Live tracker: Assessing the fallout of Elko's departure from Duke football on transfers, recruits, coaching staff

Former head coach Mike Elko yells from the sideline during Duke's win against Pittsburgh.
Former head coach Mike Elko yells from the sideline during Duke's win against Pittsburgh.

After the departure of former head coach Mike Elko, there has already been substantial rearranging in the program as players and staffers depart, while new head coach Manny Diaz will likely bring in different personnel. Follow along here for rolling updates on these moves:

Transfers out

Monday, Nov. 27

CB Jaden Watkins: The redshirt freshman was the first Blue Devil to enter the portal after Elko’s departure. Watkins has not played in a game yet, after switching from wide receiver to cornerback after his redshirt season. He came into Durham as a three-star prospect hailing from Asheville, N.C.

DT Aeneas Peebles: Peebles becomes the first major contributor to depart Durham, announcing on X Monday that he will be entering the transfer portal as a graduate transfer. The senior was a constant factor in a deep defensive line room this season, racking up 44 tackles, five tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. The Raleigh native ends his career as a Blue Devil having played 841 career snaps. 

Update Dec. 18: Peebles announced via X his decision to join Virginia Tech for his final season, and the new Hokie will get to face his former team at Wallace Wade Stadium in 2024.

Wednesday, Nov. 29

QB Riley Leonard: Just days after Elko announced his departure, Duke lost its starting quarterback. Leonard was also a 2023 team captain. The junior had a standout sophomore campaign before battling injury at times this year. In the last two years as a Blue Devil, Leonard has been under center for all of the biggest moments. The team still retains redshirt freshman Henry Belin IV and freshman Grayson Loftis at quarterback, and has four-star recruit Tyler Cherry coming in next year. According to ESPN's Pete Thamel, Notre Dame is likely to target the dual-threat signal caller.

Update Dec. 12: Leonard has committed to Notre Dame, giving the Fighting Irish their second ACC transfer at quarterback in the last two seasons. The Fairhope, Ala., native will succeed Sam Hartman and likely will be expected to be able to bring a national championship to South Bend, Ind., in 2024. 

Thursday, Nov. 30

K Charlie Ham: The kicker becomes the fourth Blue Devil to announce their intentions to leave, as the graduate student will elect to use his last year of eligibility elsewhere. Ham was the starting kicker for Duke from 2021-2023, making 36-of-50 career field goals. However, he was moved to kickoff specialist this season as Todd Pelino manned the placekicker spot. 

S Jaylen Stinson: Duke loses another one of its veteran leaders, as Stinson will elect to use the remainder of his eligibility outside of Durham. The senior racked up 82 tackles this season to go with three tackles for loss, and also had a play all Blue Devil fans will remember after he had a 55-yard fumble recovery in the season opener against Clemson. Duke will now have to replace at least two starters in the secondary from this year, as Stinson and Al Blades Jr. will not return in 2024.

Update Jan. 15: Stinson becomes the third Blue Devil this offseason to enter the transfer portal and return to Durham, as the veteran safety withdrew his name from the portal Monday and will play his fifth season at Duke. The Opelika, Ala., native’s return gives Diaz a veteran leader in the defensive backfield and a special teams ace. Stinson and rising junior Terry Moore have the potential to be among the better safety duos in the conference in 2024. 

Friday, Dec. 1

DE R.J. Oben: While already presumably losing stalwart defensive tackles DeWayne Carter and Ja’Mion Franklin this offseason, Duke will also now be without a third member of its starting defensive line, as Oben has entered the transfer portal. The redshirt senior started nearly every game for the Blue Devils over the past three seasons, racking up 67 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks over his Duke career. 

Update Dec. 13: Oben announced Wednesday via X his intentions to join Leonard for another year, as the edge rusher will use his last year of eligibility in South Bend, Ind., to help the Fighting Irish contend for a national title. 

Sunday, Dec. 3

LB Dorian Mausi: Duke loses its fifth player on the defense to the transfer portal, as linebacker Dorian Mausi becomes the next Blue Devil to announce his intention to leave Durham. This year, the senior linebacker racked up 61 tackles and also caught the game-sealing interception against Clemson in the season opener. Duke will now likely rely on returning linebackers Tre Freeman and Nick Morris Jr. to replace the Detroit native. 

Update Dec. 20: Mausi announced via X thaat he will be taking his talents to the SEC, as the linebacker will join Auburn for his last year of eligibility. 

Wednesday, Dec. 6

RB Jaquez Moore: Another key offensive player will not be returning to Durham next season, as Moore announced via X his intention to enter the transfer portal to use his last year of eligibility. The junior has been a staple in the running back room the last two seasons, tallying 1,121 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns during his time at Duke. This season, the Live Oak, Fla., native had two 100-yard rushing games, crossing that mark against Virginia and Florida State. With the room already losing Jordan Waters and Jaylen Coleman to graduation, the Blue Devils look set to rely on freshman Peyton Jones as their featured back in 2024. 

Update Dec. 11: It was reported that Moore would be withdrawing his name from the portal, as Diaz evidently was able to convince the junior to stay. His return gives the Blue Devils a major contributor in the backfield next year, as he will almost certainly be the top running back for Diaz’s inaugural season. 

RB Jordan Waters: Duke loses its most productive back, as graduate student Waters intends to enter the transfer portal as well, per a report from 247Sports’ Brad Crawford on X. Waters was spectacular all year long, running for 12 touchdowns this season to go with 753 yards, leading the Blue Devils in both categories.

Update Dec. 18: Waters becomes the second Blue Devil this off-season to transfer within the conference, as the running back will be moving just down the road to join the N.C. State Wolfpack. Waters will host his former team in Raleigh in 2024.

Wednesday, Dec. 13

WR Malik Bowen-Sims: The senior becomes the first Blue Devil receiver to get into the transfer portal this offseason, as the senior will elect to use his last year of eligibility elsewhere. This season, the Mount Juliet, Tenn., native had three catches for 13 yards, and he finishes his Duke career with 13 receptions for 107 total yards and will likely be in search of a school where he can receive more opportunities to catch the ball. 

Update Dec. 17: Bowen-Sims announced via X that he is committing to Austin Peay, where former Duke co-offensive coordinator Jeff Faris is the new head coach.

N Brandon Johnson: Diaz now loses his most versatile weapon on defense, as Johnson entered the transfer portal Wednesday afternoon. Johnson was stellar this season on defense, serving as a Swiss Army knife for the Blue Devils, racking up 56 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss to go with two interceptions. In 2022, the Newton, N.C., native was similarly effective, finishing with 55 tackles and 5.5 sacks and garnering Honorable Mention All-ACC honors. The junior will not be an easy player to replace, and his role will likely have to be shared by multiple defenders in 2024. 

Update Jan. 17: Johnson announced his decision to transfer to Oregon for his final year of eligibility. The standout nickel will join a loaded Ducks squad that will look to make a title run in their first year in the Big Ten. 

Friday, Dec. 22

DE Ryan Smith: The defensive end’s name popped up in the transfer portal Friday night, making the senior the third defensive lineman to enter the transfer portal this offseason. In 2023, the Acworth, Ga., native racked up 23 total tackles along with three tackles for loss and two sacks, earning ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week honors after Duke’s game against Wake Forest. Smith was also the recipient of the team’s Special Teams Player of the Year award in 2022. 

Update Jan. 8: Smith has withdrawn his name from the transfer portal, the second Blue Devil to do so this offseason. His return will provide a solid veteran presence for a defensive line group that is losing leaders DeWayne Carter and Ja’Mion Franklin, and will give returning defensive ends coach Harland Bower a proven weapon to deploy in 2024. 

Saturday, Dec. 30

RB Grissim Anderson: Anderson is reportedly entering the transfer portal after four years at Duke. He has played sparingly in his Blue Devil career, with most of his action coming on special teams due to a crowded running back room. 

Transfers In

Tuesday, Dec. 19

DL Will Seiler: Duke lands its first transfer of the offseason, as Seiler announced his decision to join the Blue Devils via X. The grad transfer comes to Durham after four years at Penn, where he appeared in every game the last three seasons. In 2023, the Atlanta native racked up seven solo tackles and one sack and will help round out a defensive line group that suffered a mass exodus this offseason. 

Friday Dec. 22

QB Maalik Murphy: Diaz has found his quarterback of the future, as former Texas quarterback Maalik Murphy has reportedly committed to Duke according to ESPN’s Pete Thamel. The redshirt freshman was ranked as the fourth-best quarterback in the transfer portal and the 20th player overall according to 247Sports. The Inglewood, Calif., native was thrown into the spotlight this season after an injury to star quarterback Quinn Ewers, and Murphy performed admirably, going 2-0 as a starter including an overtime victory over then-No. 23 Kansas State, keeping the CFP dreams alive for the Longhorns. The gunslinger has three remaining years of eligibility. 

Friday, Dec. 29

OL Jack Purcell: Duke adds a huge piece to help offset the losses of starting offensive tackles Graham Barton and Jake Hornibrook, as Purcell is choosing to use his last year of eligibility in Durham after spending five years at Penn. The graduate transfer has 27 career starts between both tackle spots, and will likely slot in at one of these two spots along with redshirt freshman Brian Parker II. The Glen Mills, Pa., native was also a second team All-Ivy selection this season. 

Saturday Jan. 6

WR Javon Harvey: Diaz lands his first weapon for Murphy in the portal, as he flipped the Old Dominion transfer away from Elko and Texas A&M. This season, the redshirt sophomore accounted for 391 yards and four touchdowns on 29 catches, including a 166-yard performance against Wake Forest. The Norfolk, Va., native will help round out a receiver room led by returning coach Zohn Burden that features Jordan Moore and Sahmir Hagans. 

Wednesday Jan. 17

LB Ozzie Nicholas: After the loss of Dorian Mausi to the portal and Cam Dillon to graduation, Duke has re-upped its linebacker room as the Princeton transfer Nicholas announced his intention to use his last year of eligibility in Durham. The Encinitas, Calif., native was spectacular this year in the Ivy League, racking up 102 tackles and 4.5 sacks while garnering First-Team All Ivy honors and he now joins Tre Freeman and Nick Morris Jr. in what figures to be a formidable linebacker corps. 

DT Kendy Charles: Diaz grabs his second defensive transfer of the day in Charles, as the Liberty transfer will help replenish a defensive line that is losing stalwart defensive tackles DeWayne Carter and Ja’Mion Franklin via graduation. Over his career, the Orange Park, Fla., native has racked up 13.5 sacks, including at least five in both 2021 and 2022. In 2022, Charles also helped lead a Flames defense that was first in the country in tackles for loss, as he had 10. The grad transfer has dealt with injuries throughout his career, but at full health, he should play a major role in Duke’s defensive front.  

Saturday, Jan. 27

OL James Pogorelc: Duke adds its second offensive line transfer so far this offseason, as Pogorelc comes over from Stanford to Durham. The Centreville, Va., native comes in at an impressive 6-foot-8 and is the second tackle in as many years to transfer to Duke after Jake Hornibrook. The tackle also was a highly touted recruit before joining the Cardinal, as he was rated a four-star recruit by 247sports.  

Monday, Jan. 29

OL Eric Schon: The offensive line continues to be a focus in the transfer portal, as new position coach Jeff Norrid hauled in his third commit of the offseason in Schon. The Barrie, Ontario, native comes over from Holy Cross, where he was a key factor in the team’s success. The left guard was named as an All-Patriot League first team selection in 2022, and also was second team this past season. The grad transfer will spend his final year of eligibility in Durham, where his arrival will help to offset the departure of standout guard Jacob Monk. 

OL Micah Sahakian: Sahakian is the second offensive lineman of the day to join the Blue Devils, as the Mount Prospect, Ill., native announced his intention to transfer to Duke from Cornell Monday. The senior was a key cog in an excellent Big Red unit in 2022 and 2023, as Sahakian was an All-Ivy League Honorable Mention in 2022 and started at right tackle the past two years for Cornell while also serving as captain this past season. The grad transfer will have two years of eligibility remaining, but may redshirt the 2024 season due to an offseason knee surgery, per a report from Adam Rowe.  

Staff changes

Monday, Nov. 27

David Feeley: Feeley, who has been the associate director of sports performance and director of football sports performance in Durham during Elko’s tenure, is reportedly following his boss to College Station, Texas. He was well-regarded during his time at Duke for his transformation of the roster physically, with the Blue Devils constantly outmuscling teams up front. Before his time with Duke, Feeley spent time at Miami, where he was responsible for having the all-time best roster availability for an entire season in program history. 

Update Dec. 2: Feeley will actually be staying in Durham for the time being. This is a major plus for Duke, as it keeps arguably one of its most important staffers and one who has worked with Diaz before. 

Tuesday, Dec. 5

Derek Miller: Miller has spent the last two years as the recruiting general manager for the Blue Devils, overseeing scouting and recruiting for the program. He was also in charge of running the camps and clinics that the team put on for both recruits and the community. Now, Miller will follow Elko, the man that hired him, as he was named the new general manager at Texas A&M Tuesday, per 247Sports’ Steve Wiltfong on X.

Adam Cushing: Cushing becomes the first positional coach to leave Durham, as the offensive line coach is reportedly taking the same position at Texas A&M. He has been in Durham since January 2021 as the offensive line coach and run game coordinator, helping mentor All-ACC selections Graham Barton and Jacob Monk, as well as working to orchestrate a run game that set the program record for rushing touchdowns in 2022. 

Ishmael Aristide: With a secondary that is already set to be depleted with transfers and seniors running out of eligibility, the Blue Devils will now also be without their cornerbacks coach, as Aristide is reported to be returning to College Station, where he served as a senior defensive analyst and secondary assistant with Elko in 2019 and 2020. During his first season at Duke, he helped Chandler Rivers to freshman All-America honors, as well as mentoring a defensive unit that ranked fourth in the ACC in pass breakups. 

Update Dec. 29: On the same day that Trooper Taylor was officially announced to join Elko, Cushing and Aristide are also officially joining Duke's former coach in College Station. 

Wednesday, Dec. 6

Allen Gaudet IV, Shaun Cook, Oscar Monnier: After the departure of Miller, Elko continues to plunder the Duke scouting department, as Gaudet, Cook and Monnier are all leaving Durham to join the personnel staff at Texas A&M. Gaudet joined the staff in 2022 and served as the assistant director of player personnel under Elko, and will now become the director of player personnel for the Aggies. Cook will become the assistant director under Gaudet after serving as the assistant director of scouting for two years for the Blue Devils. Monnier also will head to College Station to be a transfer portal scout after serving as a scouting assistant for one year on the Duke staff, leaving Duke with major holes to fill in its off-the-field staff positions.

Thursday, Dec. 14

Jonathan Brewer: Head coach Manny Diaz is reportedly hiring Brewer as the new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Duke to replace Kevin Johns. Brewer was on Miami's offensive staff when Diaz was the head coach, and was most recently SMU's co-offensive coordinator. He has experience at the SEC level at Alabama and Auburn, and also brings recruiting prowess to the program. However, this has not been officially confirmed by the program and Johns' next steps are still unclear. Here is The Chronicle's official brief on the hire

Sunday, Dec. 17

Jeff Norrid: As Adam Cushing reportedly is joining Elko at Texas A&M, Duke has found its replacement for the two-year Blue Devil offensive line coach. Norrid, the current Louisiana-Lafayette offensive line coach, is reportedly taking the same position at Duke. Prior to his three-year stint with the Rajun Cajuns, Norrid had experience as an offensive analyst at both Alabama and Auburn, along with a stint as a successful offensive line coach at Florida Atlantic. 

Update Dec. 26: Duke officially confirmed both Brewer's hiring as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach and Norrid's as offensive line coach

Tuesday, Dec. 26

Lyle Hemphill/Zach Sparber: James Madison is reportedly hiring multiple Duke defensive coaches to bolster its staff. Hemphill, the current co-defensive/safeties coach for the Blue Devils, will be the new defensive coordinator for the Dukes. He has been with Duke for two years and was previously the Wake Forest defensive coordinator as well. Sparber will be joining Hemphill as a linebackers coach after being a defensive analyst in Durham since Feb. 2021. 

Wednesday, Dec. 27

Jonathan Patke: Duke found a new defensive coordinator, as Jonathan Patke, the former Texas State defensive coordinator, will take the job in Durham. Patke has experience at Mississippi State and Louisiana Tech, while also working under Diaz at Miami. Diaz has now hired new coordinators for both sides of the ball, and both have previous connections to the new Blue Devil head coach. Here is The Chronicle's brief on the hire

Thursday, Dec. 28

Justin Watts: Watts comes to Durham after nine years at Appalachian State University, where he most recently served as the pass game coordinator and tight ends coach, and he will retain the latter role under Diaz’s staff. As the tight ends coach for the Mountaineers, he helped six players garner all-conference honors, including three-time All Sun-Belt recipient Henry Pearson. He replaces former tight ends coach Patrick Doughtery, who was also the special teams coordinator. 

Friday Dec. 29

Patrick Doughtery: Elko continues to plunder the Duke coaching staff, as Doughtery will head to College Station to serve as the special teams coordinator and tight ends coach for the Aggies, according to 247Sports. Doughtery also served both of these functions for the Blue Devils, leaving new head coach Manny Diaz with two roles to fill, with one of them already being filled by Watts. Doughtery was responsible for an excellent special teams unit this year that was headlined by first team All-ACC selection Porter Wilson, who was one of the best punters in the nation. 

Trooper Taylor: A large blow to the Blue Devils came Friday, as interim head coach Trooper Taylor was announced as the new associate head coach and running backs coach at Texas A&M, roles he also filled for Duke. Taylor was successful in his role as interim head coach in Durham, holding together a roster and recruiting class that was in flux after Elko’s departure and leading the program to its fifth straight bowl win in Birmingham, Ala. He also mentored an excellent running back stable of Jordan Waters, Jaquez Moore and Jaylen Coleman, and Diaz will have a tough time replacing Taylor for the position, although it has been reported that current Florida A&M head coach Willie Simmons is the favorite to fill this now-vacant role. 

Monday, Jan. 1

Willie Simmons: Diaz begins the new year with a splash hire, as Simmons is officially headed to Durham to serve as the running backs coach. Simmons has been serving as the Florida A&M head coach for the last four seasons, sporting a 39-8 record including a 12-1 mark this season. Diaz and Simmons also have previous history, as he served as the running backs coach at Middle Tennessee State while Diaz was on staff there, and the pair will now reunite on a much larger stage. Simmons will be tasked with the further development of Jaquez Moore and young running backs such as Peyton Jones. 

Tuesday, Jan. 2

Harland Bower and Zohn Burden: Both Bower and Burden will stay on Diaz's staff for next season. Bower will continue to coach the defensive ends, one of the most potent positional groups for Duke this season. Burden is keeping his role as wide receiver coach, after mentoring productive receivers Jalon Calhoun and Jordan Moore during the past two seasons. 

Rick Lyster: Duke officially announced Lyster as its new safeties coach Tuesday. Lyster served as the recruiting coordinator and linebackers coach at Fordham before becoming an analyst for Diaz at Miami and then Penn State. He has additional ACC experience as a defensive assistant under Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech.

Wednesday, Jan. 3

Gabe Infante: Diaz continues to round out his defensive staff, this time bringing over one of his analysts from Penn State in Infante. He will join the staff in Durham as the assistant head coach while also being the defensive tackles coach and the special teams coordinator. Before coming to Happy Valley, Infante served as the running backs coach and recruiting coordinator for Temple after spending nearly a decade as the head coach at St. Joseph’s Prep, one of the premier high school programs in Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, Jan. 9

John Garrett: Duke now has its first off-the-field hire of the offseason, as Garrett was announced as the new general manager of player personnel. The former Florida State director of scouting brings 30 years of football experience, including a 14-year coaching stint in the NFL. During his time with the Seminoles, he helped head coach Mike Norvell bring in the No. 7 recruiting class for 2024 according to 247Sports. Garrett, the brother of former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, also served as the head coach at Lafayette prior to his time in Tallahassee, Fla.

Wednesday, Jan. 10

V’Angelo Bentley: Diaz has fully filled out his positional staff, as Bentley comes to Durham to be the cornerbacks coach. The former Illinois starting cornerback comes to Duke from the New England Patriots staff, where he served in a coaching fellowship role. Prior to working under Bill Belichick, Bentley spent three years as an assistant at Penn State. The 30-year old will now inherit a relatively young cornerbacks room, headlined by Birmingham Bowl MVP Chandler Rivers. 

Commits

Sunday, Feb. 4

DB Khari Reid: Diaz seemingly had a late ace up his sleeve for this recruiting cycle, as Reid becomes a February addition to this year’s incoming class after decommitting from Stanford in December. The Philadelphia native is ranked as the 147th-best cornerback in the class and a three-star prospect according to 247Sports. Reid chose Duke over offers from Penn State and Ole Miss among others. 

Decommits

Monday, Dec. 11

DB Kaden McFadden: McFadden becomes the first recruit in the class of 2024 to decommit from Duke, as he announced Monday via X that he would be reopening his recruitment. This comes on the heels of a visit to TCU this past weekend, and the Texas product committed to the Horned Frogs just minutes after deciding to decommit from Duke. The safety is ranked as a three-star prospect.

Friday, Dec. 15

QB Tyler Cherry: In the same week that Leonard announced that he is transferring to Notre Dame, four-star quarterback Tyler Cherry announced on X that he is decommitting from Duke. The top recruit in the Blue Devils’ 2024 class and one of their highest-touted prep recruits ever, Cherry was primarily recruited by offensive coordinator Kevin Johns. Cherry’s decision comes the day after a report that Diaz is hiring Jonathan Brewer as his new offensive coordinator. Duke still retains redshirt freshman Henry Belin IV and freshman Grayson Loftis — who both started games for the Blue Devils in 2023 — and it was reported Friday that former Texas quarterback Maalik Murphy is taking a visit to Durham. Murphy has ties to Diaz throughout his career, and Penn State previously offered Murphy before he committed to Texas out of high school. 

Updated Dec. 19: Cherry announced his commitment to Indiana via X, as he will join new head coach Curt Cignetti and stay in his home state. 

Wednesday, Dec. 20

OL Mason Wade: National Signing Day is a prime time for commits to flip to other schools, and Duke fell victim to this Wednesday as one of its prime offensive line recruits in Mason Wade flipped to Clemson in the eleventh hour, making the Louisiana product the third recruit to decommit from the Blue Devils in the 2024 class.

DB Paul Mencke Jr.: After initially committing to Duke in June, Mencke flipped to Washington on Signing Day. Mencke reportedly had a close relationship with Elko, but the Schertz, Texas, native took an unofficial visit to the Huskies after Elko took the Texas A&M job. The 6-foot-2 prospect is the 61st ranked safety in the 2024 class and a three-star recruit.  

Monday, Jan. 22

OL Robert Bourdon: Duke had one commitment in the 2024 class remain committed past signing day but not sign his letter of intent, as Bourdon continued to mull his options after the coaching change. Despite solid efforts from the new staff including an in-home visit, the Collierville, Tenn., native decided to flip to the staff he was most familiar with, as the three-star switched his commitment from the Blue Devils to Elko and the Aggies, becoming the fourth decommit of Duke’s initial 2024 recruiting class. 

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