2008 ACC Football Season Preview: Duke

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Duke Blue Devils

Returning Starters: 17 (7 offense, 10 defense)

Key Losses: WR Jomar Wright, DE Patrick Bailey, S Chris Davis

Key Returnees: QB Thad Lewis, RB Re’Quan Boyette, WR Eron Riley, WR
Raphael Chestnut, RT Fred Roland, RT Cameron Goldberg, DE Wesley Oglesby, DT
Vince Oghobaase, LB Michael Tauilili, LB Vincent Rey, CB Leon Wright, SS Adrian
Aye-Darko

Overall View

Longtime
SEC coach David Cutcliffe takes over a Duke Blue Devil program that is just
22-125 since playing in the Hall of Fame Bowl in 1994. Duke has made losing
football games an art. Cutcliffe may be just the type of coach needed to give
the program a shot in the arm.

Though they lack the depth of other ACC programs, Duke does have some talent
to work with. They went just 1-11 last year, beating Northwestern, but they were
very close in some other games. They lost to Navy (a bowl team) on a last second
field goal. They lost at UVA by 11, and trailed by just four heading into the
fourth quarter. They lost to Miami by 10, and nearly beat the ‘Canes the year
before that, throwing an interception in the end zone to end the game. They were
five points short of taking Wake to overtime, and they lost to in-state rival
UNC 20-14 in overtime.

This is a team that has shown they can be there near the end of games, but
they can’t close them out.

Offensive Strength

Without a doubt, the strength of this Duke team will be their passing game.
Cutcliffe loves to throw the football, and he’s got weapons at quarterback and
wide receiver. Thad Lewis is the best quarterback you’ve never heard of. Last
season he threw for 2,430 yards and 21 touchdowns, with just 10 interceptions.
And he was only a true sophomore.

At wide receiver, the Blue Devils have a major weapon in Eron Riley. Riley is
a senior receiver who has averaged over 20 yards per catch each season in his
career. He is a legit big play threat. Joining him is another experienced senior
receiver, Raphael Chestnut. Duke might not win very many ball games, but at
times they are exciting to watch.

Offensive Weakness

Duke has a 1-AA quality offensive, maybe even Division II. They just can’t
block anyone. Running back Re’Quan Boyette, who averaged 4.2 yards per carry
last year, is probably a pretty good player, but we really don’t know because
the line is so bad. The Blue Devils have given up a grand total of 88 sacks in
the past two years. It’s amazing that Thad Lewis is able to put up some very
good numbers behind this line.

The offensive line is probably the reason Duke has been unable to finish out
games. They are a very one dimensional team.

Honorable mention for offensive weakness is field goal kicking. Joe Surgan
and Nick Maggio combined to go just 12-of-28 last year. Two missed field goals
against UNC cost the Blue Devils a win in regulation against the Tar Heels.

Defensive Strength

Duke
is a physically tough team up front, although they lack depth. Their front four
is pretty strong, led by future NFL defensive tackle Vince Oghobaase, who had 12
tackles for loss last year. It was Oghobaase who gave Sean Glennon a second
chance last year, when he broke through the line and knocked Tyrod Taylor out of
the game.

The linebackers are similar to the defensive line. They are strong and
physical, but they aren’t quite deep or athletic enough. Virginia Tech was the
only team that did not rush for over 100 yards on Duke last season.

The front seven for the Blue Devils should be tough this year, and much more
experienced. They won’t be an easy team to block.

Defensive Weakness

Even when the Blue Devils had John Talley at cornerback a few years ago,
their secondary was bad. Well, it’s still bad. Only four opponents passed for
less than 200 yards against Duke last year. Although the Blue Devils do return
three starters in the secondary, including three cornerbacks with starting
experience, there is a lack of talent that can’t be overlooked.

Will Stewart’s Take

What do you say about Duke? I don’t like to be disrespectful, but we’ve been
here before, talked about Duke before, detailed their multiple returning
starters before (they returned 20 starters two years ago, if I remember
correctly), and yet the losing continues.

Chris detailed Duke’s close calls last year. Their inability to finish games
points to a lack of depth, but it also points to a culture of losing that is
very, very difficult to break. That’s Cutcliffe’s biggest challenge at Duke, as
it is for any Duke coach.

So let’s take a different angle and root for Duke to win OOC games (there’s a
common thread in my “takes” in our ACC previews: bringing the ACC some
respectability by winning OOC games. I need a fresh take, I think). Duke has JMU,
Northwestern and Navy at home, and Vanderbilt on the road.

Um … go Blue Devils! And good luck, Coach Cutcliffe. You’re going to need
it.

Duke
2008 Football Schedule

Duke
2008 Roster

Duke 2008 Depth Chart not available

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