Scouting Syracuse's next opponent: Duke

Everything you need to know about Syracuse's next opponent, the Duke Blue Devils.

Scouting the Offense

Despite their reputation, Duke’s offense is a run-first, horizontal passing attack offense. They will spend the entire game in the shotgun and mix the run and pass from there. The Blue Devils run a lot of draws, dives and traps while utilizing the zone-read from time to time.

Duke will take their shots downfield on occasion, but use a lot of quick, short, horizontal throws. Bubble screens, swing passes and quick slants are the focal point of their passing attack. The idea is to get the ball into the hands of their quality skill position group in space and let them make plays.

Projected Starters

Quarterback

Anthony Boone

Running Back

Shaquille Powell

Wide Receiver

Max McCaffrey

Wide Receiver

Jamison Crowder

Wide Receiver

Issac Blakeney

Tight End

David Reeves

Left Tackle

Takoby Cofield

Left Guard

Lucas Patrick

Center

Matt Skura

Right Guard

Laken Tomlinson

Right Tackle

Casey Blaser

Key Players

QB Anthony Boone: Boone is a solid quarterback who, despite the plethora of short passes, is completing less than 60% of his attempts. He has a solid arm but not elite. Boone takes care of the ball, throwing only three interceptions on the season compared to 12 touchdowns. He has some running ability but is not a pure dual threat like Syracuse has seen in the past.

WR Jamison Crowder: One of the better receivers in the conference, Crowder will test the tackling ability of the Syracuse secondary. He is at his best in the open field and can turn any bubble screen into a big play. Crowder is as dangerous as it gets with the ball in his hands, despite his 5-foot-9 frame.

OG Lake Tomlinson: A senior leader, Tomlinson is one of the most important players on the Blue Devils offense. He has been a staple of their offense for the past few seasons and makes all of the protection calls and adjustments along the offensive line. He is key to their pass protection and opening up rushing lanes between the tackles.

Running Backs: Duke will rotate four running backs into the game. True freshman Shaun Wilson may be the best of the bunch in terms of a high ceiling and big play ability. He is a true homerun threat. Shaq Powell is the starter and has the trust of the coaching staff. He is at his best between the tackles. Reserves Josh Snead and Joseph Ajeigbe also receive touches. They are balanced running backs who can help in the passing game and run between the tackles. Think of this rotation as Wilson being their Ervin Philips, Powell their Prince-Tyson Gulley and Snead and Ajeigbe their DeVante McFarlane and George Morris.

Weaknesses

The Duke offense is efficient and productive. Their biggest issue is the lack of a receiving threat at tight end. They do not have a player who can make plays in the middle of the field to keep defenses honest. Therefore, it would not be surprising to see Syracuse swarm the edges to gang tackle on the horizontal passing attack.

Overall

The Duke offense is one of the best in the conference with maybe the deepest group of receivers. All of them are threats to make a big play, with Crowder leading the way. The Blue Devils are the nation’s best at holding onto the ball, only turning it over five times this season. Head coach David Cutcliffe is an offensive mastermind and will find ways to attack any opponent.

Scouting the Defense

Duke runs a nickel-base defense with three safeties, two linebackers and four defensive linemen. The third safety, called a strike safety, is a linebacker/safety hybrid who can play against the run and pass and often spends time in the box.

They bring pressure frequently and rely on that for their pass rush. The secondary plays primarily man coverage but will mix in some zone looks to confuse the opposing quarterback.

Starters

Defensive End

Dezmond Johnson

Defensive Tackle

Jamal Bruce

Defensive Tackle

Carlos Wray

Defensive End

Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo

Middle Linebacker

David Helton

Weakside Linebacker

C.J. France

Corner

Bryon Fields

Corner

Breon Borders

Safety

Deondre Singleton

Safety

Jeremy Cash

Safety

Devon Edwards

Key Players

S Jeremy Cash: He plays the striker safety and is often in the box. Plays a role similar to what Charles Woodson did for the Packers when they won the Super Bowl a few years ago. Cash is a strong safety type who plays smart in the box, solid in coverage and plays physically. He is the defense’s best playmaker and has a knack for creating turnovers.

S DeVon Edwards: Edwards is a speed guy who is great in coverage. He can shift down to corner and shut down opposing receivers despite playing primarily at safety. He has good ball skills and is a strong open field tackler.

DE Dezmond Johnson: Johnson is a long, lean athlete who looks like he could play tight end. He comes from a basketball background and is very athletic. Johnson is Duke’s best edge rusher.

Overall

The Duke defense has been quite solid throughout most of the season. They lack a consistent pass rush, which is why they blitz so often. Their secondary is filled with quality athletes who cover and tackle well. The defensive line is the clear weakness.

Scouting the Special Teams

Projected Starters

Kicker

Ross Martin

Punter

Will Monday

Punt Returner

Jamison Crowder

G

Kick returners

DeVon Edwards

Shaquille Powell

Breakdown

K Ross Martin: Martin is Duke’s all-time leading scorer. He is very accurate and has not missed any of his 11 attempts this season. Martin has above average but not elite power in his leg.

P Will Monday: Monday is Duke’s Riley Dixon. He averages 44.5-yards per kick. He has a strong leg and helps them win the field position battle..

Kick Returners: DeVon Edwards is a big play threat and one of the more dangerous return men in the nation. The Syracuse coverage units have been good this season, but have not seen a dynamic threat like Edwards.

PR Jamison Crowder: Crowder is always dangerous with the ball in his hands, and returning punts is another way for Duke to give him those opportunities. He is elusive and quick and is another player who will test the Syracuse special teams.

CuseNation.com's John Garcia Jr. contributed to this report


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