I’ve already looked at what I perceive as the worst case scenario for this year’s Duke Football team, and now its time to take a look at the other end of that: The Best Case Scenario.
Few programs have come farther in a shorter period of time than Duke. Less than a decade removed from consistent winless seasons, the Blue Devils are coming off their best year in 18 seasons.
There is a lot of excitement and buzz about the state of the program, but many head into the 2013 season seeing this as rebuilding year for the Blue Devils. They look to replace four key parts of the offense and infuse a lot of youth and inexperience on the defensive side. Still there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic and to believe this team could achieve quite a lot.
A best case scenario begins with outstanding years from the “replacements,” starting at the quarterback position. Anthony Boone, a junior, will take the reins of Duke’s offense from three year starter Sean Renfree. The offense, which will undergo a few tweaks to better suit Boone’s skill set, will have a different twist to it.
Duke has occasionally used the Read-Option in the past with its more mobile quarterbacks are expected to utilize this latest fad in offensive schemes even more this year.
Boone has experience and has performed well in his opportunities. He came in for an injured Renfree last season and helped Duke come from behind and beat Wake Forest on the road. He started the next game against Virginia at home and helped the Blue Devils win decisively.
Boone’s ability to run and throw seems to be a good fit for the Blue Devils who will boast as solid a stable of running backs as any team in the ACC. With Boone at the helm, expect Duke to run the ball more effectively, instead of having the quarterback just sitting in the pocket and handing off or throwing.
His legs will stretch the defense and his running backs will help mix up things to keep opposing defenses guessing. But it isn’t just his ability to run that could make this version of the Blue Devils offense so effective. Duke is also expecting big things out of its wide receiving corp lead by Jamison Crowder. Crowder, who caught 76 passes for over 1,000 yards last year, will be counted on to lead a young corp of receivers.
Boone will also have a healthy Braxton Deaver, the long and strong tight end who was injured all last season. Deaver is expected to be a huge piece of the Blue Devils offensive scheme. A best case scenario would be solid contributions from Deaver and any number of the younger receivers like Max McCaffrey or more experienced guys like Issac Blakeney and Brandon Braxton.
If all those combinations click,the offense should be able to put up points. To make matters even better, they bring back all but one starter on the offensive line and the one replacement, center Matt Skura, is already comfortable working with Boone as both got a lot of work together last year as part of the second team.
As long as the offensive line doesn’t sustain any more injuries (Tanner Stone-out for the season, Casey Blaser-out with broken hand) then the Blue Devils offense could be tough to stop.
Speaking of injuries, the defensive side of the ball offers a great deal of promise as well as long as its past injury walls stay at bay. The defensive line is deep and the starters are experienced lead by sixth-year senior Kenny Anunike. They are still waiting for the return of key backup Jordan Dewalt-Ondijo who is recovering from a post season injury, but once he is back the defensive line has the potential to be the Blue Devils strongest unit.
With experience in guys like Anunike, Justin Foxx and Jamal Bruce, the hope is the Duke defense will be better against the run than in years past. That should also be helped by the return of the Blue Devils’ best linebacker Kelby Brown who is coming off a torn ACL that kept him out all of last season.
The secondary, as I pointed out in the worst case scenario piece, is where most feel Duke will struggle. Obviously in a best case scenario, the secondary will get excellent play out of its star, corner Ross Cockrell and safety Jeremy Cash. They will also need guys like Garrett Patterson, Anthony Young-Wiseman, Dwayne Norman, as well as freshmen like Breon Borders, Corbin McCarthy and Evrett Edwards to step up as well.
A best case scenario certainly has this unit, as well as the defense as a whole, exceeding the expectations of many of the experts who feel this is going to be the Blue Devils’ Achilles heel. The defense doesn’t have to necessarily be great, but they have to be better at stopping big, explosive plays, and help keep them in close games.
Duke has a lot of things going for it. They have confidence, experience and a restored belief that this program can achieve success. They also have a tough, but feasible schedule that is favorable for getting back to a bowl game.
The non-conference slate is very doable with wins expected against NC Central and Memphis. As long as they don’t trip up in winnable games against Navy and Troy, then Duke could go 4-0 in non-conference leaving only two wins needed to get to the 6 required for bowl eligibility.
However, this team isn’t satisfied with a bowl. They want to compete for an ACC Title and with no regular season games against Clemson or Florida State, two of the strongest programs in the league, the schedule is much more favorable.
There are winnable games at home against Pitt and NC State and, with better execution, Georgia Tech is a game Duke can be competitive in if all goes well. Road wins are possible at Wake Forest and North Carolina as well as Virginia.
I believe there is a strong case for possibly 3 to 5 ACC wins this season which would be a big step up for the program.
Granted a lot has to go right for Duke and the margin of error is as thin as a razor’s edge, but the possibility of an 8, 9, or even a 10 win season is clearly a best case, dream scenario; a scenario that this team feels they can achieve.