Duke football is one of the best stories in college football this year with Mike Elko getting the program back on track in his second season. Duke has never been a football school but they have been able to be relevant in the ACC over the last decade or so. Elko took over a program that had bottomed out but in year two he already has one of the biggest upsets in school history and his two losses have come against highly ranked teams.
Elko’s defense is his signature but he was lucky to take over a team with an exceptional quarterback in Riley Leonard. Leonard played against Louisville in their blowout win against Duke in 2021 but his performance went unnoticed at the time. He went 13-13 for 99 yards while running for 70 yards and a touchdown. This all came with the game in hand but it was obvious that Leonard had real talent.
The Duke signal-caller is the complete package as a prospect. He has great size at 6-4/212. He can throw the deep ball well while also showing the ability to make intermediate throws into tight windows. The best part of his game is his athleticism. He can outrun a defense when he gets into space and he can also avoid the rush really well while keeping his eyes down the field to make throws. UofL will have to put pressure on him while also containing him as a runner.
Leonard has been injured as of late with an ankle sprain but he did start against FSU. After re-injuring his ankle, Henry Belin came in to relieve him. Belin has had a few good moments this season but it is obvious that he has a lot of room to grow as a passer. Duke didn’t shy away from letting him drop back and let it rip.
I’ve been impressed with Duke’s running game and their two-headed running back system. Jordan Waters and Jaquez Moore essentially split carries in the backfield and their different styles complement each other very well. Waters is a big back who can break a big run in space but is best at getting chunk yards and fighting for yardage. Moore is a burner who can run away from people and create big plays out of nothing. Louisville will have to bring the run defense from the Notre Dame game to slow them down.
The Duke receivers are similar to the running backs as there are two main targets for the quarterbacks and they both have the ability to create big plays. Jalon Calhoun is a veteran pass catcher for Duke who has improved each year with the program. He is the deep threat for this offense averaging 15 yards per catch on the season.
Jordan Moore is more of a possession receiver with very good quickness and route-running ability. Moore is a former quarterback who was beaten out by Leonard for the starting job. The fact that he is a former quarterback shows up with his play at receiver. He runs really good routes with great timing on his breaks which leads to him being open a lot.
Duke’s offensive line has been very good this season. The veteran group has only allowed five sacks on the year and Duke has been able to pass the ball pretty well this year because of the time the line has provided the quarterbacks. I also think they are a big part of the success of the run game as the backs have had plenty of opportunities to get to the second level of the defense without being touched. This will be another test for the Louisville defensive line.