Tuesday, July 29, 2008

David Cutcliffe Era Begins At Duke


ACC Coastal #6 - Duke Blue Devils
The Skinny:
2007 Record: 1-11 (0-8)
Returning Starters: 17
Letterman Returning: 50
Off PPG: 16.4 (12), RYPG: 64.8 (12), PYPG: 189.9 (11)
Def PPG: 33.1 (12), RYPG 165.0 (11), PYPG: 229.1 (9)

Offense (7 returning starters, 20 letterman):
Duke ranked last in the ACC in offense last year scoring just 16 ppg and averaging 255 ypg. The unit returns 7 starters from a year ago and will be led by QB Thaddeus Lewis. The junior QB (2,430 yds, 21 TD 10 INT) had an up and down year last year that started out well, but faded down the stretch. I expect the Blue Devils passing game to be much improved this year under the schooling of David Cutcliffe. Lewis' favorite target will be Senior Eron Riley who led the nation in ypc last season (20.8ypc). On the ground, Duke must improve on its paltry 117 ranking in rushing offense. Duke has not had a 100 yard rusher in 16 straight games. This year may not be any relief as they lost 3 starters on the o-line.

Defense (10 returning starters, 27 lettermen):
Duke returns all 4 DL who started the final 5 games, but this unit isn't going to scare anyone. The LB corps lost just 1 key player off last season and will be the strength of the D. The player to watch is Michael Tauiliili (108 tackles). The DBs really struggled last year after losing John Talley. However, this unit should be better with 3 starters returning.

Special Teams:
The kicking game may have what been the end for Ted Roof as 3 missed FG against UNC helped prevent Duke from beating their arch rival. Cutcliffe has solid ST at Ole Miss so expect improvement here.

Newcomers of Note:
The top player in the class by far is QB Sean Renfree. The Arizona native orginally committed to Georgia Tech but switched to Duke when GT hired Paul Johnson. This kid could be a star at QB under Cutcliffe in a few years.

Wrapup:
Duke has been downright awful at football over the last 60 years. They have just 3 seasons of 6 wins or more since 1945 and 2 of those came under Steve Spurrier. Since their last 6 win season, Duke has just 9 ACC wins. David Cutcliffe brings renewed optimism in Durham, but the Blue Devils has a ways to go to being a bowl team.

Prediction:
Almost Certain Wins: James Madison
Almost Certain Loss: @ GT, v Miami, @ WF, @ Clemson, @ VT
Swing: v Northwestern, v UVA, @ Vandy, v NC State, v UNC
3-9, 0-8

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