With the 2019 season right around the corner, The Chronicle breaks down each of the eight major position groups: quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and tight ends, offensive line, defensive line, defensive backs, linebackers and specialists.
Although the Blue Devil pass game figures to take several steps back this year, their backfield seems as steady as ever. Redshirt junior Brittain Brown has fully recovered from a slew of injuries that derailed his 2018 season, while junior Deon Jackson continues to build on his increased experience in the backfield. The duo will also serve as mentors to the next generation of flashy Duke running backs.
Key players lost: None
Duke’s stable of backs is remarkably stable. The team’s top three running backs—Jackson, Brown and Marvin Hubbard III—all return, though the latter of the three is out indefinitely following surgery for a ruptured Achilles. It is important to note that former Blue Devil quarterback Daniel Jones was the team’s third-leading rusher last season but will be unavailable this year, having been whisked away to play for the New York Giants.
Projected starters: Deon Jackson and Brittain Brown
Although Jackson is first on the depth chart, head coach David Cutcliffe’s offense will likely feature heavy doses of both of his experienced backs. As Brown nursed injuries during key games last year, Jackson stepped up to the plate for Duke, running for 847 yards on 5.3 yards per rush. Preseason All-ACC honors as an all-purpose back awaited him.
Brown seems ready to punch more holes in ACC defenses. While his injury history may haunt him, the Canton, Ga. native possesses the skills and reliability of a veteran running back—traits the Blue Devils need desperately with relative newcomer Quentin Harris under center. Brown’s use in tandem with Jackson remains murky.
Dark horse: Jordan Waters
Brown’s return to form impressed at the Blue Devils’ first scrimmage back in early August, but the freshman Waters also made quite the splash. The No. 121-ranked receiver in his class, according to ESPN, planned on playing safety for Duke but appeared impressive as a ballcarrier in the first handful of practices. Cutcliffe said the Fairmont product is “never going back” to defense. Waters just might be the burgeoning star the Blue Devils need to spark their offense.
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