BUT WHAT IF THE COMPUTERS CAN’T COUNT TO 2000 AND REVERT BACK TO 1900 AND COMPUTERS DIDN’T EXIST THEN SO THEY WILL ALL DIE!!!!!
Weren’t we a clever group. Despite that freakout, the millenium brought us wonderful gifts like Lebron James, the iPhone, and True Blood. It also brought Duke football droll things like winless streaks and Ted Roof playing Creed at practice. Seriously, that happened. Anywho, I decided to look back at the era of football that has coincided with the rise and fall of Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake.
QB: Sean Renfree – Believe me, I labored over this spot: Thad or Sean? On one hand, Lewis had inferior coaching for most of his career, inferior talent around him, and doesn’t have prototypical size. Still, Lewis threw for over 10,000 yards over four years, one of only a few to pass that benchmark. However, Renfree was the better quarterback. He has the second highest passing efficiency for a career, just behind Anthony Dilweg, the most completions in a career, highest career completion percentage, third in career passing yards, and third in touchdowns. There is certainly an argument for Lewis though. Lewis had more touchdowns, a better TD/INT ratio, more yards, and is the only Duke QB in history to throw for 2,000+ yards, 4 different seasons. Either way, you can’t go wrong at this spot.
RB: Chris Douglas and Alex Wade – Look, these guys were good. The early 2000s belonged to these guys as they amassed 4,688 yards combined. Duke simply hasn’t had a runner that productive since. Douglas remains first all time in rushing yards at Duke while Wade stands 16th. Justin Boyle is the honorable mention at this time and perhaps Jela Duncan will work his way in sometime in the future. Until then, no one tops Douglas.
WR: Eron Riley, Conner Vernon, Donovan Varner – 3 of the top 4 receivers in terms of yardage in Duke history have laced them up since 2004. All three place in the top 9 in catches and touchdowns for their careers. They were the definition of consistency and excellence throughout their stays. Vernon is the only receiver in Duke history with four seasons of 700+ yards and Varner did it three times. Riley had two seasons where he averaged 20 yards per catch. Read that sentence again. Kid was a freak athletically.
TE: Cooper Helfet – Yeah….this position is barren. Outside of Ben Patrick and maybe Mike Hart, since he played in 2000-2001, the TE spot has been devoid of production. Helfet actually had two of the better seasons in Duke history for the position which should tell you all you need to know. His 77 catches is 8th all time for a TE and his six touchdowns is tied for 5th. Ewwww.
OL: Kyle Hill, Brian Moore, Bryan Morgan, Rob Schirmann, Perry Simmons – One of the tougher positions to choose from, the offensive line has actually had a lot of talent but rarely had an entire unit of talented players. The 2013 line looks to be the best in years, however. These five show a leaning towards the more recent years as Duke’s recruiting hit an upswing on the line. Bryan Morgan anchors this line as the center was a leader in the locker room and one of the brightest in the class room. Schirmann started 36 games and Hill started every game he was healthy of his career. Hill also was named a freshman All-American by several publications including Phil Steele. Moore was a guard for his first few years before moving to center last season as he anchored the Duke line to the first bowl in 18 years. Simmons was the best available and will be the leader of the 2013 unit as his experience and size trumps his other competitors.
DL: Patrick Bailey, Vince Oghobaase, Matt Zielinski, Ayanga Okpokowuruk – Duke would be desperate to sign these guys up for four more years. While Oghobaase’s career didn’t pan out the way his uber-prospects foretold they would, he was still the best defensive tackle Duke has had. Zielinski might disagree. The 6-3, 290 pound tackle ended his career with 41.5 tackles for loss (more than Oghobaase) and 12 sacks. He’s also the only player with multiple seasons of 18 TFL or more and sits second all time in QB pressures. Bailey and Okpokowuruk were beasts on the edge. Bailey has gone on to the NFL where he has played, albeit sparingly, with the Titans and Steelers. AO finished 13th all time in sacks at Duke.
LB: Ryan Fowler, Vinny Rey, Mike Tauiliili – Three of the most prolific tacklers in Duke history. This corp of backers have all played in the NFL. Tauiliili finished his decorated career at Duke with a 1st team All-ACC nod three years after winning ACC Defensive Freshman of the Year. He finished fourth in career tackles and third in tackles for loss., and tied for first with Zielinski in forced fumbles. His senior year, he notched 140 tackles. An impressive number all linebackers would gawk at. Except Ryan Fowler. Fowler notched 145 his junior year, following it up with 136 his senior season. Despite his riches of tackles, Fowler never made first team All-ACC. Still, he stands third in tackles and second in tackles for loss for his career. Rey was beast in his own right, although lesser than his predecessors in this paragraph. Rey finished eleventh in tackles despite barely playing his freshman season.
CB: John Talley, Ross Cockrell – Talley is a no-doubter. The all-time leader in interceptions for Duke (and for a period, the ACC) twice earned first team All-ACC honors and sits at the top of every meaningful defensive back category: interceptions, interception return yardage, pass break ups, and passes defended. He is simply the best CB in Duke history. The other spot could have gone to either Leon Wright or Cockrell. I gave the edge to Cockrell even though Wright surpasses him statistically. The obvious explanation is that Cockrell will, by year’s end, supplant Wright statistically and most likely end up getting drafted.
S: Matt Daniels, Walt Canty – Daniels and Canty played a couple seasons together and both came into be the best safeties Duke has had this millennium. Daniels was the fiercest hitter I’ve ever seen, hunting down ball carriers like he was a heat-seeking missile. He would end his career as a first team All-ACC player. Canty made the second team his senior year and is clearly the second best safety Duke has had. He often found himself as the last line of defense and prevented home run plays more often than not, fortunately.
K: Will Snyderwine – The kicking spot is something that has haunted Duke for years. Sure, there were fleeting moments like Matt Brooks’ 53-yarder to beat Clemson as time expired but overall, the kicking has been embarassingly bad. Snyderwine has the oasis in the desert for Duke football kicking as he walked on to the team and walked into the record books. He finished third all time in points, first in points per game, second in field goals made, first in field goal percentage, and once made 18 consecutive field goals.
P: Trey McDonald – You could make the argument for Kevin Jones but then again, Jones lost his job as a senior. McDonald, meanwhile, was a four year starter that finished second in total yardage but merely twelfth in average. You have a feeling these specialists positions are simply being held for Ross Martin and Will Monday until they scribble their names all over the record books like their outstanding freshman seasons indicate.
Returner: Jabari Marshall – Even if you take away the sheer bulk of kick returns Marshall got he still was the most efficient returner of the post-Y2K era. Averaging over 24 yards per return was tops of the eligible candidates and gives Duke a slithery home run weapon.