Tag Archives: Shaquille Powell

DSC_0058

Football Friday: A Look at the Running Backs

DSC_0058The calendar has flipped to July, which means August and the start of football practice is just around the corner. Anticipation is building for what promises to be another solid year in the ongoing resurgence of Duke football so the time is right to resurrect the Blue Devil Nation weekly Football Friday feature.

Some folks, talking heads and analysts, are looking at 2015 as a possible rebuilding year in Durham due to the players who left. A better approach is to focus on the players who are back and there are lots of players returning in 2015 who were part of the successes achieved in 2014 and 2013. Add in 13 redshirt freshmen and a true freshmen or two and Duke will send a bunch of talent onto the gridiron in 2015.

This first article will take a look at running back, which is one of the deepest and most talented position on the roster alongside safety.

Shaquille Powell will be the starting running back in Duke's single back offensive formation. He is a powerful between the tackles runner who has 1,055 career rushing yards as a Blue Devil. The best descriptor for Powell is workhorse, he is a player willing and able to do the dirty work - whatever it takes - blocking, running up the middle for a tough yard, catching the ball out of the backfield.

Powell has rushed for four touchdowns in his career with his signature moment coming in the 4th quarter of Duke's 48-30 win over Miami in 2013. On 4th and 1 at the Miami 33 yard line, Duke opted to go for the 1st down and Powell took an hand-off and broke free up the middle for a touchdown.

Shaun Wilson set the Duke single game rushing record with his 245 yard performance against Kansas on 9/13/2014. Wilson, who possesses elusive moves and breakaway speed, rushed for 598 yards and five touchdowns on 78 carries for a 7.7 yards per carry average as a true freshman last year. He also caught 18 passes for 179 yards.

During Spring practice, there was some buzz about Wilson lining up in the slot as well as split wide. Coach Cutcliffe has previously stated his desire to maximize the playmakers on the field so Wilson seeing action as a slot receiver in addition to lining up in the backfield as a running back is a distinct possibility.

Jela Duncan rushed for a combined 1,115 yards during his freshman and sophomore seasons prior to missing the 2014 season. He was the team's leading rusher as a true freshman in 2012. Duncan's return to action provides the Blue Devils with another powerful runner to complement Powell, especially when Duke switches up the offensive look and goes to a two back formation.

The return of Duncan is a huge positive, which is tough to overstate. He is a versatile back who runs with power and speed, in addition to being able to catch the ball out of the backfield or serve as an additional pass blocker.

Joe Ajeigbe is the last of the quartet of running backs. He carried the ball 41 times for 150 yards in 2014. Ajeigbe's marquee performance was when he rushed for 53 yards on eight carries in Duke's 31-25 upset of Georgia Tech in Atlanta on 10/11/2014. He has the potential to provide increased production with more touches in his sophomore season.

An increased emphasis on the running game is expected in 2015 due to several factors. First, the talent and experience at running back on the roster; second, two quarterbacks who are strong, fast runners; third, an offensive line that continues to be a team strength. Combine those factors together and the result is a team which will look to run the ball with authority.

With four talented running backs in the rotation, look for Duke to spread the carries around once again in 2015 in order to keep pounding away at the opponent's defense with fresh legs.

Be sure and check back next Friday for another football article as Blue Devil Nation ramps up the coverage through practice and on to opening kick-off in New Orleans on September 3rd.

Anthony Boone 10-18-14

Duke offense discusses 20-13 win over Virginia

DURHAM - Duke RB Shaquille Powell led two second-half scoring drives for the Blue Devils in their 20-13 victory over Virginia. Powell, who missed last week with a leg injury, returned to finish with 6.2 yards per carry against a highly-touted Virginia front seven. He received a standing ovation in the post-game locker room from his teammates for his efforts in the midst of his younger brother's battle with a Wilms' tumor. 

Senior quarterback Anthony Boone led Duke to yet another victory, moving to 16-1 as a starter in regular season games, moving him to second on the Blue Devils' all-time list. He finished the day 22-37 for 176 yards and 1 toucdown, and perhaps most importantly, led the Blue Devils to no turnovers on the afternoon.

Senior WR Jamison Crowder once again led the Blue Devil receiving corps with 88 yards on 8 catches. He has had at least 2 catches in 35 straight games. He joined Conner Vernon and Clarkston Hines today in the 3,000 yard receiver club at Duke.

The game ball today probably is split between the aforementioned Powell and the Blue Devil offensive line. Entering today's game, Virginia was among the top defenses in the country, forcing 19 turnovers, 23 sacks, and 43 tackles for loss. On Saturday, they finished without a single turnover, sack, or tackle for loss. Duke averaged 5.2 yards on the ground, nearly twice the season average of Virginia's opponents entering today. Senior OL Takoby Cofield discussed the big victory and bowl eligibility.

Duke's running back stable will have a big day at Troy - BDN Photo

Game preview: Duke at Troy

Duke at Troy
7:00 PM ET
Saturday, September 6
Troy, AL
TV: ESPN3
Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network, Sirius Ch 135

Duke in 2014: 1-0
Troy in 2014: 0-1

DUKE INJURIES

OUT – Dan Beilinson (TE), C.J. France (LB), Johnathan Lloyd (CB), Trip McNeill (OL), Jake Sanders (OL)
OUT FOR SEASON – Kelby Brown (LB), Braxton Deaver (TE), Taariq Shabazz (DE)

TROY INJURIES

Not available

The Troy Trojans made a trip to Durham a year ago, falling to the Blue Devils, 38-31. This year, Duke returns the favor with a visit to Troy, Alabama in week two. Behind four touchdowns from Anthony Boone, Duke cruised to an easy win in their opener against Elon, while the Trojans were trampled on the road by the UAB Blazers, 48-10.

HOW DUKE CAN WIN

On his weekly conference call, OC Scottie Montgomery said to be at their best, the Blue Devil offense is all about balance. A balanced attack from Anthony Boone and company should consistently find the end zone against a Troy defense that allowed 338 rushing yards to UAB and finished 115th against the pass in 2013.  Troy HC Larry Blakeney stated this week that the Blue Devils will represent the best offensive line the Trojans will face this season (and Troy will face Georgia in week 4). The key to a balanced offensive attack starts at the line of scrimmage, where Duke will need to impose their will against the struggling Trojan front seven. Expect to see Duke once again rely heavily on veteran RBs Josh Snead and Shaquille Powell as they look to impose a fast pace and consistently move the chains.

Defensively, DC Jim Knowles is likely to implement a more aggressive gameplan than against Elon, looking to turn up the heat on young redshirt-freshman QB Brandon Silvers. A big night from the Duke front six will force the young Trojan offense into turnovers, something they were unable to do against Elon in their opener.

The one glaring weakness in Duke's effort against Elon was in the kicking game, where the Blue Devils were out-hit by the Phoenix. Coach Cutcliffe spent significant time analyzing the kicking game struggles and expect to see a better effort from Duke in week 2.

HOW DUKE CAN LOSE

On their way to a 10-2 regular season, the Blue Devils survived a scare at home against the Trojans a year ago. It would be foolish to overlook this year's Troy team simply based on their week one result. Head Coach Larry Blakeney and his staff will have the Trojans ready for their home opener (Troy is 22-1 in home openers under Blakeney). On the road against a quality opponent, the Blue Devils cannot afford to make things easy for the Trojans. Ball security is paramount for a Duke offense that on paper should be able to move the ball with ease.

On the road, explosives can give a home team all the momentum it needs to pull off an unlikely upset. Add in a rowdy home crowd (yes, they will be serving adult beverages in Troy), and a few key plays could be all it takes for the tables to turn on Duke. The Blue Devils' surrendered a few explosives in the return game against Elon, and a similar missed assignment on the road could lead to a game-changing score. Similarly, Duke's young secondary must keep the Trojan receivers, led by Chandler Worthy in week one. If Troy jumps out to a lead, expect them to try and ride their own four-headed running back committee of Brandon Burks, Jordan Chunn, Khary Franklin and Tim Longmire to victory.

WHY DUKE WILL WIN

The Trojans are searching for a defensive identity and the Blue Devils' offensive playmakers will leave them searching for answers. As they did for most of their season opener, Duke will control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Multiple Duke RBs will find their way into the end zone, while the Duke WR trio of Jamison Crowder, Issac Blakeney, and Max McCaffrey will continue their early season success. Carlos Wray and company will frequent the Trojan backfield and Troy will again struggle to convert on third down.

BOTTOM LINE

As they did a year ago in week two at Memphis, expect the Blue Devils to face their first true adversity of the season on Saturday at Troy. The Trojans will be motivated to bounce back after an embarrassing opening week loss, and will keep this close early. Behind a big day from #TheStable and a bend-but-not-break defense, Duke pulls away in the second half.

Duke 41, Troy 20

 

DSC_0031-002

Blakeney and Powell score 3 TDs in Duke win

DURHAM - Duke WR Issac Blakeney appears poised for a big year after a 2 touchdown performance in the season opener against Elon. Similarly, the running back tandem of Shaquille Powell and Josh Snead got off to a good start, gaining a combined 128 yards on 23 carries. Blue Devil Nation spoke with both Blakeney and Powell after the Duke victory.

Issac Blakeney

Shaquille Powell

Duke with host OL Elijah George on an official visit this weekend.

Duke stands out to hard-working Arbor View OL Elijah George

Duke has stood out early to Arbor View OL Elijah George

In the class of 2012, the Blue Devils gained a big commitment from the state of Nevada in RB Shaquille Powell. Coach Cutcliffe and the Duke staff are hoping to add another player to the program from the Las Vegas area in OL Elijah George. George is a 6'5" 245 pound lineman from Arbor View HS in Las Vegas. Playing on both sides of the ball, George helped to lead Arbor View to the Sunset Region semifinals and a 9-3 overall record as a junior, earning himself 1st Team All-Northwest Division and 2nd Team All-State honors. Not surprisingly, he has seen his recruitment heat up this spring. The Blue Devils were among the first to offer and have made a strong early impression on the big offensive line prospect. BDN caught up with the hard-working lineman over the weekend to get an update on his recruitment. [private]

 BDN: How would you describe your strengths as a player?

Well, I think that the thing that attracts colleges is my height, and how they see that I adapt to what they’re trying to accomplish on the college level. My strength on the field is that I don’t give up, I don’t care if they’re 8 feet tall or 600 pounds, no game is unbeatable, that’s how I look at it, that’s how my teammates look at it.

BDN: What are you working on this offseason as you prepare for your senior year?

In the offseason, I went to a Nike camp recently, I’ve been working on my footwork and my hand placement, and my speed, just finding ways to get better each day. I definitely hope to accomplish going to state, I want to leave my mark on my high school, just want to help put the best team out there, that’s how I look at it.

BDN: As you approach your college decision, what are the most important things you are looking for in a school?

I’m looking for most in a college is education, that’s what my family is strong about, most of my family went to college. Education will get me farther than football. I’m looking for the best education that colleges can offer me.

BDN: Where do you stand with offers and interest from schools now?

I have three from UNLV, SMU and Duke. BYU is coming to see me and I’m talking to Nebraska. But at this point, Duke is probably where I’m headed.

BDN: Which schools have you had a chance to visit or do you have plans to take any visits later this spring or summer?

I think I’m going to go see some sometime in the spring. I don’t know about Nebraska yet, my family is talking about a visit to Duke and some other colleges.

BDN: You mentioned that Duke was a school that stands out to you; what is about the Duke program that interests you?

The coaches that came to see me, I like their plans for the future about, well they’re not really known as a football school, but their mindset about making football be as big as the basketball team. I’ve been looking up their program, it just seems like they have a plan and I like where they’re going.

BDN: Are there any schools that you haven’t heard from that you are interested in, or grew up following?

Well, I grew up in LA and always wanted to go to USC, or maybe Oregon, but you know, those were just childhood dreams.

BDN: Do you have a timeline in mind for when you plan to narrow things down or make your final decision?

I don’t know, sometime around my senior year, definitely after football season, but before signing day, like a month or two before signing day.

BDN: Thanks a lot, Elijah, and best of luck.

Thank you. [/private]

Highlights from Elijah George at the Nike SPARQ Combine in Long Beach can be seen here.