An Offseason look: Duke

A national cell phone company helped sponsor Duke's annual spring game, passing out 1,000 free T-shirts. <BR><BR> This time, there were enough fans to accept the gift.

The Blue Devils completed a positive spring under new coach Ted Roof, mixing some solid offense with improved defense and creating some excitement for the 2004 season.

"The people appreciate a great effort, so we're going to have to play that way all year," Roof said. "I thought we played with great enthusiasm."

Senior quarterback Chris Dapolito appeared to have secured a starting job with a strong performance in the spring game, completing 13 of 24 passes for 88 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for a score. Roof said the competition will remain open throughout the preseason.

After being thrust into an interim role, and leading Duke to a pair of victories in the last five games last season, Roof hopes to reward the school who stuck with him.

"We were able to carry a positive attitude from the end of the season into winter, and now we must continue with a good mindset (into spring practice)," Roof said. "Two of the biggest things we'll look to accomplish in spring practice is the development of chemistry and the emergence of leadership.

Roof was able lure Marty Galbraith, a well-respected veteran, as his offensive coordinator. The defensive coordinator role will be shared by Jerry Azzinaro and Scott Brown.

The new staff has a lot of challenges. The Blue Devils need to replace four of five offensive line starters, as well as tailback Chris Douglas, an All-ACC performer, who left as the school's all-time rushing leader.

Preseason Predictions: Quarterbacks ranked eighth in ACC by Athlon.

Key Game: Sept. 11 at Connecticut -- After opening at Navy, the Blue Devils have a chance to make a statement on improvement against a Big East team that raised some attention last season. Duke needs to win its three non-conference games (The Citadel is the other), then hope to get three ACC wins and have a winning season.

The Mindset: The program will have to deal with tragedy this season, as senior defensive end Micah Harris was killed in a car accident June 11. Harris reportedly fell asleep at the wheel before his car crashed into a median on a Virginia road. Several people tried to extricate Harris from his car before it burned, but they were unable to do so. Harris was a two-year starter. "It's a sad day, a big loss for his family and our football family," Duke coach Ted Roof said.

Big Shoes to Fill: TB Chris Douglas -- The all-purpose back set Duke school records for career rushing yards and all-purpose yards. He was a first-team All-ACC player and became only the third ACC player in history to amass 500-plus rushing yards and catch 20-plus passes in four consecutive seasons. His replacements are redshirt freshman Aaron Fryer and sophomore Cedric Dargan who will help form a tailback-by-committee approach.

Quote to Note: "I think we've got some work to do establishing an identity for our football team ... what we are, and who the guys are that are going to take the bull by the horns. We've made some strides, but we've still got work to do." -- Duke coach Ted Roof assessing how his team finished spring practice.

Projected Stars on Offense: WR Senterrio Landrum -- As junior, Landrum finished sixth nationally in kick returns with 709 yards. He's the fastest Duke player, but must improve his route-running and pass-catching skills in order to become more than just a special teams star.

QB Chris Dapolito -- Took over in the spring and may have earned a full-time starting role. Dapolito is a senior with a decent arm and some mobility. Could be a perfect fit.

Projected Stars on Defense: LB Brendan Dewan -- The team's leading returning tackler with 91 stops last season. CB Kenneth Stanford -- A senior who has 30 pass breakups in his career. Top Stories