#42 Duquesne FCS Football 2017 Preview

Duquesne Dukes
Overall Rank: #42
#1 NEC
Duquesne once again had a very good season under head coach Jerry Schmitt. They went 5-1 in Northeast Conference play, but a 14-10 loss at Saint Francis meant the Dukes missed out on a playoff appearance. There are some important players gone, but Duquesne is bringing in plenty of talent and has more than enough returning to win the NEC.
2016 Record: 8-3, 5-1
2016 Postseason: None
Coach: Jerry Schmitt (76-54 at Duquesne, 104-75 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Anthony Doria
Defensive Coordinator: Dave Opfar
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: A.J. Hines, RB, 1,291 yards
Passing: None
Receiving: Nehari Crawford, WR, 359 yards
Tackles: Carter Henderson, LB, 90
Sacks: Andy Struttmann, DL, 4.5
Interceptions: Malik Shegog, DB, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB P.J. Fulmore, LB Nathan Stone, OL Ben Huss, DB Abner Roberts, DB Brandon Stanback
Key Losses: QB Dillon Buechel, WR Wayne Capers, WR Blair Roberts, LB Christian Kuntz, DL Jake Radziukinas
Running back A.J. Hines returns after winning the Jerry Rice Award last season, which is given to the top freshman in the FCS. He rushed for 1,291 yards and 13 touchdowns and is only getting better with experience. P.J. Fulmore also returns as a dangerous back who can give Hines a break as needed without a huge drop in production. With an experienced offensive line, led by All-NEC honorees Ben Huss and Matt Fitzpatrick, the rushing game will be very dangerous. And for a while the Dukes may have to rely more on the ground game than in years past since Dillon Buechel has run out of eligibility. He threw for 2,865 yards and 23 scores during his senior season. Boise State graduate transfer Tommy Stuart figures to take over the starting quarterback spot. He attempted just 23 passes during his time with the Broncos though and sophomore Brett Brumbaugh has a shot at winning the starting job too. The new quarterback will also be without top receivers Wayne Capers and Blair Roberts. Nehari Crawford, who caught 30 passes for 359 yards, is the team’s top returning receiver. A handful of FBS transfers, including Chavas Rawlins of West Virginia and Thomas Lucas of Connecticut, should help fill the void at wide receiver.
The defense gave up a few too many points last year, largely due to a poor turnover margin, but the unit did rank tenth in the FCS in total defense. Losing Christian Kuntz and Jake Radziukinas will likely mean replacing that success will not be possible. Kuntz tallied 64 tackles, including 11.5 sacks and 24.0 tackles-for-loss. Radziukinas added 50 tackles and 2.5 sacks. The defense will look different without those two, but Nathan Stone and Carter Henderson are experienced linebackers and Andy Struttmann can get to the quarterback from his defensive end spot. The secondary is loaded with experience and returns all four starters. Abner Roberts and Brandon Stanback are back at safety, while Jonathant Istache and Daquan Worley return at cornerback. Malik Shegog and Anthony Dougherty earned some starts last season as well and add quality depth to the Duquesne secondary.
The Bottom Line:
Top to bottom, this is the deepest team in the NEC. The schedule is also quite favorable for the Dukes. Both Wagner, on October 7th, and Saint Francis, on October 21st, must come to Rooney Field and those should be the two toughest conference foes in 2017. Depending on other results, even a home slip up to one of those two teams could be enough to get Duquesne to the playoffs.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 168.5 (45th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 260.5 (25, 2)
Total Offense: 429.0 (21, 1)
Scoring Offense: 31.2 (29, 1)
Rushing Defense: 123.5 (20, 3)
Pass Defense: 190.5 (30, 1)
Total Defense: 314.1 (10, 1)
Scoring Defense: 24.8 (44, 5)
Turnover Margin: -0.18 (71, 4)
Sacks: 2.09 (49, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 1.64 (41, 2)