Duke Blue Devils Preview
2020 Record 2-9 overall, 1-9 in ACC
Head Coach: David Cutcliffe
Duke has certainly not impressed the last few years. David Cutcliffe is in his 14th year as Head Coach of the Blue Devils and if he does not right the ship it seems his time could be over. Injuries and the Covid-19 pandemic did not help in the 2020 season. Turnovers and penalties, all brought on by sloppy play; Duke did not play like a traditionally sound Cutcliffe team.
Whenever a team leads the nation in turnovers the results of a season will generally speaking not be great. That was the case for 2020 Duke football team. 39 turnovers led the nation and they could not rebound even though the offense moved the football. They lost 6 games by 18 or more. The problem began at QB. Chase Brice had the reigns as a starter and seemed to regress in the role. Very inaccurate on the year, he completed only 54.8% of his passes. He ended the year with 2,170 yards and a very poor touchdown to interception ratio of 10 to 15. Not good, hence he transferred to Appalachian State once the season ended. That brings in a former Wake Forest QB in Gunnar Holmberg. He missed all of 2019 with a knee injury and played sparingly in 2020. The 6’3 dual threat QB has been given the chance he has wanted and will need to learn from Cutcliffe who has tutored many a QB.
Holmberg will be helped by a returning 6’5 target in Jake Bobo, who led the team in receiving last season. They lose top TE Noah Gray as a nice safety outlet, but the corps receivers are very experienced. The running game will be paced by returning Mataeo Durant who led the team in rushing last year. Durant ran for 817 yards and 8 eight touchdowns, behind an inconsistent line that does return 3 starters for 2021.
The Duke defense was among the most porous in the nation in 2020. They ended the season giving up 445 yards and 38 points a game. With an extremely young linebacker crew they will be led by 6’4 220-pound Shaka Heyward who paced the team with 80 tackles. The pass rush was actually a bright spot for the team last year. Although undersized Dorian Mausi could be a potential key in that area with three out four starters gone. Ben Frye who played DT last year, will move to edge and the 255lber can use his speed to generate some havoc on opposing quarterbacks. Former Notre Dame DT Ja’Mion Franklin transferred in and the 6’1 310-pound should be able to clog up the middle and some pressure off Heyward and Frye. The defensive backfield returns both Jeremiah Lewis and Leonard Johnson, both 6’1 and 190, to man the corner positions. Safety Marquis Waters left the program and transferred to Temple and they will need J’Marick Woods to play a larger role and fill that gap.
Might be the strongest returning part of the program. Sophomore kicker Charlie Ham nailed 13-15 field goals last year and was great as a freshman. 3 of his 13 made came from over 40 yards, so a repeat season for him is a big key to the success. While another fellow Sophomore in punter Porter Wilson who finished his freshman year averaging 42.9 yards per punt. Hi booming leg had 3 punts of 60 yards or longer as well as a career best if 70.