#63 Duke Football 2017 Preview

Duke Blue Devils
Overall Rank: #63
#11 ACC
Duke suffered a setback in 2016. They went just 4-8 and won just one conference game, a 28-27 squeaker over North Carolina. That may sound like traditional Duke football, but after three straight bowl games, it was a disappointment. Coach David Cutcliffe has raised expectations in Durham and this team will expect to get back to a bowl game.
2016 Record: 4-8, 1-7
2016 Bowl: None
Coach: David Cutcliffe (52-61 at Duke, 52-61 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Zac Roper
Defensive Coordinator: Jim Knowles
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Shaun Wilson, RB, 623 yards
Passing: Daniel Jones, QB, 2,836 yards
Receiving: T.J. Rahming, WR, 742 yards
Tackles: Joe Giles-Harris, LB, 107
Sacks: Ben Humphreys, LB, 4.5
Interceptions: Bryon Fields, CB, 2
Other Key Returnees: WR Chris Taylor, WR Johnathan Lloyd, S Alonzo Saxton
Key Losses: RB Jela Duncan, WR Anthony Nash, A.J. Wolf, S Deondre Singleton, S Corbin McCarthy, CB Breon Borders
Redshirt freshman Daniel Jones was thrown into the fire last season and proved to be one of the few bright spots on the Duke roster. Jones threw for 2,836 yards and 16 touchdowns. He did throw nine interceptions on the year, but Jones was extremely accurate and efficient by the end of the season. Jones also rushed for 486 yards and seven scores. With a slew of experience returning at wide receiver, the expectations are quickly growing for the passing game. T.J. Rahming led the team with 70 receptions for 742 yards and Johnathan Lloyd and Chris Taylor added at least 29 receptions as well. Youngsters like Aaron Young and Scott Bracey could emerge as down field targets. Shaun Wilson will again be the featured back after rushing for 623 yards and four scores on 151 carries. There is little experience behind Wilson though and a few questions that need to be answered on the offensive line too.
Speaking of questions that need to be answered, the defense is full of them. The front four will have three new starters and tackle Mike Ramsay will have to emerge as a leader. Ramsay totaled 30 tackles and just 2.5 tackles-for-loss and 0.5 sacks as a junior. In the secondary, cornerbacks Bryon Fields and Mark Gilbert give Coach Cutcliffe a solid starting duo. Fields, a senior, intercepted a couple passes in 2016 and Gilbert showed plenty of promise as a freshman. Of the three safety spots, Alonzo Saxton is the only returning starter. Safety Jordan Hayes is one of many sophomores who will be asked to play a much bigger role this season. The best news is at linebacker where Joe Giles-Harris and Ben Humphreys return. Giles-Harris led the team with 107 tackles and added 4.0 sacks and 9.5 tackles-for-loss. Humphreys was right there with Giles-Harris with 106 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 11.0 tackles-for-loss. Those two are always around the ball, but they need help if the defense is going to improve.
The Bottom Line:
And without an improved defense, Duke will not make a bowl game. It says a lot about Coach Cutcliffe that the expectations for Duke have gotten so high in such a short amount of time. Even a couple years without bowl games should not be a big problem for the program. The recruiting is still solid and Duke will continue to be a bowl contender. For now though, a 5-7 type of season would be more likely than a team that competes for an ACC title.
Projected Bowl: None
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 153.6 (89th in nation, 8th in conference)
Passing Offense: 239.8 (60, 9)
Total Offense: 393.3 (76, 10)
Scoring Offense: 23.3 (110, 11)
Rushing Defense: 174.9 (66, 11)
Pass Defense: 239.8 (78, 10)
Total Defense: 414.7 (67, 11)
Scoring Defense: 28.3 (66, 11)
Turnover Margin: -0.33 (93, 12)
Sacks: 2.42 (37, 8)
Sacks Allowed: 2.58 (96, 9)
Madness 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#229 Jake Marwede