ACC Rewind: Duke Blue Devils

by JustinC on February 19, 2013 · 6 comments

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  • wp socializer sprite mask 32px ACC Rewind: Duke Blue Devils
  • wp socializer sprite mask 32px ACC Rewind: Duke Blue Devils
  • wp socializer sprite mask 32px ACC Rewind: Duke Blue Devils
  • wp socializer sprite mask 32px ACC Rewind: Duke Blue Devils

TQQUVZSCFDSTEEW.20120926001946 ACC Rewind: Duke Blue Devils

For the first time since 1992, the Duke football team qualified for a bowl game. While the game was not luxurious nor was it outside of the team’s home state, the Blue Devils were just happy to terminate a 20-year drought. Needless to say when it comes to football, Duke has the same standards as Andy in 40 Year Old Virgin.

Still, last season was a reason to celebrate even if Duke finished with a losing record. The Blue Devils took a step forward and proved that they can play with the big boys in the ACC. There’s still quite a bit of work to do for Duke to rival those like UNC, Virginia Tech, and Miami on a year to year basis. But, earning a bowl bid was a big step for a program who’s been sober for 20 years.

In 2013, it wouldn’t shock me to see this team take a small step backwards. Not because of the talent level but because the offense will be far less experienced and potent. Starting quarterback Sean Renfree has graduated after three years at the helm. Same goes for star receiver Connor Vernon, safety Walt Canty, linebacker Austin Gamble, defensive end Kenny Anunike, safety Jordan Byas, and center Brian Moore.

That’s a lot of hard-working seniors to replace. Not to mention the Blue Devils will need Anthony Boone to take that next step forward as a full time starting quarterback. He did well against UVA this year but seriously, that was UVA.

2012 Statistics

Picture 21 ACC Rewind: Duke Blue Devils

Statistically, the Blue Devils were not overly efficient on either side of the ball. In fact, on defense they found a way to regress from a season ago. Duke was 92nd in the country in total defense in 2011. They fell to 105th in the country in 2012. That’s not the progression the Blue Devil faithful wanted out of this group.

Obviously, Duke was a pass first team for most of 2012. They relied on the arm of Sean Renfree and in a few cases, the arm of Anthony Boone. Overall, their offense was productive albeit turnover prone. Funny enough, Duke actually committed and forced the same number of turnovers as Clemson. So, they’re not too far off in that category. Even though their ranking could still use some improving.

Defensively, Duke struggled to stop anybody. That’s why they lost to Virginia Tech after surrendering a 21 point advantage. That’s why they fell to anybody with a pulse later on in the year. Until the defense improves, Duke will always be Duke. If they want to contend in the ACC, a defensive identity needs to be built in Durham, North Carolina.

Graduated Players

QB Sean Renfree, CB Lee Butler, WR Connor Vernon, SS Walt Canty, RB Patrick Kurunwune, LB Austin Gamble, DE Kenny Anunike, WR Desmond Scott, FS Jordan Byas, C Conor Irwan, and C Brian Moore.

Three Impact Players Returning

RB Jela Duncan: Since David Cutcliffe inherited a Duke program in shambles, he’s tried to implement an offense that surrounds the quarterback with talented players. For the most part, he’s done that on a limited scale of course. His next task is to build his offense around a solid running game. After all, if you can’t run the ball very well you’re not going to win many games. Ask Frank Beamer. Jela Duncan was a big pickup for the Dukies out of Mallard Creek (same HS as Kevin Asante for VT). In his true freshman season, he led the Blue Devils in rushing with 516 yards on 99 attempts and four touchdowns. In my almost unbiased opinion, Duke needs to find a way to get Duncan 200 touches next season, which will help Duke ease Anthony Boone into the starting role at quarterback.

WR Jamison Crowder: Jamison Crowder led Duke in receiving in 2012. No, that's not a typo.  Of course, Vernon was still the big play threat but Crowder held his own despite his 5’9” stature. He finished the year with 1025 yards on 70 catches and eight touchdowns. Now a junior, Crowder will likely become the focal point of this passing attack. With Vernon departed, it will be up for the little guy to assume a huge role in this offense.

CB Ross Cockrell: Defensively, the Blue Devils still have a ways to go before they’ll be competitive in the ACC. But, having a playmaker like Ross Cockrell on the outside should help. Cockrell will return for his senior season after finishing his junior campaign with a team high five interceptions and 63 total tackles. Cockrell is an instinctive cornerback with good size. If all goes well in 2013, he’ll likely be a mid-round NFL draft pick.

2013 Recruiting Class

With a national brand, Coach Cutcliffe doesn’t hesitate to recruit nationally. Perhaps, there’s a good reason for that but with so much talent in-state and in surrounding areas, I’ve never understood the national recruiting approach unless you have strict enrollment guidelines you have to follow. That may be the case since Duke is a great academic school but I like the logic of having to recruit at home first before you go elsewhere to find talent.

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By my count, Duke signed nine recruits from either Florida, California, or Texas. They signed just 20 overall. They signed just four from the state of North Carolina.

Still, Duke brought in a solid class on paper when you consider that this is still Duke football we’re talking about. They’re top recruit is 6’7” 250 lbs offensive tackle Sterling Korona out of San Antonio, Texas. He’s a big body that will be molded into a left or right tackle.

Austin Davis is a solid center prospect out of Mansfield, TX. Dominic Zanca is a DE/LB hybrid who is a potential sleeper to monitor out of the state of Florida.

However, Duke recruiting is really tough to break down. Probably a few of these guys will blossom into another Walt Canty, Connor Vernon, or Kenny Anunike. Guys who are relatively lightly recruited only to turn into to solid ACC players by the time they’re seniors.

The downside is you would have liked to sign one or two highly touted kids in this class, especially with so much momentum built from making a bowl this season.

2013 Outlook

Heading into spring practice, Duke will have seven returning starters on both sides of the ball. That includes 4/5ths of their offensive line returning, their entire running back corps, and most of their defensive line. Overall, this Duke team should take another step forward from a talent perspective.

But, the Blue Devils will need to replace some key senior leaders. That may be the hardest commodity to replace as we shift from 2012 to 2013. Can Duke maintain this level of play or were the final five games of the 2012 season what we should expect to see this fall? That’s the question that needs answering.

Duke’s schedule, for the first time in awhile, doesn’t feature a major non-conference matchup. That should help their overall record at the end of the season. Let’s break it down.

OOC Home: NC Central, Navy, Troy
OOC Away: Memphis
ACC Home: GT, Miami, Pittsburgh, NC State
ACC Away: UNC, UVA, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

From the looks of it, Duke will likely need to win at least three of their four out of conference games to have an opportunity to get to six wins again in 2013. NC Central should be a win. However, Troy and Navy could easily end up as losses on their schedule if the defense doesn’t provide at least some support for the offense.

In ACC play, Duke doesn’t get a break with consecutive road trips to Lane Stadium for the 2nd year in a row. But, hosting Miami and GT could help turn those games from blowouts into the possibility for an upset. NC State is beatable as is UVA and Wake Forest. There are wins on this schedule but with Duke, you just never know who they’ll beat and who they’ll underachieve against and lose.

Final Thoughts

I like Anthony Boone at quarterback. I like Jela Duncan and the supporting cast at running back. I like Jamison Crowder at wide receiver. But, I don’t think the offensive line is where it needs to be even with so much experience returning. I also think Duke needs to find one or two more weapons at receiver.

On defense, I think the unit as a whole should take a step forward from their 105th ranking in total defense a year ago. Even a small jump up into the 80’s would really help this team out. The points are going to be there so with a few additional turnovers and maybe some favorable field position occasionally, who knows.

With about as easy of a schedule as you can find, I think Duke finds a way to get back to six wins in 2013. But, an injury here or there could derail that prediction. Still, I’m in completely uncharted waters expecting Duke to win games. Hopefully they follow through and continue to raise the level of play in the ACC.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark February 21, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Hey Justin,

Do you have any info on the 2014 class at Western Branch High School? I hear there are a few players over there that are turning heads.

Reply

JustinC February 21, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Yes, I do. 247Sports actually wrote an article about them today although it is on the payside. That said, WB is probably going to be the heavy favorite to win state next season. They have a ton of talent developing in the 2014 and 2015 classes.

The 2014 names to know are WR/ATH TJ Booth, CB Daiquan Lawrence, ATH Terence Ricks, and OL Thomas Coleman. All four of those guys are going to earn some division one offers if they haven’t already.

I like Ricks the most out of all of them. He’s a tough kid, aggressive, and physical. I think he translates best as either a WR on offense or a WHIP/Safety type on defense. He’s quick too. Probably legit 4.4 speed, which is rare in high school no matter how many kids claim they can run a 4.4.

I also like Thomas Coleman as an OL prospect but it remains to be seen how much Jeff Grimes likes him. I don’t know if he’s evaluated him yet or not.

I’m not sure all four of these guys will end up at the same school but they all seem to like VT and I know Western Branch has been a good school to Tech over the years (although the Kevin Newsome recruitment didn’t go our way). If VT offers and pursues, I think we have a good shot at getting any of those four.

Reply

LJ February 21, 2013 at 10:37 pm

Good article on Trace McSorley on Rivals today. One big comment on TM. Three years ago I went to a Briar Woods game to see a sophomore named Alex Carter. There were other very good players on that team in ’10, Justin Baker & D. O’Bannon (James Madison), Scott Rolin (VT), Matt Rolin (Florida), Cam Seringe (Wake Forest), Corey Colder (Bucknell) and 2014’S Jared Cooker and Nick Merletti who both are big time players and will play D1 somewhere. First of all, A. Carder did not disappoint (All-Met, #2 player in VA, started at Stanford and was PAC10 All-Frosh team), and believe me he was not the best player on the field that day. Trace McSorley was…I was impressed by this kid. That year McSorley was a skinny 15 year old who threw a perfect ball with very good velocity and accuracy. I had not seen a freshman QB with that much poise under center since Bryn Renner (West Springfield) a few years earlier. TM, threw for over 2,000 yards both fresh & shoph years and last year threw for over 3,000 yards and had over 30 touchdowns passes. He has lead his team, and I mean LEAD his team to 3 straight AA State championships. BW moves up to AAA as they go for 4 straight State Championships (Has that been done before in VA for a QB?). He is a coach on the field. My point is Justin, when you evaluated VT QB offers/targets last month you did not have TM on your list. You are way off on this one…Don’t get me wrong I really like Jacob Park and have followed his development. He also started as a freshman/soph/JR with fewer yards and TD’s and team success. Park is a little bigger and throws a very nice ball, I like him a lot. But, the one thing TM has over Park is he has a better command of the game. Pure winner and that is hard to measure statistically. Currently McSorley has offers from UMass, North Carolina, VT and Boston College. UNC loves this kid and is telling him he is a Bryn Renner clone and they are going to groom him to follow in his footsteps. McSorley is not the prototypical VT, QB recruit…but I would not give up an inch on this kid…If we can nab Park then great but I predict McSorley will be a very good college QB wherever he plays. Oh and by the way he is better than VA #1 QB-Caleb Henderson at this point in their development….I have seen him play several times and like Bucky Hodges he looks great on the field and impresses scouts but McSorley has that “it” factor that they both have not shown us yet!

Reply

JustinC February 21, 2013 at 11:04 pm

Good breakdown, LJ. Kinda reminds you of a little known Texas prospect by the name of Johnny Manziel. Maybe not as shifty but definitely a good athlete that overcomes the height barrier. I think our coaching staff is high on him and they’re recruiting him as a QB. Right now, we’re only going to take one true QB in this class and that will most likely be Park. But, we do want a QB/ATH (we normally take one a year regardless) and that slot will likely be filled by McSorley if he comes aboard. I know we’re also recruiting Travon McMillian out of C.D. Hylton as well. He’s another guy that could fill that spot.

But, I really like the kid’s game and you can never have enough of guys who are just playmakers. Whether its from under center, in the backfield, or out wide. Our offense needs more of those guys and I’m hoping we lock TM by the end of April. I know our coaches feel like they’re in good shape here.

Reply

Gbd February 22, 2013 at 9:05 pm

I agree 100% with both LJ and Justin, this guy is a really good football player and if he were say 6’2 or taller he would be recruited by the big boys without a doubt. Hope we land him and Park very early. Anything new with regards to Hood are we back in it for him.

Reply

JustinC February 22, 2013 at 9:06 pm

Not yet. Hopefully he visits on March 23rd for our Junior Day or comes up for the Spring game.

Reply

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