Is Jaquez Moore ready to become a star for the Duke football team?

After being a productive backup in 2023, senior Jaquez Moore has an opportunity to turn heads for the Duke football program this fall.
Notre Dame v Duke
Notre Dame v Duke / Lance King/GettyImages

Sometimes, opportunities come at just the right moment. That could be the case for Jaquez Moore and the Duke football program in 2024.

The 5-foot-10, 201-pound senior running back is going to get his shot at being the bellcow of the offense and he might become one of the surprise stories in the ACC. That is, of course, if everything goes according to plan.

Most fans already know that last season's leading rusher, Jordan Waters, has transferred to NC State. That means there is a big hold to be filled on the ground.

Fortunately, Moore appears to be ready to step into the starting role. Last season, he ran for 674 yards and six TDs, both good for second on the team.

What might surprise some, though, is that Moore's per-carry average of 5.8 yards was better than Waters' average of 5.4. That didn't come on a small sample size either as Moore carried the ball 116 times.

In other words, when Moore got carries last season, he made the most of them. Now, there are questions that the Florida native will have to answer.

For instance, he must prove that he's durable enough to withstand the rigors of a full season as the starter. In fact, he's never had 20 carries in a game and only nine times has he carried the ball ten times or more.

Also, he needs to be able to prove that he's a threat in the passing game. So far, he has only 11 catches for 145 yards. That's over the span of three seasons.

It will be interesting to see how Duke deploys Moore this season, though. That's because new offensive coordinator Jonathan Brewer is known more for his work as a developer of quarterbacks than he is for anything else.

Thus, will the Duke offense be more pass-heavy? We don't know for sure what Brewer will do given that at his previous stop, at SMU, he was co-offensive coordinator for only one year and he did not call plays.

On the other hand, last season, SMU featured a two-headed running back attack just as Duke did. The Mustangs' two top rushers, Jaylan Knighton and LJ Johnson Jr., combined to rush for 1,321 yards and 11 touchdowns.

That means that Brewer could be well-equipped to help Moore and New Mexico State transfer Star Thomas churn out the yards on the ground. Last season, Thomas ran for 653 yards for the Aggies while racking up four TDs.

It will be important for Duke to get plenty of productivity from Moore and Thomas for multiple reasons. First of all, Duke will likely be playing a first-time starting QB in Maalik Murphy, a transfer from Texas who has only 71 career passing attempts to his name.

Second, Duke will have to replace the ground game threat posed by 2023 starting QB Riley Leonard. Now playing at Notre Dame, Leonard rushed for 352 yards and 4 TDs in only seven games a season ago. Murphy doesn't appear to be that type of player as he has only one career rushing attempt and it was a sack that lost 18 yards.

Thus, Moore and Thomas have to be ready to cover the productivity lost not only from Waters' absence but also from Leonard's. In fact, how well these two running backs pace the offense could be what tells the story for the Blue Devils offense in 2024.