With Josh Snead expected to be listed as doubtful for the opener, the Blue Devil running and return game have been impacted. The starter, Desmond Scott, remains the same as the preseason, but Juwan Thompson's extremely strong off season and camp have left him as the named "second back". The third string/short yardage back will likely be Patrick Kurunwune who will also be the first team kick-off return team.
The wide outs feature the familiar trio of Conner Vernon, Donovan Varner, and Brandon Braxton as the starters. Behind those three are a pair of potential impact freshmen who will not be redshirting in 2011. Both Blair Holliday and Jamison Crowder are expected to see the field throughout the year with Crowder seeing time at receiver and as the second returner on the first kick-off team.
Much has been made of the changes along the offensive line after center Brian Moore was lost for several weeks with a broken right arm. In his place will be converted guard David Harding, backed up by Conner Irwin. The remainder of the interior of the line will be made up of redshirt sophomore John Coleman and redshirt freshman Laken Tomlinson. True freshman Lucas Patrick is listed as a backup guard on the 2-deep, but barring a number of players being sidelined due to injury, he will not get on the field in 2011. The tackles will be fifth year senior Kyle Hill and redshirt sophomore Perry Simmons. Takoby Cofield will be the primary backup on the exterior of the line.
When the depth chart was released earlier this week it caused a number of posts on the message board regarding both the moves and the youth of the potential defensive line in the opener. At defensive end much was made of the listing of Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo replacing Keny Anunike as the starter. While the redshirt freshman has enjoyed an extremely strong camp, look for Anunike to move back as the listed starter based both on experience and not missing a week of camp with an ankle injury. Justin Foxx remains the listed starter on the right side of the line where he's backed up by Jamal Wallace.
Duke's 4-2-5 system is light on linebackers and long on defensive backs. Still the two starting linebackers are expected to have speed and enough size to work in the run game. Enter second year starter Kelby Brown who has fully recovered from a season ending knee injury in 2010 and junior Austin Gamble. Freshman David Helton is the only freshman linebacker expected to see time in the rotation on defense while classmates Britton Grier and Jonathan Woodruff will likely see time on special teams only.
Cornerback sees converted wide receiver Johnny Williams on one side with redshirt sophomore Ross Cockrell on the other. Junior Zach Greene is also expected to get a high number of snaps as are Tony Foster and Garrett Patterson.
The three safeties feature Duke's best defensive player, Matt Daniels. being flanked by converted linebacker August Campbell and junior Walt Canty. Anthony Young-Wiseman is back in playing shape after a serious knee injury derailed his first two years in Durham and is listed as a backup to Campbell. Look for Jordan Byas to also get on the field early and often against the Spiders.
*- The average starting offensive lineman for Duke measures 6-foot-4 and a half feet tall and 295 pounds. The defensive linemen average out at 6-foot-3 and a half feet tall and 269 pounds.
*- The offense starting 11 have, on average, 3.3 years of experience. The defensive starters average 3.4 years of experience. The primary reserves on offense average 2.5 years while the defensive reserves average 2.8 years of experience.
*- Freshmen expected to avoid a redshirt include Blair Holliday (WR), Jamison Crowder (WR/S Teams), Britton Grier (S Teams), Jonathan Woodruff (S Teams), and David Helton (LB).
*- Of 22 listed positional starters, 12 (60 percent) have taken advantage of a redshirt year. Eight players did not redshirt during their careers: Desmond Scott, Conner Vernon, Donovan Varner, Cooper Helfet (junior college transfer), Kelby Brown, Austin Gamble, Johnny Williams, Matt Daniels, and Walt Canty.
*- Every offensive lineman expected to play on Saturday against Richmond has sat out a year for a redshirt.