the most impressive running back recruiting classes in the ACC.

That's a good starting place for Cutcliffe, who continues sign a good percentage of his players from the three-star ranks.

Rivals rated Duke's 2012 class eighth in the ACC, ahead of N.C. State, Georgia Tech, Boston College and Wake Forest.

Duke won a late recruiting battle for three-star linebacker Kellin Rayner of Leland, N.C., and picked up one of Florida's hottest senior quarterbacks in Thomas Sirk, from Glen St. Mary.

The Blue Devils picked up a pair of three-star tight ends in Daniel Bellinson of Cary, N.C. and Erich Schneider of Jacksonville, Fla., and went west again for linebacker Delon Williams of Orange, Calif.

They signed one of the nation's better placekickers in Ross Martin of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and added defensive ends Carlos Wray of Shelby, N.C. and Allen Jackson of Owings Mills, Md.

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