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Duke’s football season is going about as well as could be asked for in the record category, as the Blue Devils have won all four games thus far to be the only undefeated team in the ACC’s Coastal Division. But in the player personnel department, the boys in blue are reeling having lost their starting quarterback (Daniel Jones), starting cornerback (Mark Gilbert), starting center (Zach Harmon), starting safety (Jeremy McDuffie), Gilbert’s replacement at starting cornerback (Michael Carter) and starting wide receiver (Aaron Young) to injuries at times this year. Jones is still out indefinitely, but has somehow returned to the practice field just nine days after fracturing his left clavicle. Gilbert is out for the year and the others, along with multiple other players on Duke’s roster, are day to day with varying levels of severe injuries.
BIG CROWD FOR HOKIES
Duke enters Saturday night’s game against the Hokies ranked in the AP Poll at No. 22 and in the Coaches’ Poll at No. 23 Virginia Tech comes in ranked in the Coaches’ Poll at No. 24 and will mark the first ranked opponent in either poll for the Blue Devils this season. To say this is an important matchup for Duke both in this season and overall as a program would be an understatement. This is Duke’s biggest opportunity to show up on the national stage thus far this season and will be the last time it faces off against a ranked opponent until the Nov. 3 matchup at Miami. More importantly for this season, Virginia Tech is one of the top contenders for the Coastal Division title, despite its loss to FCS foe Old Dominion last week. Getting off to a 1-0 start in the ACC will put Duke’s destiny in its hands as it looks to return to the ACC Championship Game for the second time in five years.
NO. 1 STRING IN TROUBLE
Duke’s insane recruiting run of finishing with the top-ranked class in three consecutive seasons appears to be in jeopardy for the 2019 class, as two players have now committed to other programs with outstanding offers to join the Blue Devils.
First, it was wing Bryan Antoine who unexpectedly ended his recruitment with a commitment to Villanova following an unofficial visit to the Wildcats.
Then last week, five-star guard Josiah James announced his commitment to Tennessee two weeks before a planned official visit to Duke at the end of the month.
After landing the No. 1- (RJ Barrett), No. 2- (Cameron Reddish) and No. 5- (Zion Williamson) ranked players in the 2018 class, getting turned down by the No. 12- (Antoine) and No. 14- (James) ranked players in 2019 feels like a slap in the face to the recruiting kings.
While Duke and coach Mike Krzyzewski have a moxie on the recruiting trail in and of themselves, former associate head coach Jeff Capel, now the head man at Pittsburgh, was known as a recruiting whisperer and played a large part in the Blue Devils’ recent recruiting dominance.
Like with any other company selling a product, when you lose your top salesperson, there’s going to be an adjustment period. Unfortunately for college basketball programs that have built a dependence on a constantly rotating roster of one-and-done players like Duke has in recent years, there’s no time for that adjustment period to settle in before affecting the following year’s roster negatively.
OFFICIAL HOOPS VISITS
To stem the tide of recruits choosing other schools, Duke will turn to five-star wing Wendell Moore, who officially visited campus last weekend. It’s the first official visit for the program in the fall evaluation period and to say it’s an important one would be an understatement after being turned down by two of its other top backcourt targets. This weekend, Duke will host four-star combo guard Anthony Harris for an official visit, as he’s basically auditioning for a scholarship offer. If Duke extends an offer, it is expected to be the favorite to land Harris, who is expected to make a final decision sometime before the fall signing period in November.
Adam Rowe covers Duke basketball, football and recruiting for 247Sports.com. Check out more of his work at duke.247sports.com