What We Know And Don't: Receivers

As TDD continues the summer preview of the 2005 football squad, it's time to hit on the topic of receivers and tight ends. With a good amount of turnover in the offseason, the Blue Devils will once again have young, but talented players occupying crucial roles. How will the freshmen adjust? Can Duke overcome the mistakes of youth? And isn't a QB supposed to throw the ball? TDD covers all this and more.

What we know: There is going to be lots of opportunities for the incoming freshmen to make an impact at wide receiver. Duke went through spring practice with only four pass catchers, senior Ronnie Elliot, junior Deon Adams, sophomore Jomar Wright, and January enrollee Ryan Wood.

Of those listed, only Elliot has more than 12 career receptions. He is a smallish receiver with good downfield speed. Wright is a much bigger and stronger target than Elliot, though he does not possess game-breaking speed. Adams has height and very good speed, but has not quite developed consistency with his route running and hands to be an every-down threat. Injuries have hindered his development somewhat, and after a healthy offseason, he is looking to make a big leap forward in production this fall.

Wood projects to be a reliable possession receiver that might need a year or two to adjust to the speed of the college game.

As a stark contrast, Duke owns a wealth of experience at tight end. Senior Andy Roland and junior Ben Patrick have more than ten career starts each. Patrick is probably the best pro prospect on the team. At 6-foot-4 270 pounds, he is a size mismatch for any defender that covers him. He also has very good speed for a player his size. Duke would be well advised to make Patrick the centerpiece of the passing game.

Roland is an accomplished blocker who is a reliable third down target. He can get open against linebackers and can out-muscle safeties when the ball is in the air.

Sophomore Nick Stefanow logged extensive minutes on special teams and saw spot duty on offense last season. As one of the strongest Blue Devils, he is physically ready to contribute more significantly on offense in 2005.

What we don't know: One or more of the incoming freshmen will have to play right away, and its possible that none of them will be ready. Raphael Chestnut and Marvin Marcellin are slender, quick players with sure hands and explosive ability. They might struggle with the physicality of the college game because of their lack of strength. One or both might need a year of weight work before being able to handle the rigors of college football.

Kris Stubbs is a taller, more physically imposing target that might be physically ready, but only played two years of high school football. He might need some seasoning before seeing the field. Eron Riley seems to be the most likely candidate to play immediately. He is probably the most physically ready of all of the freshman receiver recruits.

Another unknown is the role of multi-purpose threat Curt Dukes. He is currently listed as a quarterback on the roster; however, he will most likely be used in multiple roles in Bill O'Brien's offense. One of those roles will almost assuredly be as another target in the passing game. While he has loads of talent, his receiving skills have not been tested under game conditions.

Wildcard: Incoming freshman Marcus Jones will compete for playing time at quarterback. If he is unable to win the starting job, he will most likely move out to receiver. He has exceptional play-making skills that cannot be left on the bench in a backup quarterback capacity. Jones has impressive size and can use his body to shield defenders from the ball. While he doesn't have game-breaking speed, he will be a difficult match-up for opposing defenses in the red-zone and on third down situations.

What will happen: Either Ronnie Elliot or Ben Patrick will lead the Blue Devils in receptions. Patrick will be among the leaders in the conference in receptions for a tight end, and will contend for first time all-conference. If the Duke offense is clicking, he could emerge as the best tight end in the ACC.

Duke will need either Jomar Wright or Deon Adams step up and become a reliable second option at receiver. One of the freshmen, most likely Marcus Jones or Eron Riley, will catch 20 passes and emerge as a threat in the red-zone. Dukes will probably not be much of a downfield target, but will be very valuable on swing passes and bubble screens. His exceptional strength and power will make him difficult to bring down in the open field.

While light on experience, Duke has plenty of talent for QB Mike Schneider to work with. If Schneider continues to improve in his third season under center, expect the Blue Devil passing attack to nearly double their scoring production from a season ago.

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