This is an interesting group of linebackers for Duke. Alfred Williams is a monstrous middle linebacker prospect. Already weighing 245 pounds, he might be moved to defensive end if he gets much heavier. He is tough and physical at the point of attack. Zach Smith is a top_notch athlete, who the big schools shied away from because of his less than ideal height (5’11”). This guy can flat out play football. He has a blazing 4.38 40 time and is physically ready to play at the college level. I wouldn’t be surprised if he saw the field in 2004. Robinson is the wildcard of the group. He was virtually unnoticed until he committed to Duke. He’s a little light, but has good speed and reflexes that will serve him well at the college level.
For many years now, Duke’s secondary has been picked on because of the lack of depth. With the four players coming in this season, that hopefully will not be an issue in the future. Duke has good depth returning, and have now added four more to the mix. After a season at prep school, Evalio Harrell enrolled at Duke in January, and will participate in spring practice. Harrell is small, but displayed great big-play ability in high school. He should compete for playing time this season. Jabari Marshall might not have been Duke’s highest rated recruit, but he sure was one of the most sought after. In the three weeks between his oral commitment and signing day, he was offered by Florida and Mississippi State. This is on top of offers from Illinois and Notre Dame. He obviously can cover someone, if these schools are knocking down the door. He has good height (5’11”) and can also return punts and kicks. The other two players both have big-time upside that can hopefully translate into on-field production. Charbonnet turned heads when he ran a 4.31 40 at Texas A&M football camp. He might be a bit raw in coverage, but his speed cannot be denied. Adrian Aye-Darko is also an intriguing prospect. He is a gigantic (for CB) 6’2” 185 pounds and is a superb all-around athlete. If he can handle the speed receivers at the college level, he will be an outstanding player at Duke.
The two-deep at safety is pretty much set, with 3 of the top 4 on the depth chart returning. Still, one or both of these players could make an impact sooner than later. Davis is a good all-around player out of Atlanta who Georgia Tech wanted. He’s a bit on the light side so a redshirt is not out of the question. Platt is nearly the same size, but was also a pretty good high school receiver. He could see playing time there as well, though safety will likely be his initial destination.
I don’t really know where Ezzard is going to line up. He played quarterback in high school, but he’ll probably end up at either wide receiver or defensive back. The staff will have to get him on the practice field and see where he fits best. If he were able to handle the quickness demands at cornerback, he might stick there. He has good height (6’0”) for the position.
- Speed: Duke was able to greatly upgrade overall team speed in this class. Nearly all of Duke’s skill position recruits have times of 4.5 or better in the 40. And a few, like Ronnie Drummer, Daniel Charbonnet, and Jabari Marshall are accomplished high school sprinters.
- Needs filled: Duke’s three biggest needs in this class were offensive linemen, depth at running back, and impact wide receivers. The six linemen Duke signed are all good football players. A few of them have the requisite strength and ability to contribute right away. The Devils also signed 3 running backs. Ronnie Drummer brings home run potential and Justin Boyle looks to be an excellent prospect who could contribute right away. With Chancellor Young and company, Duke got the impact players with height that they were looking for.
- Defensive linemen: Duke had a few defensive tackle prospects slip through the cracks, and ended up signing none. While not a pressing need, signing at least one would have definitely set the Devils up down the road.
- Blue Chippers: Duke missed on several of its blue chip targets. The players Duke did sign definitely signified an improvement in the recruiting from previous year. To compete with the big boys, however, Duke must find a way to land the occasional four and five star recruit.
Duke really made strides in this recruiting season, however, really missed out on a few big name recruits that would have made this offseason a smashing success. I guess we can roll Curt Dukes into this class as well, since he will now be eligible after sitting out 1003 as a transfer. He will definitely pay immediate dividends and upgrade the class rank. To be fair, the current staff didn’t have a full recruiting cycle. This definitely hampered their efforts with some of the prize recruits. However, they did a wonderful job identifying need positions and filling them with quality football players. The class of 2004 signifies a solid first step in the rebirth of Duke football under Ted Roof and his staff.