- The Washington Times - Friday, September 3, 2004

After Curt Dukes amassed more than 2,500 yards rushing and 1,700 yards passing in his final two years of high school, he was one of the most coveted option quarterbacks in the nation.

When he chose Nebraska, comparisons to Cornhuskers greats like Scott Frost and Eric Crouch began immediately. But during his freshman season, Dukes had a falling out with the coaching staff and opted to transfer to a school closer to his Seaport, N.C., home: Duke.

After spending a year quarterbacking the scout team, Dukes will make his debut with the Blue Devils tonight when they visit Navy in the season opener for both. The question is where Dukes will play. He is expected to see time at wide receiver, running back and quarterback.

“We’ll try to locate him when he’s on the field because they have a lot of flexibility with him,” Navy defensive coordinator Buddy Green said. “They could line him up in a lot of different places. They could shift out and see him in there by himself in the shotgun running sweeps, throwing passes. You may see him on reverses, reverse passes, double passes. He’s very athletic, and he can run. He can do a lot of things.”

Dukes was only one of the potential headaches for Green and the Midshipmen as they prepared for the Blue Devils. Ted Roof, who served as defensive coordinator and then interim head coach for the final five games last season after Duke fired Carl Franks, was given the job full-time in December.

Roof hired several new coaches, including offensive coordinator Marty Galbraith, who spent last season with the Arizona Cardinals. The Blue Devils are not expected to run a poor man’s version of the Fun’n’Gun as they did under Franks — a former Steve Spurrier assistant.

One possible advantage for the Mids is Green, who spent two seasons matching wits in practice with Galbraith when they were coordinators at N.C. State. Roof is well respected in coaching circles as a defensive guru. Navy coach Paul Johnson expects him to have a large role with the Blue Devils’ defense, even though Roof has co-defensive coordinators on his staff.

The Mids will be without a pair of senior starters on offense because of knee injuries, wide receiver Amir Jenkins and right tackle Casey Hughes. Junior Mick Yokitis will fill in for Jenkins, and senior Sam Brown will make his first career start in place of Hughes.

The Blue Devils have won only six games over the past four seasons, with two coming in Roof’s five contests as coach. The Mids are a touchdown favorite, but Johnson and his players have been guarded with their optimism.

Last season Duke upset Georgia Tech and beat North Carolina with Roof at the helm. The Blue Devils also lost to N.C. State by a touchdown and went to the fourth quarter tied with Tennessee at Neyland Stadium.

Navy has not defeated an ACC school since topping Duke, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech in Johnson’s final season as offensive coordinator in 1996.

“A lot of people around here say, ‘You guys ought to smack Duke,’” said left tackle Tyson Stahl, a Raleigh, N.C., native. “I’m like, ‘Man, they’re in the ACC. You don’t just blow them off.’ They have a little tougher [academic] standards than, say N.C. State or the some of the other schools, but they are still in a really tough conference.”

Stahl’s father played basketball at North Carolina, and his cousin, Shavlik Randolph, is on the basketball team at Duke. Stahl said he didn’t receive any scholarship offers from the Research Triangle schools but considered walking on at North Carolina and N.C. State before coming to Navy.

“Duke was one of the adversaries in my area,” Stahl said. “It’s pretty exciting to have people coming up from home.”

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