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.
Accompanying a change at quarterback is a complete overhaul of Duke’s receiving corps. The Blue Devils return only three players who posted double-digit receptions last season, with the only wide receiver of that group—Jake Bobo—out indefinitely with a fractured collarbone. Running back Deon Jackson and tight end Noah Gray round out the formidable trio. Other than that, Quentin Harris will be just as new to the offense as whoever he’s throwing to.
Key players lost: TJ Rahming, Johnathan Lloyd, Chris Taylor, Daniel Helm and Davis Koppenhaver
Over 70 percent of Duke’s receiving yards from last year are gone, a large majority of them coming from this group of five receivers. Rahming graduated as one of the best receivers in program history, placing third on the Blue Devils’ all-time list in receptions and fourth in receiving yards. Lloyd served as a team captain last season and was a solid second option for Daniel Jones, while Taylor, Helm and Koppenhaver round out the list of heavy losses for Duke at the position.
Projected starters: Aaron Young, Jalon Calhoun, Darrell Harding Jr., Noah Gray
With Bobo injured, not a single returning wide receiver finished with more than seven receptions in 2018. Young should be a lock for the No. 1 spot at the position, given he’s able to stay on the field. The redshirt sophomore caught four balls for 114 yards in last year’s season-opener against Army before injuring his hamstring and appearing in only one other contest. Calhoun, a true freshman, has quickly risen on the depth chart during camp, running with the first team offense and grabbing the No. 2 receiver spot for now. The battle for the team’s No. 3 wide receiver is extremely fuzzy, however, with Harding Jr., Dennis Smith, Damond Philyaw-Johnson, Jarrett Garner and Scott Bracey all in contention. Noah Gray has a firm hold as the team’s starting tight end.
Dark horse: Darrell Harding Jr.
Duke’s third wide receiver is completely up for grabs right now. But if I were to bet on one guy taking the spot by midseason, I’d put my money on Harding Jr. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound true freshman impressed last spring, earning Most Improved Player honors and showcasing his physical advantages in the spring showcase. He may very well be the one to stand out at an extremely thin position for the Blue Devils.