Following the departure of three-year starting quarterback Daniel Jones to the NFL, Saturday's matchup against No. 2 Alabama will give Duke fans their first view of a new-look offensive attack.
The Blue Devils will need to execute a near-perfect gameplan in order to have a shot at taking down last season's national runner-up. However, with Quentin Harris taking over under center and the team's top-four receiving yardage leaders from 2018 gone, Saturday's matchup could significantly expedite Duke's learning process.
Harris shined in his two starts last season in place of Jones, who suffered a broken clavicle in Week 2. The redshirt senior proved he can do more than run the ball, leading the Blue Devils to a pair of wins including a 40-27 shootout victory at Baylor. Harris completed 12-of-30 pass attempts for 176 yards and three passing touchdowns, including this beautiful 66-yard completion to Jonathan Lloyd.
Duke has the potential to dominate on the ground with a pair of potential all-ACC rushers in the backfield alongside Harris, who totaled five rushing touchdowns out of the wildcat formation last season.
Junior Brittain Brown is back and healthy, looking to rebound from an injury-ridden sophomore campaign. Brown will look to complement preseason All-ACC first-team member Deon Jackson, who broke out in Brown's absence.
Jackson broke Duke's single-game all-purpose yardage record Oct. 27 at Pittsburgh with 403 yards. The Atlanta native then followed that performance up a week later with his most impressive run of the season, this 75-yard sprint on the opening play against Miami.
Lastly, Alabama is no typical opening-week cupcake. Not only will the Blue Devil offense be challenged to learn on the fly, but Duke's young defensive core will have to keep up with the Crimson Tide's superior size at the receiver position.
The Blue Devils lost two defensive stalwarts in Ben Humphreys and Joe Giles-Harris from last season and it remains to be seen how Mark Gilbert will look after missing much of the 2018 season due to a hip injury.
Duke will rely on the continued growth from its young secondary. Leonard Johnson, Josh Blackwell and Michael Carter II shined while filling in for an injury-depleted defense last season. However, the trio will face a unique challenge with Heisman candidate Tua Tagovailoa and will hope to avoid the long touchdown passes that have plagued the Blue Devils in the last few seasons.
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