Third and goal: Duke football vs. Tulane

Duke travels to Yulman Stadium in New Orleans for its season opener against Tulane Thursday at 9:30 p.m. The Blue Devils enter the season having made three straight bowl appearances, but will need to overcome key departures on both sides of the ball to have a successful campaign this season. Here are three keys to this evening's contest: 

Find a healthy balance between run and pass for Sirk

Last season, quarterback Thomas Sirk had a strong performance on the ground against Tulane—recording five rushes for 94 yards and a touchdown. But with the departure of former quarterback Anthony Boone, Duke is going to need Sirk to excel in the passing game. Sure, there was good Boone and bad Boone, but both versions could at least keep the Blue Devils in the game. Offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery runs an offense predicated on an efficient passing quarterback who has the ability to make plays with his feet. Although Sirk completed 10 of 14 pass attempts a season ago, it remains to be seen how the backup quarterback can adjust to being an every-down quarterback that defenses will gameplan against.  

Sirk will also not have the benefit of passing to experienced wideouts as leading receiver Jamison Crowder is now a member of the Washington Redskins. Although there are a number of intriguing options within the receiving corps such as tight end Braton Deaver and wide receivers Max McCaffrey and Johnell Barnes, it remains to be seen who Sirk can find an early rhythm with.  Read more »

X factor: Duke football vs. Tulane

Duke travels to New Orleans Thursday for its first season opener on the road since 2005 to face off against Tulane at Yulman Stadium at 9:30 p.m. The Green Wave are seeking revenge after last year’s 47-13 blowout loss to the Blue Devils at Wallace Wade Stadium, while Duke is looking to kickoff non-conference play in a winning fashion. Every week throughout the football season, we’ll break down a player on each team who could be the difference-maker in the upcoming contest.

Duke: linebacker Zavier Carmichael

One of the biggest questions coming into 2015 for the Blue Devils is how the inexperience of the defensive front will handle larger, more experienced offenses. After the departure of mike linebacker David Helton and the career ending ACL injury to Kelby Brown in the offseason, the burden is upon sophomore Zavier Carmichael to step into the role of the defensive quarterback for Duke this season.

Last season as a freshman against Tulane, the Eight Mile, Ala., native recorded five of his 20 tackles for the season coming from the sideline to replace Helton. This time around, Carmichael will be called upon to read offensive schemes and step up as a defensive leader at the mike position. If it was not tough enough replacing Helton’s team-high 134 tackles from 2014, filling his cleats as the defensive signal caller adds to the pressure. If the Blue Devils want to improve their defensive performance from last season against the Green Wave—when they allowed 231 yards on 58 carries—then Carmichael has to prove ready to lead early and often on the road. Read more »

Tough February headlines Duke basketball's 2015-16 ACC schedule

After sending three teams to Elite Eight a season ago, the ACC has established itself as one of the premier conferences in the nation, making the Blue Devils' quest to win their first regular-season conference title since 2010 a difficult one. 

The ACC released the 2015-16 men's basketball conference schedule Wednesday afternoon. 

After a grueling non-conference schedule that includes a showdown with Kentucky and a rematch of Duke's Sweet 16 contest against Utah, the Blue Devils open up ACC play Jan. 2 at Boston College.

The highlight of Duke's conference slate is a pair of matches against rival North Carolina. After knocking off the Tar Heels twice a season ago, the Blue Devils will look to continue their winning ways in the rivalry. But North Carolina is widely expected to open the season as the favorite to win the ACC and ranked in the top three nationally. Duke will travel to Chapel Hill Feb. 17 for the first matchup between the Tobacco Road rivals.The Blue Devils will then host the Tar Heels in the regular season finale March 5, when a conference title could be on the line.  Read more »

Season Preview: The Chronicle's guide to Duke football's 2015 schedule

The Blue Devils kick off the regular season Thursday night in New Orleans against Tulane, one of four non-conference games on Duke's schedule in the first two months of the season. From the Blue Devils' conference opener Sept. 26 at home against defending Coastal Division champion Georgia Tech to the regular season finale at Wake Forest, The Chronicle gets you ready for the season with a look at all 12 of Duke's opponents, and the rest of the ACC.

Sept. 3: at Tulane

Sept. 12: vs. N.C. Central

Sept. 19: vs. Northwestern Read more »

Frank Jackson commits to Duke basketball, becomes second player in Class of 2016

Five-star combo guard Frank Jackson committed to Duke Tuesday evening, joining second-ranked recruit Jayson Tatum as the Blue Devils' second commitment in the Class of 2016.

Jackson announced his decision Tuesday at a press conference at Lone Peak High School, choosing to come to Durham while turning down offers from other suitors, including Stanford and in-state hopefuls BYU and Utah. The 6-foot-3 guard is the No. 14 player in the 2016 ESPN 100 and one of the top high school players at his position, showcasing the ability to both score off the dribble and knock down perimeter jump shots. The Lone Peak, Utah, native has also flashed the ability to get to the line at will and help set up open looks for his teammates.

Recruiting Roundup: Jackson to announce decision tonight; Bolden, Porter Jr. cut lists

Let's start with the biggest news of the week—five-star guard Frank Jackson plans to announce his college decision tonight at 6:30 p.m. 

After his standout play during summer tournaments, Jackson emerged as the Blue Devils' top guard target in the Class of 2016. The Lone Peak, Utah, native is ranked 14th in the 2016 ESPN 100 and is widely considered to be one of the top shooters in his class.  

Jackson just took his official visit to Duke this past weekend and his decision to commit so soon after his trip to Durham may suggest that the Blue Devils have a good shot at landing him. According to 24/7 Sports Crystal Ball, Duke is the unanimous favorite to land the talented guard, garnering all of the votes. In addition to the Blue Devils, BYU, Stanford and Utah appear to be in the running for Jackson's services. The 6-foot-3 guard had this to say to the Salt Lake Tribune before his visit:  

"The four schools I have right now, I love each and every one of them, I think they’ve been really good to me. I like to hear what they have to say. But when I know where I’m going to go it will be nice.”

Staying with the class of 2016, big man Marques Bolden cut his list to eight yesterday and the Blue Devils made the cut.  Read more »

SPORTSWRAP Week 2: Fjørt's Hammer

This week's edition of Sportswrap features men's soccer sophomore Markus Fjørtoft, who scored Duke's first goal of the regular season Friday night as the Blue Devils topped Saint Mary's 3-2 at the John Rennie Nike Invitational.

Sophomores score three goals as Duke men's soccer outlasts Saint Mary’s 3-2: Sophomores Markus Fjørtoft and Jeremy Ebobisse provided the offense and graduate student Tyler Hilliard saved a Saint Mary's goal as Duke claimed a 3-2 victory in its season opener Friday.

Duke men's soccer downs DePaul 1-0 behind Mathers' goal: Senior Zach Mathers provided the lone goal of the afternoon as the Blue Devils recorded their first shutout victory since last October Sunday against DePaul. Read more »

Quick Hits from David Cutcliffe's Sunday press conference

Duke head coach David Cutcliffe met with the media Sunday afternoon to preview Thursday night's season-opener at Tulane. Because of the mid-week game, the Blue Devils treated Sunday like the Tuesday of a normal game week and practiced at night to try to simulate the heat and humidity they could face in New Orleans. Here are some of the more notable sound bytes from Cutcliffe's press conference:

The Blue Devils took a preseason road trip to Washington last week to watch the Detriot Lions and Washington Redskins face off in a preseason matchup. But the two-day excursion served a bigger purpose than watching former Blue Devils Laken Tomlinson and Takoby Cofield play at the next level—it served as a dress rehearsal for the Sept. 3 game at Tulane. The players adhered to a strict itinerary on the trip, which included events like a pregame meal before the NFL preseason game. The trip provided freshmen and redshirt freshmen with a important travel experience before the team’s season opener on the road and will prepare the whole squad for the program’s first road opener since 2005.

“It was one of the reasons that we wanted to do it. We have so many redshirt freshmen and true freshmen that are going to be on their first trip, and you open on the road. College football's different—you don't get an exhibition game, we haven't played a game since the bowl game. So travel and what you do and how you do it and following every day with an itinerary, you've got to follow an itinerary.”

The punt return position was one of the most contested position battles in fall camp and it appears junior Ryan Smith has secured the bulk of the playing time for the time being. Wide receivers Max McCaffrey, T.J. Rahming, Keyston Fuller and Johnell Barnes were also competing for the starting job along with kick returner DeVon Edwards. However, Cutcliffe did hint that he is open to continuously evaluating the position and that he would not hesitate using a number of different players at the position. But for now, Smith, who has the most experience amongst the bunch as a returner, will be returning punts against Tulane. Read more »

Stock Watch: Cash garners attention; women's soccer starts strong

The bell of the Blue Zone stock exchange has just rung again, meaning it's time to take another look at who is rising and falling with their performances for Blue Devil sports teams. Each week The Blue Zone will look at whose stock is on the rise and whose stock has taken a hit from the week in the world of Duke athletics.

Bull Market—Trending Up

Jeremy Cash – The Blue Devils strike safety finds himself on the rise with just a week to go before the Duke football opens the season at Tulane. The Miami native has received three first-team All-America selections and four second-team selections from various sporting publications this season in addition to being named to numerous preseason All-ACC team lists. Cash returns as the only defensive back in the nation to record more than 100 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and five sacks and will look to anchor a defense that heads into the season with an inexperienced front line.

Duke women’s soccer – Head coach Robbie Church’s team followed its 1-0 victory against No. 22 Clemson in preseason play by shutting out its first two opponents at the UNC Nike Classic in Chapel Hill. Although the squad lost eight seniors to graduation, the team seems to have reloaded after landing the nation’s sixth-best recruiting class—led by freshman Taylor Racioppi who was named to the National Team of the Week. The Blue Devils also returned redshirt sophomore Cassie Pecht—who missed the past two seasons with a number of knee injuries. No. 21 Duke faces a stiff test Friday when it travels to State College, Pa. to take on Penn State. Read more »