Duke football 2016 position preview: Linebackers

Duke football 2016 position preview: Linebackers

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, linebackers, defensive backs, kicker/punter and punt/kickoff returners to prepare you for the regular season.

After throwing a bunch of inexperienced players into the fire of ACC football last season due to injuries, Duke defensive coordinator Jim Knowles comes into the 2016 campaign with a lot of confidence in his fast and young linebacking core. Led by sophomore Ben Humphreys, the Blue Devils look to build on an impressive run defense that ranked fourth in the ACC in yards allowed per carry.

But they will be without ACC Defensive Player of the Year Jeremy Cash, who made his presence felt in the run game despite playing safety. Humphreys has the talent to help stop opposing rushing attacks and take over Cash’s role as a leader of the defense both on and off the field.

Key Players Lost: Dwayne Norman, Kelby Brown

The Blue Devils will miss third-team All-ACC linebacker Dwayne Norman, who blossomed after converting from safety to linebacker prior to his senior year in Durham. Norman led the team in tackles in 2015 with 114 and teamed up with Cash in the run defense to combine for 26.5 tackles for loss. The Jacksonville, Fla., native was also one of the leaders last season for an inexperienced linebacking core, mentoring projected 2016 starters Humphreys and redshirt freshman Joe Giles-Harris. Read more »

This week in Duke history: A club rowing team with no boat

This week in Duke history: A club rowing team with no boat

This week in Duke history will commemorate the anniversary of a noteworthy Duke sporting event or story every week. From the funny to the unexpected, the blog will inform even the most dedicated Blue Devil fans about what you didn’t know about Duke athletics.

On Aug. 29, 1975, The Chronicle wrote that there was a significant obstacle facing the women’s club crew team entering the program's second year.

“The biggest problem facing the team was the lack of a boat.”

The article says the team had to practice in a simulation tank for most of its first season and was still raising enough money for a boat with the help of a "spaghetti supper" and a "bake sale" at the time of publication. Read more »

Duke football 2016 position preview: Defensive line

Duke football 2016 position preview: Defensive line

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, receiversoffensive line, defensive line, defensive backs, linebackers, kicker/punter and punt/kickoff returners to prepare you for the regular season.

Duke struggled to prevent explosive passing plays toward the end of last season, allowing more than 300 yards through the air in its final three games. But not all of that blame should be placed on its banged up secondary. Just as much goes to its performance up front, as the Blue Devils tied for 114th out of 128 FBS teams in sacks per game at 1.3.

Head coach David Cutcliffe and company know that if they want to stay competitive against better opponents this year, they need more production up front. New defensive line coach Ben Albert came to Durham from Boston College to lead that charge and has a young group of defensive linemen thinking it can make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks this season.

Key players lost: DT Carlos Wray, DE Deion Williams, DE Kyler Brown

Albert will have to replace three of the four most productive Blue Devils up front from last season in Wray, Williams and Brown, but defensive coordinator Jim Knowles is confident the team can do that by rotating in a number of players up front. Duke returns veteran defensive tackles A.J. Wolf and Mike Ramsay, and Knowles said he expects underclassmen Quaven Ferguson, Edgar Cerenord, Trevon McSwain, Zach Morris and Brandon Boyce—who is suspended for the team's first three games—all to make an impact at the position. Read more »

Four-star shooting guard Alex O'Connell becomes first Class of 2017 prospect to commit to Duke men's basketball

That didn't take long.

Just two days after he announced publicly that he had received a Duke offer, four-star shooting guard Alex O'Connell is expected to become the first Class of 2017 prospect to commit to the Blue Devils, CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein reported Friday afternoon.

Scout confirmed the report later Friday, and O'Connell announced his decision on Twitter. Read more »

Recruiting Roundup: 4-star wing Jermaine Samuels gets Duke offer, cuts list to 5

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski coined the phrase "Eight is enough" when the Blue Devils won the 2015 national championship with just eight scholarship players for the second half of the season.

But after Duke faltered down the stretch last year with a seven-man rotation, Krzyzewski and his staff are recruiting aggressively to ensure that depth is not a question mark in future years.

The Blue Devils extended their 15th scholarship offer in the Class of 2017 to four-star small forward Jermaine Samuels Thursday, a day after offering four-star shooting guard Alex O'Connell a scholarship.

Duke football 2016 position preview: Offensive line

Duke football 2016 position preview: Offensive line

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 kickoff/punt returners to prepare you for the regular season:

Make it two straight seasons now that Duke will be forced to replace a first-team All-ACC offensive lineman. In 2015, the Blue Devils had to fill the void left by guard Laken Tomlinson and this year, they will be looking to find someone to fill the spot of former captain and center Matt Skura. Fortunately for Duke, 60 percent of its starting offensive line in 2015 is back this season, with each of the three returners more experienced and ready to improve on a roller-coaster 2015.

The Blue Devils’ front five were crucial pieces in leading the ACC’s third-best offense to nearly 440 yards per game, and they also allowed the third-fewest sacks of any team in the conference. With a Blue Devil offensive attack led by a duo of talented running backs and last year’s leading rusher on the team—quarterback Thomas Sirk—the line will need to be at its best if Duke hopes to contend for the Coastal Division title.

Key Players Lost: C Matt Skura and LG Lucas Patrick

The loss of one of 2015’s senior co-captains cannot be understated for a Blue Devil unit that will run the ball often in 2016. Skura was selected to the All-ACC team in each of his final two seasons and was named a second-team All-America by USA Today as a redshirt senior—a testament to his talent and consistency as the anchor of Duke’s offensive line. The Columbus, Ohio, native helped the Blue Devils to the fifth-highest scoring offense in program history and was a leader on and off the field as Duke played in a bowl game in each of his four seasons of game action. Read more »

Duke basketball legend Grant Hill helps Class of 2020 students shop for dorm room items from Target as part of O-week tradition

Duke basketball legend Grant Hill helps Class of 2020 students shop for dorm room items from Target as part of O-week tradition

The annual late-night Thursday trip to Target for dorm room items is a Duke orientation week tradition, but this year's event for the Class of 2020 got an added boost from a former Duke basketball star.

Grant Hill ventured to the retail store on N.C. Highway 15-501 at about 10 p.m. Thursday to greet several members of the Class of 2020 and help them pick out items for their new homes on East Campus. The visit came after Hill took part in an Els for Autism charity golf event Monday.

"It's always good to be back in the area, particularly at this time of year," Hill said. "Twenty-six years ago, I was in this same boat, coming to school [as a freshman], getting myself ready, excited." Read more »

Recruiting Roundup: Blue Devils offer 2017 4-star shooting guard, Duke legacy Alex O'Connell

If four Duke freshmen elect to leave school after one year, head coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff might have to replace a total of seven players from this year's team.

The way they are offering players in the Class of 2017, it seems like they will be ready for that scenario come next spring.

The Blue Devils recently offered four-star shooting guard Alex O'Connell a scholarship, making him the fourth shooting guard they have offered and 14th player in the class overall. 

Duke football 2016 position preview: Wide receivers and tight ends

Duke football 2016 position preview: Wide receivers and tight ends

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 Zac Roper now at the helm of the Blue Devils’ offensive attack, Duke will look to push the ball more downfield and create opportunities for big plays from its wideouts and tight ends. The Blue Devils will face an uphill battle as they look to mitigate the losses of key seniors at the skill positions.

Although Thomas Sirk could be healthy in time for Duke's opener against N.C. Central Sept. 3, the Blue Devil wide receivers and tight ends have worked throughout the spring, summer and fall with Sirk’s backups as he rehabbed from an Achilles injury. Duke concludes training camp with a cloudy picture at both positions and clarity may not come until the Blue Devils have a few games under their belts.

Key players lost: WR Max McCaffrey, WR Johnell Barnes, TE David Reeves, TE Braxton Deaver

Duke will lose four players who all appeared in at least 10 games a season ago and were responsible for half of the team’s passing touchdowns. McCaffrey ranks as arguably the biggest loss for the Blue Devil offense, as he developed a solid connection with Sirk in the slots and intermediate passing game. The wide receiver was also one of the team’s leaders in the locker room and will leave a void that some of Duke’s young talent will be tasked to fill. Read more »

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.

Read more »