2006 Preview: Runningbacks

Duke returns a wealth of depth in the backfield. Tailbacks Justin Boyle and Re'Quan Boyette as well as Devil Back Ronnie Drummer all started games last season. Boyle was among the ACC touchdown leaders in 2005, finding the end-zone nine times.

He has shown a nose for finding holes and is nearly impossible to bring down on first contact. Boyette splashed onto the scene as a freshman with a 123-yard effort in his first college start against Florida State. He is more of a home-run threat than Boyle, but does not run as well between the tackles.

Drummer will be worked into the lineup as a "Devil Back". This position will most likely be a running back/slot back hybrid, which will allow Drummer to use his blazing speed and quickness on the outside. Drummer only carried the ball 33 times in 2005, but made the most of his touches by averaging 10.2 yards per carry.

Beyond these three, the Devils also have a few more options at their disposal. Promising sophomore Clifford Harris has shown big-play ability in practice and received a few carries last season. Junior Aaron Fryer also returns to the program after a red-shirt year. Fryer contributed in spot duty as a freshman and sophomore, and will vie with the others for playing time. Duke also will welcome transfer Tielor Robinson in to the picture at fullback. He saw significant game action his first two seasons at Army, and led the team in rushing as a sophomore.

Having Robinson at FB will provide Duke with a punishing lead blocker as well as a short-yardage and receiving threat out of the backfield. Incoming freshman Brandon King, the #2 rated fullback prospect in the nation, will most likely spell Robinson.

The Good News:
The quality depth at running back is the best Duke has seen in a long time. There are 3 proven ACC-caliber running backs the Devils can use in Boyle, Boyette and Drummer. Add to that the promise of Harris and King, the proven experience of Robinson, and the hopeful return of Aaron Fryer, the Devils are sitting pretty in the backfield.

The Bad News:
Despite the number of options at the Devils' disposal, none of those mentioned have carried the load on a game-to-game basis. Boyette, Boyle and Drummer all recorded 100-yard efforts last year, but none were able to stay in the lineup. Boyle suffered two different injuries due to his bruising style. Drummer is a smallish back who probably cannot stand up to the constant pounding the Duke tailbacks will take this season because of a questionable offensive line. Boyette seems to be a prototypical every-down back, but he got dinged up last season as well. At least Duke will have plenty of replacements should someone get injured.

What will happen:
Justin Boyle will once again be one of the ACC's best short-yardage backs. With Tielor Robinson leading the way, Duke should be able to find a few running lanes despite the inexperience along the line. Boyette will split tine with Boyle in the backfield, and will receive the bulk of the 3rd and long reps. Robinson will share some of the short-yardage duties with Boyle and will be part of a jumbo alignment with King and Boyle along the goal-line. Drummer will more than double his reception total from last season, and will see the occasion carry on reverses and misdirection plays. Harris and Fryer will fight for the occasional spot carry, and could move into more prominent roles should the top guys falter.

Is this group Not Ready, Can Compete, ACC-ready, Good as any team?

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