Duke Eager to Overcome Last Years Woes in 2018

Written by Jared Rachko

Charlotte, NC – After coming off a subpar 2017 season and winning the Quick Lane Bowl, the Duke Blue Devils are ready to get back at it in 2018. With many of their important pieces returning, including third-year quarterback Daniel Jones, people should expect the ball to keep rolling this season for the big blue nation.


Last year, the Blue Devils had their fair share of streaky moments throughout the season. They started off with a four-game winning streak and averaged over 40 points a game. Duke looked unbeatable through the first four weeks. However, soon after taking a 31-6 loss to Miami in week five of the season, things started to go downhill, quick. They went on a six-game losing streak and had a 4-6 record with only two weeks left in the regular season. Their hopes of making it to a bowl game looked slim to none.


They eventually got back on track in the last two weeks of the season, defeating both Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. Those last two victories were key for Duke as they became bowl eligible with a 6-6 record. Shortly after, they were invited to the Quick Lane Bowl against Northern Illinois. Duke went on to beat Northern Illinois, 36-14 to win their first bowl game since 2015.


Duke linebacker Joe Giles-Harris spoke about the team’s inconsistent performance last season and stressed that the team needs to be more consistent this season.


“At one point we were at the top of the mountain,” said Giles-Harris. “You’re feeling good about yourselves, and next thing you know you’re trying to crawl out of a ditch. The lessons you learned from crawling out of that ditch and how we finished the season is something we’ve taken full advantage of. We have to be consistent, we have to be humble, and we have to be ready to go, and that’s the biggest thing. Learning from those mistakes and knowing what to do to avoid that this year.”


As it is with every team, the offense is extremely important Duke’s overall success. Jones spoke about the offense heading into the season, the importance of their running game and on the possibility of him running the ball at times.


“I think that’s a huge part of our offense,” said Jones. “I think kind of as you watch college football the past few years, it’s kind of trended towards that, where a running quarterback is a necessary part of the offense, and I’m certainly willing to do that. I look forward to those opportunities. I think that’s a week-in and week-out game plan thing that the coaches are working on, and whenever that opportunity presents itself, I’m certainly willing and enjoy doing that. I look forward to doing that again this year, and I think we’ll have plenty of help in the running game with Brittain and some of those guys. So really looking forward to a strong running game.”


He also spoke about growth among the receivers and how that will grow as the season goes on. Something that wasn’t brought up until the very end of his questioning was the strength of their offensive line. With three players from the offensive line gone from last season, many are wondering if they’ll continue their level of play into the next season. Jones confidently backed them up saying, “I think the offensive line and seeing those guys up front, if it’s as talented a group as I think we have, and watching those guys kind of grow together and pushing the running game to where I think it can go, this year will be a lot of fun.”


Giles-Harris produced at a high-level last season and entering this season, he will likely have a bigger role and more responsibilities. Giles-Harris spoke about taking on a bigger leadership role and how that has been a focus for him this offseason.


“I’m more of a lead by example kind of guy,” said Giles-Harris. “I’m not the most vocal person out there. I don’t like to get in people’s faces. But I try to do the right thing and try to have people watch me and follow me, and that’s the biggest thing I’ve been focused on this off-season, trying to become a better leader.”


Giles-Harris is looking like he’s ready to take that next big step in his college career. With him being one of the most experienced players on the roster, it’s his time to make his presence felt more not just on the field, but in the locker room too. Keep an eye out for No. 44 this year to have his best season yet.


Head coach David Cutcliffe, is spoken highly amongst his players for his consistent demeanor and support he offers at all times. The way he motivates his players to perform to the best of their abilities is one of the qualities that stands out the most from him. The players credit him the most for being the one that got the team to turn their season and make it to a bowl game.


Cutcliffe spoke about how important the offseason is in the success of a team during the season and how seeing players doing all they can to improve before camp starts it thrills and motivates him.


“When you see what these young people do,” said Cutcliffe. “I come in early still in the summer, and I’ll come out of my workout, and we have a 7:00 a.m. workout group in the summer, and they’re in there four days a week. And I just watch them work in that weight room. The energy and the challenging of each other and the competitiveness, you know, I think we should celebrate young people like that that are willing to do that with their summers. So as I look at the team in July, it energizes me to give them my best. That’s what my job really is is to give the players the best opportunity to win, which means I’ve got to give them my very best.”


With a confident quarterback returning, a supportive defense and a head coach that knows how to do more than just coach, the Blue Devils look to improve upon last season. New players joining their rivals in the conference aren’t scaring this team one bit and same goes for their competition. This underrated Duke team could be a very difficult team to play next season.


The 2018 season is going to be one to remember for all those that rep the big blue. If you’re watching college football this September, then expect Duke to be around come December again for another bowl run. There are still a few areas that needed to be addressed but it is clear that Duke is ready to meet any challenges head-on.

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