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Five Opponents To Know: Virginia

As the Blue Devils look ahead to Saturday’s match-up against Virginia, TDD takes a look at five players who could make a difference for the Cavaliers in Wallace Wade Stadium.

Duke returns home to Wallace Wade Stadium to begin a two-game home stand.  The first game will be against Virginia and will be broadcast regionally on the Raycom Sports Network.  The Cavaliers and Blue Devils both snapped losing streaks last week and enter the game on high notes.

Here are five players who may ask big questions of the Duke offensive and defense at various times throughout the game.

Top 5 to watch: Virginia Cavaliers

1. QB Kurt Benkert (6-4, 230, Jr.):
 A first year starter, Benkert is coming off the best game of his career - and one of the best games in program history - against Central Michigan.  The junior passed for a school record 421 yards (27-of-43) and five touchdowns.    Through four games Benkert has passed for more than 1,110 yards which is the best start to a season in program history.  A big quarterbak who excels in the pocket, but who struggles to evade pressure when the protection breaks down.  Duke leads the nation in sacks, and Virginia has surrendered 10 of them, so it’s a fair bet that the Blue Devils will get to the new Cavalier starter.  The question, however, will be how many times and what kind of consistent pressure can be applied as Benkert is more than capable of making a defense pay if given enough time.  A season ago the Blue Devils were not able to get into the Virginia backfield with regularity and surrendered 344 yards and two touchdowns to Matt Johns.

2015 vs. Duke: DNP.

2. RB Albert Reid (5-9, 215, Sr.): Much like the Blue Devils, the Cavaliers have a talented tandem of backs available with Reid and Taquan Mizzell.  A season ago Mizzell racked up 113 total yards and three touchdowns in the Virginia win.  Meanwhile, Reid carried just seven times for 22 yards.  A year later and the duo has teamed up nicely with   Reid establishing himself as one of two starting RBs (listed as WR/RB), and Mizzell being asked to carry just shy of half of the workload as the starting tailback.  Through four games Reid has delivered, averaging 69 yards per game and 6.0 yards per carry while adding three scores.  Mizzell has countered with 50 yards per contest and 5.3 yards per carry and is also a thread out one backfield with 161 career receptions.  In short, Duke is going to get a heavy dose of a ground game that can produce and has against the Blue Devils in the past.  Earlier this season Reid ran for 126 yards against Oregon.  

2015 vs. Duke: 7 carries for 22 yards.

3. WR Olamide Zaccheaus (5-9, 215, Sr.): With Berkert having such a strong start to the year, it makes sense to examine who is on the opposite end of his passes.  The main answer has been Zaccheaus who leads the Cavaliers with 22 catches and 298 receiving yards on the season.  Those numbers ballooned against Central Michigan as the speed slot receiver rolled up 141 yards on eight catches including an 82 yard touchdown.  Much like former Blue Devil Desmond Scott, Zaccheaus converted from running back to receiver and has also factored in on the kick return duties.  A season ago he showcased big play ability with a 50 yard pass reception for touchdown against Duke

2015 v. Duke: 3 catches for 89 yards and 1 TD; 3 carries for 20 yards.  

4. LB Micah Kiser (6-2, 240, Jr.): Middle linebacker Kiser leads the ACC with 10.0 tackles per game in his second season as a full time starter.  In 16 career starts he’s recorded 157 total stops and he’s recorded double digit tackles in nine of those 16 games.  That kind of production isn’t a surprise as he was the league leader a year ago with 9.8 stops per game.  A season ago he gave the Duke offense fits, recording 17 stops and 1 sack. Duke’s offensive line more than held its own against Notre Dame last week, and will need to do more of the same as the Cavaliers bring pressure early in an attempt to rattle QB Daniel Jones.    

2015 v. Duke: 17 tackles, 1.0 sacks

5. LE Andrew Brown (6-4, 290, Jr.):  Third year defensive lineman Andrew Brown came to college rated as a five star prospect and the top defensive tackle in the country.  After two years, Brown may be starting to figure it all out - which could be a problem for opposing offensive coordinators.   As part of UVa’s three man front, Brown has recorded 2.0 sacks and four tackles per game for Virginia.  Much like picking up Kiser when he shows pressure, the Duke offensive line will need to figure out and scheme for Brown as he comes off the left side.  

2015 v. Duke:  1 tackle (QB sack) for 7 yards.

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