The 2018 spring college football rankings, taking the first look at the Duke Blue Devils.
No. 60: Duke Blue Devils
Spring Practice Starts: March 21
Spring Game: April 14
Duke Blue Devils Spring Status
All’s well that ends well.
The Blue Devils started well, sputtered with six straight losses, and closed out with three wins, including a bowl victory over Northern Illinois. But it was a bit too much of a struggle, and there were too many near-missed.
In a season-was-half-full sort of way, Duke lost four games by a touchdown or less, only getting rocked by killers Miami and Virginia Tech. And now, this year’s team needs to be good enough to win those closer battles.
Getting back QB Daniel Jones is a good start, and welcoming back most of the top receivers helps, too. The O line has to replace three starters, and RB Shaun Wilson is done, but the offense shouldn’t be too much of a concern by the start of the season.
The defensive side is the reason to be fired up, getting back eight starters including most of the front seven. Not having safety Alonzo Saxton around hurts, but it’s going to be a much stronger D.
And a much stronger Duke.
Duke Biggest Depth Chart Battle
Offensive tackle. It’s not like the line was a rock, but it turned out okay late in the season. Now it has to replace C Austin Davis, and tackles Evan Lisle and Gabe Brandner. There will be battles throughout the offseason for the spots, with sophomore Jaylen Miller getting a long look on the right side – even though he’s a guard – and with a six-man fight for the two gigs.
Duke Biggest Issue
The downfield passing game has to show up. Jones had a decent year, but he only averaged 5.9 yards per attempt after averaging 6.5 yards per throw two seasons ago. The Duke attack doesn’t do much to bomb away, relying on the midrange plays, but there aren’t any big yards happening after the catch. It would be nice to be up around 12 yards per catch, and the Blue Devils haven’t been even close.
Duke Biggest Positive
Linebackers. The receiving corps is a nice returning piece, too, with the top three wideouts from last year returning, including T.J. Rahming and his 65 grabs. But the linebacking corps is stronger, getting back do-it-all star Joe Giles-Harris – after making 125 tackles with 16 tackles for loss – along with Ben Humphreys and Koby Quansah. Get ready for this group to quietly be among the ACC’s most productive corps.
Really, Why Are The Duke Blue Devils Ranked Here?
There’s a lot to like defensively, and there’s hope for Jones to progress as the type of consistent quarterback who can carry the offense a little more. There’s always going to be a talent gap, and there needs to be more offensive explosion, but there’s enough returning to expect another bowl trip.