2016 Duke Blue Devils Football Preview

Jela Duncan enters his senior season as a primary ball carrier for the Duke Blue Devils.
Jela Duncan enters his senior season at running back.

Duke Blue Devils

Head Coach: David Cutcliffe
2015 Record: 8-5
2015 Bowl: 44-41 Win over Indiana at Pinstripe Bowl
2016 Returning Starters: 4 Offense, 4 Defense

Betting Odds:
Odds to win 2017 Championship Game: +400000
Odds to win 2016 ACC Championship: +6000
Regular Season over/under: 5.5 wins

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The Duke Blue Devils have a four-year streak of appearing in bowl games. That is likely to come to an end. Duke returns just four returning starters to its offense and lost almost all the key performers from the unit that averaged 439.4 yards per game in 2015.

The biggest loss is due to injury, though. QB Thomas Sirk tore his Achilles’ tendon in team conditioning drills in February and he is out indefinitely. He led Duke in passing and rushing last season, and his absence leaves plenty of question marks for OC Zac Roper. Redshirt junior Parker Boehme started just one game last season, but he is likely to see the majority of the time at QB this season.

The OL returns three starters, but it loses All-ACC C Matt Skura. Austin Davis had a nice spring and should likely start at C. At WR, Duke still has 6’5” mega-option Anthony Nash, who became a top target of Sirk’s last season. T.J. Rahming also showed plenty of flashes last season as a freshman, but Duke is hoping it is more than just flashes in year two. Scott Bracey was a major recruit and could find his way into some playing time even this year as a freshman.

At RB, Duke will return redshirt senior Jela Duncan and junior Shaun Wilson. They complement one another’s styles well, and Duncan is lightning quick at just 5’10” 215.

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DeVon Edwards has a lot of pressure on himself. He transitioned from safety to cornerback last season, and it seemed to be a pretty smart move. Like last season’s big Duke prospect Jeremy Cash, Edwards should have an NFL future, too.

Along with senior Breon Borders, Duke has one of the best CB tandems in college football. At S, senior Deondre Singleton and redshirt senior Corbin McCarthy will look to replace the dominance of Cash last season.

At LB, Ben Humphreys will start as a true freshman, but he does not play like he lacks experience. Duke will need similar wiliness from redshirt freshman Joe Giles-Harris. The DL really needs to step up its pass rushing this season, too, and DT A.J. Wolf is going to have to spearhead those efforts.

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Special Teams

True freshman A.J. Reed will be the kicker and redshirt freshman Austin Parker is the punter. Duke returns DeVon Edwards at cornerback this season and he is the return specialist. He had six kickoffs returned for TD last year.


Duke opens the season Sept. 3 against N.C. Central and faces Wake Forest at home in Week 2. Weeks 3 and 4 will feature tough non-conference teams Northwestern and Notre Dame, and ACC play begins in Week 5 with Virginia. Duke has a tough schedule this season.


Duke should take the biggest step back of all ACC teams. It was a nice four-year stint making bowl games, but the lack of a QB as well as just general inexperience throughout both its offense and defense will be a major set back this season. If Sirk recovers early in the season, Duke will be there in some senses, but there is no way this team wins eight games as it did in 2015.

Defensively, the Blue Devils just do not generate enough pressure to force a lot of turnovers, and last season it finished with a -0.08 margin on turnovers. Little things like that will hold Duke back mostly towards mediocrity in 2016.

Prediction: 5 wins

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