#45 Duke 2018 Football Preview

Duke Blue Devils
Overall Rank: #45
#8 ACC
 Duke Logo
Duke’s four year bowl streak ended in 2016, so the team headed into the 2017 season with a lot on the line. Would the Blue Devils fall back towards the bottom of the ACC, or could they get back to a bowl game and remain a contender in the ACC? Duke answered that question rather quickly with a 4-0 start that included victories over Northwestern, Baylor and North Carolina. The team then lost six straight, but they finished strong with three straight wins, including a Quick Lane Bowl victory.
2017 Record: 7-6, 3-5
2017 Bowl: Quick Lane Bowl vs. Northern Illinois (W 36-14)
Coach: David Cutcliffe (59-67 at Duke, 37-16 59-67)
Offensive Coordinator: Zac Roper
Defensive Coordinator: Matt Guerrieri, Ben Albert
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Brittain Brown, RB, 701 yards
Passing: Daniel Jones, QB, 2,691 yards
Receiving: TJ Rahming, WR, 795 yards
Tackles: Joe Giles-Harris, LB, 125
Sacks: Joe Giles-Harris, LB, 4.5
Interceptions: Mark Gilbert, CB, 6
Other Key Returnees: WR Johnathan Lloyd, WR Chris Taylor, LB Ben Humphreys, S Jeremy McDuffie, S Jordan Hayes, DE Tre Hornbuckle
Key Losses: RB Shaun Wilson, OL Austin Davis, S Alonzo Saxton, DL Mike Ramsey
During Duke’s six game losing streak, the Blue Devils averaged just 12.2 points per game. The problem stemmed from an offensive line that now loses three starters. If the line cannot give quarterback Daniel Jones time to find his receivers, he may again force passes. Jones is a talented signal caller, but he threw 11 interceptions last season and completed just 56.7 percent of his passes. If the line can improve, expect those numbers to look much better in 2018. Jones does return all of his favorite targets. T.J. Rahming caught 65 passes for 795 yards, while Johnathan Lloyd and Chris Taylor were also productive receivers last season. The ground game will miss Shaun Wilson, but Brittain Brown had a great freshman campaign and is ready to take over the main role. He has all the tools to turn into one of Duke’s most productive running backs in a long, long time.
The defense was the strength of this team last year and it should be again in 2018. The front six is loaded, returning five starters and plenty of depth. The front line will be led by ends Tre Hornbuckle and Victor Dimukeje. Those two may not get a ton of sacks, but they will get into the backfield and cause some problems. Joe Giles-Harris is one of the best linebackers in the country. The senior tallied 125 tackles and 4.5 sacks as a sophomore and is quickly turning into a leader on the field. He will again be joined by fellow linebacker Ben Humphreys, who tallied 70 tackles in 2017. The secondary has quite a few holes to fill, but Mark Gilbert is a great piece to build around. The junior cornerback intercepted six passes last season, but Duke lacks experience in the rest of the secondary.
The Bottom Line:
The Blue Devils will have a very good defense. As long as the secondary can adapt relatively quickly, the unit will be among the best in the ACC. The offense has more questions, but they are also a talented group at the skill positions that can do some big things. If that happens, this team will compete for a division title. If not, just getting back to a bowl game would be a good goal.
Projected Bowl: Independence Bowl
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 171.4 (56th in nation, 8th in conference)
Passing Offense: 213.4 (79, 11)
Total Offense: 384.8 (88, 10)
Scoring Offense: 26.5 (80, 10)
Rushing Defense: 153.2 (48, 7)
Pass Defense: 179.4 (16, 3)
Total Defense: 332.6 (21, 4)
Scoring Defense: 20.2 (21, 3)
Turnover Margin: 0.00 (64, 8)
Sacks: 2.23 (51, 5)
Sacks Allowed: 2.23 (75, 7)
Madness 2019 NFL Draft Rankings:
#64 Mark Gilbert