Signing day has come and gone and in the end, 27 players have elected to come to the Bluff to play football for the Dukes. That number is one of the largest recruiting classes ever signed by Duquesne and includes the mid-season transfers of Armstead Williams and Wayne Capers. All told, there are ten All-Staters in this bunch and three Big 33 players.
We can tell a lot about the type of program that Coach Schmitt is moving towards with some success under his belt at the scholarship level. Let’s take a look at the two main phases of the game today, and in the coming days we’ll profile each player and some of their specific traits.
The Dukes have insisted on a 3-4 scheme and haven’t always had the personnel for it. With the exception of Zidian, they were missing size and skill on the line, and while the linebackers have been pretty good, they weren’t able to get through with the speed and power that the scheme would demand.
It looks like that’s going to change.
The shortest defensive lineman signed is 6’2″. The lightest lineman signed is 250 pounds. These are guys who, once ready for game action, are going to be able to take up multiple offensive linemen. This will give the powerful linebackers that were signed – like Nate Stone, Armstead Williams, and the rest of them – the opportunity to do what the 3-4 is made to do, which is to get linebackers through the line and on the quarterback.
The defensive backs are also bringing a lot of athleticism and accolades to the bluff.
The biggest problem that the Dukes had on offense last year was the protection scheme offered by the offensive line. Run blocking was barely there. Pass blocking was borderline at best.
As before, that looks like it is going to change.
First, the Dukes bring in a junior college transfer, Miguel Mesa, a big lineman who was a part of ASA College’s recent championship season – though how large a part is difficult to see given that there are no stats for linemen. Second is lineman Ben Huss, a huge piece who was the anchor for Upper Saint Clair’s offensive line that produced a 1000 yard passer and rusher last year. Huss chose Duquesne over Youngstown State and Albany, the latter now coached by Greg Gattuso.
As on the defensive side, there are no undersized linemen in this class. The Dukes also bring in a talented tight end – a part of the offense we didn’t see utilized last year -in New Castle’s touchdown machine Stew Allen. Rafiq Douglas, the lone RB signed today, is a different looking back from the two that we saw for most of last year, providing a bit more height. He also shows more explosiveness when breaking through the line.
A few who are simply listed as “athlete”, like Matt Voytik and Abner Roberts, will be able to help in many phases of the offense, perhaps as dual threat RB/WRs or wildcat players. I see a lot of versatility in the skill players that are coming in, and that’s a good sign.
These are just some of the signing day highlights that indicate the direction the Dukes are going – namely, a true 3-4 scheme in the defense and an offensive line who should be more capable of giving the quarterback some time and the running back some space. There are plenty of other talented athletes that Coach Schmitt and his staff have brought in with this bunch, and we’ll get to them over the next few days.