#45 Duke Football 2014 Preview

Duke Blue Devils

Overall Rank: #45
#7 ACC

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It is easy to brush over the fact that Duke was in the ACC championship game last season.  Florida State was dominant on their way to a national title, so it is easy to forget that the Blue Devils were the other team vying for a BCS bowl bid.  Since David Cutcliffe started in Durham six years ago, he has methodically brought the Duke football program out of the doldrums.  They are now legitimate contenders to win the Coastal each season.  The road gets more difficult with conference opponents changing, but fans have to like how this team performs on the field.  They also have to like the return of productive quarterback Aaron Boone.

2013 Record: 10-4, 6-2
2013 Bowl: Chick-fil-A Bowl vs. Texas A&M (L 48-52)
Coach: David Cutcliffe (31-44 at Duke, 75-73 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Scottie Montgomery
Defensive Coordinator: Jim Knowles

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Josh Snead, RB, 651
Passing: Anthony Boone, QB, 2,260 yards
Receiving: Jamison Crowder, WR, 1,360 yards
Tackles: David Helton, LB, 133
Sacks: Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo, DE, 2
Interceptions: Breon Borders, CB, 4; Jeremy Cash, S, 4

Other Key Returnees: QB Brandon Connette, RB Shaquille Powell, TE Braxton Deaver, OL Lakrn Tomlinson, LB Kely Brown, S DeVon Edwards, LB Deondre Singleton, K Ross Martin, P Will Monday

Key Losses: DE Kenny Anunike, DE Justin Foxx, RB Jela Duncan, QB Brandon Connette, WR Brandon Braxton, OL Perry Simmons, CB Ross Cockrell

Duke was a very productive team on the offensive side of the ball.  They were strong and athletic.  Moving the ball was not difficult.  They raked in 426 yards of offense while scoring 32 points per game.  For Duke, these are big numbers.  It cannot be understated how much better the Blue Devils have gotten at the total “process” of the game.  They are not simply scoring in lock step with major programs, but they are staying consistent as well.  They were one of the best road teams in the ACC last season (undefeated).  They had an eight game winning streak leading up to their bowl game and seemed to play better as the season progresses.  Their offensive line kept pressure to a minimum.  These are all marks of a good program.  With eight offensive starters returning, including Boone at quarterback, Duke should once again be able to keep the engine running on their best offensive unit in years.
The area that the Blue Devils need to improve is the defense.  Statistically, the Duke defense was among the worst in the conference.  They were ranked in the bottom three in rushing, passing, and total defense.  Considering they won ten games, those stats are remarkable.  A big reason they had such a tough time getting off the field was because their pass rush left a lot to be desired.  They were last in the ACC with only 1.64 sacks per game.  The coaching staff will need more out of the defensive end position.  It may be hard for them to improve on that number in 2014 considering their top two pass rushers have moved on.  There are no guarantees that the defense will be any better this year with  only six starters return on a unit that gave up 418 yards per game.  

The Bottom Line:
Duke will yet again have a chance to compete in a new look ACC this season.  However, it is equally is as likely that they will take a step back.  If the defense does not improve, it will be difficult for them to repeat their Coastal Division win.  The return of their top offensive players should help them compete for the division.  Boone will have to have another great year at quarterback while limiting his interceptions.  Cutcliffe has found a way to make the once-laughable Blue Devils a relevant team in the ACC.  Even if they miss out on the championship this season, they are primed to post another winning record.

Projected Bowl: St. Petersburg Bowl

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 178.0 (54th in nation, 5th in conference)
Passing Offense: 248.1 (50, 6)
Total Offense: 426.1 (47, 4)
Scoring Offense: 32.8 (41, 5)
Rushing Defense: 174.1 (75, 11)
Pass Defense: 243.9 (82, 11)
Total Defense: 418.0 (82, 12)
Scoring Defense: 26.6 (63, 9)
Turnover Margin: 0.1 (60, 8)
Sacks: 1.64 (89, 14)
Sacks Allowed: 1.21 (15, 2)

Madness 2015 NFL Draft Rankings:
#64 Laken Tomlinson


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