The Chronicle's 2023 Duke football season preview

The Blue Devils come into 2023 high on energy — and expectations.
The Blue Devils come into 2023 high on energy — and expectations.

Two-hundred-forty-seven days.

April's spring game aside, it's been more than eight months since the Blue Devils last took the turf. On Monday night, the wait is finally over.

After capping an incredible 2022 season with a 9-4 record and Military Bowl victory on a chilly night in Annapolis, Md., Duke heads into 2023 high on spirits. Preseason polling has been kind to the Blue Devils, who feature three players on the All-ACC roster, and the team’s sentiment at July’s ACC Kickoff was clear: This season is to be one of progress, not stagnation.

The conductor of the turnaround from a paltry 3-9 campaign in 2022 with no ACC wins was then-debutant head coach Mike Elko. Now in his second year, the reigning ACC Coach of the Year’s grand vision for a comprehensive program rebrand and keen eye for football’s schematics look to be exactly what Duke needs. The university seems to think so, too, rewarding his exploits last season with a bumper new contract that keeps him in Durham through 2029.

On the field, the Blue Devils return five positional groups in their entirety for another run this fall. One of them, the defensive line, includes two team captains and three graduate students, providing experience and discipline to a growing Duke defense. This comes under the tutelage of new defensive coordinator Tyler Santucci, who worked with Elko at Texas A&M. Some veterans decided to switch numbers this offseason for a variety of reasons, or none at all.

Standout left tackle Graham Barton — a projected NFL Draft pick — returns to provide an All-American frame to Duke’s offensive line. And the receiving corps, all of whom came back, is headlined by two former quarterbacks looking to continue their renaissance and shoot for brighter stars.

But this won’t be easy, and Duke will have to impress from Week 1 if it hopes to swim in a sea of the ACC’s top programs. The Blue Devils’ schedule is their toughest in years, featuring dates with Notre Dame, N.C. State, Florida State and North Carolina. Their opener isn’t a cakewalk either, starting with a bang Monday night against reigning ACC champion Clemson.

To learn more about the characters who will make or break that opener — and the rest of Duke’s season — check out the Blue Zone’s positional previews for the specialists, defensive line, offensive line, defensive backs, linebackers, receivers and tight ends, running backs and quarterbacks.

Win or lose, a new chapter of Duke football is unfolding before us. Stay up to date by following @chroniclesports on X for daily updates all season long — it’s sure to be an enchanting one.


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