Eye View: While many (including me) like the job Ted Roof is doing with the
Blue Devils, particularly on the recruiting trail, the fact is this team is the
ACC’s least talented by a country mile. Having them finish anywhere higher
than last place would be a shock.
Areas of Strength (offense): Roof promoted Bill O’Brien,
a former assistant at Maryland and Georgia Tech who coached under Ralph
Friedgen, to offensive coordinator. While O’Brien doesn’t have much talent,
Friedgen’s offense worked well when he had a smart, veteran quarterback who
could audible on the fly. Returning starter Matt Schneider is a tough kid who
avoided mistakes (more touchdowns than interceptions last year), but he can’t
carry the team. Former Hokie recruiting target and talented athlete Curt Dukes
has played tight end, fullback, and wide receiver, and I expect him to get snaps
at quarterback and run some option. Tailback Cedric Dargan is a good player, but
he has had some difficulty staying healthy and that won’t improve behind this
year’s offensive line. The best long term Blue Devil prospect is probably
tight end Ben Patrick, and as a junior he is legitimately on the radar screen of
NFL teams. His backup, Andy Roland, is also an ACC caliber player.
Areas of Concern (offense): The wide receivers are
okay, but Schneider doesn’t have a huge arm and he gets pressured constantly,
so the downfield passing attack won’t scare anyone. The offensive line looks
like the worst in the league as they lost four starters off a group that
averaged 2.7 yards per carry and surrendered 39 sacks. The sole returning
starter, Tyler Kreig, is a very good player but there isn’t any other help for
Areas of Strength (defense): This is a group long
on effort but shy on measurables. The lone Duke player consistently on preseason
all conference teams is corner John Talley, and he’s a playmaker (four
interceptions last year, two for touchdowns). Talley is a good enough player to
be left alone man to man, and that should allow the Devils to blitz more. The
front four, while undersized, will greatly benefit from the return of defensive
end Phillip Alexander (broken leg last year) and the addition of blue chip
freshman defensive tackle Vince Oghobaase, who spurned Miami and Oklahoma to
enroll early at Duke. Defensive end also returns capable Eli Nichols, who is
relentless and makes plays despite being undersized, and Justin Kitchen.
Areas of Concern (defense): Linebacker Brendan
Dewan is a veteran three year starter who makes plays, but the other linebackers
are unproven and a concern going into the fall. Patrick Bailey is the most
intriguing prospect. Expect the Blue Devils to be physically challenged in the
run game much like they were last fall, and it’s tough to see them holding up
for four quarters. The corner opposite Talley, wide receiver convert Deonto
McCormick, will be tested early and often.
Key Game: Versus Wake Forest. This was a close loss
last year, 24-22, and with the Blue Devils at home it might be a different story
this fall. Duke won’t have many chances in conference action, but this could
be one of them.
Fearless Predictions: Roof will struggle through
another three win season, but his staff will continue to make recruiting inroads
by nabbing more ACC type talent. Curt Dukes will see a significant number of
snaps at quarterback in an attempt to keep defenses honest, but Duke will still
score the fewest points of any ACC team because of the offensive line.