Knowing the Opponent - Duke

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets face the Blue Devils of Duke this week in the Jacket's ACC finale. What do we know about Duke? The Devil's Den Staff answers questions about the Duke football team.

How does Thad Lewis respond to pressure from both defenses and this being Duke's first chance at having a good season in a while?

TDD - It definitely is an odd position to be in. Here we have a guy that is going to likely own every career passing mark at Duke and rank very high in conference record books yet the team has not had much success during his tenure. Sure he's made some mistakes on the way, but he's been a great player for Duke during his four years. One of his best attributes is his resiliency. No matter who he's playing, he handles pressure very well I wouldn't be surprised if he isn't thinking about Duke's chance at a non-losing season for the first time in 15 years, but at the end of the day, I think he'll be able to block all of that out and focus on the task at hand. I'm more worried about the pressure from the GT defense. Granted, the Tech front is not as formidable as last season, but with Derrick Morgan being the elite pass rusher in the conference, Lewis will undoubtedly have some pressure to deal with.

How does Duke play the running game? Do they rely on their linebackers or try to use pressure of the line getting in the backfield to disrupt the play? Is Duke fairly strong at the point of attack on defense (short yardage rushing has been key in all of our big wins)?

TDD - Last week against Carolina was the first time I would say that Duke did not defend the point of attack very well. For the rest of the season, however, Duke has been very good at defending inside rushes. Duke best defensive player is DT Vince Oghobaase. He's a sure-fire NFL pick and is very difficult to move. What makes him tough to handle is that he's athletic enough to fend off cut blocking. Duke also has a couple other DTs, including true freshman John Drew, that will also pose problems for the Tech offensive line. MLB Vince Rey is one of the conferences best. The thing I'm most worried about is Duke's play at outside linebacker. There isn't a lot of experience there and it is probably Duke's least capable unit. The one thing that is good for Duke against the option is that our secondary tackles very well, especially the corners. They are good at fighting off receiver blocks and getting runners to the ground.

How is the atmosphere at Wade these days? What's the expected attendance this weekend?

TDD - I expect the attendance to be very good. Since the arrival of David Cutcliffe, Duke has averaged 7,000 or so more fans per game. Duke has the literal version of fair-weather fans. The attendance for the Maryland and NC Central games was not good because both were played in very wet conditions. Driving rainstorms are not fun to stand around and watch a football game in, and we've seen two of those so far this year. Its pouring right now, but Saturday is shaping up to be a beautiful fall day. That combined with a 5-4 record and a quality opponent like Tech should bring a nearly full stadium.

How is the return/coverage game this season?

TDD - The coverage teams have been Jekyll and Hyde this year. At times we look like an NFL team. At others we look like a peewee team. Duke's punt coverage has been very good. The outside gunners are fast and do not miss tackles. Duke can be had in kick coverage. We've given up a TD (against NC State) and have had few others returned to midfield. Since the State game, however, this unit has played dramatically better.

Has pass protection played a big part in Lewis' progression?

TDD - Absolutely. I don't care if you are Peyton Manning, if you don't have time to throw, you aren't going to be successful. Duke's pass protection early in the year was atrocious. Then a light went on before the Virginia Tech game and it got better. Then the light went back off a few weeks back, and Duke couldn't keep Virginia or UNC off of Lewis. Duke is a better football team than Virginia, so they were able to overcome it. UNC, however, played an A+ game defensively and Duke had no answer. This actually leads into what I think is one of the big keys to the game this weekend. The reason UNC was so successful was their ability to get to Lewis without blitzing. When teams have blitzed Lewis, he has picked them apart. If Tech can do the game, Duke is in trouble. If they are forced to blitz, Duke will score points.

Who is Duke's best open field tackler?

TDD - There are a few to choose from. MLB Vince Rey can go from sideline to sideline and make plays. Safety Matt Daniels is a thumper in the secondary. But my pick would be CB Leon Wright. He's small (5'9", 170) but has textbook technique. I don't remember him missing a tackle this year. Also, despite his size, he's very difficulty to run over. UNC's Ryan Houston tried to use his 240 lbs and bowl Wright over last week. UM, that didn't go over so well. Right just got underneath him and put him on his back. This week, however, I think Wright's tackling will be secondary. He will probably be paired with Tech's great receiver Demaryius Thomas. Last year, Thomas worked him over pretty good. Wright is second in the conference in interceptions and passed defended. I think Wright will offer much more resistance this time around. The size disparity will be a big concern though.


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