SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  Duke Blue Devils

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Carl Franks (5th year, 5-40)
2002 record: 2-10 (none)
ACC finish: 9th
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 158.4 ypg
(5th in ACC, 51st in nation)
Pass: 199.9 ypg (7th, 69th)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 120.5 ypg (1st, 28th)
Pass: 254.7 ypg (9th, 102nd)
Projected Starters
Offense (10 returning starters in bold)
WR   21   Senterrio Landrum   Jr.  
WR   2   Khary Sharpe   Jr.  
LT   75   Drew Strojny   Sr.  
LG   74   Daryl Lewis   Sr.  
C   70   Luke Bayer   Sr.  
RG   68   Rusty Wilson   Sr.  
RT   65   Christian Mitchell   Jr.  
TE   89   Andy Roland   So.  
QB   16   Adam Smith   Jr.  
FB  37  Alex Wade  Sr. 
TB   4   Chris Douglas   Sr.  
Defense (8)
DE   55   Micah Harris   Jr.  
DT   35   Matt Zielinski   Sr.  
DT   91   Orrin Thompson   Jr.  
DE  97  David Martin  So. 
LB  13  Giuseppe Aguanno  Jr. 
LB   27   Ryan Fowler   Sr.  
LB   30   Brendan Dewan   So.  
CB   3   Kenneth Stanford   Jr.  
CB  20  Temo George  Sr. 
S   25   Terrell Smith   Sr.  
S   17   Alex Green   Jr.  
Special Teams
K   1   Brent Garber   Sr.  
P   18   Trey McDonald   Jr.  
KR  21  Senterrio Landrum  Jr. 
PR  Khary Sharpe  Jr. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 30  at Virginia 
Sept. 6  Western Carolina 
Sept. 13  Rice 
Sept. 20  Northwestern 
Sept. 27  Florida State 
Oct. 11  at Maryland 
Oct. 18  Wake Forest 
Oct. 25  NC State 
Nov. 1  at Tennessee 
Nov. 8  Georgia Tech 
Nov. 15  at Clemson 
Nov. 22  at North Carolina 
Duke was better by leaps and bounds in 2002 -- and still won only two games.

This is the season when head coach Carl Franks and his staff must -- absolutely must -- win. Franks, a Duke alum who was a capable assistant under Steve Spurrier at Florida, is an abysmal 5-40 in four seasons at Duke, yet he was given a contract extension after last season by athletic director Joe Alleva.

That contract, granted in large part because the Blue Devils were far more competitive last season, won't be extended any further without some wins -- regardless of how they happen or who they come against.

And the Devils are set up to do it. A staggering 18 starters -- 10 on offense and eight on defense -- return.

"We're ready for things to change," linebacker Ryan Fowler said. "We really feel like we can be better, that we can win."

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

When Franks arrived at Duke from Florida in 1999, the offense was billed as "Airborne." Scrap that. The 2003 Blue Devils will start the attack on the ground, where fullback Alex Wade and tailback Chris Douglas might form the ACC's best one-two punch.

Wade, Duke's MVP in 2002, is effective because he can run over linebackers even when they know he's coming. Douglas, hampered by an ankle injury for much of last season, has tremendous ability to get outside. Both are capable pass catchers; they combined for 41 receptions last year. The question: Will each get 15 carries per game, or will one be a 25-carry guy?

Adam Smith enters his second year as the starting quarterback and likely won't rotate with backup Chris Dapolito as he did last year. Smith, who became just the third Duke sophomore to throw for 2,000 yards, will have plenty of targets to choose from: Eight Blue Devils caught at least 20 passes last year, and all return. Khary Sharpe is the best deep threat, and Reggie Love could be an outstanding possession receiver.

The line has all five starters back, anchored by 6-foot-8, 300-pound left tackle Drew Strojny. But they must do a better job of pass blocking after allowing more than three sacks per game in '02.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

Tackle Matt Zielinski and middle linebacker Ryan Fowler are all-conference candidates up front, and both are big reasons the Blue Devils led the ACC in run defense last year, allowing just 120.5 yards per game.
There are all kinds of other questions up front. Second-year defensive coordinator Ted Roof wants more speed on the outside, and he has some help in outside linebacker Brendan Dewan. But there will be competition at other spots.

The secondary is Roof's primary concern. After safety Terrell Smith -- who was in on seven turnovers last year -- there are plenty of holes. Cornerback Kenneth Stanford should be solid on one side, but Roof is desperate enough to get speed on the field that true freshmen Cedric Mason and John Talley could get serious looks at the other corner spot.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Kicker Brent Garber, strong enough to hit a 56-yard field goal, must do better than 0-for-3 from 30-39 yards. The Devils could get a field-position boost if Douglas is healthy enough to return kicks.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

Duke lost five games by less than a touchdown, including losses to ACC opponents Virginia, NC State, Clemson and North Carolina by a total of 12 points. So the first step to leaving the ACC's basement will be figuring out how to win.

"We know we can stay in games," Franks said. "We've got to learn how to win now. We've got to close the deal on a couple of these things."

Now, though, they have 20 starters back -- 11 on offense and nine more on defense -- as well as winnable non-conference games against Western Carolina, Rice and Northwestern.

The best chance to finish at least eighth in the ACC? Beat Wake Forest, Clemson, Georgia Tech and/or North Carolina, which are all vulnerable. But for perennially vulnerable Duke, that's a tall order.

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