august 30, 2019
MARY HELEN WOOD/THE CHRONICLE
the chronicle’s acc football preview
2 | FRIDAY, AUGUST 30, 2019
Eccentric Duke defensive backs coach Derek Jones creates powerhouse By Shane Smith
here back in 2008, we hadn’t had a lot of success,” Jones said. “As I did my research, there were not any guys who had played defensive back here in the NFL. We hadn’t had a lot of all-conference, All-American type of accolades in recent memory for young guys to identify with. I wanted to start some type of brand, something attractive that recruits would be attracted to.”
being able to stop and start on a dime. Those are all things that you have to do to be a good defensive back.” Ask anyone on Duke University’s campus These skills led Jones to a successful playing about “The Brotherhood, and they will career, where he turned in two All-SEC seasons probably direct you to the hallowed halls of and went on to play in the Canadian Football Cameron Indoor Stadium. League. He would return to Mississippi to get If you keep walking down the street to the his coaching start with Cutcliffe, who was then even older Wallace Wade Stadium though, head coach for the Rebels. there’s another brotherhood that’s making Jones likens his defense’s man coverage waves around the ACC. Founding the cheetah to how cheetahs tend to hunt alone. Even his Since his arrival to Durham in January of The origin of the brand has its roots long pinned tweet on his Twitter account references 2008—the same time as well-respected head before Jones ever stepped foot on Duke’s his cheetah-like mindset. coach David Cutcliffe—Derek Jones, the Blue campus or even before his time playing Devils’ defensive backs and associate head cornerback at Mississippi. As a kid, Jones loved ‘Lifeblood of recruiting’ coach, has been building his own brand to help getting up every Saturday morning to watch Building a brand at a school that lacked set in motion the revival of the Duke football National Geographic, specifically intrigued by success for over a decade is hard enough, let program. He calls it Cheetah U. big cats like lions and cheetahs. The latter stood alone having to overcome a “basketball school” As the program has risen from a 1-11 out over the course of his life because of its label at every turn. Jones and co-defensive season in the year prior to Jones’ arrival likeness to how a defensive back plays. coordinator Matt Guerrieri—who joined the to an ACC championship berth and now “We’re not the biggest guys, so we’re not Blue Devil staff in 2012—made it an emphasis six bowl appearances in seven years, one going to be lions. We’re not the strongest guys, to repeat their same ideas and push them out in of the most consistent so we’re not going to any way possible. and dominant units We’re not the biggest guys, be tigers,” Jones said. Known for being a larger-than-life character, has been the secondary. “When you think of Jones has attracted more than 50,000 followers Each defensive back so we’re not going to be lions. a cheetah, you think on Twitter. He wakes up every morning and is a cheetah, and We’re not the strongest guys, of speed, you think sends out a few tweets with words of wisdom collectively the unit so we’re not going to be tigers. of elusiveness, you or cheetah philosophy to reach his players, fans is The Coalition—the think of great change and especially potential recruits. same name for a group of direction skills, “It’s a way of communication that didn’t DEREK JONES of cheetahs. you think of superior DUKE FOOTBALL DEFENSIVE BACKS See CHEETAH on Page 11 “When we first got COACH AND ASSOCIATE HEAD COACH vision and you think of Blue Zone Editor
Courtesy of Duke Athletics
Derek Jones has been with the football program for more than a decade.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 30, 2019 | 3
NEW MAN UNDER CENTER
Already a leader, ‘Brilliant’ Harris set to take reins By Dilan Trivedi Associate Sports Editor
Taking over for the highest-drafted quarterback in program history is no easy task. Coupling the loss of now New York Giant Daniel Jones with an offense that returns just four starting players, any prospect of highscoring shootouts and scoreboard fireworks seem to be non-existent in Durham. Although expectations for the Duke offense this season are certainly not high, there are hopes that with Quentin Harris and his experience under center the Blue Devils will not completely fold over. Harris, who has 37 more career rushing attempts than passing attempts, has primarily been used in relief looking to deceive defenses. However, the redshirt senior will now be forced to develop into a true dualthreat signal caller if he hopes to lead Duke to a successful campaign. “Quentin is brilliant, just plain and simple brilliant,” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said. “You can coach him intellectually, he understands what the concepts are and what we’re trying to do. “I think what we’re working on is trying to find what he believes in. Ultimately, what he has most confidence in what we’re going to do. We have a big ole wide array of offense, a lot of sets, a lot of pass concepts. What we want to do is zero in on what Quentin Harris believes in.” The Connecticut native will look to his two starts last year to guide him in his first full season as the starter. Playing for an
Mary Helen Wood | Photography Editor
The Blue Devils will look to redshirt senior Quentin Harris to take over the offense this fall. injured Jones, Harris completed 27-of-57 passes for 376 yards and six touchdowns in consecutive wins against Baylor and N.C. Central, while adding 117 yards on the ground. He will need to improve significantly on his accuracy, registering a career 50.6 completion percentage on 81 attempts as well as developing a credible deep ball with a middling career 6.3 yards per attempt. With a strong running back corps in Deon Jackson and Brittain Brown, and Harris’ rushing reputation, opponents will struggle defending play-action and read-option plays if Harris can keep defenses honest with his arm. The returns of 2018 starters Julian Santos, Jack
Wohlabaugh and Rakavius Chambers on the offensive line will likely strengthen the ground game and offer Harris additional time in the pocket. A balanced offense will certainly open up both the field and offensive playbook for head coach David Cutcliffe. “Passing, I think for me it’s getting more in-game reps with that, continuing to build rapport with the receivers. I think definitely it’s something I want to improve upon, the completion percentage,” Harris said. “As I get more comfortable, as I kind of learn how to dissect coverages in a certain way, get more familiarity with the plays that we’re running, I think that will naturally happen. I think our
offensive game will continue to thrive on a nice balanced approach.” Duke lost 70 percent of its 2018 receiving yards to graduation, making Harris’ job tougher. Due to the departures of T.J. Rahming, Jonathan Lloyd, Chris Taylor and tight ends Daniel Helm and Davis Koppenhaver, and the injury to Jake Bobo— the only returning receiver with double-digit receptions—Harris will turn to Aaron Young as his go-to-target. Young, who had an injury-plagued junior season, showed promise in his two appearances in 2018. In the season opener against Army, Young had four receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown. He added three grabs for 25 yards against Georgia Tech in mid-October before being shut down for the season with a hamstring injury. “I think one of the nice things about losing that many starters on offense is the guys that are now coming into starting roles are guys I’ve been practicing with the last few years. We’ve been able to build a good rapport,” Harris said. “Coming through our off-season work through the spring, we’ve taken a lot of strides getting on the same page and building our chemistry.” What no opposing coach will question is Harris’ knowledge of Cutcliffe’s system and leadership. Duke will benefit from maturity from its field general that is unmatched for most first-time starters. Having developed in the Blue Devil program over the last four years under a heralded quarterback guru in Cutcliffe, do not be surprised if Harris shows immense progress under center and leads the offense against opposing defenses that view him simply as a rusher or game manager.
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4 | FRIDAY, AUGUST 30, 2019
LEADERSHIP BY COMMITTEE
New defensive core redefining command chain By Evan Kolin
in that as well.”
Assistant Blue Zone Editor
The rain was still pouring down on Hard Rock Stadium when Miami kicker Bubba Maxa lined up for the field goal. His team led Duke 12-10, with a chance to stretch that advantage to five awaiting him. Blue Devil linebacker Joe Giles-Harris had other ideas. The senior captain—who also posted a gamehigh 12 tackles—ripped through the offensive line to deflect the kick. Not long after, a Quentin Harris jump pass to Daniel Helm gave Duke the lead for good. It was the Blue Devils’ signature win of a rocky 2018 campaign, their first road victory against the Hurricanes since 1976 and the triumph that clinched the program’s sixth bowl appearance in seven years. But entering 2019, Duke will be without the man who provided that season-defining swat. Both Giles-Harris and Ben Humphreys— two of the best linebackers in the ACC over the past few years and the only two captains of the Blue Devils’ defense last season—are gone. Now, the team must scramble to find new leaders on that end of the field. Head coach David Cutcliffe, however, doesn’t seem so worried. “I’m more excited about this defense than any defense we’ve had in the 12 seasons [I’ve coached at Duke],” Cutcliffe said. “What we have to do is generate those big plays.... You’ve got to do it with the front four, but you also have to be creative in pass rush. We have some athletes that are explosive, that are fast, that will play a role
‘Confidence on the front end’ How can Cutcliffe be so enthusiastic about a defense that is without its two best players from last season? The answer: a stacked defensive line, comprised of the perfect mix between young talent and experience, ready to wreak havoc on opposing backfields. “We have a lot of guys that have played in the past, so just having that experience is big,” junior defensive tackle Derrick Tangelo said.
“I feel like on our defensive line we’re really composed.... I just feel like that confidence on the front end—that we can adjust and stuff like that—really helps us and keeps us motivated and it’s a key to us playing fast.” It all starts with the juniors ready to transition from underclassmen to team leaders—Tangelo, Victor Dimukeje and Drew Jordan. Tangelo and Dimukeje are listed as starters for Week 1 against Alabama, with Jordan still in contention for a starting job as well. The trio combined for 120 tackles, 16.5
tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks last season, and are sure to contribute even more this coming year. That’s not all. Two seniors round out the defensive line for this year’s Blue Devils, both voted as team captains by their peers: Edgar Cerenord and Tre Hornbuckle. Hornbuckle has been commended by teammates for his vocal leadership on the practice field, and is the one battling Jordan for that final starting spot. Cerenord, meanwhile, is a more interesting case. The 6-foot-1, 305-pound mammoth received a sixth season of eligibility from the NCAA after missing all but four games of 2018 due to a ruptured Achilles tendon. That extra season makes the 23-year-old—who will turn 24 midseason—the oldest player on the team and a role model for Duke’s younger athletes. “It’s a big deal,” Tangelo said of having Cerenord back. “Everybody looks up to him. We call him ‘The Commander’ because he’s the oldest guy on the team. But just having that person that’s been through multiple situations, being high and being low, it’s good for our team.... Our coach always says, ‘The rate of the leader determines the speed of the pack.’ So we’re just following him and following in his footsteps.” ‘They left the place better than they found it’ As strong a front four as Duke has this season, there is still a lot of lost talent to be replaced at the linebacker position. In terms of that, senior Koby Quansah—another team captain for 2019—is ready for his turn atop the
Mary Helen Wood | Photography Editor
Edgar Cerenord and Victor Dimukeje will anchor the Blue Devil defensive line.
See LEADERSHIP on Page 11
FRIDAY, AUGUST 30, 2019 | 5
JEREMY CHEN/THE CHRONICLE
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6 | FRIDAY, AUGUST 30, 2019
‘THIS SETS DUKE F
Season-opening matchup against No. 2 Alabam By Derek Saul Sports Editor
Ramona Naseri Associate Sports Editor
In 2013, the Blue Devils won 10 games— the most in program history. The magical year culminated in an appearance in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl for Duke, perhaps the biggest stage for the program in five decades. The Blue Devils will return to the same stage Saturday to open the 2019 campaign for the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, in what will be another high water mark for Duke, playing in front of 70,000-plus fans at MercedesBenz Stadium in Atlanta. Although the Blue Devils are 35-point underdogs against the reigning national runner-up Alabama squad, this is more than a game, it’s a celebration of how far David Cutcliffe and his program have come. “I really feel that after 2013, we were at a place where we needed this type of opportunity to play in the kickoff game and everyday programs don’t get to do this,” said Gerald Harrison, the Blue Devils’ assistant director of athletics for football development, responsible for scheduling football games for the team, from 2008 to 2018. “This sets Duke football apart—we’re in the conversation with some of the top football programs in this country and that’s a great respect for the ACC, that’s a great respect for our university and what Coach Cutcliffe has done there. This means a lot for Duke athletics regardless of what happens in the end, regardless of the final score.” When he took over the Blue Devils’ head coaching job for the 2008 season, Cutcliffe certainly had some work to do. Duke suffered three winless seasons between 2000 and 2007. Returning the program to relevance was a slow, methodical job for Cutcliffe, who averaged four wins a season during his first five seasons in Durham. But in 2013, Cutcliffe’s efforts at transforming the culture proved their effectiveness. Although the Blue Devils ultimately lost to Texas A&M in a 52-48 thriller,
2013 marked a change for the better for Duke, which appeared in bowl games during four of the following five seasons. “I got to Duke in 2008, and where we were as a program, we were not in need of a shot in the arm or a rebuild, it was really a resurrection that Coach Cutcliffe was asked to do for this program,” said Harrison. “Duke University earned the opportunity to play in a game like this.” ‘You learn to expect to win’ While Duke and Alabama may not share similar football reputations, both schools can thank one man for ushering in an era of dominance for their respective programs: Wallace Wade. Wade—the namesake of Wallace Wade Stadium, the Blue Devils’ home field—led the Crimson Tide to Rose Bowl victories in the 1925 and 1930 seasons, before darting to Durham. At Duke, Wade oversaw the golden era of Duke football, reaching two Rose Bowls. Nearly 70 years after Wade retired as a coach, Cutcliffe looks to return the program to the elite levels that it reached decades ago. And like Wade, Cutcliffe can thank Alabama for shaping him as a football coach. Cutcliffe spent his childhood in Birmingham, Ala., about an hour from Alabama’s campus in Tuscaloosa, Ala., before eventually studying at the university. Though not a varsity athlete himself, Cutcliffe worked in the athletic dorm, taking every opportunity he could to learn from the football coaching staff—including legendary head coach Bear Bryant. Today, Cutcliffe attributes much of his coaching philosophy to his time at the school. “Well I’m so old, I can barely remember,” Cutcliffe said with a laugh. “Alabama—not only the university, but growing up there— shapes your passion for college football… [From Bear Bryant and other Alabama coaches at the time], I understand a lot about the right way to go about this coaching business. The other part is that when doing anything involved with Alabama football, you learn to expect to win.” Given Duke’s and Cutcliffe’s prior ties with
Chronicle File Photo
Taking over a sorry program entering the 2008 season, head coach David Cutcliffe has resurrected Duke football, helping the Blue Devils to three bowl victories.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 30, 2019 | 7
ma caps David Cutcliffe’s program resurrection Alabama and the Blue Devils’ success in the 2013 Peach Bowl, this kickoff game was bound to happen. “I called Nick [Saban] and said, ‘David Cutcliffe is an Alabama grad, he was part of the program when Bear Bryant was there, obviously, he’s the head coach of Duke, would you be interested in playing Duke?’” Peach Bowl CEO Gary Stokan said. So, Nick says, ‘Yeah, I admire Cut, I’d be happy to play Duke.’ “It all made sense, so we made it work.”
extended family will be attending a Duke contest for the first time. “A lot of people are excited because their family is coming, and a lot of the families don’t get to make it to the game every single time, just the immediate families,” said redshirt junior running back Brittain Brown. “Now we’ve got cousins, aunts, uncles.” Not only will family be in attendance, but some high school friends and former teammates will have a chance to watch a live game as well. “Besides my family I also have friends coming so it’s just going to be really good to play in front of them,” said Brown. So, I’m just excited to show out in front of them, give them a little taste of what they saw back in high school. It’s going to be fun.” The Blue Devils will also be performing in front of future teammates, and the Georgia natives are excited to recruit more of their own. “It’s going to be some good exposure to all those guys down South, so the more Georgia players the better,” said Brown. Not only has Saturday’s matchup received hype from across the country, but back on Duke’s campus as well. Although it’s frequent to see large sections of empty seats at home games, more than 500 students bought tickets to venture six hours south to watch the Blue Devils play, according to Art Chase, senior associate director of athletics and external affairs. The Duke ticketing office reached out to students back in April with a $60 ticket offer which includes free transportation to Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
‘A talent-rich state’ It’s easy to look at Saturday’s matchup and assume that the Blue Devils will be coming back home with a loss this Saturday. However, this competition means much more than the final score. Held at an ideal time for recruiting, the flashy game may capture the attention of high school players looking to play at the same level as Duke football, especially those residing in Georgia. “Georgia has been a rich recruiting ground for Duke football so getting in that state and playing on that level is something they’re going to hear on their local news,” said Harrison. When players and their parents tune in to watch broadcasts about their own local high school football games, a Duke vs. Alabama game mention will follow, surely helping to put the Blue Devils on the minds of recruits. “How often do you get the opportunity in August to be such a prominent part of the news cycle in the state of Georgia, a talent rich state?” said Harrison. “So yeah recruiting was a huge part of it, branding was a huge part of it.” ‘How do you walk away?’ Although perhaps it’s not yet Duke’s time ‘The more Georgia players the better’ to eat, getting a seat at the adults’ table is a Duke’s football program has many roots start. The Blue Devils will be on ABC, against in Georgia, with 20 players originating from Alabama of all teams, playing in front of a the Peach State. Some of the Blue Devils even likely sold-out stadium that typically houses once donned the same high school jersey, like the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. freshman Ahmad Craig and redshirt sophomore For Cutcliffe, the answer was simple to play Josh Blackwell from Buford High School. A in this game for the program. chance to play closer to home has many of the “I viewed it as a tribute to Duke football’s players energized, as immediate family members past and Duke football’s present, so how do you may not be able to make it to every game and walk away from that opportunity?”
Mary Helen Wood | Photography Editor
A Georgia native, Brittain Brown expects friends, family and former classmates to turn out to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta to see Duke play Saturday.
8 | FRIDAY, AUGUST 30, 2019
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FRIDAY, AUGUST 30, 2019 | 9
Will Blue Devils clinch bowl eligibility? Harris and strong defense will lead Duke
Lost talent, tough slate will plague Blue Devils
After losing star quarterback Daniel Jones as well two defensive leaders in Joe Giles-Harris and Ben Humphreys, many expect the Blue Devils to struggle in a down year, potentially failing to qualify for a bowl game this season. Although Duke may need to grow into having Quentin Harris as the primary option under center, the Blue Devils return many key pieces on both sides of the ball and are primed to turn heads—and exceed expectations— in 2019. While the Blue Devils will miss Giles-Harris and Humphreys as one of the best linebacker duos in the ACC, Duke will still have a stalwart defensive unit to give opponents headaches all season. The Blue Devils will be returning almost all of a secondary that limited its opponents to 199.5 passing yards per game, a unit that was propped up by primarily second and even third-stringers due to a multitude of injuries through the season. Not only will the likes of safeties Dylan Singleton and Marquis Waters put a clamp on explosive plays as they did last season—Singleton had 73 tackles through the season and Waters put up 68—the eventual return of Mark Gilbert gives Duke’s back line an elite level of talent and depth. In terms of protecting against an attack on the ground, the Blue Devils will have a veritable wall set up for opposing running backs to try to break through thanks to an experienced and talented core of linemen and linebackers. Edgar Cerenord and Tre Hornbuckle put up solid numbers last year, with Cerenord contributing 14 tackles over just four games before injury and Hornbuckle notching 3.5 tackles for loss and 29 tackles through the season. Coupled with Victor Dimukeje, who tallied eight tackles for loss in 2018, get ready to see many offenses simply bounce off the front of Duke’s defensive unit. Although senior linebacker Koby Quansah will be out indefinitely following a preseason finger surgery, the Blue Devils depth will certainly account for the loss of production. Namely, redshirt junior Brandon Hill and redshirt sophomore Chris Rumph II—who switched between linebacker and defensive end seamlessly last season—will undoubtedly ruin many quarterbacks’ days over the
The 2010s has arguably been the greatest decade in Duke football history. However, the 2019 Blue Devils will be plagued by past success and fail to become bowl eligible this season. Duke has earned postseason eligibility in six of the past seven seasons, with the Blue Devils winning the latter trio and snapping a 54-year bowl championship drought in the process. David Cutcliffe’s revitalization of the program has encouraged a facility overhaul in Durham, which has ramped up recruiting efforts and created a strong pipeline from Duke to the National Football League. While the Blue Devils have been able to weather the departures of graduated seniors over the years, a pair of early exits will especially reduce Duke’s effectiveness on both sides of the ball. Both quarterback Daniel Jones and perennial All-ACC linebacker Joe Giles-Harris decided to forgo their final year of eligibility last December, opting to declare for the NFL Draft. Jones’ departure capped the renewal of the Blue Devils’ air attack as Duke will also be without its top-three receivers and starting tight end from the 2018 campaign. According to the team’s depth chart released Tuesday, the Blue Devils’ attempt to fill the void will be quarterback Quentin Harris alongside wide receivers Aaron Young, Scott Bracey and freshman Jalon Calhoun, and tight end Noah Gray. Having offensive chemistry will be key throughout the season, but Duke could face a steep learning curve given its lack of experience and depth—especially with Jake Bobo out indefinitely with a broken clavicle. While Noah Gray enjoyed a breakout 2018 with 234 yards and a touchdown, the Blue Devils’ receiving trio will each need to breakout for Duke to match its offensive output from a year ago. Young and Bracey combined for a mere 10 catches and 166 yards last season. Although Young has showed splashes of greatness—including a career-high 114-yard performance against Army last season—he and Bracey have not been able to stay on the field throughout their Duke careers. Neither player has ever logged a full season, with Young playing just two games last year. Even if they do stay healthy, it remains to
coming season. Duke will miss having Jones under center. The former Blue Devil’s smart decision making and knack for saving doomed plays bailed Duke out of many situations where its offense could have stalled out. However, don’t count out a Harris-led offensive unit, especially with a large amount of returning depth with its running backs. Harris has a solid arm with decent accuracy, throwing at a 50.6 percent clip through his Duke career. Where the redshirt senior excels, however, is finding windows to score on his own. With limited play last season as Jones’ understudy, the Wilton, Conn., native rushed for five touchdowns and averaged 4.2 yards per carry. Coupled with Deon Jackson—who led the team in rushing touchdowns on 5.3 yards per carry—and Brittain Brown, who averaged 41.0 rushing yards per game while playing through injury, Duke offense is primed to run over many opponents through 2019. Although the Blue Devils will be looking at this season mainly as a rebuilding one, Duke will have the benefit of a very doable schedule for 2019. Outside of an incredibly slanted season opener against Alabama, a pair of difficult home tests against Notre Dame and Syracuse and a challenging road games against Virginia, the Blue Devils have the potential to win out the rest of their schedule. Outside of favored matchups against Middle Tennessee and North Carolina A&T, Duke shouldn’t have any problem against struggling programs like North Carolina and Georgia Tech. Although Wake Forest and Pittsburgh should put up a bit more of a fight, the Blue Devils’ experience should prevail. While Virginia Tech and Miami both hold the edge over Duke, both teams struggled mightily in seasons marred with internal issues and inconsistency. While the jury is still out on how these storied programs can shape up for 2019, they are both vulnerable—giving this squad a perfect opportunity for an upset win. Although the Blue Devils undoubtedly lost a lot through the 2019 offseason, don’t count Duke out just yet. With an elite defense and a solid offensive core, expect the Blue Devils to sneak into the upper echelon of the Coastal division and easily earn yet another postseason berth. Prediction: 7-5
Henry Haggart | Staff Photographer
Duke’s offensive attack will rely on its standout running back Deon Jackson, who set the program record for single-game all-purpose yards last season.
be seen what Harris can do under center. Known for his dual-threat skillset, Harris has just one career start against an FBS opponent. Harris got the job done against Baylor in 2018, but completed just 12-of-30 attempts for 174 yards and three touchdowns against a mediocre Bear defense. With a pair of staunch backs in preseason All-ACC honoree Deon Jackson and Brittain Brown, Duke will almost certainly be led by its ground attack. However, the run game alone will not be enough against the Blue Devils’ defensefirst opponents. On the other side of the ball, Duke will be without its two leaders from last season, GilesHarris and Ben Humphreys. Redshirt junior Mark Gilbert’s return from a hip injury that kept him out most of last season remains uncertain after he underwent a second procedure earlier this summer. Senior Koby Quansah fractured his thumb Thursday, but remains on the depth chart for Saturday’s matchup against Alabama. With players such as Leonard Johnson, Michael Carter II and Chris Rumph II breaking out last season while filling in for a plethora of injured starters, Duke’s defense should be marginally improved. However, allowing 27.4 points per game, given its drastically inferior offense, will likely not be enough to get the Blue Devils to 6-6 or even 5-7, especially given its strength of schedule. All in all, the 2019 Duke team may not be that much worse off than the 2018 iteration, but given its daunting schedule, the Blue Devils will have much less room for error. A perk of becoming a nationally recognized program is that other nationally recognized programs—such as Alabama—want to play you. Unfortunately for Duke, matchups with the Crimson Tide and No. 9 Notre Dame almost certainly will translate to a 2-2 nonconference record. Even with Jones and Giles-Harris in the fold, the Blue Devils still finished 3-5 in the ACC during each of the previous two campaigns. With an intra-division matchup against No. 22 Syracuse in addition to road games at Virginia Tech, Virginia, Wake Forest and North Carolina—once again under Mack Brown—the 2019 season will be a transitional year for the Blue Devils. Duke will have little breathing room in a competitive ACC and bowl eligibility will require strong chemistry and clean play throughout. A.J. Reed’s return as kicker three years after a shaky freshman campaign also highlights the uncertainty surrounding the 2019 season. Unfortunately, I believe all the contingencies on this year’s Blue Devil squad will be too much to overcome. The best football of the greatest decade in program history is behind us. Prediction: 3-9
Chronicle File Photo
Scott Bracey is slated to start at wide receiver despite having just 11 career receptions.
10 | FRIDAY, AUGUST 30, 2019
By Jeremy Chen
By Shane Smith Blue Zone Editor
One of Duke’s defining position groups back during the team’s rise to relevance, the offensive line, has been plagued by inconsistency of late. Head coach David Cutcliffe has shown a lot of excitement during fall camps about the group, however, and he believes there is a lot of talent and depth to go around, even if there isn’t as much experience. There is a fair share of upperclassmen who are set to anchor the trenches, but up to three freshmen could see valuable snaps and two are even slated to start the season opener against Alabama. Key players lost: Christian Harris, Zach Harmon One of the more promising aspects of the offensive line is that they don’t lose much from their group last year. Harris took over as the starting left tackle in 2018 in his first full season as a starter. The three-time bowl champion had only started one game prior to last season. Harmon started last season off as the No. 1 center, but after the emergence of Jack Wohlabaugh, he finished the year at guard. Over the final three years of his career, the Central Catholic product started in 33 of the 35 games he played in. Projected starters: Jacob Monk, Rakavius Chambers, Jack Wohlabaugh, Zach Baker, Casey Holman This year’s offensive line will be lead by the man in the middle, Wohlabaugh, who Cutcliffe believes can be one of the best centers in the country. Chambers comes into the year after taking over as starting guard in 2018, and has already received recognition as a candidate for the Outland Trophy—the award for the best interior lineman in college football. The redshirt senior Baker has not started a game since his freshman year but played in all 13 games last season.
Then it’s the youngsters, as Monk has earned a spot after coming to Duke as a consensus three-star prospect. Holman redshirted in 2018, appearing in four games and 51 snaps. Dark horse: Maurice McIntyre One of the players who has impressed Cutcliffe during the course of workouts, McIntyre is back after redshirting last season in his first year on campus. The 6-foot-2, 310-pounder arrived in Durham as a three-star guard and now finds himself on the second line behind Baker. Head to dukechronicle.com/section/ bluezone to see The Chronicle’s preview of all eight of the Blue Devils’ major positional groups.
Chronicle File Photo
Jack Wohlabaugh will start at center for Duke, leading an inexperienced line.
Running backs By Glen Morgenstern Assistant Blue Zone Editor
Although the Blue Devil pass game figures to take several steps back this year, their backfield seems as steady as ever. Redshirt junior Brittain Brown has fully recovered from a slew of injuries that derailed his 2018 season, while junior Deon Jackson continues to build on his increased experience in the backfield. The duo will also serve as mentors to the next generation of flashy Duke running backs. Key players lost: None Duke’s stable of backs is remarkably stable. The team’s top three running backs— Jackson, Brown and Marvin Hubbard III— all return, though the latter of the three is out indefinitely following surgery for a ruptured Achilles. It is important to note that former Blue Devil quarterback Daniel Jones was the team’s third-leading rusher last season but will be unavailable this year, having been whisked away to play for the New York Giants. Projected starters: Deon Jackson and Brittain Brown Although Jackson is first on the depth chart, head coach David Cutcliffe’s offense will likely feature heavy doses of both of his experienced backs. As Brown nursed injuries during key games last year, Jackson stepped up to the plate for Duke, running for 847 yards on 5.3 yards per rush. Preseason All-ACC honors as an allpurpose back awaited him. Brown seems ready to punch more holes in ACC defenses. While his injury history may haunt him, the Canton, Ga. native possesses the skills and reliability of a veteran running back—traits the Blue Devils need desperately with relative newcomer Quentin Harris under center.
Brown’s use in tandem with Jackson remains murky. Dark horse: Jordan Waters Brown’s return to form impressed at the Blue Devils’ first scrimmage back in early August, but the freshman Waters also made quite the splash. The No. 121-ranked receiver in his class, according to ESPN, planned on playing safety for Duke but appeared impressive as a ballcarrier in the first handful of practices. Cutcliffe said the Fairmont product is “never going back” to defense. Waters just might be the burgeoning star the Blue Devils need to spark their offense. Head to dukechronicle.com/section/bluezone to see The Chronicle’s preview of all eight of the Blue Devils’ major positional groups.
Henry Haggart | Staff Photographer
Deon Jackson will head a formidable duo of running backs for the Blue Devils.
CHEETAH FROM PAGE 2 exist 15-20 years ago that’s around in recruiting now,” Jones emphasized of social media. “What I’ve been able to do is just be able to reach guys that I wouldn’t normally be able to talk to using Twitter.” Jones also includes “#Ap2w” on all of his tweets, an acronym for “always play to win.” He sees it as just another way to spread his message, as any football enthusiast can click on the hashtag to see what The Coalition is all about. He will even still write letters to high school coaches and teachers to bring light to the movement and use word of mouth so high school recruits think of Duke as a premier destination. “They are going to go ahead and convince a lot of these kids that these are the people and this is the program that you want to be involved with,” Jones explained. Jones’ spread of the Cheetah U is something that he calls “the lifeblood of recruiting” and other position groups have taken notice. The defensive line have taken on the title of “RushMen,” the running backs can be found under “#TheStable” and almost every coach is an active user of social media. “They are both outstanding individual recruiters, but they have marketed this thing,” Cutcliffe said. “People want to be a part of the Cheetah, The Coalition. I’m still trying to earn my Coalition t-shirt.” Another aspect that Jones has emphasized is having younger players and recruits look up to and emulate the talented defensive backs ahead of them. Once he landed his first great cornerback recruit in Ross Cockrell—who would go on to be an All-ACC selection and NFL fourthround pick—Jones was able to market him to fellow North Carolina natives Breon Borders and Bryon Fields Jr., who would then mentor guys like All-ACC cornerback Mark Gilbert, who can now become a role model to someone like Tony Davis, a fourstar freshman. “Guys identify with guys that they want to be like,” Jones said. “I can remember
Breon and Bryon coming to games and they would sit there with their cameras on their phones and video Ross working out. As the progression went on, Ross was able to get drafted and Breon and Bryon became really good players for us.” More than football With the growth of the cheetah brand, Blue Devil defensive backs have started to reel in the accolades and NFL jobs that were absent when Jones first got to Duke. Former and current members of The Coalition such as Cockrell, Matt Daniels, Jeremy Cash, Borders, Gilbert and Leon Wright all went on to All-ACC seasons under Jones, with many more also getting a stab at the NFL. For the coach going into his twelfth year at Duke, however, it’s more about the role he plays as a mentor. “I think a lot of those guys would have been good players regardless of where they had gone because they were blessed with athletic ability,” Jones reflects. “But, when you look at all the things that we’ve tried to instill here at Duke University with character, with perseverance, with being who you are. We’re trying to teach them the importance of being husbands and fathers, as opposed to just football players and NFL players and I think we’ve been able to accomplish that.” Jones shows the most pride in being able to stay in the lives of his former players, whether it’s wedding invitations or requests for letters of recommendation. The bond that all Duke defensive backs of the last decade is that they were coached by Jones, and therefore a part of Cheetah U. “These guys are proud to be a part of that. I’ve got older guys that stay in contact with these guys all the time and they’re always reaching out to me because it’s a brotherhood,” Jones said. Yes, he has expressed how cheetahs tend to hunt alone, but Jones will also be the first to tell you that when they do hunt in groups, the cats will only hunt with their brothers, and that’s what makes it The Coalition.
Jonah Sinclair | Staff Photographer
One of the key members of The Coalition, safety Dylan Singleton returns off an impressive 73-tackle 2018 campaign that earned him All-ACC honors.
LEADERSHIP FROM PAGE 4 depth chart. “I think I’ve stepped up in being a leader,” Quansah said. “Pretty much everything I learned from [Humphreys] and [Giles-Harris] throughout the years has helped me try to get the young guys ready in terms of how to watch them better, how to practice better. Just little tendencies that we can do collectively as a group has helped me a lot.” Quansah, who recently underwent thumb surgery but could be ready to play as early as Saturday, will take what he’s learned into his new role as starting middle linebacker this season. But the Manchester, Conn., native hasn’t been the only player to refer to the imprint GilesHarris and Humphreys left on others in the program. “We always miss those guys,” Tangelo said of the former linebacker standouts. “But they left the place better than they found it. They taught us the habits, they taught us the things that winning defenses do, so we just try to take from those guys and try to emulate them and their habits in practice. They left a very good impression on the program.” In the end, it’s that cycle that makes winning football programs—when old leaders can transition to new leaders seamlessly based on the legacies they left behind, with little to no hiccups in between. But the best leadership—the kind that turns good football teams into great ones— is when it isn’t a one or two-man job.
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‘That’s what leaders do’ When asked who is most likely to take over as Duke’s leaders on defense, Cutcliffe’s list never seemed to end. Hornbuckle, Dimukeje, Jordan, Tangelo, Quansah—it went on and on, almost like he didn’t really know how to answer the question. But in reality, he knew exactly what his answer was. “That sounds like by committee,” Cutcliffe said. “But I’m telling you the guys that are taking everything they’re doing to a whole different level. It’s been fun to watch [and] I want more folks to join them. That’s what we’re looking for—that’s what leaders do. We pull people along with them, and hopefully we continue that trend.” While there have been guys who stand out on and off the field, replacing the leadership left behind by players like Giles-Harris and Humphreys isn’t going to solely rely on a few guys, or even just the team captains. Every single football player will own some of that responsibility. Eventually, their habits will be left behind for some of the Blue Devils’ younger talent to follow—guys like Shaka Heyward, Chris Rumph II, Tahj Rice and more. That way, talk of any messy leadership transitions will be all but forgotten in Durham, and Duke will remain a defensive force for years to come. “Our guys are excited about the season,” Quansah said. “We know we’re a great defense. [We] can stop people when we want to.”
Juan Bermudez | Staff Photographer
Although he is currently sidelined with a thumb injury, linebacker Koby Quansah will factor in as one of Duke’s defensive leaders upon his return.
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