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Duke Football: 2-9 Means Opportunity For Younger Players

And some of them are already stepping up

NCAA Football: Duke at Georgia Tech
 Oct 13, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Duke Blue Devils offensive lineman Maurice McIntyre (71) celebrates with wide receiver Johnathan Lloyd (5) after a touchdown catch against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the second half at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

“Competition” has been one of the buzzwords of Duke football’s 2021 fall camp. I think that’s the way we all want it to be. How many returnees should be guaranteed starting roles coming off a 2-9 season? That doesn’t mean Duke won’t rely on veterans like center Jack Wohlabaugh, guard Jacob Monk, receivers Jake Bobo and Jalon Calhoun, running back Mataeo Durant, linebacker Shaka Heyward or cornerback Leonard Johnson, to name a few. But the Duke coaches are counting on some young players to keep these guys on their toes, while making the best case they can for seeing the field right now.

Who are some of the relatively unknown youngsters pushing for playing time? The media has had a chance to talk to David Cutcliffe, Re’quan Boyette and Matt Guerrieri this week. Here are some of the names that have popped up.


Duke projects to start graduate student Wohlabaugh at center, true junior Jacob Monk at right guard and redshirt junior Maurice McIntyre at left guard, with redshirt junior Casey Holman and grad-student Kade Parmelly providing depth.

That’s a pretty experienced interior.

But tackle is a different story.

Sophomore Graham Barton is expected to start at left tackle and I’ll be talking more about Barton as opening day approaches. But redshirt sophomore John Gelotte is opening some eyes at the other tackle spot.

Gelotte is 6-7, 295. You may recall a short-lived experiment a couple of years ago to make him a tight end. But he’s back where he belongs.

Earlier this week Cutcliffe called Gelotte “a beast,” a “physical specimen,” and referenced the old Jimmy Dean song “Big Bad John.”

There’s another name in the mix. Justin Picket is a true freshman from Indiana, 6-7, 315. True freshmen don’t often play on the offensive line but Pickett could be an exception.

Wohlabaugh shared some thoughts on Pickett earlier this week.

“You look at him and he’s a big, big dude. He’s really physical and I think that’s the biggest thing for a freshman. You come in and you might now know what you’re doing, you might not know your assignment on a certain play but if you’re physical, the coaches can work with you and get you in there. That’s exactly what he’s done. He came in right away and he’s a really physical player and he picked up the offense really well and I think he’ll be able to contribute this year.”


Duke has lots of experience here, with senior Jake Bobo joined by juniors Jalon Calhoun, Eli Pancol, Darrell Harding and Jarett Garner.

Closed shop, right?

No so fast. Offensive co-coordinator Jeff Faris said earlier this fall that he would like to see a seven-receiver rotation, shuttling guys in again and again, hoping to get some match-ups between a fresh receiver and a tired defender.

Boyette is Faris’ co-cordinator and moved over from running-back coach to receivers coach.

“We have a good bit of experience in that room,” Boyette says. “I expect us to lean on our experience, I expect us to lean on our size, I expect us to lean on our speed and our quickness. But more important, I expect us to make our plays when they come to us.”


“We have some young guys. Young freshman Sahmir Hagans is coming in and doing a really good job. Malik Bowen-Sims is coming in and doing a really good job. Competition has been really, really strong with those two guys and they’re pushing other guys in the room to be better. When you have those two guys as the young guys that pushing that experience, that just adds to the betterment of the group. Those two guys have made a tremendous jump since the beginning of practice.”

Hagans is a 5-10, 190-pound speedster from Philadelphia. He returned kicks for scores in high school and was a track star in the sprints.

Someone to keep an eye on.


Mataeo Durant is the standout here and Jaylen Coleman seems to have established himself as Riker to Durant’s Picard. But Cutcliffe has proven that he will play true freshmen at running back and Duke has two, Trent Davis from Alabama and Jaquez Moore from Florida.

“Some of the young guys are stepping up,” Boyette says. “Jaquez Moore and Trent Davis are stepping up. We have to continue to build that depth. That’s why those guys have been competing so hard. Jaylen Coleman and Jordan Waters know that they have Jaquez Moore and Trent Davis right behind them, pushing them.”

Boyette also suggests that lacrosse superstar Nakeie Montgomery has a real chance to see the field.

“Nakeie Montgomery is doing some really good things. I’ve been very, very impressed with Nakeie and just his ability, his quickness, his naturalness on the football field is really, really good.”