PRESEASON DEPTH CHART
Brandon Braxton (graduation)
As an opposing defense going up against Duke, you better know where number three is on the field at all times. Jamison Crowder showed in 2013 he is not only one of the best receivers in the ACC, but the entire country.
Crowder is the only returning player in the nation to have recorded more than 100 receptions, 1,000 receiving yards, and average 12 yards per catch last season. He is a constant threat on the outside, and Duke defensive players have already noted how he is catching everything in early practices. That’s without even mentioning that he is an All-American return specialist.
The Blue Devils also keep last year’s second leading receiver in tight end Braxton Deaver. Deaver finished with 46 catches for 600 yards and four touchdowns.
It is interesting to note that Deaver has not been working with the team during the summer or the first week of practices. Head coach David Cutcliffe said Deaver had to satisfy a few things before he would join the team beginning Aug. 9. This could be long forgotten once the season kicks off against Elon, but it is something to keep an eye on.
Losing a quality starter like Brandon Braxton hurts, but the slew of wideouts behind Crowder should be able to make up for that production. Max McCaffrey and Issac Blakeney combined for more than 500 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Crowder said Blakeney has shown more speed and explosiveness after working with the track and field team in the spring.
WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN IN 2014
It is unrealistic to expect Crowder to put up the same stats again, but he will need to have another big year. Opponents know they must stop Boone’s number one option, but Crowder should still perform well and continue to show he is one of the best in the country at his position.
The rest of the receivers have to take the pressure off Crowder. Whether it is one player emerging from the group or by committee, they must create a threat on the other side of the field so defenses can’t simply load up on Crowder and force Boone to go elsewhere.
The tight end position will also be key. Deaver should rack up catches once again, and David Reeves provides another athletic option down the seams. Both Deaver and Reeves’ size should allow them to open up holes in the run game with the offensive line.
Aside from the receivers and tight ends, look for the backfield to contribute to the passing game. Running backs caught more than 30 passes last year. The speed of Shaquille Powell and Josh Snead should create matchup problems with linebackers, and those two in the open field will spell trouble for the opposition.