Last season, it was clear that the Duke Blue Devils had a hard time replacing Jamison Crowder. Max McCaffrey led the team in catches with 52, yards with 643 and touchdowns with five. With McCaffrey off to try and make a career in the NFL, T.J. Rahming could be the No. 1 receiver Duke needs this season.
The true sophomore receiver had an impressive season last year, catching 43 passes for 571 yards and two touchdowns. The Georgia native was a U.S. Army Bowl All-American in high school and has the talent to emerge as the replacement for Crowder that this offense so badly needs. Of his 43 catches, 27 went for first downs and eight went for more than 20 yards.
Rahming has a long way to go before he steps into the shoes of the greatest receiver Duke has ever had. However, he does have the talent to emerge as the weapon the Duke passing game missed last season. Of course, how well the Duke offense fares will depend greatly on the quarterback position.
Last year’s starter, Thomas Sirk, is out with an Achilles injury. He is expected to miss the season, but Duke coach David Cutcliffe left a door open by saying that Sirk was about six weeks ahead of schedule. It isn’t likely Sirk will play this year though, which leaves the offense in the hands of Parker Boehme.
Duke’s offense depends a lot on the run, especially form the quarterback position. Sirk was last year’s leading rusher with 803 yards and eight touchdowns. Their leading running back, Shaquille Powell, is gone. Junior Jela Duncan is the leading rusher who is returning and he carried the ball just 67 times, though he did have 460 yards and four touchdowns. The team is also high on junior Shaun Wilson who carried the football 84 times for 424 yards and three touchdowns. However, they will still need a strong passing game to keep defenses guessing and keep the chains moving. With only about 40 percent of the receiving corps coming back from last season, there will be a lot of on-the-job learning and not a lot of room for mistakes.
While Rahming is among the young, talented and inexperienced offensive core, he will need to step up and be a reliable target for Boehme who completed just 55.1 percent of his 78 passes. Duke will run the football a lot, especially with their quarterback, but they will need Rahming to become a No. 1 receiver and help keep the chains moving.