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Duke looks to shell Terps

Justin Boyle has a scant one year of high school experience but he will start in the backfield for Duke Saturday in the home opener against Maryland. Mike Schneider will start under center and Chris Dapolito and Curt Dukes will sever as backups and may even take snaps as tailbacks.

He has a scant one year of high school running back experience, yet Justin Boyle will be thrust into a starting role against a top-25 football team Saturday. The true freshman, who primarily played as a linebacker in high school, will start in the backfield in Duke’s home opener against Maryland Saturday at noon in Wallace Wade Stadium.

Boyle has been pushed into the spotlight for Ted Roof’s first home game since he was permanently installed as Duke’s head coach because Cedric Dargan and Aaron Fryer, the team’s top two running backs, are injured.

To help alleviate the crunch at running back, Roof is taking unusual measures. With three healthy quarterbacks, the Duke coach will use his two more mobile passers in other positions.

None of the Blue Devils’ three quarterbacks has solidified himself, although Mike Schneider will start Saturday despite suffering a concussion during Duke’s loss to Virginia Tech last week.

Chris Dapolito, who started against Connecticut, and Curt Dukes, who saw time at quarterback against the Hokies, have been practicing at several different offensive positions, including running back.

To cope with the lack of tailbacks, the Blue Devils hope to take advantage of Schneider’s strong arm as they prepare a pass-based offense that the Terrapins will likely force Duke to use, Roof said.

In contrast to the Blue Devils, Maryland’s offense will be run-oriented. Ohio State transfer tailback Sammy Maldonado is fifth in the ACC with 86.3 rushing yards per game, and junior tailback Josh Allen is second to Maldonado and 10th in the conference with 69 rushing yards per game.

Maryland’s running strength compensates for its weakness at quarterback. Coming into this season, the Terrapins had five players in contention for the starting quarterback job. The only passer who had taken snaps for Maryland was sophomore Joel Statham, who has started all the Terrapins’ games this season. In the Terps’ loss to West Virginia a week ago, he completed 9-of-20 passes for 108 yards and three interceptions.

“I’m think it’s going to be a gradual thing,” head coach Ralph Friedgen said of Statham’s development at quarterback. “I think [against West Virginia] there were a lot of different-type learning things to deal with.”

Duke’s depleted defensive line could once again be a problem. Junior Justin Kitchen has replaced Phillip Alexander, who broke his leg during the team’s second game at Connecticut. Roof said Kitchen has been one of several players to step up this season, but the line will likely still struggle to contain the powerful Maryland rushing game.

“I think stopping the run on defense and containing the special teams are the most important factors [for Saturday],” Roof said.

Maryland’s special teams are among the best in the nation. While Nick Novak can relate to Duke kicker Matt Brooks in missing a field goal that would have won a game—his miss came last week against West Virginia—he is one of the top placekickers in the nation. Novak has averaged 10 points per game this season, good for second place in the ACC rankings.

Not only does Duke’s defense need to stop the run and stifle the special teams, but it must to do so quickly. Under head Friedgen, the Terrapins have gone 29-0 when leading at halftime. Duke, on the other hand, has not closed well lately. The Blue Devils have led during their last three games, which all ended in losses.

“They’re very well-coached,” Roof said. “Ralph does a great job and I’m sure they’ll be ready to play,” Roof said.

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