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The Chronicle's Duke football 2020 season preview

<p>Duke's season will be defined by the battles in the trenches.</p>

Duke's season will be defined by the battles in the trenches.

It has been a long offseason full of uncertainty in college football, yet the 2020 Duke football season will finally commence as head coach David Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils tackle the new landscape of college athletics.

Duke will now play a slightly-shortened, ACC-heavy schedule due to the new circumstances, making way for a tough, but winnable slate that kicks off with a road trip to Notre Dame and includes a rare matchup with in-state foe N.C. State. 

Cutcliffe has been on the forefront as a voice to organize college football since March amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The 13-year leader of the Duke program and athletic administrators from the school have worked tirelessly to ensure a season can take place safely.

Blue Devil fans will finally see a familiar face again as former All-ACC cornerback Mark Gilbert returns to action for the first time since 2018. The redshirt-senior’s tumultuous journey back to football has the program fired up for his presence in the secondary.

Though many eyes will be on Gilbert, it’s hard not to notice the relentless pass rush and bright personality of rising star Chris Rumph II on the defensive line. The son of an NFL coach, Rumph’s background is paving the way on his journey to the national spotlight.

Duke returns starters across the board, however, it will have to reload on special teams after the departure of kicker A.J. Reed and punter Austin Parker. But from an elite kickoff returner to an energetic culture, special teams coach Kirk Benedict is confident in a top-notch special teams unit for 2020.

Not many people know what to expect for Duke’s revamped offense in 2020, though sophomore Jalon Calhoun certainly shoulders expectations for a breakout season. The young wideout is using his unique mentality—and admiration for the Joker’s persona—to create success in Durham.

The Blue Devils just barely missed out on bowl eligibility in 2019, but could a revamped offense pave the way for Duke to become a serious ACC contender? Or will a tough schedule leave Cutcliffe’s squad clawing to reach six wins at the end of the season?

The Blue Zone has got you covered on positional previews for every unit, whether it's the quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and tight ends, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, defensive backs or specialists.

If you aren't already, follow us on Twitter @chroniclesports and visit our website for all the best coverage of the Blue Devils this fall. Also, check out our season predictions as our beat reporters give you their picks for MVPs, best win and much more.

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