Duke football 2016 position preview: Running backs

Duke football 2016 position preview: Running backs

With the 2016 season right around the corner, The Chronicle's football beat writers break down each of the nine major position groups: quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, offensive line, defensive line, defensive backs, linebackers, kicker/punter and punt/kickoff returners to prepare you for the regular season.

With the help of dual-threat quarterback Thomas Sirk, Duke's running attack gashed defenses for 192.9 yards per game last year, its highest total since 1977. But since Sirk went down with a ruptured Achilles tendon in spring practices, the running backs may not have much help at the beginning of the season, especially in the read option, a favorite of ex-offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery in 2015.

With Sirk a question mark as the season’s signal-caller, the running backs will be called on to lead the offense, as the two-headed monster of junior Shaun Wilson and redshirt senior Jela Duncan with the help of reserve Joseph Ajeigbe will need to set the tone for the Blue Devils to sustain drives and move the chains.

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Duke football 2016 position preview: Quarterbacks

Duke football 2016 position preview: Quarterbacks

With the 2016 season right around the corner, The Chronicle's football beat writers break down each of the nine major position groups: running backs, quarterbacks, receivers, offensive line, defensive line, defensive backs, linebackers, kicker/punter and punt/kickoff returners to prepare you for the regular season.

It’s no secret that the fate of Duke football’s offensive success this season lies under center, but the position still carries a lot of uncertainty for the Blue Devils less than two weeks before their Sept. 3 season opener. Returning starter Thomas Sirk ruptured his left Achilles tendon back in February, and although the redshirt senior has made a swift recovery, he still has not participated in any live-action drills in fall camp.

Sirk will almost definitely step in as the starting quarterback as soon as he is fully recovered, and there is reason for optimism that he can replicate impressive passing and rushing stats from 2015. But Sirk will be facing a slew of tougher defenses this fall and will have to adapt to new offensive coordinator Zac Roper.

Key Players Lost: None

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Report: Tommy Amaker adds Duke men's basketball staff assistant, former manager Mike Sotsky to coaching staff

Former Duke player and assistant coach Tommy Amaker has hired Blue Devil staff assistant Mike Sotsky to be an assistant coach at Harvard, CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein reported Sunday evening.

Although Harvard had made no official announcement as of late Monday night, Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel congratulated Sotsky—a former Blue Devil manager—on Twitter.

Twitter reacts to Mike Krzyzewski winning third straight Olympic gold medal

Twitter reacts to Mike Krzyzewski winning third straight Olympic gold medal

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski wrapped up his 11-year tenure as Team USA's head coach with a 96-66 victory Sunday against Serbia in Rio de Janeiro to win his third straight Olympic gold medal. Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel was on Krzyzewski's staff this summer and former Blue Devil point guard Kyrie Irving was a major contributor for Team USA.

Several current, former and future players at Duke and other NBA stars took to Twitter to congratulate USA Basketball and the trio of Blue Devils for winning the gold medal. The Blue Zone compiled some of their reactions here.

Jabari Parker says in Player's Tribune column he hopes to eventually use Duke degree to become a teacher in Chicago

Jabari Parker says in Player's Tribune column he hopes to eventually use Duke degree to become a teacher in Chicago

Multiple former Blue Devils have said after leaving school early for the NBA that they want to return to Durham to get their degrees. 

Few have done so with goals as lofty as Jabari Parker's. 

In a first-person column in The Player’s Tribune published Monday, the Milwaukee Bucks forward and former Duke star discusses his experience of growing up on the south side of Chicago. Parker pledges to help tackle gun violence and inequality in the city. The 2013-14 All-American says after finishing his NBA career, he plans to return to Duke to finish his degree and become a teacher.

Parker notes that his father, Sonny, seventh grade teacher, Ms. Reed, and former NBA player Juwon Howard—another Chicago native—helped inspire him to give back to the community.  Read more »

David Cutcliffe lets graduate assistant Sam McGrath skip first fall practices to cheer on fiancé Abby Johnston in Rio Olympics

David Cutcliffe lets graduate assistant Sam McGrath skip first fall practices to cheer on fiancé Abby Johnston in Rio Olympics

Although some Blue Devil fans have their eyes on the opening of training camp this week, most people around the world are focusing on this summer's Rio Olympics.

Duke football head coach David Cutcliffe and graduate assistant defensive coach Sam McGrath, who works with the team's linebackers, have the pleasure of keeping their eyes on both.

The Blue Devil head coach took time Monday during Duke's media day before starting fall camp to recognize the tremendous effort put in by the Duke contingent in both reaching and performing at this summer's games. Twelve current and former Blue Devil players and coaches have cast a wide net at Rio, competing in several events, including diving, fencing, soccer, golf and basketball. 

"I can’t start this thing without commenting about the Olympic games—an incredible Duke presence there, which makes me proud," Cutcliffe said. "Certainly as an American, I’m one of those people, I get pumped, and I’m chanting 'U-S-A, U-S-A' seeing those young people compete."   Read more »

Duke football lands 4-star quarterback Jack Sears

Duke football lands 4-star quarterback Jack Sears

With fall practice set to open this week, the Blue Devils received a big piece of news that could usher in more bowl victories in the coming seasons. 

Four-star quarterback Jack Sears committed to Duke, becoming arguably the top commit in program history. The San Clemente, Calif., native spurned offers from in-state powerhouses such as UCLA and Southern California, as well as traditional powerhouses including Florida State and Tennessee. 

Blue Devil head coach David Cutcliffe took to Twitter to express his excitement about what figures to be a major stepping-stone in his efforts to continue building the Duke football program.  Read more »

Highlights from summer 'Devils Life' columns by Grayson Allen, Chase Jeter and Amile Jefferson

Highlights from summer 'Devils Life' columns by Grayson Allen, Chase Jeter and Amile Jefferson

Three current Duke men's basketball players—Grayson Allen, Chase Jeter and Amile Jefferson—have written first-person columns this offseason for the team's "Devils Life" website. Freshman Jayson Tatum, assistant coach Nate James and former players Seth Curry and Gerald Henderson have also published columns on the site. 

Here are some highlights from the columns by Allen, Jeter and Jefferson, which can be viewed in their entirety here.

Allen, who has taken 4.5 classes during Duke's two summer sessions, on returning to school for his junior season and getting close to finishing his degree in three years:

I have a personal goal in mind. The goal is to use this summer and the upcoming school year to get as close as possible to graduating from Duke University. I’ve been working on this plan with Kenny King, our academic advisor, since the end of my freshman year. Read more »

Highlights from assistant men's basketball coach Jon Scheyer's first 8 offseason podcasts

Highlights from assistant men's basketball coach Jon Scheyer's first 8 offseason podcasts

Assistant coach Jon Scheyer has recorded eight episodes of his new offseason podcasts so far. The Blue Zone takes a look at some of the highlights from those episodes below. The full podcasts can be found here. Check back later in the offseason for further highlights from Scheyer's remaining episodes.

Amile Jefferson on trying to return to the court last season:

One of the biggest setbacks while I was in the cast was the cast was too tight and I had no idea, so when it finally came off, I had no feeling in my foot and that was the biggest thing that set me back. After that, trying to get back on the court, thinking, ‘I’ll be back for the [North] Carolina game, I’ll be back for the Louisville game…’ I kept setting goals in my mind, but then you try to walk up the steps and do something a little extra and you’re like, ‘Woah, I can’t go…’ As those games went by, I started plummeting into a hole and the only thing that got me out of it was seeing how our team fought.

Jeff Capel on substituting for head coach Mike Krzyzewski against Georgia Tech last season:

It was very strange, very weird. Since I’ve been back here at Duke, I always watch when Coach walks out for the game and it’s usually around the three-minute mark when he comes on the court…. I always say to myself, ‘I cannot imagine anyone else walking out.’ I’m 41 years old and he is Duke. That’s the only coach I’ve ever known at Duke, so for it to be me out there at Georgia Tech coaching that game, it was nerve-wracking. I was nervous… but the main thing was that we needed to win. Our team needed to needed to feel good again…. And our guys played their butts off.

Jay Bilas on his all-time Duke starting five: Read more »

Recruiting Roundup: Duke forward Chase Jeter shines, 5 Class of 2017 targets win Adidas Nations title

Recruiting Roundup: Duke forward Chase Jeter shines, 5 Class of 2017 targets win Adidas Nations title

Chase Jeter spent most of his freshman year watching from the bench during crunch time against ACC opponents, but he outshined several of his counterparts in the conference Saturday night.

The sophomore forward scored a game-high 21 points in an Adidas Nations exhibition game in Garden Grove, Calif., leading his Wizards team to an 84-77 win against the Magic. Jeter’s teammates included North Carolina standout Justin Jackson and N.C. State returning starters Malik Abu and Maverick Rowan among other established college players, but it was Jeter who stole the show by going 9-of-14 from the field and adding six rebounds and two assists.

A highly touted five-star big man entering his freshman season, Jeter underperformed relative to expectations, averaging 1.9 points in 7.9 minutes per game. Playing time will likely be hard to come by next year for the Las Vegas native with redshirt senior Amile Jefferson leading a frontcourt that will include five-star freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, but Jeter’s performance Saturday may be a sign that he is ready to become a major contributor. Read more »