Thanks to a myriad of injuries, some that date back to last season, the Duke Football coaching staff has had to make a lot of changes. Of those changes there are a few players who will be lining in up in a slightly different position this season than what we are use to seeing from them previously.
Duke has suffered critical injuries at wide receiver, tightend, defensive end, interior defensive line and linebacker. Fortunately for the Blue Devils and its coaching staff they have much greater depth this year than in years past so the panic button has not been hit.
Lets look at the depth of the injury problem: Blair Holliday, starting wide receiver lost for the season; Braxton Deaver, starting tight end, lost for the season; Jamal Bruce, starting noseguard, lost for the season; Kelby Brown, starting linebacker lost for the season, Allen Jackson, reserve defensive end lost for the season.
And that doesn't include Jordan Dewalt-Ondijo, a key player on the defensive line who is still recovering from an injury from last season as well as Deaver's backup at tightend, Jack Farrell, and both may miss some time to start the season. All that and practice has just started.
As part of spring practice Duke coaches had players playing various positions but that was primarily in an attempt to find ways to get the best playmakers on the field. That essentially meant ways of getting backup quarterbacks Brandon Connette and Anthony Boone on the field.
Now with injuries to the Blue Devils' projected starter at tight end Connette is getting some work there. And at 6-foot-2 and 225 he is as big as Farrell and a versatile player. In addition to Connette, Duke's best running back over the last three seasons, Desmond Scott will be seeing a lot of time at wide receiver.
While that move has a lot of fans excited, and while it does make sense for a passing team to try and get your best player makers the ball in the open field, I'm not entirely crazy about pulling one of your best running backs out of the backfield.
But Duke has a lot of depth at running back including two freshman in Jela Duncan and Shaquille Powell who could contribute right away along side veterans Juwan Thompson and Patrick Kurunwune. The Blue Devils also bring back Josh Snead, an electrifying speedster who missed last season with injury.
On the defensive side of the ball Duke has moved former wide receiver Brandon Braxton to safety, and despite the injuries on the offensive side of the ball, David Cutcliffe has said he will not move back.
Freshman linebacker Keilin Rayner has been moved to noseguard to add depth and competition following Bruce's injury. Defensive end Jamal Wallace will also move inside to tackle to help with competition and to pad out the depth chart there.
The good news in all these changes is that Duke has the depth at certain positions to make those moves and that the roster features more athletic and versatile players who can pick up the positions well enough to at least spell the projected starters and contribute at the same time.
So while the injuries themselves are bad news, a sign that Duke Football is steadily improving can be found in their ability to make adjustments and move on and that is something that they are doing this season.
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