by Dave Morus
The Dukes return a talented core and the newcomers have a lot of potential. Coach Schmitt’s squad has all the potential in the world to win the NEC this year. Here are reasons why.
1. Dorian Bell
Dorian Bell is a one man wrecking crew and would be receiving national headlines if he were still in FBS – and he may garner some anyway. He’s up for the award for the best linebacker in FCS and the accolades keep coming in. His stat line last year (92 tackles, 12 for loss, 6.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles) looks great and then you remember that he did not play for three games.
2. Gianni Carter
Carter is a talented receiver who has the capability to make it far easier for our new quarterback just because of how good his hands are. If Carter is making plays, the Dukes will be in good shape. Gianni was one of the top receivers in the NEC last year and was recently named a team captain.
3. The Secondary
Anchored by newcomer and FBS transfer Chris Johnson, the defense will be able to limit opponent’s passing offense. This will be key against teams like Bryant and Monmouth, who like to pass. Johnson should be a real force and the Dukes will need contributions from him.
4. Dillon Buechel
Redshirt freshman Buechel is the expected starter and played very well in the spring game. He will probably have the new starter jitters at first, but don’t be surprised if he is able to adjust quickly. Patterson was effective because he was mobile and made plays while running for his life. Dillon will be effective because he can make the quick read and react, yet he is still athletic.
5. The NEC is weaker
This is the elephant in the room. You hate to have success because your peer group has suffered. And yet, the Dukes won’t complain about it if it means that they can represent the conference in the playoffs for the first time ever. Two top programs – Albany and Monmouth – are now gone.
Albany is 4-1 against the Dukes since the latter joined the NEC and Monmouth is 5-1 in the last six meetings. These teams appear on the schedule but they do not impact the conference standings.
Duquesne’s main threat is probably Wagner, who will have a new quarterback and several new defensive starters. However, I think that Bryant, with their experienced and productive offense, is the team that will challenge those two for the conference title.