A too-soon look at next fall, sans the inevitable injuries, suspensions and other pratfalls of the long offseason.
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|2007 Record • Past Five Years|
2007: 1-11 (0-8 ACC, 6th Coastal)
2003-07: 8-50 (3-37 ACC)
|Five-Year Recruiting Rankings*|
|2003-07: 70 • 46 • 56 • 78 • 65|
|Returning Starters, Roughly|
|15 (6 Offense, 9 Defense)|
|In addition to being an alleged drunk driving, road raging, knife-carrying, gun-wielding aggravated assailant, Mike Tauiliili and his impressive string of vertical letters were freshman all-America in 2005 and third in the ACC in tackles last year. The combination of the Devils’ general failure on defense and his sketchy rep probably kept Tauiliili out of even honorable mention on the all-conference team, but nevertheless: hundred-tackle seasons don’t grow on trees.|
|This Day In Duke History...|
News of the world the last time Duke won a game against another team in the ACC, on Nov. 13, 2004:
• Palestinians mourn the death of Yasir Arafat.
For god’s sake, Duke, for ODB and his cherished memory, win a damn conference game.
Yes, coach, smile. They always start out smiling.
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If that streak is going to end...aw, who are we kidding? That streak is not going to end. But if it's even going to come close, against all odds, it will be by Cutcliffe's Herculean handiwork with Lewis, whose efficiency last year was almost identical to Matt Ryan's, and fellow junior Eron Riley, the only Blue Devil explosive enough (20-plus yards per catch each of his first two years) to earn so much as an honorable mention on last year's all-ACC team. The only other player on the offense remotely resembling a "playmaker," steady receiver Jomar Wright, is graduating.
What's the Same. There are probably three future pros on the defense, yet its collective incompetence can't be underestimated. It be not any responsibility of thine own, young Devils; nay, the cancer dwelleth in the very walls!
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This is where you have to be careful not to let optimistic intangibles like "change" (Cutcliffe hired defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre from the New York Jets), "experience" (there are nine returning starters) or "talent" (linebackers Mike Tauiliili and Vincent Rey and ex-four-star DT Vince Oghobaase are generally liked by scouts) become a kind of mirage obscuring the vast wasteland. When the substantial accomplishment is not finishing last - when you're giving up at least four 20-plus-yard plays every single week - the problems go much deeper than mere optimism, whatever its source.
You do, however, have to give it up for the cultural and syllabic diversity of the middle of the defense since Michael Shawn Brown changed his name to reflect his Polynesian heritage, meaning both tackles and middle linebacker will be manned by Oghobaase, Okpokowuruk, and Tauiliili, respectively.
Yes, Virginia, There Is an Offensive Line. If the passing game is not-horrible, but the offense as a whole is (man, is it: 117th in total yards, 114th in scoring, last in the ACC in both) then what does that say about the running game? All 113 Duke fans respond: what running game? We have a running game? Not really - before the 145-yard finale in the near-upset at North Carolina, Duke was averaging a little more than 56 yards per game on the ground on less than two per carry. Re'quan Boyette led the team on 36 yards per game and two touchdowns for the season; the team broke a single, lonely run longer than 20 yards all season. Three times, against Miami, Wake Forest and Clemson, the Devils had as many fumbles as rushing first downs.
Still, despite the obvious failure to run, an abundance of must-throw deficits and the concentration of skill talent in the passing game, the offense was split almost down the middle between run and pass: 376 runs (including sacks) to 383 passes. Don't expect Cutcliffe to have any of that - his offenses at Tennessee the last two years were pass-oriented (52 percent passes in 2006, 54 percent last year) even with a boss who traditionally favored the straight-ahead business and viable personnel to succeed at it. Neither exists at Duke. He won't necessarily spread the field like June Jones, Mike Leach or Hal Mumme, but the short, quick passing game Cutcliffe used to great effect with Ainge ought to be the order of the day. The line can't hold long enough to allow much else.
Overly Optimistic Spring Chatter. Spread out among 100 guys, 1,000 pounds is not an unmanagable responsibility. When the first order of the new administration to the team was to drop half a ton, it was as symbolic as anything else:
"We're not going to have a fat football team," Cutcliffe said. "And we're a fat football team right now."
One of the chief struggles for the Blue Devils last season was the ability to close out games. Duke was outscored 100-50 in the fourth quarter last season and lost contests against Navy and UNC in the final period...
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Duke on You Tube. Actually, though you can catch the short version on YT, the extended version of the celebration following the win at Northwestern comes from some site called Revver. Having not experienced a win on campus since early 2005, the Dukies are enthusiastic and predictably rusty at the "victory" business, but there's no reason it has to end like this:
The girl on the business end of the upright is okay, according to posters, though she stands as a grave reminder: victory never comes without a price.
See Also: Just a little something about how bad Duke football is. These kids were immediately offered scholarships in 2014. ... Season tickets last year started at $84, or about $14 a game. How do Duke fans feel about those generous rates? Judging from this, they're still a ripoff.
No matter what, you can always count on at least one vote.
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Worst-Case. This is a program with as many zero-win seasons as ACC wins this decade (three apiece), and has gone winless four times under three different head coaches since 1996, so the o-fer is never more than a I-AA loss away. James Madison was an FCS playoff team last year and played Appalachian State within a point; the
Bulldogs Dukes [see comments-ed.] probably match up fairly well with Duke and could cast a pall over the entire season with a win in the opener, just like Richmond did when it shut the Devils out to start 2006. The earlier the holdovers start to think "Here we go again," the more likely they are to, uh, go again.
Non-Binding Forecast. There was a brief period of time a couple years ago when the Devils could steal a conference game here and there (against Georgia Tech and North Carolina in `03, against Clemson in '04), and they've been so hopeless since that just re-opening that window would be a significant achievement. Really, if Duke wins once against Northwestern, Navy and/or Vanderbilt and sneaks up on N.C. State or somebody to break the oppressive, four-year-old ACC streak, Cutcliffe should get a raise and extension. There is nothing in the last decade that suggests this team can be better than 2-10.