2007 Duke Blue Devils

Posted Jan 21, 2008

Duke Blue Devils 2007 Season Game-By-Game Recaps and More

Duke Blue Devils

Recap: In Week 3, the Blue Devils snapped a 22-game losing streak at the expense of Northwestern, but that brief bout of jubilation wasn't enough to propel them to another victory.  Or save head coach Ted Roof's job.  Oh, Duke often came close, nearly upsetting Virginia, Navy, Miami, Wake Forest, and North Carolina, yet showed an uncanny knack for coming up short.  Changing that culture of losing, which has persisted for nearly a generation, now belongs to David Cutcliffe, who was hired away from Tennessee to lead the program.       

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Thaddeus Lewis

Defensive Player of the Year: DT Vince Oghobaase

Biggest Surprise: The win at Northwestern on Sept. 15.  When you're Duke, and you haven't won a game in two full years, any victory qualifies as a shocker.  Fueled by a big second quarter and three Lewis touchdown passes, the Blue Devils never trailed, and, for a change, held on for the win when the Wildcats rallied in the fourth quarter.    

Biggest Disappointment: There were so many near misses throughout the year, but the Sept. 22 loss to Navy may have been the most painful.  On a day when the Lewis-to-Eron Riley connection was otherworldly, the Duke D couldn't protect an 11-point, fourth-quarter lead, eventually losing in overtime, 46-43.  Had things ended differently, it was the kind of game that might have been a springboard to a third or fourth victory.

Looking Ahead: Obviously, Cutcliffe has his hands full turning this vessel around.  However, he does inherit a lot of returning regulars, and is no stranger to the sidelines or challenging jobs.  If nothing else, the returns of their top passer, rusher, and receiver means Duke should be fun on offense under Cutcliffe's guidance.       

- 2007 Duke Preview
2006 Duke Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record: 1-

Sept. 1 Connecticut L 45-14
Sept. 8 at Virginia L 24-13
Sept. 15 at Nwestern W 20-14
Sept. 22 at Navy L 46-43
Sept. 29 at Miami L 24-14
Oct. 6 Wake Forest L 41-36
Oct. 13 Virginia Tech L 43-14
Oct. 27 at Florida State L 25-6
Nov. 3 Clemson L 47-10
Nov. 10 Georgia Tech L 41-24
Nov. 17 at Notre Dame L 28-7
Nov. 24 at No Carolina L 20-14 OT

Nov. 24
North Carolina 20 ... Duke 14 OT
North Carolina took advantage of a missed field goal in overtime with a 25-yard Greg Little touchdown run in the comeback win. The Tar Heels started out the scoring with a nine-yard pass play to Brandon Tate, but Duke's defense held until late in the fourth while the offense got Jomar Wright touchdown catches from 25 and four yards out. Little ran for a seven-yard touchdown midway through the fourth to tie it, but Duke had one last chance late to win it in regulation with a 40-yard field goal attempt that went wide left.

Player of the game: North Carolina RB Greg Little ran 26 times for 154 yards and two touchdowns, and caught two passes for 11 yards.
Stat Leaders: Duke - Passing: Thaddeus Lewis, 18-27, 219 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Clifford Harris, 6-44. Receiving: Jomar Wright, 8-91, 2 TD
North Carolina - Passing: T.J. Yates, 11-24, 75 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Greg Little, 26-154, 2 TD. Receiving: Hakeem Nicks, 6-38

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... When you finish a season 1-11, it's mostly because you have major problems, but it's also because you don't know how to win games. Duke dominated North Carolina with a great defensive effort, an efficient offensive day, holding on to the ball for 36:23, but the three missed field goals and missed opportunities allowed the Tar Heels to pull it off. On the plus side, this is still a young team with decent building blocks to work around for next year.

Nov. 17
Notre Dame 28 ... Duke 7
Notre Dame finally had an easy win with Jimmy Clausen throwing three touchdown passes with 25-yard plays to David Grimes and Duval Kamara in the second quarter and on a nine-yard pass to John Carlson in the fourth. Robert Hughes ran for 110 yards with 13-yard dash in the third quarter. Duke finally got on the board with a six-yard run from Zach Asack with 1:12 left to play. The Irish held on to the ball for 35:35.
Player of the game: Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen completed 16 of 32 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Duke - Passing: Thaddeus Lewis, 16-33, 121 yds
Rushing: Justin Boyle, 8-45. Receiving: Jomar Wright, 5-11
Notre Dame - Passing: Jimmy Clausen, 16-32, 194 yds, 3 TD
Robert Hughes, 17-110, 1 TD. Receiving: George West, 4-24

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... There's struggling, and then there's getting blasted by Notre Dame. Duke has been the only team in America that couldn't slow down the Irish running game, while the offense failed to get anything going. Converting just four of 16 third down conversion chances, and allowing ND to keep things moving by converting ten of 18 changes, basically never allowed the Blue Devils to have a shot. Now it's on to North Carolina needing to pull off an upset to stop an eight game losing streak. To win, the running game has to finally get going to take the heat off the passing attack.

Nov. 10
Georgia Tech 41 ... Duke 24
Tashard Choice ran for 170 yards with touchdown runs from one and 16 yards out, and Taylor Bennett ran for a one-yard score and connected with Correy Earls for a 38-yard touchdown as Georgia Tech got by Duke. The Blue Devils stayed alive on a 64-yard Eron Riley touchdown catch, an 11-yard Requan Boyette run, and a 24-yard Leon Wright fumble recovery for a score, but the Yellow Jacket defense, and the running of Choice, helped put the game away. Tech outgained Duke 477 yards to 146.
Player of the game: Georgia Tech RB Tashard Choice ran 24 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Georgia Tech - Passing: Taylor Bennett, 11-23, 218 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Tashard Choice, 24-170, 2 TD. Receiving: Correy Earls, 5-86, 1 TD
Duke - Passing: Thaddeus Lewis, 12-29, 122 yds, 1 TD
Re'quan Boyette, 13-51, 1 TD. Receiving: Eron Riley, 3-74, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Duke's offense simply isn't getting enough consistency. Against Georgia Tech, Thaddeus Lewis was able to connect on a 64-yard touchdown pass, but only threw for 122 yards on the day. There were almost no sustained drives and little production from the running game. The problem was an offensive line that allowed eight sacks that killed drive after drive. To beat North Carolina, the offense finally has to start controlling things more and not relying on the defense to set things up..

Nov. 3
Clemson 47 ... Duke 10
Duke scored first on a seven-yard Eron Riley catch, and then it was all Clemson. The Tigers scored 40 straight points, highlighted by a 84-yard kickoff return for a score from C.J. Spiller, and a 70-yard James Davis scoring dash, to go along with two Aaron Kelly touchdown grabs. The Tiger defense held the Blue Devils to just 28 yards rushing and 198 total yards of offense. Duke committed 12 penalties, Clemson four.
Player of the game: Clemson QB Cullen Harper completed 17 of 26 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for a score.
Stat Leaders: Clemson - Passing: Cullen Harper, 17-26, 184 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: James Davis, 8-118, 1 TD. Receiving: Aaron Kelly, 6-57, 2 TD
Duke - Passing: Thaddeus Lewis, 15-26, 160 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Re'quan Boyette, 11-32. Receiving: Clifford Harris, 5-40

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Duke passing game wasn't awful against Clemson; there simply weren't any big plays after the first scoring drive. The running game continues to be non-existent with no help whatsoever from the running backs. At this point, it's all on the defense to force turnovers and opportunities, and QB Thaddeus Lewis has be spotless. Clemson's defense might be great, but only 198 yards of total offense, after going on a 63-yard scoring drive early, is unacceptable at this point in the year.

Oct. 27
Florida State 25 ... Duke 6
Preston Parker caught a nine-yard touchdown pass and scored on a 14-yard end around in the third quarter, and Gary Cismesia hit four field goals, as Florida State dominated Duke. The Blue Devils gained nine yards rushing and only got nine first downs, with the only score coming on a three-yard Brandon King catch midway through the fourth. Florida State held on to the ball for 39:38 and outgained the Blue Devils 534 yards to 222.

Player of the game: Florida State QB Drew Weatherford completed 35 of 47 passes for 339 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: Duke - Passing: Thaddeus Lewis, 16-30, 198 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Thaddeus Lewis, 8-18. Receiving: Jomar Wright, 7-141
Florida State - Passing: Drew Weatherford, 35-47, 339 yds, 1 TD
Antone Smith, 23-146. Receiving: Richard Goodman, 11-73
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Duke had two weeks off and came up with this?! The offense is getting worse instead of better, and while playing Florida State isn't a walk in the park, at this point in the year there has to be more in the way of consistency in some area. The running game wasn't even a possibility, and when Thaddeus Lewis failed to generate anything through the air, it was over. It didn't help that the defense never got FSU off the field. Things might not get much better against Clemson next week.

Oct. 13
Virginia Tech 43 ... Duke 14
Virginia Tech's much-maligned offense cranked out 441 yards getting help from an unlikely source, as Sean Glennon stepped in for an injured Tyrod Taylor  and threw for 268 yards with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Royal in the second quarter and a 40-yarder to Josh Morgan at the end of the third. Kenny Lewis and Branden Ore each added short scoring runs, and Jud Dunleavy hit three field goals on the way to a 43-7 lead after three quarters. Duke's scores came on a one-yard Thaddeus Lewis run and a 19-yard pass to Brandon King.
Player of the game: Virginia Tech QB Sean Glennon completed 16 of 21 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: Duke - Passing: Thaddeus Lewis, 13-24, 119 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Re'quan Boyette, 8-42. Receiving: Eron Riley, 3-37
Virginia Tech - Passing: Sean Glennon, 16-21, 258 yds, 2 TD
Branden Ore, 17-37, 1 TD. Receiving: Eddie Royal, 6-90, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Duke needed a perfect game to beat Virginia Tech, and didn't get it. On the plus side, the D line had a great game, holding up well against the run and doing a good job of getting to the quarterback, but the defense couldn't get a stop. The offense didn't come up with any running game, either, and with Eron Riley and the receiving corps failing to come up with the big play, the Blue Devils were sunk. Now there's two weeks off before dealing with Florida State.

Oct. 6
Wake Forest 41 ... Duke 36
Wake Forest appeared to be on its way to an easy win, getting up 34-9 midway through the third quarter on a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown from Alphonso Smith, but in a game of rallies, Duke cranked out 20 straight points, pulling within five on a  31-yard Jomar Wright touchdown catch. Kenneth Moore ripped off a 53-yard scoring dash with just over two minutes to play to appear to seal the win for the Demon Deacons. Duke started out with a 9-0 lead on a safety and a 68-yard Eron Riley touchdown catch, but Wake responded with 34 straight points before the Blue Devils made it interesting again.

Player of the game: Wake Forest RB Kenneth Moore rushed four times for 84 yards and a pair of scores, while catching 11 passes for 100 yards. 
Stat Leaders: Wake Forest - Passing: Riley Skinner, 22-30, 221 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Kenneth Moore, 4-84, 2 TDs. Receiving: Kenneth Moore, 11-100
Duke - Passing: Thaddeus Lewis, 21-47, 291 yds, 4 TDs, 2 INTs
Re'quan Boyette, 8-77. Receiving: Eron Riley, 8-143, 2 TDs

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Thaddeus Lewis is turning into a productive passer who can bomb his way back into games, and Eron Riley is in the hunt for the honor of being the ACC's most dangerous receiver, but the offense has to do more early on. It's been great at comebacks, and didn't quit against Wake Forest, but the team has to be as strong in the first half as it is in the second to have any shot against Wake Forest, Clemson and Georgia Tech over the next few weeks.

Sept. 29
Miami 24 ... Duke 14
Miami struggled to put Duke away, but got nine sacks from the defense, and a 33-yard Dajleon Farr fourth quarter touchdown catch, to escape. The Blue Devils came up with two long scoring drives, with Ronnie Drummer taking a pass 41 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, and Eron Riley catching a 31-yard touchdown pass in the fourth, but the Canes were ahead throughout, starting off with a five-yard Kayne Farquharson touchdown catch. Graig Cooper added a two-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Player of the game: Miami QB Kyle Wright completed 19 of 23 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions
Stat Leaders: Duke - Passing: Thaddeus Lewis, 18-27, 241 yds, 2 TD
Re'quan Boyette, 14-71. Receiving: Ronnie Drummer, 4-53, 1 TD
Miami - Passing: Kyle Wright, 19-23, 230 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Graig Cooper, 12-101, 1 TD. Receiving: Darnell Jenkins, 3-72
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Blue Devil offensive line didn't have a chance against the Miami defensive line, but the mobility of Thaddeus Lewis allowed for the offense to keep things moving a little bit. The defense did a tremendous job of preventing the Canes from hitting on the big play, but couldn't stop Kyle Wright from connecting on his short to midrange throws. In all, it was a decent game for the Blue Devils, taking a hot team late into the fourth quarter.

Sept. 22
Navy 46 ... Duke 43
Joey Bullen nailed a 44-yard field goal with no time left on the clock to complete a Navy comeback. After Eron Riley's fourth touchdown catch of the game, coming on a 69-yard play late in the third quarter, the Midshipmen owned the fourth quarter with a 25-yard Bullen field goal and a five-yard Jarod Bryant touchdown catch. In a wild first quarter, Riley caught a 76-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, answered by Navy with a 44-yard O.J. Washington touchdown catch, answered by a 35-yard Riley touchdown on the next play from scrimmage. The two teams combined for 1,046 yards of total offense with Navy running for 304 and Duke passing for 428.
Player of the game: Duke WR Eron Riley caught six passes for 235 yards and four touchdown receptions.
Stat Leaders: Duke - Passing: Thaddeus Lewis, 23-36, 428 yds, 4 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Re'quan Boyette, 7-42, 1 TD. Receiving: Jomar Wright, 7-89
Navy - Passing: Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, 11-16, 217 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Eric Kettani, 14-71, 2 TDs. Receiving: Zerbin Singleton, 3-48
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Duke can't afford to give away games, and it had Navy beaten. The offense didn't come up with the drives in the fourth quarter to stop the Navy momentum, and for all the good coming from the passing game, led by a brilliant day from Eron Riley, there wasn't enough on the ground to pound things out. Duke won't get the quick strikes it got this week against most ACC teams and will have to come up with some sort of balance. It'll be hard, but the offense has to make a commitment to the run for extended stretches.

Sept. 15
Duke 20 ... Northwestern 14
Duke broke its 22-game losing streak as Thaddeus Lewis threw three touchdown passes, with a 56-yard pass play to Ronnie Drummer to take the lead for good, but it wasn't easy. Northwestern rallied back with a one-yard C.J. Bacher touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, and had plenty of chances at the end after a 35-yard Bacher run got the Cats down to the Duke seven. The Blue Devils held on as a pressured Bacher had to hurry his fourth down pass into the end zone. Northwestern outgained Duke 506 yards to 309.
Player of the game: Duke QB Thaddeus Lewis completed 19 of 23 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns and ran eight times for ten yards
Stat Leaders: Duke - Passing: Thaddeus Lewis, 19-23, 246 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: Tielor Robinson, 4-21. Receiving: Jomar Wright, 7-63, 1 TD
Northwestern - Passing: C.J. Bacher, 30-50, 368 yds, 2 INT
Rushing: Brandon Roberson, 21-80, 1 TD. Receiving: Ross Lane, 9-128
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Duke got outplayed and outgained by Northwestern, but who cares? A win is a win is a win. When push came to shove at the very end, the defense generated the pressure it needed to get into the backfield, and the secondary did a nice job of not giving C.J. Bacher anything to look at on the final few plays. QB Thaddeus Lewis was tremendous, with a mistake-free game that kept the offense moving just enough to keep the chains moving, especially early on. Defensively, LB Vincent Rey had a whale of a game in all phases with 11 tackles, four broken up passes and two tackles for loss.

Sept. 8
Virginia 24 ... Duke 13
Virginia might have had major problems with snaps on special teams, including one that sailed through the end zone for a Duke safety, but Tom Santi and Cedric Peerman helped overcome the problems. Peerman tore off a 58-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and Santi made a seven-yard scoring grab from Jameel Sewell in the first quarter, and a four-yard grab from Peter Lalich in the fourth. Duke got all its offensive points in the third quarter on a 16-yard Jomar Wright catch and a 21-yard field goal, but the attack sputtered in the fourth quarter.
Player of the game: Virginia RB Cedric Peerman ran for 137 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and had one reception for a yard.
Stat Leaders: Duke - Passing: Thaddeus Lewis, 14-30, 137 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Tielor Robinson, 9-31. Receiving: Erron Riley, 4-25
Virginia - Passing: Peter Lalich, 13-18, 131 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Cedric Peerman, 19-137, 1 TD. Receiving: Tom Santi, 6-54, 2 TDs
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... At the moment, everything has to go perfectly for Duke to come up with a win. The other team has to be mediocre, make errors, and not explode. Virginia helped out with a variety of different mistakes and inefficient offense, but the Blue Devils had a hard time taking advantage of all the opportunities. Joe Surgan missed three field goals, Thaddeus Lewis didn't complete half his passes, and there was no ground game against an average Virginia run defense. Three more road games in a row aren't going to help matters.

Sept. 1
Connecticut 45 ... Duke 14
Duke started off the scoring with a Brandon King six-yard touchdown run to cap off a six-play, 80-yard drive, and held a 14-11 halftime lead as Jabari Marshall returned a kickoff 94 yards for a score following a 27-yard Tony Ciaravino field goal. And then the roof caved in as the Huskies scored 37 unanswered points as Tyler Lorenzen threw two touchdown passes including a 57-yarder to D.J. Hernandez, and Donald Brown tore off a 25-yard touchdown run. Darius Butler capped off a nightmare of a second half for Duke with a 36-yard interception return for a score.
Player of the game: Kentucky QB Tyler Lorenzen completed 22 of 30 passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns with an interception and ran 19 times for 56 yards
Stat Leaders: Connecticut - Passing: Tyler Lorenzen, 22-30, 298 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Donald Brown, 19-99, 1 TD. Receiving: Terence Jeffers, 8-92
Duke - Passing: Thaddeus Lewis, 14-28, 148 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT
Justin Boyle, 6-31. Receiving: Jomar Wright, 4-31
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Where was the running game? Duke was outgained 189 yards to 15, and while the passing game had to work most of the second half after getting down, the offensive line didn't do nearly enough early on to open any holes. Making things worse was a bad game by QB Thaddeus Lewis, who didn't do much to get the offense moving when the momentum had turned. On the plus side, LB Vincent Rey had a whale of a game with 17 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Sept. 1 - Connecticut
Offense: For two years running, the Husky offense has been painfully inept, particularly in the passing game.  Tyler Lorenzen was recruited from the ranks of the junior colleges to specifically address that vertical shortcoming.  His arrival pushed D.J. Hernandez to slot receiver and set up a heated competition with sophomore Dennis Brown that'll resume in August.  While quarterback is a question mark, running back is not.  Sophomore Donald Brown exploded on to the scene in 2006 with almost 700 yards and five scores in a torrid five-game stretch to finish the season.  With a bunch of linemen back, he's poised for a monster season in an offense that still uses the run to set up the pass.
Defense: The bend-but-don't-break Huskies snapped like a toothpick in 2006.  The main culprit was a run defense that couldn't slow down anyone not named Rhode Island.  Things don't get any easier this year, as the unit will be looking for ways to replace both of last year's starting tackles.  Uh-oh.  Led by senior linebacker Danny Lansanah and junior corner Darius Butler, the back seven will be picking up a lot of the slack on Saturdays.  Expect the pass rush that produced only 11 sacks in the final eight games to get a spark from the returns of junior Cody Brown and sophomore Lindsey Witten, disruptive ends that'll be on the line together for the first time in September.

Sept. 8 – at Virginia
Offense: Until the receivers prove they can play, it'll be run, run and run some more with mobile quarterback Jameel Sewell and decent backs Cedric Peerman and Keith Payne working behind a much improved, veteran line. The tight ends are excellent, but the receiving corps suffered a nasty blow when it lost leading receiver Kevin Ogletree with a knee injury. Now it'll be up to Sewell, a rising star but an inconsistent passer, to make everyone around him better. Don't expect anything flashy for a while.
Defense: Somewhat quietly, the Virginia defense had a terrific year finishing 17th in the nation in total D and 22nd in scoring D. It should be even better with ten starters returning, including top linemen Chris Long and Jeffrey Fitzgerald to anchor the front three. All four starting linebackers are back to form a solid group that doesn't make a whole bunch of mistakes. This might not be the most athletic defense, but it's aggressive and is always around the ball.

Sept. 15 – at Northwestern

Offense: After a year of trying to get the quarterback situation straight, mostly due to an injury to C.J. Bacher early on, the offense should start to shine as long as there aren't major injury problems up front. The line, with four good starters returning led by center Trevor Rees and tackle Dylan Thiry, will be one of the most effective in the Big Ten, but the developed depth isn't quite there yet. Tyrell Sutton will once again be one of the nation's best all-around backs and should be a lock for 1,000 yards for the third straight season. The big improvement should be in the passing game, as long as Bacher is healthy, with an interesting and promising group of receivers ready to emerge.
Defense: Even though there wasn't much in the way of a pass rush, there weren't any plays in the backfield, and the run defense struggled, the defense made major strides after a disastrous 2005. Now this should be one of the better Wildcat defenses in years with a big, talented front four that should start generating some sort of consistent pressure. Adam Kadela leads a decent linebacking corps, while the safety tandem of Brendan Smith and Reggie McPherson should be rock-solid. This isn't a fast defense and it's thin in key areas like free safety and tackle, but there's enough all-around talent to keep the mediocre offenses under wraps.

Sept. 22 – at Navy
Offense: Navy led the nation in rushing in 2005, led the nation in rushing in 2006, and will lead the nation in rushing in 2007. What's the difference? The ground game will be terrific as always, but now it'll be truly special with the best combination of backfield talent and experience head coach Paul Johnson has ever had. There won't be any passing game, but it won't matter with a ground attack that can crank out a big run from anywhere on the field. The big concern will be the line with no experience among the backups whatsoever and a shaky starting five if left tackle Josh Meek's injured knee isn't healthy.
Uh oh. Wholesale changes need to be made with only three starters and seven lettermen returning. The best defense will be a good offense needing the ground game to crank out long drives to keep this inexperienced, woefully undersized, untested group off the field. Pass rushers need to emerge with the hope for Chris Kuhar-Pitters and Casey Hebert to turn into playmakers around rising star tackle Nate Frazier. Clint Sovie and Irv Spencer will turn into reliable inside linebackers, but outside linebacker will be a question. The secondary will be a work in progress around solid corner Rashawn King.

Sept. 29 – at Miami
Offense: After a miserably inconsistent year finishing 87th in the nation in both total and scoring offense, the attack needs to play up to its talent level. The backfield will be amazing with Javarris James and true freshman Graig Cooper each good enough star for just about anyone in the country. The line has potential with two good tackles in Jason Fox and Reggie Youngblood to work around, and now the passing game has to be far better. The Kyle Wright vs. Kirby Freeman quarterback battle will be an ongoing debate, and the receiving corps has to step up and be better. Lance Leggett emerging as a true number one target would be a start.
Defense: The defense finished seventh in the nation last year despite not getting any help from the offense. The starting 11 should be good enough to shut everyone down, but there will be early concerns with the depth on the defensive line and the secondary. Safety Kenny Phillips and end Calais Campbell might be the two best defensive players in the nation, and everything will revolve around them; they must stay healthy. The linebacking corps might not have name stars, but it'll be a rock against the run with a good rotation of talents.

Oct. 6 - Wake Forest
Offense: Wake Forest will never come out and outbomb anyone, but it'll run effectively behind a veteran offensive line, get the timely passes when needed, and won't screw up. The attack only averaged 21.6 points per game and was 96th in the nation in offense, but there were only 15 giveaways. QB Riley Skinner is back after helping the offense lead the ACC in passing efficiency, but everything will revolve around the ground game with several good runners and four starters returning up front. The receiving corps will be an issue needing to move 2006's leading rusher, Kenneth Moore, back to his natural receiver position.
Defense: The D could be even better than last year when it was solid at bending but rarely breaking finishing 12th in the nation in scoring defense. There's not a Jon Abbate to rely on, and a few key defensive backs need to be replaced, but there's plenty of experience everywhere and lots of speed and athleticism in the secondary. There needs to be more pass rush from the defensive front and there could stand to be fewer big plays allowed against the pass, but the overall production should be solid.

Oct. 13 - Virginia Tech
Offense: Can Tech win a national title with a mediocre offense? It was 99th in the nation in total offense, but it did a great job of taking advantage of all the breaks generated by the defense. Eight starters return, led by ACC Player of the Year candidate Branden Ore at running back, but he needs the line to be healthy for a full season, and better. The passing game has good pieces, but it has to be far more consistent considering there are four talented senior receivers returning. Quarterback Sean Glennon had a good off-season, and now it has to translate into better production.
For two years in a row, Tech has led the nation in total defense, and last season, was number one in scoring defense allowing 11 points per game. There's no reason the D can't be even better with eight starters returning led by the 1-2 linebacking punch of Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi. Corner Brandon Flowers is emerging as one of the best in the nation, "Macho" Harris is a good defender on the other side, and the line is loaded with size, quickness, depth and experience. As good as things were, and will be, it's not like the D played a who's who of offensive machines, so the overall numbers might be a tad bit overrated, but make no mistake about it; this is a special defense

Oct. 27 – at Florida State
Offense: After a dreadful two seasons, the offense is under new leadership with new offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher coming in to breathe life into the nation's 70th ranked attack. Step one is to find some semblance of a running game, and that starts with talented junior Antone Smith getting more carries. The offensive line, problem one over the last few years, gets a big upgrade with the addition of line coach Rick Trickett from West Virginia. He's immediately pushed everyone to get into better shape and to get a lot tougher. The passing game won't be forgotten about, with Fisher wanting to bomb away down the field to Greg Carr and DeCody Fagg. Now a steady quarterback has to emerge between Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee.

Defense: The defense came up with a better year than it got credit for, but it gave up too many points. Now the potential is there for this to be a Florida State defense again with tremendous speed and talent in the secondary and a good enough front seven to come up with a big year. There are question marks. Everette Brown is a good-looking pass rushing end, but he needs help from the other side. The linebacking corps will be special as long as Derek Nicholson and Marcus Ball can quickly return from torn ACLs, otherwise it'll be an undersized group with no depth. As always, there's a slew of NFL talent to work around, highlighted by tackle Andre Fluellen and safety Myron Rolle.

Nov. 3 - Clemson

Offense: Clemson had the ACC's best offense last season, but it didn't get nearly enough from the passing game. Expect more of the same. The 1-2 rushing punch of James Davis and C.J. Spiller is among the best in the country, and while the line loses four starters, there's enough experience and talent up front to pave the way for a big rushing year. The receiving corps has potential, but a quarterback has to emerge to consistently produce. Cullen Harper has the job to start the year, but superstar recruit Willy Korn will likely take over at the first opportunity. No matter who's under center, and despite all the bells, whistles and formations of the Rob Spence offense, it'll be all about the running game.
Defense: As long as the corners are fine, this will be one of the nation's best defenses. The line, even without Gaines Adams, will be amazing, thanks to the emergence of Ricky Sapp and a great rotation of tackles. Assuming Tramaine Billie (broken ankle) and Antonio Clay (family tragedy) are back, the linebacking corps will fly around and make plays all over the filed. The safety situation is one of the ACC's best with Chris Clemons, Michael Hamlin (broken foot and all) and DeAndre McDaniel all potential all-stars, and the corners should be decent, at worst.

Nov. 10 - Georgia Tech
Offense: Is it possible an offense can lose the offensive coordinator, a sure-fire NFL superstar and a four-year starting quarterback and be better? Absolutely. Calvin Johnson's departure will sting, but the passing game should be even better with Taylor Bennett (or any one of a slew of terrific prospects) taking over for Reggie Ball. Patrick Nix left to take over the Miami offense, but John Bond is a veteran who did a good job with the Northern Illinois program for the last three years. James Johnson will be a decent number one target, and now someone else has to quickly emerge to take the heat off and give Bennett more options. Tashard Choice is an All-ACC caliber back leading a deep and talented group of runners working behind a fantastic line loaded with experience and
Defense: The defense had two lousy games against Clemson and West Virginia and was solid against everyone else. With just about everyone returning, expect another great year holding almost everyone to under 300 yards and around 20 points. The defensive line will be one of the team's strengths with one of the best groups of ends in America. MLB Philip Wheeler deserves All-America attention while the safety tandem of Jamal Lewis and Djay Jones will be one of the ACC's best. The corners are a bit suspect and the proven linebacker depth is a bit thin, but those aren't glaring problems.

Nov. 17 – at Notre Dame
Offense: Yeah, Charlie Weis is a great offensive coach, but there's some serious rebuilding needing to be done. There are good prospects, but there are several major concerns and no proven production. Can the line be better despite losing three starters? Will the skill players be remotely close to as good as the Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija, Rhema McKnight and Darius Walker foursome of last year? Are the quarterbacks ready? The quarterbacks appear to be fine, the running backs will be solid in a combination, and the receivers are fast and decent. The line will be a plus by the end of the year, but it'll be a problem early on.
Defense: Charlie Weis is trying to improve a defense that was fine against the mediocre, but lousy when it came to stopping the better offenses. Gone is defensive coordinator Rick Minter, and in comes Corwin Brown, who installed a 3-4 scheme to try to generate more big plays and get more speed and athleticism on the field. The line will be the issue early on as two steady starters are needed to help out Trevor Laws. Maurice Crum leads a promising linebacking corps that should shine in the new defense. The big problem could again be the secondary. It has experience, but it won't get as much help from the pass rush, like it did last year, and needs the young corner prospects to push the unspectacular veterans for time.

Nov. 24 – at North Carolina
Offense: The offense only cranked out 293 yards and 18 points per game with fits of wild inconsistency. Expect a bit more of the same with a young team still trying to figure out who the starters are going to be, but the overall production should be better. Step one is to determine who the quarterback will be to handle the passing game that'll run three and four wide sets. T.J. Yates was the star of spring ball, but he'll have to hold off star freshman Mike Paulus. There are plenty of good, inexperienced running backs to work with, and Hakeem Nicks is a potential star number one receiver. However, there aren't any certainties in the depth chart quite yet. The line will be serviceable, but nothing special.
It might take a year to turn things around after a disastrous 2006, but the young talent is there to get really, really excited. The defensive line has a slew of great prospects to work with, while the back seven has athleticism and quickness by design with a smallish linebacking corps. The return of Trimaine Goddard at safety will be a big help for the secondary, while the hopeful emergence of more pass rushing help for end Hilee Taylor should help the coaching staff implement it's attacking, aggressive style.



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