Duke Offense: 2020 Outlook
Duke’s offense struggled throughout 2019, finishing 11 in the ACC in scoring, 13 in passing and 10 in rushing.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that most of Duke’s contributors on offense return, giving the Blue Devils some consistency and a chance to improve as the returnees develop.
While many fans clamored for Duke to replace coordinator Zac Roper, there was no immediate change after the season ended, and the longer the offseason goes, the less likely a change becomes.
One wild card: Ole Miss fired head coach Matt Luke, following the season. Luke was a former offensive line coach and co-coordinator at Duke under Cutcliffe. While he’ll likely be able to land a high-paying assistant job, there’s the possibility Cutcliffe could find a role for him, either as a consultant or an assistant, shuffling the staff to make room.
Still, coaching changes seem unlikely. With that, we turn to the players on the field to see what’s in store for Duke next season.
Who needs to be replaced:
The biggest vacancy is at quarterback. Quentin Harris was a fifth year senior, and with his departure, the cupboard is bare, experience wise. Chris Katrenick got in for some mop-up duty this season, and his stat line (3-for-13, 49 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception) didn’t have fans clamoring for him to take over for Harris. Unlike most backups under Cutcliffe, including Harris, Katrenick didn’t see time in short-yardage and goal-line sets, leading to speculation that he might not be the future quarterback in training.
That role likely fell to Gunnar Holmberg, the redshirt freshman who missed the season with a knee injury suffered in the preseason. Holmberg was a three-star recruit who chose Duke over ECU, UNC and Wake. If he’s at 100 percent in the fall, he’ll likely be the leader to win the job.
He’ll be pushed by incoming freshman Luca Diamont, a three-star commit who also had offers from Alabama and Washington State, among others.
Aside from that, Duke needs to replace receivers Scott Bracey and Aaron Young. The Blue Devils played three true freshmen this year, in Jalon Calhoun, Eli Pancol and Darrell Harding Jr., who, combined with rising junior Jake Bobo, give the new quarterback—whoever he may be—plenty of targets.
On the line, LG Zach Baker and C Jack Wohlabaugh depart, as does backup Julian Santos. Will Taylor had already stepped in at center after Wohlabaugh’s season-ending injury, and Maurice McIntire got plenty of work behind Baker. Former starter Robert Kraeling is also returning, so the line should return relatively intact.
The key: Duke will have talent back, but the Blue Devils had talent this year. While there were some injuries—most notably running back Brittain Brown—the real problem with Duke’s offense seemed to be scheme. The team started the year running everything from five wide to triple option but gradually scaled back and became more predictable. Look for Cutcliffe and his staff to revamp the playbook to freshen up the attack.