Duke Blue Devils Preview 2022: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the Duke season with what you need to know and keys to the season.
Duke Blue Devils Preview
Head Coach: Mike Elko, 1st year
2021 Preview: Overall: 3-9, Conference: 0-8
Keys To The Season | Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Duke Top 10 Players | Duke Schedule & Analysis
Duke Blue Devils Preview 2022
It’s not all that long ago that Duke was going to bowl games.
It’s possible to win in Durham. It might not be easy, and it might take a perfect storm and several upsets, but the Blue Devils had five winning seasons in six years from 2013 to 2018, and they went to six bowls in seven seasons before it all went off the rails.
How rough has it been? After a good start in 2019, Duke has gone 6-21.
Where did it all go wrong? The offense fell flat under a legendary offensive head coach David Cutcliffe, and now the program is going in a different direction.
It’s time to play a little defense, too. You don’t get a first time head coach like Mike Elko unless you want to stop someone.
The former defensive coordinator at Texas A&M and Notre Dame was hired to change around the Duke program and take it in a different direction, and it’s possible to be good again in a hurry.
The talent level isn’t there compared to the rest of the ACC, and the depth is lacking after losing too much through the transfer portal, but this will be a different looking Duke team on one side of the ball, and on the other …
Duke Blue Devils Preview 2022: Offense
Duke will still focus on the offense, too. Offensive coordinator Kevin Johns will want to speed up the attack, open things up with both creating wide open spaces and spreading everyone out, and after working at Memphis and Texas Tech, there will be a good tempo.
How bad was the Duke offense last season? It wasn’t totally awful. It averaged a solid 418 yards per game – the running game worked at times – but it was a struggle to score. And now …
The offensive line might be the early strength to work around. It was hardly a steamroller of a Blue Devil ground game, but it was effective at times, and now four starters are expected to be back. There were too many plays allowed in the backfield, and the group didn’t take over enough, but the front five will be experienced.
1,244-yard running back Mataeo Durant is done, and the second-leading rusher was likely backup quarterback Jordan Moore. Jordan Waters is a good-sized back who ran for 197 yards, and he’ll be the main man in the rotation early on.
Is Riley Leonard really ready to take over and make the O fly? He saw a little bit of time as the No. 2 quarterback – throwing for 381 yards and a touchdown in place of new FIU likely starter Gunnar Holmberg – but he’s a big passer with the mobility to be a problem when he gets room to move.
The receiving corps loses leading receiver Jake Bobo to UCLA, but Jalen Calhoun should be able to pick up the slack – he led the team with three touchdown catches and was a decent deep threat at times – and Eli Pancol and Darrell Harding are big targets with experience.
Duke Blue Devils Preview 2022: Defense
Why did Duke hire a defensive head coach in Mike Elko? There were 130 teams in college football last year, and Duke was ranked 130 in total defense. The Blue Devils allowed 518 yards and 40 points per game, the run defense was bad, the pass D worse, and Elko and co-defensive coordinators Robb Smith and Jess Simpson will hammer hard to improve everything right away starting with …
The linebackers. The 2 in the 4-2-5 have the potential to be among the team’s biggest strengths. Shaka Heyward and Dorian Mausi are smallish ballers who combined for 157 tackles, but they had to make way too many plays behind a line that didn’t hold up.
320-pound tackle Gary Smith is off to UCLA, but DeWayne Carter is a big veteran to start with on the interior – he’s a good factor in the backfield. The pass rush has to show up with leading sacker RJ Oben on one side and a rotation coming on the other.
The secondary only came up with six interceptions – the D got eight in all – partly because the pass rush didn’t help, and partly because the defensive backs weren’t good enough. That’s about to be fixed even with a whole slew of parts transferring out.
Iowa State transfer Datrone Young will help the cause at one corner, but the addition of former star Michigan recruit Jordan Morant at safety is the bigger deal to help a secondary that’s all but starting over.
Duke Blue Devils: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats NEXT
Duke Blue Devils: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats
Duke Blue Devils: Key To The 2022 Offense
Score when you have the chance.
The running game will have its moments, and the passing game will be okay at times, and the offense as a whole should operate at a better pace with more efficiency. But it’s not going to be a dangerous enough attack to throw too much of a scare into the ACC.
That’s okay. What Duke’s offense can do to improve is come away with points off of deep drives. It only scored 72% of the time in the red zone – close to the worst in the nation.
Would it really have mattered in blowout after blowout?
The Blue Devils came away with two empty trips against Georgia Tech and lost by four. They couldn’t stop screwing up in the opener against Charlotte – including two fumbles – missed on one scoring chance, and lost by three.
That might not have been enough to change the season around, but 5-7 looks a lot better than 3-9.
Duke Blue Devils: Key To The 2022 Defense
Stop teams from bombing away so easily.
The run defense was hardly a prize – as we speak, Louisville just ripped off another 14 yards on the ground – but the pass defense was the real culprit on the nation’s worst defense.
The Blue Devils allowed 32 touchdown passes, picked off just eight – only one in the final six games – and gave up ten yards or more per pass seven times.
Northwestern couldn’t throw so much as a hissy fit last year, and even that miserable offense winged it around for 260 yards. Every FBS team threw at least two touchdown passes on this group, and the crazy part about it all was that few passers were sharp.
Duke allowed teams to convert fewer than 60% of their passes.
The secondary is starting from scratch, but the coaching staff is in place to fix the glitch fast.
Duke Blue Devils: Key Player To The 2022 Season
DT DeWayne Carter, Jr.
Go ahead and name about ten other players and positions that need to rise up for Duke to start improving, but it all starts with stronger play on the lines.
The offensive side has the experience to be better, but with Gary Smith off to UCLA, the interior of the defensive line needs the 6-3, 300-pound Carter to go from solid to great.
He made 37 tackles with 4.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss. Through all of the changes, he needs to be a constant.
Duke Blue Devils: Key Transfer
S Jordan Morant, Soph.
He didn’t do too much at Michigan. The 6-0, 210-pounder came up with just one tackle as a special teamer, and now he’s trying to start fresh. A fantastic prospect who was supposed to be a factor in the Wolverine secondary from the start, he’ll get every chance to take over a spot in a Duke defensive backfield that desperately needs playmakers.
Duke Key Game To The 2022 Season
at Northwestern, Sept. 10
Even if everything comes together and starts to work, Duke might still be the 14th-best team in a 14-team league. However, Northwestern is trying to find its mojo, too.
If the Blue Devils can somehow pull off a win in Evanston – they lost 30-23 last year – 4-0 is likely with Temple, North Carolina A&T, and at Kansas as the other parts of September.
Do that, find a way to come up with two ball-bounces-the-right-way wins in the ACC, and …
There’s realistically no shot at a bowl game with a loss to Northwestern.
Duke Blue Devils: 2021 Fun Stats
– Total Scoring: Opponents 477 – Duke 274
– Red Zone Scores: Opponents 51-of-55 (93%) – Duke 31-of-43 (72%)
– Passing TDs: Opponents 32 – Duke 9
Duke Blue Devils Season Prediction, What Will Happen NEXT
Duke Blue Devils Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Just how much with the change and the defensive talent on the coaching staff matter?
Duke couldn’t stop anyone, and now it has to try being better without a whole lot of experience and without doing nearly enough to matter through the transfer portal.
There will be improvements, and there will be one game that comes from out of nowhere and everything clicks, but the Blue Devils will almost certainly won’t be favored in any ACC game.
Set The Duke Blue Devils Regular Season Win Total At … 4
The other problem will be a schedule with winnable games that might not be layups. Duke should open up with a win over Temple and it’ll beat North Carolina A&T, but …
Kansas? That’s not a sure thing on the road this year. Northwestern? Also on the road, and so is the date with Georgia Tech.
This is a total rebuild. This coaching staff won’t settle for four wins, but that might not turn out to be all that bad.