As the 2022 season rapidly approaches, the Blue Zone takes a look at each of the eight major position groups on this Duke roster: Specialists, defensive line, offensive line, linebackers, defensive backs, receivers, running backs and quarterbacks.
The Blue Devils ran a run-focused offense last season, but under new offensive coordinator Kevin Johns, that could change in 2022. That means that Duke’s receiving corps could shoulder more responsibility this season, and with an abundance of experience among the group, it should be well prepared to do so.
Key player lost: Jake Bobo
Wide receiver Jake Bobo transferred to UCLA for his final year of eligibility after four years in a Blue Devil jersey. In that time, Bobo often shared receiving duties with current Kansas City Chiefs tight end Noah Gray and senior wide receiver Jalon Calhoun, and he led the team in receiving yards in both of his final two seasons. However, while undoubtedly one of Duke’s most important offensive pieces, with Calhoun still on the roster and others stepping up, the Blue Devils should be well equipped to handle Bobo’s transfer.
Projected starters: Jalon Calhoun, Sahmir Hagans, Eli Pancol, Nicky Dalmolin
Calhoun has started in 33 of 35 total games, and in the process has cemented himself as one of Duke’s top players. As a freshman, Calhoun led the Blue Devils in receiving yards, and as a sophomore he led in receptions. However, his best season came as a junior, when, despite Bobo taking a slight team lead, Calhoun tallied 718 receiving yards on 56 receptions. With Bobo gone, Calhoun is the undisputed leader of the receivers, so look for him to be one of this season’s biggest bright spots.
However, sophomore receiver Sahmir Hagans could steal the spotlight. Hagans will get his first turn as a regular starter, and if the Blue and White Game is anything to go by, he’ll be receiving plenty of targets to prove himself worthy. In the final scrimmage, he connected with newly-named starting quarterback Riley Leonard for 82 yards on 13 targets and six receptions, by far the most of any receiver on the Blue Team.
Rounding out the wide receivers is senior Eli Pancol. While his numbers are not as flashy as his comrades, Pancol is a reliable piece that can make the big plays when necessary, such as his 55-yard catch against Notre Dame in 2020. Finally, Nicky Dalmolin takes over for graduated Jake Marwede at tight end. In somewhat limited playing time, the 6-foot-4, 239-pound junior showed flashes of his talent, including three receptions against each of Virginia and Virginia Tech and the Blue Devils’ singular touchdown against Georgia Tech, all last season.
Dark horse: Jordan Moore
The battle between sophomores Jordan Moore and Leonard for the QB1 spot was tight leading into the season opener. However, in picking a true dark horse receiver, it’s important to note that Moore slotted in as a receiver a few times during fall camp. Both Leonard and head coach Mike Elko emphasize Moore’s versatility and athleticism, and even playing as a quarterback in the Blue and White Game, Moore showed off his speed with a game-leading 91 rushing yards. If he gets to play at the position, his quarterbacking instincts and general football prowess could make him one to watch.
For the rest of our Duke football preseason coverage, click here.
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Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.