August 25, 2003
- Duke coach Carl Franks made two apparently significant changes to his coaching staff during the offseason, but only one truly was a big deal hiring former East Carolina assistant Don Yanowsky to coach special teams, Duke's weakest unit in 2002. The other change, promoting quarterbacks coach Jim Pry to coordinator, was more a matter of appearances. Franks said the play-calling won't change from last season, with both contributing but Franks having the final say, and added that the new job description simply identifies Pry's extensive contributions toward practice and game planning.
- Near the end of fall drills, the only significant health issue was the serious knee injury suffered by true freshman cornerback Cedric Mason, who wasn't going to redshirt but now will for medical reasons. As usual, the Blue Devils aren't expecting much help from their latest class of mostly unheralded newcomers, but Mason was one of the possible exceptions. Another is defensive end Casey Camero, who enrolled in January and went through spring practice.
- Two promising freshman tailbacks from a year ago have been switched to defense, Malcolm Ruff to middle linebacker and Von Bryant to cornerback. Ruff is the heir apparent to dependable senior Ryan Fowler. Bryant will bring size and speed to a position in desperate need of both qualities. Both switches continued the trend under Franks of moving running backs to defense. Other juggling has worked, too, with former fullback Matt Zielinski bulking up into a 290-pound, run-stopping defensive tackle, and former tailback Brendan Dewan a star-in-the-making at outside linebacker.
- Speaking of former tailbacks, the return to health of cornerback Jamin Pastore flew completely under the media's radar but could be significant. Pastore suffered what many feared to be a career-ending knee injury in the 2001 season opener against Florida State, but he has been cleared to play this season and will see playing time on defense and special teams. In other news you won't see anywhere in the Duke media, senior safety Anthony Roberts, who was second on the team last season with two fumble recoveries, transferred to The Citadel.
- Because Duke doesn't lose many players to academic issues former quarterback D. Bryant, a two-time loser, is the only one who comes to mind from the Franks era the preseason magazines were mostly correct in their assessments of the Blue Devils. The biggest change that happened too late for the glossies to catch was the spring knee injury to defensive end David Martin, who was listed in several places as one of the team's two new starters. (All-ACC end Shawn Johnson, frustrated by mounting losses at Duke and increasingly unpopular with his teammates, transferred to Division I-AA Delaware.) Johnson's old job instead is going to junior Phillip Alexander.
- The team made more strides in the weight room, with more than a dozen players being able to bench press more than 400 pounds. The most impressive gains were made by Zielinski, who busted out of a tie with Fowler to become the team's strongest player on the bench (485 pounds), and by Dewan, who is benching 420 pounds, twice his body weight.
- Don't say you weren't warned if someone other than senior Brent Garber does some placekicking this season. While Garber has one of the strongest legs in the ACC, his inaccuracy has been maddening to the coaching staff, which gave an extended look in the preseason to junior Matt Brooks, who also is pushing punter Trey McDonald (39.2-yard average). Garber has missed six PATs in three seasons, and he missed eight field goals of 45 yards or shorter last year.