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September 2, 2005There's not much left to analyze about the season opener as pretty much every stone has been turned over leading up to kickoff at East Carolina. So mostly in review, Devils Illustrated offers up five things to watch at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
1) Mike Schneider's command of the offense.
The junior quarterback has looked impressive in fall camp and shows all the signs of putting together a very good season. All the positives from preseason practice could go out the window without a good performance in the opener, though. Schneider will have a healthy Cedric Dargan to rely on at tailback, which should provide Duke an opportunity to have a rushing threat. Expect Schneider to lean on his favorite targets, Ben Patrick and Andy Roland when Duke needs a key reception. The Blue Devils will likely take their share of downfield chances as well, though, which leads us to the second thing to watch...
2) Which receiver will step up and have a big game?
The list of candidates is long. It could be returning starters Deon Adams, Jomar Wright, or Ronnie Elliott. But then again, there might be a breakout game from one of the young guys if they get some balls thrown their direction. Eron Riley and Raphael Chestnut should each receive some chances, while observation number three could also be in the mix...
3) What exactly will true freshman Marcus Jones do and where all might he line up in this game?
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the game to watch, Duke has not had a game breaking, versatile athlete like Jones in some time. Offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien undoubtedly has some wrinkles sprinkled into his offense to utilize his considerable talents. Jones has seen time at receiver and quarterback in fall practice and potentially could play a major role at East Carolina. The question is what exactly that role will be...should be fascinating to observe.
4) Just how improved is the Blue Devils' defense?
With a hungry defensive line healthy and ready to atone for last season, there's high hopes for a much improved season. We'll get our first look at just how much improvement has been made against the Pirates. While East Carolina doesn't figure to be ultra explosive on offense, Duke can make a big statement if they shut down the Skip Holtz attack. The secondary needs to make a couple of big plays. John Talley and Brian Greene are each capable. Combine their skill and experience with the talent and athleticism of Deonto McCormick and Chris Davis, and East Carolina has a lot to be concerned about when they put the ball in the air.
5) Duke's offensive line
Sadness struck the Duke team with the death of offensive guard Jim Moravchik's father. Moravchik is back at his Wisconsin home and is not available for the game. That puts extra emphasis on the performance of Zach Maurides, who will certainly get the start at left guard now. But the whole unit will be crucial to Duke's success. Can Demetrius Warrick make the transition from defense to right tackle? Can Tyler Krieg be the rock and leader that he's expected to be up front? Can Lavdrim Bauta protect Schneider's blind side from his left tackle post? All of these questions will be of paramount importance.
The wait is nearly over. The analysis is finished. All that's left to do is watch the game and stay tuned to Devils Illustrated for full postgame analysis.