Duke suffered unexpected attrition here, with the dismissals of Lance Johnson and Khary Sharpe during the off-season. There is a prime opportunity for some younger players to step forward, and some incoming freshmen to shine. Senior Senterrio Landrum is the leader of the group. He is short in stature (5'8"), but has great speed and can stretch the defense. Big things are expected out of sophomore Deon Adams. He has more size and speed than is usually seen on the perimeter. The 2004 recruiting class will pay the most immediate dividends at this position, where three true freshmen could see significant minutes this season.
The most heralded recruit, Chancellor Young, is very physically advanced for a freshman and will compete for a starting spot right away. Not to be outdone, Jomar Wright and Corey Thompson showed up for preseason practice in great shape and will be challenging for playing time as well.
With the freshmen, along with Adams, Duke has 4 receivers with big-time college size and ability. Young give Duke an FSU-like deep threat on the perimeter, which has not been seen in Durham since Scottie Montgomery in the late 90's.
Despite the ability of the younger players, the fact is there virtually no experience at receiver. Many of the Blue Devil receivers will be thrown into the fire whether they are ready or not. Since the conference is so deep at defensive back, the Devils could have some serious growing pains here.
Duke desperately needs a non-freshman player to step up and produce. Landrum might be the guy, but his size is a tough hurdle to overcome. Adams has promise, but has only one career catch (albeit for 21 yards).
There are six receivers who were not mentioned above, Ben Kittleson, Jamin Pastore, Ronnie Elliot, Kendral Felder, Mark Wigal, and converted CB Deonto McCormick. One or more of them will need to step up in a big way, otherwise, Duke will be in the unenviable position of having to rely on true freshmen for production. That is a risky proposition at best.
While Duke has great inexperience at receiver, the tight end position is stocked with guys who have produced at the college level. 2003 starter Andy Roland has great hands and is a good blocker, especially leading out of the backfield. Sophomore Ben Patrick is the biggest and most athletically gifted player at TE. He's not as strong a blocker as Roland, but can hold his own. He is blessed with outstanding speed to go along with his 260-pound frame, and is a nightmare match-up for linebackers. Senior Calen Powell is a good all-around athlete who provides a reliable target for underneath routes. Freshman Nick Stefanow will have a tough time seeing the field ahead of these three, but he is a good prospect who will have an impact down the line.
Duke is stocked at this position, and can afford an injury or two with little drop-off in production. Any ones of the four can be counted on to produce when in the game.
While the position is important to offensive schemes, tight end is rarely a position where big plays are produced. Offensive coordinator Marty Galbreath will need to be creative to take advantage of the depth here.
Duke has three tight ends that would see the field for any team in the ACC, and a fourth who is a solid prospect. Don't be surprised if either Roland or Patrick is the leading receiver for the Devils in 2004.