Preview 2016

Duke Preview 2016: Blue Devil Golden Age

The Duke football outlook for 2016 season finds the Blue Devils in the midst of a golden age under head coach David Cutcliffe.

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Duke now expects to win, year-in and year-out, one of the many cultural paradigm shifts instigated by David Cutcliffe almost a decade ago.

From top to bottom, the Blue Devils are a completely different program than when Cut arrived in Durham. They practice and prepare differently, attack seasons with higher expectations and produce consistent results like no other Duke teams of the modern era. Not quite Stanford, but definitely Northwestern in terms of brainy institutions playing football.

Duke took another important step last season, defeating Indiana in the Pinstripe Bowl for its first postseason win since 1960. It was a seminal moment on the timeline for the Blue Devils, and it carried over to February, when the staff inked a historically good recruiting class. The upcoming season is all about remaining on track, earning a fifth straight bowl bid and extending the brand’s reach.

Unfortunately, the offseason got off to a rough start. Linchpin QB Thomas Sirk ruptured his Achilles tendon during conditioning drills in February, a potentially devastating blow. Sure, the setback occurred early enough for a possible return in the fall, but junior Parker Boehme, a veteran of one career start, is prepping as if he’ll be the guy in the opener. Considering how well the Blue Devils have played in recent years, the program has been remarkably luckless in the area of offseason injuries to pivotal players.

With or without Sirk, Duke will need a collaboration of efforts to maintain its current trend. Of last season’s eight All-ACC honorees, six have graduated, including the reliable special teams tandem of P Will Monday and PK Ross Martin.

Since clear-cut star power is absent, the Blue Devils will want to run the ball and utilize the tight ends on offense, with fingers crossed that the perennially stable O-line can withstand a new look on the interior. On defense, maximizing the ability of a solid back seven really depends on the front four. Yeah, Duke can be pretty good on defense, but only if the ends and tackles can routinely move the pile.

Fresh off the best three-year stretch in Blue Devil history—and the first bowl win in more than half a century—Cutcliffe has ushered in a golden age of football in Durham. And while there are challenges ahead, such as the health of the quarterback, there are few reasons to think that well-coached Duke won’t continue to shoot for winning seasons, postseason berths and Coastal Division contention.