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Blue Devils facing another nearly complete makeover

Duke Notebook

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After adding six freshmen in last year’s top-ranked recruiting class, the Duke men’s basketball program will have just half of them back for their sophomore seasons in 2017-18.

Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles were always expected to go pro after one year, but Frank Jackson was a bit of a surprise. Those three will join sophomore Luke Kennard and graduating players Amile Jefferson and Matt Jones, in addition to transferring players Chase Jeter and Sean Obi, in departing from Durham this offseason.

That’s eight guys who were part of last year’s squad gone, an unprecedented roster turnover for head coach Mike Krzyzewski. While losing 61.5 percent of his players is never something a college coach wants to go through, it’s part and parcel of the one-and-done era that has made Duke so successful on the recruiting trail of late.

RELOADING

Duke has adapted to the new realities of college basketball better than any program in the country except maybe Kentucky, so it’s no surprise to see those two atop the 247Sports Composite Recruiting Rankings once again in 2017. The last year when Duke and Kentucky were not in the top two of the rankings was 2013. That speaks to both the high level of recruiting by those two programs and the fact that they feature players who leave early for the NBA, thus opening spots for more recruits to sign.

The Blue Devils have added three five-star recruits — No. 2 point guard Trevon Duval, No. 3 power forward Wendell Carter and No. 3 shooting guard Gary Trent — along with a pair of four-star recruits in shooting guard Alex O’Connell and small forward Jordan Tucker and three-star combo guard Jordan Goldwire. It’s a balanced group of talented players who are expected to only spend one year in college (Duval and Carter for sure, and potentially Trent), and depth players that will stick around for at least a few years.

A WHOLE NEW LOOK

Duval will no doubt be handed the keys to the Duke offense right away, starting at point guard in the backcourt alongside Grayson Allen, the most seasoned veteran on a 2017-18 roster that will look almost nothing like it did last year. Center Marques Bolden and power forward Wendell Carter are the other two locks to start when Duke takes the court this fall, but who plays small forward will be a question during summer workouts. While Gary Trent is somewhat undersized for the position at 6-foot-5, but he’s got the upper body strength (213 pounds) and reach (6-8.5 wingspan) to play bigger than his height.

Behind them Duke will have depth at nearly every position despite all of the roster changes this offseason. The health of Duval is likely the most important factor in the success of this year’s team. Duke has not had a true point guard on the roster since Tyus Jones on the national champion 2014-15 squad..

OPTIMISTIC OUTLOOK FOR FOOTBALL

While the Duke football team ended last year with a 4-8 record and no bowl game for the first time in four years, there is a lot of optimism heading into the 2017 season. Sophomore quarterback Daniel Jones adapted to the college game halfway through his freshman year, showing poise and control against more pressure than any Duke QB has seen in recent years. With a graduate transfer at offensive tackle from Ohio State in Evan Lisle, a deep wide receivers corps and a bevy of talented running backs, offensive coordinator Zac Roper should be able to dial up a versatile attack capable of putting up points in a hurry.

SCHEDULE GETS TOUGHER

That improved offense will be needed as Duke faces the fifth-toughest schedule in college football, based on 2016 won-loss records. This is the year to buy season tickets to Wallace Wade, as the Blue Devils host bowl teams in week 2 (Northwestern), week 3 (Baylor), week 5 (Miami), week 7 (Florida State), week 8 (Pittsburgh) and week 12 (Georgia Tech).

Adam Rowe covers Duke basketball, football and recruiting for 247Sports.com. Check out more of his work at duke.247sports.com.

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