Inside Carolina's Vote – 6th in the Coastal Division
2006 record (0-12, 0-8 ACC)
You have to give Ted Roof credit for attempting to resurrect the Duke football program. He helped organize the Duke Football Summit early this spring, a gathering of more than 200 football alumni designed to discuss the state of the Blue Devil program. Roof took that experience and enlisted the help of the university's Fuqua School of Business this summer to devise a strategic plan on how to build a winning program from the inside out. It may seem that Roof is simply trying to save his job (his record in Durham is 5-34) with these meetings and game plans, and while there is truth in that thought, it should also be noted that Duke has been irrelevant in collegiate football ever since Steve Spurrier left for Florida back in 1989. The football program lost nearly $1.7 million during the 2005-06 school year, due in large part to an attendance average of just 19,580 last fall – the lowest average of all BCS schools. Regardless of what takes place off the field, Roof can fix a myriad of problems by just winning on the field. Victories lead to media attention, which helps attract recruits and booster donations. With an 0-12 mark last season, the first step is to win a couple of games this fall, and Roof believes a veteran offense can help the Blue Devils toward those victories.
Offense: New OC Peter Vaas comes from Notre Dame as Brady Quinn's QB coach, and has 11 returning starters to work with this season. Sophomore QB Thaddeus Lewis (53% comp, 2,134 yds, 11 tds, 16 ints) made freshman mistakes in '06, but his athleticism presented problems for some opposing defenses. Sophomore QB Zack Asack (966 yds, 5 tds, 8 ints in '05) is also back from suspension, giving Vaas options under center. Senior WR Jomar Wright [pictured, right] (41 rec, 561 yds, 2 tds) and junior WR Eron Riley (32 rec, 643 yds, 3 tds) give the QBs some viable targets, and junior HB Re'quan Boyette (87 car, 388 yds, 2 tds) looks to build on his success in '06.
Defense: While there is hope on offense, DC Scott Brown is not as fortunate on the defensive side of the ball. The '06 defense allowed 33.8 PPG (114th nationally) and gave up 395.3 ypg (105th nationally). With only five starters back, the Blue Devils may turn to some athletic underclassmen to increase team speed. Junior MLB Michael Tauiliili (93 tkl, 9.5 tfl) and senior DE Patrick Bailey (77 tkl, 3.5 sacks) are both playmakers, but they are going to need a ton of help upfront in the physical ACC. Senior FS Chris Davis (64 tkl, 4 pbu) and junior SS Adrian Aye-Darko (55 tkl, 3 pbu) are the leaders in the secondary.
Special Teams: Senior K Joe Surgan must improve on last year‘s numbers (3-10, long of 40) if the Blue Devils are to compete for some victories. RS freshman P Kevin Jones is expected to replace the graduated Alex Feinberg (37.6 avg. in '06), but Duke will have Leon Wright (6.1 punt return avg.) and Jabari Marshall (25.1 kickoff return avg.) back to return kicks. The kickoff coverage was solid in '06, allowing only 18.8 ypr (30th nationally), but the punt coverage unit needs to stop allowing big plays (10.7 ypr, 2 tds allowed in '06).
Schedule: Duke is one of the few schools in the nation that has more games on the road than at home. While this may be an improved squad, it is going to be difficult for Duke to improve on last season's record. Three road OOC contests (Northwestern, Navy and Notre Dame) don't give the Blue Devils' faithful much reason to expect an upset, but the Connecticut game at Wallace Wade over Labor Day weekend should make for an interesting contest. The ACC schedule is brutal, with Duke drawing FSU, Clemson and Wake Forest out of the Atlantic Division.
Top Newcomer: Zack Asack. The Westwood, Mass. native missed the '06 season but his return this fall adds another option at QB for Roof & Co. He made a number of quality plays as a true freshman, and his quickness forces defenses to account for his ability to flee the pocket.
Key Game: Vs. Connecticut on Sept. 1. The Huskies are coming off a 4-8 season with several blowout losses in '06, and this may be Duke's best chance to notch a victory this fall, with four consecutive road games following this contest.
Roof on having 11 starters back on offense: "There is no substitute for experience -- having been there and done it, and understanding what's required. Then you get into a whole other level of things when you have experience and growth, so I think it has translated into an increased level of performance. "
Davis on the offense: "Our entire offense is coming back, even our second string guys are back. We have a returning starter at quarterback and we have a lot of depth and experience at different spots. We have a lot of young guys with athletic ability and speed."
Word from the Beat: "I think having 11 starters returning on offense obviously is a plus for Duke. Unlike a lot of teams in the ACC, they've got a positive at the quarterback position. Thaddeus can be a good quarterback, and Zack Asack showed potential two years ago when he had a chance to play. But if you look overall, this is just a team that doesn't have the athletes to probably even contend for a bowl bid. It's a difficult situation right now at Duke, because they are recruiting off a lack of success. So that's a team that's going to be tough to turn around." -- Ken Tysiac, Charlotte Observer
S. 1 Connecticut
S. 8 at Virginia
S. 15 at Northwestern
S. 22 at Navy
S. 29 at Miami
O. 6 Wake Forest
O. 13 Virginia Tech
O. 20 bye
O. 27 at Florida State
N. 3 Clemson
N. 10 Georgia Tech
N. 17 at Notre Dame
N. 24 at UNC