Duke preseason outlook
Coach: David Cutcliffe
2013 record: 10-4, 6-2 in ACC (Coastal Division champions)
Outlook: Duke turned in one of the school’s best football seasons, winning eight games in a row to close the regular season and win the Coastal Division title. Losses to Florida State (in the ACC title game) and Texas A&M (in the Chick-fil-A Bowl) did little to stem the Blue Devils momentum. Personnel losses since the end of last season have created question marks, though. Running back Jela Duncan is academically ineligible, quarterback Brandon Connette (27 touchdowns rushing and passing) transferred and two all-ACC players – linebacker Kelby Brown and tight end Braxton Deaver – were lost for the season to preseason knee injuries. That said, Duke has plenty of talent back for another winning season and a third consecutive bowl game. Quarterback Anthony Boone, wide receiver Jamison Crowder, offensive guard Laken Tominson are senior captains who’ll lead the offense. Redshirt senior running back Josh Snead will lead the running game. On defense, safety Jeremy Cash is a force in the secondary who’ll be surrounded by young, athletic defensive backs like Breon Borders, Bryon Fields, DeVon Edwards and Deondre Singleton. Three new starters man the defensive line, but they’ve all had extensive playing time like defensive end Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo.
Player to watch: David Helton, LB – Last season, Helton led the ACC in tackles with 133 while playing weak-side linebacker. With Kelby Brown’s injury, Helton shifts to middle linebacker this season. Together, Brown and Helton created plenty of havoc. Helton will be asked to have another strong season even though Brown is no longer sharing the field with him.
Game to watch: North Carolina at Duke, Nov. 20. The Blue Devils own wins over the rival Tar Heels in consecutive seasons and, not coincidentally, they’ve been to back-to-back bowl games. This year’s falls in the middle of a November stretch where Duke plays home games with Virginia Tech, UNC and Wake Forest in three consecutive games.