Biggest Commitment(s): Charlotte running back Jela Duncan had everyone fooled. He even indicated that Duke had been eliminated earlier this week on his Twitter account. However, on Signing Day Duke's top backfield target for class sent the coaching staff into celebrations as he pulled a Blue Devil hat out of his bag at an early press conference. Duncan is built similarly to current RB Juwan Thompson and runs with the same tenacity. As a junior he averaged nearly 13 yards per carry for Mallard Creek and followed that up with a senior season that included 2,200 yards and 30 touchdowns on 208 carries (10.6-average) and was named the I-Meck Conference Offensive Player-of-the-Year.
Honorable Mention: Quarterback Thomas Sirk enrolled at Duke in January and may be Duke's most physically gifted quarterback from day one. At 6'5 and 215 pounds the coaching staff was raving about the Florida product from the second he arrived on campus. With Sean Renfree entering his last season in Durham, look for Sirk to challenge program No.2 Anthony Boone almost immediately in 2013.
After landing a big time TE prospect on Signing Day 2011, the Blue Devils wasted little time in landing another big timer when Raleigh, NC's Dan Beilinson picked Duke over NC State. A three star prospect and the nation's No. 29 tight end, Beilinson was Duke's top rated positional commit in the class. Several programs tried to sway the Panther Creek High prospect down the stretch and especially at the Shrine Bowl, and it's easy to see why. Beilinson has the measureables (6'5, 235 pounds) and the production to attract many top programs.
Then there's Las Vegas running back Shaquille Powell, the nation's No. 44 overall running back prospect who picked Duke over a host of offers including Arizona State, Illinois, San Diego State, UNLV, Utah, and Vanderbilt. Powell has good size at 5'10 and 200 pounds. He has adequate speed, but it's his vision and balance that make him an outstanding runner. Defenders just slide off of him as he keeps his center of gravity, churns his legs and twists his torso. As a junior he rushed for 2,458 yards and scored 40 TDs helping Gorman, ranked in Scout.com's national top 25, to the state championship.
Perhaps the most important potential upgrade is at kicker where Ross Martin will take over for the departed Will Snyderwine. The kicking game was quite a liability for most of 2011 and Martin, the nation's second rated kicker will be expected to come in and contribute right away.
Most Likely To Be Seen In 2011: Max McCaffrey and/or Anthony Nash could be called upon to give the receiving corps some depth, size, and athleticism. Nash in particular at 6'5 and with a 4.4 forty on the books, is a candidate to avoid a redshirt. Nash, much like Sirk, didn't commit full-time to football until late in his high school career - actually rating as a three star basketball recruit for a while. With a 4.4 forty time at Duke's summer camp and with the size of an NFL receiver, it's not hard to see him getting some time early on.
Biggest Sleeper of the Class: Offensive tackle Casey Blaser committed to the program in the middle of the summer and has the frame and the footwork to become an impact offensive tackle after he takes a few years to bulk up and add weight to his frame. Another player who excelled in the one-on-one drills during camp, look for Blaser to factor into the protection scheme beginning in the 2014 season.
Honorable Mention: The first commit of the season, Erich Schneider played receiver throughout his high school career but will transition full-time to a pass catching tight end much like Danny Parker. Additionally, offensive guard Tanner Stone is another lineman with a great frame to add 40 pounds or so to. With good feet and flexibility Stone is a bit of a project, but if he can add the weight needed, he'll be a very effective player down the line on the interior of the line.
Complete Offensive Recruiting Class Breakdown:
?QB: Thomas Sirk (6'5, 215)
?RB: Jela Ducnan (5'10, 195), Shaquille Powell (5'10, 200)
?WR: Max McCaffrey (6'3, 190), Anthony Nash (6'5, 190)?
TE: Dan Beilinson (6'5, 230), Erich Schneider (6'6, 200)?
OL: Casey Blaser (6'5, 255), Tanner Stone (6'6, 255)
K: Ross Martin (5'10, 180)