Duke football is on the rise. Anytime you have a coach that loves the game and loves coaching kids as much as Mike Harris, the program is elevated. There is talent down in grades 6 and 7 with size and speed. Matt Milner and Mason Rice and that group should run rampant in the 8-man game. However, the 2014 version of Duke football will chew up small chunks of yards at a time. In southwest Oklahoma, we know there will be a cloud of dust. Will there be 3 yards to go with it?
COACH - Harris intrigues me. The community of Duke must have done a number on him and his wife, Robyn. Harris didn’t see Duke from Avondale, Arizona. He was at La Joya HS, a 6A small school equivalent, when Duke called and requested an interview. Another school had forwarded his resume to Duke. He and Robyn boarded a flight and made way to Duke. Originally from Guthrie, returning to Oklahoma was appealing to the Harris family. They loved what they saw at Duke but found the football program in serious need of someone who could get things going toward more successful seasons. Harris feels he knows what it will take to get the program to return to past glory. You read that right. In 1925, Duke won the state championship in just its second year of football. Robyn Harris is the 6th grade and pre-calculus teacher at Duke. She sold her CPA firm in Goodyear, Arizona to allow them to relocate to Duke. Harris has only one voluntary assistant. Duke resident Steve Farmer, who has two sons on the team, helps Harris some. However, the practice time I witnessed had Harris on his own. That’s like trying to maintain an 18 hole golf course with a crew of 2. At first, I wondered where is Rafe H. or Jason M. or some of the other alumni that could help. Then I remembered not many alumni at Duke had football in the fall. Don’t let this stop you fellas. Don’t be scared. Coach Harris needs some help.
RATING - If his X’s and O’s are as strong as his heart and energy level, Duke will be just fine.
TEAM - Duke hasn’t won many games lately. Anytime you take on this sport with minimal resources and even smaller talent pool, you are going to be kicked around for awhile. 15 boys are out for football at Duke. Be patient. The talent is coming.
RATING - Better than it has been. Keep working to get better everyday. Be better at the end than you are at the beginning.
The line is experienced and tough and Graham has the punishing run game to match. Expect the Tigers to be competitive.
QUARTERBACK - Nic Graham is the heart of this team. Harris said, “Without doubt, Nic is both physically and mentally the strongest and toughest QB I have ever coached, including my time coaching 11-man in Arizona. He is the true leader of this team. He is a hard nosed runner.”
RATING - Strongpoint
SEASON - Things are better this year because the line has been blocking together since their freshman year. That experience has translated to better blocking by using the first scrimmage as an indicator. The Tigers had strong blocking and averaged over 3 yards per carry in over 60 offensive plays. The Defensive effort was led by Paul Hennessey and Nolan Vela.
RATING - Looking for genuine competitive success in 2014. That success will come from a strong, tough line and a mature veteran leader in Nic Graham. Duke is on the rise.