The Blue Devils suffered through the worst season they’ve had since David Cutcliffe arrived in Durham in 2008. A team known for developing talent was always going to struggle during a season with spring ball cut short and all of the impacts COVID had on the season. Duke led the country in turnovers last season, with 39 and a turnover margin of -19, which ranked them 125th in the country. This might be the season that Duke fans start to wonder if it might be time for Cutcliffe to hang it up.
Durant was a bright spot for a struggling Duke offense last season. He averaged 6.8 yards per carry and scored 8 touchdowns. He is going into his junior season and will be expected to shoulder the load early for a Duke offense that will be breaking in a new starting quarterback and is expected to have a young offensive line.
An inexperienced quarterbacks best friends are experienced and sure handed wide receivers. Duke returns three of their top four pass catchers from last season. Junior Jalen Calhoun had the most catches, senior Jake Bobo had the most yards, and junior Eli Pancol was a reliable third option. If the Blue Devils are going to improve on last seasons offensive impotence, this experienced trio will play an integral role.
The Duke defense finished last in the ACC in both scoring defense and rushing defense. With the massive losses on the defensive line, the responsibility for improving these numbers will fall on the shoulders of the veteran linebackers. This group is led by last seasons leading tackler, junior Shaka Heyward.
Chris Rumph II
Chris Rumph capped off an illustrious Duke career, that included 17.5 sacks over his three years as a start, by declaring early and being a 4th round pick to the Los Angeles Chargers. He was Duke’s leading pass rusher last season with eight sacks. His production will be hard to replace, but the Blue Devils will look to senior Ben Frye, a converted defensive tackle who slide out to edge, to lead the position group and try and replicate last seasons total.
Duke not only loses their leading pass rusher from last season, but also their 2nd leading one as well. Dimukeje ended his four year Blue Devil with 21.5 total sacks and two straight all-ACC selections. He was a 6th round pick to the Arizona Cardinals. When a team has multiple talented pass rushers, it forces an offensive coordinator to have to game plan a way to get away with not being able to double team both of them and can interrupt an offenses rhythm.
2020 was a trying year for most teams and most people, but the Blue Devils struggled more than was expected. Unfortunately, 2021 doesn’t look as if it will be any easier for the Duke faithful. There is a new quarterback to break in, a young offense line that needs to gel. The defense needs to replace two of the top pass rushers in program history. The schedule is not the easiest, trips to UNC, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech, as well as home non-conference with Northwestern does the team no favors. It looks like another long fall in Durham before basketball season starts.