David Cutcliff’s Duke team is coming off a 5-7 campaign which included a 38-7 loss to the Irish in Raleigh. The Irish that day were powered by Ian Book’s 181 yards and 4 TDs passing and 139 yards rushing.
The Blue Devils return 7 starters each on offense and defense and have a transfer QB in former Clemson back-up in Chase Brice. In spot duty over two seasons as Trevor Lawrence’s understudy Brice has completed 82- of 136 passes-that’s 60% good for 1023 yards with 9 TDs and 4 interceptions. Brice is 6-2, 230 and is a threat to scramble, having averaged 5.8 yards per carry on 27 attempts.
Duke's offensive line returns 4 of 5 starters on its offensive line and should be one of Duke's strengths. They will team up with last year’s leading rusher, Deon Jackson who rushed for 641 yards and 6 TDs in 2019.
The Blue Devils return experience at wide receiver, but last year had difficulty stretching the field. Their top weapon in the passing game may be 6-4 senior NFL prospect tight end, Noah Gray who caught 51 passes good for 3 TDs last season.
Defensively Duke boasts a couple of outstanding pass rushers in Chris Rumph and Victor Dimukeje who combined for 15 sacks last year. They are experienced at linebacker and get 3 out of 4 back in the secondary. Former All-ACC corner, Mark Gilbert who sat out last year with an injury is expected to return.
On special teams Junior Demond Philyaw-Johnson is one of the top kickoff returners in the nation. Last year he brought back two for TDs and has attracted some preseason All-American notice.
Overall this Duke team should be improved from a year ago. They bring a strong pass rush and experience on defense. On offense they will count on a highly regarded transfer quarterback who will combine with widely respected head coach David Cutcliff. Cutcliff this year will be back calling plays and has a reputation as a quarterback guru. Throw in a dangerous kick returner in Philyaw-Johnson and the Blue Devils have some tools that make them dangerous in a season opener.