Players To Watch: Duke vs. NCCU


Oct 1, 2011; Miami, FL, USA; Duke Blue Devils running back Juwan Thompson (23) runs for a touchdown against the Florida International Panthers at FIU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Here we are, we’ve entered Game Week. Some teams have easier affairs than others but nonetheless, each week presents an opportunity for teams to make or break their seasons. There is no other regular season like college football’s because if you are a team like Alabama or Oregon or Ohio State, one loss means the end of your season’s goals.

Alas, Duke is not those teams so each week isn’t quite make or break in that sense. It is, however, for a different goal. Making a bowl game again would go a long way in insuring the doubters are held at bay, solidifying recruiting for the future classes, and establishing Duke as a formidable opponent in the minds of football fanatics everywhere.

That means that each week needs to be handled with focus and determination. Losses to the likes of Richmond are no longer acceptable, nor are losses to teams like Troy. Duke has to accept the fact that if they want to be considered a better team, they have to win the games they are supposed to win and some they aren’t.

This all starts with N.C. Central. The Eagles visit Wallace Wade for the second straight year with an upset on their minds after finishing last year with a winning record. By all means, Duke shouldn’t lose to these types of teams and basically have a 99% chance of getting the W on Saturday. So instead of looking for the common things like scoring, production, and the like, here are five players I’ll be keeping an eye on this weekend:

1) Breon Borders – Neon Breon Borders has been the talk of training camp as he has stepped up and continually made plays at the cornerback position. He is currently battling fellow freshmen Deondre Singleton, Evrett Edwards, DeVon Edwards, and Bryon Fields for that other starting spot. Watch how Cutcliffe divides up the snaps here to see the future of the Duke secondary.

2) Anthony Nash – Nash has all the physical tools you could want in a receiver. He’s big (6-5), fast, and athletic. The only question seems to be his maturation on running his routes and his hands. If Nash can develop his route running intuition and displays soft hands, the Duke passing game will have one of the toughest covers in the ACC.

3) Anthony Young-Wiseman – You have to feel for the guy that has battled injuries his entire career and seems like he might finally be healthy for his redshirt senior year. Young-Wiseman is slated to be one of the starting safeties next to Jeremy Cash and Dwayne Norman. With such little experience, it is hard to be too optimistic, however, he has showed so much promise in flashes that many staff members think he could be a key player in the secondary, hopefully, all season.

4) Kyler Brown – With his brother Kelby returning, Kyler seems poised to step into the other linebacker position next to him. Kyler possesses elite size for the position yet we haven’t been able to see whether he displays the same play recognition and instincts that Kelby has. If he starts finding a way to beat his brother to the ball, Duke may end up with one of the better linebacker duos in the conference.

5) Juwan Thompson – The Phantom role was created for Thompson this fall as he will not only take snaps as a running back but also as a receiver, lined up in a variety of spots and packages. The plan is to use the best receiving running back in the ACC ala Reggie Bush for the 05 USC Trojans. Expect some of the play calling to be very vanilla early on but how the staff uses him will be a key to the Duke offense in 2013.