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Summer Scheming ‘22: Duke Blue Devils, Oct. 22

Duke is ranked 119th in the country in the pre-season and would probably be the underdog against a dozen FCS programs on a neutral site. Mike Elko has a lot of rebuilding ahead of him to get the Devils back in a bowl game.

South Carolina State v Duke Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

The Duke Blue Devils will travel south to face the Miami Hurricanes at Hard Rock Stadium in October. The U leads the series 15-4, including a two game win streak. The Devils have changed coaches (reoccurring theme in the Coastal in ‘22), with David Cutcliffe out and Mike Elko taking over in Durham.

Info: Duke @ Miami (Miami Gardens, FL)

Day/Time/Channel: Oct., 22, 2022 / TBA / TBA

Coach Elko came to Duke from Texas A&M where he served as the defensive coordinator for four seasons under Jimbo Fisher. Before the Aggies, Elko was the DC at part-time ACC foe Notre Dame, and prior to the Irish, the DC at Duke rival Wake Forest.

Elko is a New Jersey native and former Penn safety. He brings youth, a defensive mindset, and well traveled recruiting chops to Durham. Elko has recruited as a coach in NC, Texas, nationally with ND, and in the DMV while at Richmond.

2021 Record: 3-9 (0-8 in the ACC)

Bowl Game: N/A

“I remember that guy!”

The Duke flashback player is quarterback Sonny Jurgenson. Jurgenson is an NFL Hall of Fame QB who led the Philadelphia Eagles to the NFL Championship in 1960 (pre-dates the Super Bowl). A four-time All Pro and five-time Pro Bowler, Jurgenson played defensive back and quarterback at Duke.

A Wilmington, NC native, Jurgenson played his high school ball at New Hanover High in North Carolina, before picking Duke. Jurgenson was a DB on the Duke team that beat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl in 1955. Jurgenson was a 4th round pick of the Eagles where he won his lone championship as a back up QB.

Eventually, Jurgenson was traded to the Washington Commanders, where he finally got his chance to really stand out. In D.C, Jurgenson was coached by both Vince Lombardi and George Allen. Allen took Washington to a Super Bowl, Super Bowl VII, before losing to the ‘72 Miami Dolphins.

In all, Jurgenson played from 1957 through 1974, throwing 255 touchdowns and having been elected to both the Philly and Washington teams’ Ring of Honors. The NFL dot com website named Jurgenson the best pro player to ever come out of Duke.

Data & Personnel

Duke heads into the 2022 season as the SP+ projected 119th ranked team in the country.

SP+ Projection Overall: 119 (Miami 14)

SP+ Proj. Offense: 99 (Miami 21)

SP+ Proj. Defense: 119 (Miami 23)

Duke just doesn’t have the firepower to keep up in the ACC this season. Hopefully someone that’s played and recruited at academics institutions like Penn, Notre Dame, and Wake Forest will understand how to bring in smart, unheralded players and turn them into NFL draft picks.

The Athlon ACC All-Conference preseason team has one Blue Devil on the first team, kick returner Jaylen Stinson. Stinson took two kick offs back for TD’s last season while averaging 24.1 yards per KR. Stinson will double as a defensive back in ‘22.

Duke doesn’t see another player on the Athlon team until the third team with offensive lineman Graham Barton, defensive lineman DeWayne Carter, and linebacker Shaka Heyward. Carter is a 6-foot-3, 300 pound tackle that logged 7.5 TFL’s and 4.5 sacks in ‘21. Heyward is the star of the Duke defense. Over his career, Heyward has 25.5 TFL’s and 9.5 sacks with three forced fumbles.

Wide receiver Jalon Calhoun made the fourth team, along with DL R.J. Oben and punter Parker Wilson. Calhoun averaged 12.8 yards per catch with three TD’s last year. Oben, a 255 pound defensive end, finished ‘21 with 5.5 TFL’s and four sacks. Wilson averaged 44.8 yards per punt last season.

Duke scheme on O

Mike Elko hired Kevin Johns as his OC and that’s a good sign for Duke. The Devils have a play caller with Air Raid experience and P5 experience under his belt in Coach Johns. I wrote extensively about Johns on SOTU back in December of 2018.

Johns is going to want to air it out, and Memphis finished ‘21 with the 61st ranked offense per the SP+. The Tigers scored 30.1 PPG last season (52nd in FBS), while Duke averaged 22.8 PPG (102nd in FBS) in Coach Cut’s final year. Mateo Durant is now a Pittsburgh Steeler so the Devils are without their star RB and a clear starting QB.

However, QB’s Riley Leonard and Jordan Moore showed some flash in the spring game. We’ll use spring game footage to analyze John, the QB’s and new RB Jaquez Moore.

Under Johns, Duke will mostly be in 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end) but will mess with the picture and line up in 2x2 and 3x1 open sets as well as empty using that personnel. At times, Johns likes 12 personnel, too (two tight ends).

Above- When protection breaks down or the play call isn’t right, Moore gives the OC a chance. He has plus mobility and flash, but threw a really bad pick in the spring game.

Above- QB Leonard has more of a presence in the pocket, but he definitely believes in his arm and at times too much. Above, he goes deep middle late which is typically an interception but his WR does a hell of a job on this ball both in boxing out the DB but also catching and securing the tough throw.

Notice the WR’s hips, chest and eyes are back to the ball? Caveat is he lets the ball get into his body versus being pulled in by his hands.

Above- I thought Leonard made some big time throws in the spring game. Here’s a beautiful back shoulder drop out off the fade. The ACC might be the QB conference in ‘22.

Above- A nice wrinkle on split zone is SZ insert. The H comes across but instead of kicking out the D-End, he turns up and blocks an inside linebacker.

Above- Typical split zone but with some fantastic running by Jaquez Moore. Durant goes to the NFL and Duke has another shifty, tough back to deal with.

Above- Nice looking GH Counter from Duke. Back takes the stutter step outside as does the H, before coming back across the formation with the guard. the inside LB to the bottom of the screen is frozen and can’t help out on the fill with his other inside LB.

Duke scheme on D

The moral of the story for Coach Elko and his defense at Duke is, if he thought he was out gunned against the Alabama Crimson Tide while at Texas A&M, he’s about to be constantly out gunned while at Duke. Elko’s philosophy will have to adapt. Playing cornerbacks pressed up in 1on1 in the ACC with Duke defenders just won’t cut it, especially in ‘22.

Elko is either going to have to acquire and develop at a wild rate for Durham, or, adapt and back off the LOS with his CB’s, play a little more quarters and palms and allow the defenders to switch off and pattern match more than run with a man.

Above- I would love to see Miami use more tight bunch sets with the athletic TE’s on the roster and hiding Xavier Restrepo behind them. Give him the ability to get away from jams and make his coverage guy’s OODA Loop slow down as he’s coming through traffic.

Above- One thing Elko did a great job of vs. Bama in ‘20 was taking away the RPO, while simultaneously taking away the QB pull read. Alabama was forced to give and the Aggies were solid in run defense.

Above- A&M’s defensive tackles played well all afternoon. The Aggies D-Line was elite at holding their gap, batting down balls when they could’ve finish the pressure, and sniffing out RB screens. LB’s are supposed to ensure the DT’s are always right. If a DT has to cut inside the LB has to scrape exchange with him.

Above- Elko is going to wind up with an even greater talent disparity at Duke against Miami and Clemson compared to being at A&M against Bama.

Above- When Coach Elko put the CB inside the hard deck he was telling his guy we’re going 1on1 there. It backfired.

Above- Elko’s guys did a solid job of open field tackling until they were beaten down later in the game. Looked more like a desire issue late than an ability issue.

Above- Two LB’ers chase the motion man and leave a massive gap in the run game. That’s why OC’s will motion early when it has nothing to do with the play, in order to see how the rotation works. Does a CB type follow the motion? Do the LB’s bump? Do safeties bump and roll down?

Above- When Bama doesn’t feel like they’re hitting on enough 1on1 fades, they switch to crossers and drags. Some of which are WIDE open in the middle of the field. The Aggies are stuck chasing speedy WR’s all over the field and can’t keep up in man.

Above- More “below the hard deck (7 yards)” CB play from TAMU and now the CB’s are just shook. A simple hitch results in broken tackles and an explosive play.

Above- The CB stays in the pocket of the #1 threat, the outside WR, but everyone else is in a zone. It’s a poorly coached zone, because Elko prefers man. However, after some crossing routes, he went zone.

Canyonero keys to victory

1- Do your job. Duke is bad, real bad. They’re preseason 119th and would probably be legit underdogs to a dozen FCS programs on a neutral site. DO YOUR JOB and win the damn game.

2- Protect the QB. One thing Duke does have is a number of guys on the D-Line on the preseason all conference team. Miami’s weakness- a pass rush.

3- Make Duke’s special teams less special. Stinson is a legit kick returner and Wilson has a strong leg in the punt game. Duke struggled Charlie Ham missed a few deep field goals but was a perfect 32-of-32 on PAT’s. Miami needs to tighten up in the kicking game from how atrocious they were under Manny Diaz.

Way too early prediction: Miami by 28.