The 2021-22 Duke football team, led by head coach David Cutcliffe, took the field Saturday afternoon for their first official team scrimmage of the season. The team, which began practice just last Wednesday, were in live action for about 40 minutes, featuring segments of special teams, 2-minute drills, red zone situations, and regular game simulations.
What Stood Out
ACC POY candidate and favorite Mataeo Durant, who was voted by several ACC media affiliates to finish the year with the award, played just a few snaps, but when he was on the field his presence was obviously felt. Durant didn’t shy away from contact and was quick throughout the defensive line, rushing for 16 yards on his first two carries. He is a name to watch out for this year. His size and stature may surprise some teams, but within the trenches the kid is a bonafide dog. Durant, who led the team in rushing a season ago, is now the lead dog at Duke. A lot will depend on his workload, which will determine Duke’s success. As Cutcliffe stated during his presser last night, depth was his focus during the scrimmage.
The Blue Devils only played their starters for several series so that the coaching staff could properly evaluate the second and third string stringers.
Durability and consistency were factors in Duke’s inability to get into the win column last season. The defense found itself on the field longer than the offense in a variety of games due to mental lapses, penalties and inconsistency at the quarterback position. Starter Gunnar Holmberg looked fluent in his strikes and was in total command of the offense during his play in the scrimmage – leading the offense to 3 red zone scores in their first 3 red zone possessions.
Jordan Moore, the Blue Devils’ freshman quarterback who made several plays during the scrimmage, will be a star based on his ability to be a dual threat quarterback with break-away speed once he gets in the secondary. Two key plays featured the freshman breaking along the left sideline for a 80-yard quarterback keeper. A second featured Jordan yank two defensive lineman right out their cleats for a 25-yard touchdown run late in the scrimmage.
Duke’s secondary, which will be led by Joshua Blackwell and Jeremiah Lewis, looks to run a lot of man-to-man defense in the secondary and some cover 3. All defensive backs showed tremendous speed on the outside and very rarely got beat overtop during 40 minutes of action.
Areas for improvement
The Blue Devils seemed to establish their identity in the scrimmage, relying heavily on the run game. There wasn’t much separation with the wide receivers in the secondary, which could be attributed to how physical the defensive backs were, or just shows you there is still work to be done on the outside. A name to watch out for in the receiving core will be the 6’4″, 235 pound wideout Darrell Harding, who gives Gunnar a big target across the middle this season.
Duke will hold a second scrimmage next Saturday, where the team will look to be more disciplined with penalties and take that next step in preparing for UNC Charlotte September 3rd in Charlotte, NC.