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September 5, 2013In a couple of days the Memphis Tigers will be opening up their season against the Duke Blue Devils. We asked Devilsillustrated.com Publisher Brian McLawhorn five questions about the game.
1. What should Memphis fans expect from the Blue Devil offense that's different from what they saw last year?
There are two key differences between this season's offense and that of which we saw a year ago. With Sean Renfree leading the offense at quarterback in 2012, it was very much a pro-style approach. Now that he has graduated and Duke's quarterbacks are more mobile, the Blue Devils have introduced the zone read offense, and they implement it heavily. In the season opener, it worked extremely well. Quarterback Anthony Boone made very few mistakes and made excellent decisions with his reads. In this new read offense, Duke runs at a breakneck pace. They run a no-huddle and will look to snap the ball quickly to tire out the defense. After the first drive alone last week, the NCCU defenders were gasping for air.
The other difference is the Blue Devils emphasis on the ground game. Last season the coaches started running the ball much more frequently, but this year, it's become a point of focus. With four solid running backs to rotate in and out, Duke's offense will look to set the tone via the run game.
2. What should Memphis fans expect from the Blue Devil defense that's different from what they saw last year?
The scheme is still the same - a 4-2-5 approach. The difference is this unit will be in its second year of running it, which should translate into fewer mistakes. We saw that on display last week as well, as they shutout North Carolina Central. The other thing that is significantly different is experience and depth. There were a lot of young, inexperienced faces lining up a year ago, and for the most part the defense is featuring a higher number of veterans. Because of that, Duke's defense should be more disciplined across the board.
3. Who are some top players on both sides of the ball that Memphis should keep an eye on?
Offensively, they're a number of players. Boone at quarterback is certainly a guy to keep an eye on. Running backs Jela Duncan, Shaquille Powell, Josh Snead and Juwan Thompson will all get touches and each one is capable of producing a big game. At receiver, keep an eye on Jamison Crowder. He is Duke's biggest playmaker and is a threat to score every time he touches the football. Defensively, defensive backs Ross Cockrell and Ohio State transfer Jeremy Cash were outstanding in the opener. Linebacker Kelby Brown, who returned from an injury that made left him watching from the sidelines all last year, is also a huge presence for the Blue Devils. Along the defensive line, end Kenny Anunike is a name to keep a watch for in this contest.
4. For Duke to win they must-
Last season, this team had real issues with giving up big plays. In the first week of this season they managed to avoid those. For Duke to win, that will be a key thing - not allowing Memphis to run up and down the field with big plays. Duke will also need to control the tempo of the game and be in a position to let its offense dictate the pace.
5. You can give predictions if you'd like, but what type of game do you expect to see?
I have not studied Memphis very closely, so I it's hard to paint a picture of what I expect to see in this one from both perspectives. What I do expect from Duke is this team to move quickly when on offense and start by establishing the run. Defensively, I think they will try to put as much pressure on Memphis as possible. I feel like if Duke plays its game and controls the tempo then they'll leave with a victory.