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October 20, 2005

A blue and white weekend

A huge Saturday on the Duke campus has the Duke faithful anticipating an exciting weekend in Durham.

The day begins at 1:00 with the blue-white basketball scrimmage before a sold out crowd at Cameron Indoor Stadium, which will be followed by the Duke football team taking on perennial power Florida State at Wallace Wade Stadium.

A few things we will be keeping a close eye on:

Blue-White game

It can be very reasonably argued that you can't tell much from an intrasquad scrimmage, but with the depth and the talent on this year's Duke roster, that logic can be thrown out the window.

When there are 10 players on a team the caliber of Duke's first 10, it's not a stretch to say that we might learn more from an organized intrasquad scrimmage than we will from the season opener against Boston University.

So, what to pay attention to?

1) The freshmen

Every Duke fan is fired up about the freshmen additions to this year's team, and rightfully so. Talented players like Josh McRoberts and Greg Paulus don't walk through the door every day.

But there is just as much buzz anticipating Martynas Pocius, Eric Boateng, and Jamal Boykin, all of whom will have opportunities to be significant contributors this season.

McRoberts is such an impressive player because of his versatility that somehow coexists with his large size. He can handle and pass the ball, start fast breaks with ease, and has a very developed game in the low post. If that's not enough, he can knock it down from extended range as well.

Paulus is already nationally acclaimed for his nearly unfair court vision and ability to get the ball in the right place at the right time even when it seems impossible. To top it off, he is a very capable scorer as well, though that certainly won't be his main role on a roster not lacking for offensive weapons.

Boateng's size makes him a promising prospect under the basket. He certainly needs to polish his skills and develop better hands and a softer touch, but if he can spell Shelden Williams and McRoberts occasionally, play good defense and hit the boards, he can be a contributor.

Pocius is a terrific athlete, one of the best on the team, and already has a clean overall game. His ability to slash fearlessly to the basket will lead to many thrilling moments for Duke fans this year and throughout his career.

Boykin is not going to be renowned for great athleticism but his ability to play within a team concept combined with his all around skill level make him a promising player. He can rebound, defend, and knock down an open jumper. His size makes it difficult for him to be real effective around the goal, but he's a throwback type player that could easily become a Cameron Crazies favorite.

With so much hype surrounding their arrival on campus, the first chance to see them in a game setting will be very exciting for everyone inside Cameron.

2) Point guard

It's been a huge point of discussion all offseason. Dockery or Paulus? Experienced veteran or all-American freshman? Saturday will bring the first chance for fans to see them both in action.

Dockery is such a hard worker, it seems a certainty that he has improved several aspects of his game over the offseason. With improved court vision and quicker recognition, he could really surprise some people. Combined with his always super sticky defense, and he's a player that Mike Krzyzewski will want to make sure gets his minutes.

Paulus, as discussed in point one above, has physical gifts rarely seen. He seems destined to join a long line of Duke greats that opposing fans love to hate.

3) Redick and Williams

Remember these guys? With so much attention surrounding the incoming freshmen, it may be easy to forget that Duke returns the two senior all-Americans who very well could spend the whole year vying with each other for the Naismith player of the year honor.

After three years, it's no secret what they can do on the floor.

Redick can extend a defense like no player in the history of college basketball.

Williams dominates the paint on both ends of the floor, easily college basketball's best interior defender.

The blue-white game will mark the beginning of their senior season. Duke fans know they better soak up every minute of this year, because these two are one of a kind players.

The Blue Devils have been blessed with numerous great players, but Williams and Redick have carved a special niche for themselves.

Football game vs. Florida State

On most college campuses, a basketball scrimmage wouldn't even show up on the radar if there was a football game to be played that same day, much less a football game against Bobby Bowden's Seminoles.

This is Duke, though, and the 3:30 kickoff at Wallace Wade Stadium is not the main event. That doesn't mean it's not important though.

A couple of things we'd like to see..

1) More touches for Ronnie Drummer

Here's a guy that broke an 81-yard touchdown at Miami and had a 50-yarder against Georgia Tech last week on a terrific reverse.

Despite his game breaking speed and big play ability, he only got three carries against Georgia Tech and was not on the receiving end of a single pass.

Ted Roof has said he wants to get Drummer's hands on the ball more, but the ability to do so is handicapped by the fact that Drummer is not a great between the tackles runner.

We're not asking for 25 carries or anything, but five or six carries and a couple of passes out of the backfield seems reasonable.

For an offense that has struggled mightily to break big plays, a player with Drummer's speed and athleticism should be unleashed, not minimized.

2) No turnovers

Granted, that is a lot to ask for a Duke offense that has been unable to avoid crucial mistakes this season, but it's so tantalizing to think about how the Devils would fare if they just had one game where they didn't give the ball away.

Against a defense the caliber of Florida State's, it will be especially hard this week.

Duke's defense has been basically solid for most of the season. Their problems have been largely created from having to repeatedly defend short fields because of offensive miscues.

Even if Duke plays 60 minutes of turnover free football against the Seminoles, chances are slim that it would lead to a victory.

However, it would at least raise the possibility of keeping the game competitive into the second half.

The closest the Devils have come to playing turnover free this year was against Navy, a game that Duke lost by seven and probably would have won if the defense had held up their end of the rope.

It would be nice to see just how long Duke could keep things within reach against Florida State without handing them gift points from turnovers.

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