It's going to be hard to expand upon Brian's comprehensive Duke preview, covering such players as Duke QB and Duke WR, but I'm going to give it a shot. After all, this is the Blue Devils' Super Bowl.
The first personality of note is Offensive Coordinator Peter Vaas. Vaas was fired by Charlie last year along with defensive coordinator Rick Minter. Vaas, who still has one daughter at ND and one at Saint Marys, is familiar with the ND offense (or at least last year's effective version) and Charlie admitted as much.
It's a little pain in the butt, to tell you the truth, because he knows the system. He knows the system very well, is a smart coach and an experienced coach and knows the system.Vaas however noted that whatever knowledge he has is more personnel-related that anything schematic.
In a certain context, yes. Obviously, I have an intimate knowledge of the abilities or lack of abilities of some of the players because of my involvement over the last couple years. But at the same time, I don't have any intimate involvement with the schemes and concepts they're trying to accomplish because that all changed after I left.Vaas also had an interesting quote about the role of assistant coaches at Notre Dame, something that Irish fans have wondered about recently.
"When you get here [at Duke], you're involved in a decision-making process which [at Notre Dame] was basically a suggestion-making process," Vaas said. "Here, those suggestions become decisions on my part.... That's been a tremendous experience."Keep in mind this is coming from a fired coach, but it's still worth noting.
Peter isn't the only Duke coach with an ND past. Head coach Ted Roof was unofficially Notre Dame's defensive coordinator, if only for a few hours.
Roof had served as O'Leary's defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech for three years when he was asked to move with the coach to Notre Dame. Roof agreed in principle to join the Fighting Irish as defensive coordinator and traveled to South Bend with Bill O'Brien and David Kelly, two other members of O'Leary's staff. ...While you wouldn't think there is much to worry about with a team that's won one game in three years, there are a few talented players on the Blue Devil squad worth mentioning. Sophomore quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, Armando Allen's high school QB, was thrust into a starting role last year as a freshman. Understandably, he struggled somewhat with an 11 to 16 touchdown to interception ratio. However, he's done a solid job of reversing that this season as he currently has thrown 19 touchdowns versus 10 interceptions. Only two quarterbacks in the ACC have thrown for more touchdowns. He's also riding a 12 game streak with at least one touchdown pass.
"I was at home and the phone rang at about two o'clock in the morning," Roof said. "When you coach college football and your phone rings at two in the morning, or I guess just if you're a human being and your phone rings at two o'clock, they're not pleasant calls. That one wasn't either."
The call was from O'Brien, and he had some unpleasant news. Revelations about falsifications on O'Leary's resume, which incorrectly stated that the coach was a three-year football letterman at the University of New Hampshire and that he had earned a master's degree at NYU, had come to light. O'Leary was forced to resign the next day, and with that development, any of Roof's dreams of coaching beneath Touchdown Jesus vanished into thin air.
His favorite target is junior Eron Riley. Riley has 751 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns, good for 13th in the nation, and is one of the more effective deep ball threats that the Irish have faced this season. Earlier in the week, I noted the solid work of the Irish pass defense so far in preventing the big pass play. Riley will test the secondary for sure as he is 3rd in the nation in yards per catch at a whopping 21.46 yards. Not only that, but he already has 6 touchdown receptions this year over 40 yards. And 4 of those are 64 yards and longer. Expect Duke to try and hit Riley on a big pass play and get up early on the Fighting Irish.
The weak link in that plan is the Duke offensive line. A veteran unit with plenty of experience, they have still allowed 40 sacks this year, ranking 115th in the nation. If they are able to give Lewis time to throw deep or open holes for Re'Quan Boyette (36.1 yards/game), the Irish will be in deep trouble.
Defensively, the Blue Devils have a pair of active linebackers in sophomore Vincent Rey and senior Michael Tauiliili. Tauiliili led Duke in tackles the past two seasons, but so far this year he is slightly behind Rey. Despite those two though, the Duke defense has given up plenty of yardage both on the ground and in the air. If their defensive lineman and cornerbacks start making plays consistently, ND might be in for yet another long day.
Like Notre Dame, Duke has had some struggles with their field goal kicking. So much so, that they help open auditions to replace struggling one for five kickers Joe Surgan and Greg Meyers. In the end, backup freshman punter Nick Maggio took over the starting job and so far is two for two with a long of 40 yards. Let's just hope this game doesn't come down to a battle of field goals.