2012 Program Preview - Duke

Duke's 2012 season might rest solely on the development of senior QB Sean Renfree. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

We're approaching two decades of misery with Duke. Back in 1994, Duke went 8-4 in Head Coach Fred Goldsmith's first year. Their best year since was 2009, in which they played a very, very soft schedule...and still managed to lost the season opener to a FCS school. Their last notable draftee was Lennie Friedman, who the Broncos picked up at the end of the 2nd round in the 1999 NFL Draft.

Still, they did eke out a win at Boston College last year. And they've got a legitimate QB who has HC David Cutcliffe as a mentor. For those unaware, Cutcliffe was the offensive coordinator at Tennessee while Peyton Manning was enrolled. He then took the HC job at Ole Miss and oversaw Eli Manning's growth. In all, he's pushed five QBs to the NFL. I don't discount that experience lightly.

The question for Duke is if this team will see some of the recruiting wins of the last two/three years (chiefly on the O-line) come to fruition.

After the jump, the prospects worth noting as well as some games and matchups to pencil into your calendar.

References

This is where a Duke blog would go if SBN had one (We should have one), SB Nation team page, official team site, Dane Brugler's preview for CBSSports

Notable offensive prospects

Name POS Yr. Early projected Rd (notes)
Sean Renfree
QB
RS Sr.
5
Conner Vernon
WR
Sr.
7


Notable defensive prospects

Name POS Yr. Early projected Rd (notes)
Sydney Sarmiento DT RS Jr. 6
Kelby Brown MLB Jr. 7


Summary

There's just not much from the last two years that impresses. Perhaps, as I mentioned above, some of the O-linemen blossom in 2012. Maybe Renfree makes a huge jump and Vernon (who should break the ACC record for career receptions and has a shot at the receiving yards record) continues to grow. Speculations aside, Duke would do itself a world of good if it can pull off a surprise win or two this year and continue to recruit above their record.

Key games

Memphis (home) - Week 4 (Sat., Sept. 22 - TBD)

With FIU-Stanford-North Carolina Central to open the season, Duke's optimal start is 2-1 going into this game (post-Luck Stanford isn't going to fall that hard, yall). And as Memphis continues to plunge to the bottom of all of FBS football (they lost to Arkansas State by 44...), this is a game that Duke needs to win to show some out-of-conference chops and solidify their recruiting base. Duke picked up four commits in their 2011 class from Tennessee, but it's more about showing regional competitiveness than dominance.

North Carolina (home) - Week 8 (Sat., Oct. 20 - TBD)

This one's for all the North Carolina BBQ. Sure, the basketball rivalry is better in terms of talent, importance and drama. But they play football too. And it matters.

Miami (home) - Week 13 (Sat., Nov. 24 - TBD)

In the last sentence in the summary above, I noted that Duke could really use a surprise win. Mark this down as a distinct possibility in the final game of the season.

Key matchups

Run defense (specifically MLB Kelby Brown) v. UNC RB Giovani Bernard, Week 8 - Sat., Oct. 20

Unlike the Clemson game where Duke will have to keep Andre Ellington's bottled up, beating the Tar Heels requires stopping the bruising Bernard. In the four games Bernard rushed for less than 50 yards last year, UNC was 0-4. #math

Passing offense (specifically QB Sean Renfree) v. Florida St. defense/secondary, Week 9 - Sat., Oct. 27

Sure, Florida St.'s defensive line is worth the price of admission on its own. But with Xavier Rhodes, Greg Reid and young standout Lamarcus Joyner manning the back of FSU's defense, there aren't many holes to attack. Renfree has to play mistake-free (or at least -minimal) to keep Duke from being embarrassed. Should they be able to make a game of this contest, it would be a victory in and of itself.

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