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X-Factor: Duke football's Shaka Heyward can limit Kansas' offensive success

Shaka Heyward leads the Blue Devils with 32 total tackles.
Shaka Heyward leads the Blue Devils with 32 total tackles.

The Jayhawks and Blue Devils, both known for their basketball prowess, will be taking the field to compete in football Saturday. The Blue Zone brings you a player to watch out for on both sides ahead of Duke's final non-conference matchup:

Duke: Shaka Heyward, Linebacker

Shaka Heyward came into the 2021 season as one of the most highly anticipated players on the Duke defense. After a difficult first game that saw him record only four tackles, Heyward bounced back in the next two contests with 16 tackles against North Carolina A&T and 12 tackles against Northwestern. It’s no surprise, then, that Duke ended up winning those two games. When your stars play well, success typically follows. 

The Duke offense has had very little trouble scoring this season, scoring at least 28 points in each of its first three games. The Kansas offense, on the other hand, has not scored more than 22 points in any of its games. Therefore, it will be up to the defense to hold their line and keep this trend going. The Jayhawks' passing attack has struggled thus far, and their leading rusher is quarterback Jason Bean. It will be up to Heyward and the rest of the linebackers to act as quarterback spies, knowing that even when Bean drops back in the pocket, he still has the potential to beat you with his legs.

Kansas Jayhawks: Kwamie Lassiter II, Wide Receiver

With such limited passing success through three games, it will be important for the Jayhawks to make up some ground as they enter a tough stretch of games. Seeing as Duke struggled to stop Northwestern’s passing in the second half, a game against the Blue Devils has the potential to light a spark for the Jayhawks. Top target Kwamie Lassiter II has the skillset to be that game-changer.

In the 2020 season, Lassiter totaled 43 receptions. So far this season, he leads the team with 11 catches, with no other player above seven. As previously stated, Kansas’ passing game has struggled; a number one target rarely finds themselves averaging around three receptions per game. However, this gives Kansas all the more reason to try to light up the Duke secondary. Lassiter possesses both the size and speed to compete with Duke’s defensive backs, and if Bean is able to hit him downfield, the two may be able to swing this game in the Jayhawks’ favor. 

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