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Biletnikoff Award watch list highlighted by 2017 finalist David Sills

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You know how I know we’re getting closer to the start of a new season?  Yet another watch list.

The latest to release theirs is the Biletnikoff Award, with the honor going to the nation’s top receiver issuing a list consisting of 50 players from all nine FBS conferences as well as one independent (UMass).  Headlining this year’s preseason list is West Virginia’s David Sills, who was a finalist for the 2017 award claimed by Oklahoma State’s James Washington.  One other 2017 semifinalist is included as well, Ole Miss’ A.J. Brown.

A total of seven teams placed two receivers each on the watch list: Cal (Kanawai Noa, Vic Wharton III), Louisville (Dez Fitzpatrick, Jaylen Smith), Nebraska (Stanley Morgan Jr., JD Spielman), North Texas (Jalen Guyton, Michael Lawrence), Oklahoma (Marquise Brown, CeeDee Lamb), Toledo (Diontae Johnson, Cody Thompson) and West Virginia (Gary Jennings Jr., Sills).

Three conferences totaled seven players apiece, the ACC, Big 12 and MAC.  That trio is followed by five each from Conference USA and four apiece for the AAC, Pac-12 and Sun Belt.  The Big Ten and Mountain West each placed three.

Below is the complete list of 2018 Biletnikoff Award preseason watch listers:

JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford
Tyre Brady, Marshall
A.J. Brown, Ole Miss
Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
Trevon Brown, East Carolina
Ryan Davis, Auburn
Greg Dortch, Wake Forest
Terren Encalade, Tulane
Dez Fitzpatrick, Louisville
James Gardner, Miami-Ohio
Jonathan Giles, LSU
Marcus Green, ULM
Jalen Guyton, North Texas
Emanuel Hall, Missouri
Justin Hall, Ball State
Kelvin Harmon, North Carolina State
N’Keal Harry, Arizona State
Penny Hart, Georgia State
Justin Hobbs, Tulsa
Andy Isabella, Massachusetts
Gary Jennings Jr., West Virginia
Anthony Johnson, Buffalo
Collin Johnson, Texas
Diontae Johnson, Toledo
KeeSean Johnson, Fresno State
CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
Michael Lawrence, North Texas
Ty Lee Middle, Tennessee
McLane Mannix, Nevada
Scott Miller, Bowling Green
Denzel Mims, Baylor
Stanley Morgan Jr., Nebraska
Kanawai Noa, California
James Proche, SMU
T.J. Rahming, Duke
Ahmmon Richards, Miami
Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
David Sills V, West Virginia
Steven Sims Jr., Kansas
Jaylen Smith, Louisville
Kwadarrius Smith, Akron
JD Spielman, Nebraska
Cody Thompson, Toledo
John Ursua, Hawaii
Teddy Veal, Louisiana Tech
Jamarius Way, South Alabama
Nick Westbrook, Indiana
Vic Wharton III, California
Malcolm Williams, Coastal Carolina
Olamide Zaccheaus, Virginia

Duke Blue Devils remain undefeated as ACC play looms

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The Duke Blue Devils continued their winning ways Saturday.

The reigning ACC Coastal champions are 4-0 after a 47-13 victory over the Tulane Green Wave in Durham, North Carolina. It’s the program’s first four-game winning streak since the 1994 campaign.

To put Duke’s accomplishment into perspective — the last time the Blue Devils started the season 4-0 Boyz II Men’s “I’ll Make Love to You” was the No. 1 single on Billboard’s Top 100.

And the Blue Devils have won in an impressive fashion. The combined score of Duke’s four victories is 174-46.

Despite the impressive start to the season, Tulane exposed a major weakness for Duke as the team prepares for ACC play next weekend.

The Blue Devils front seven didn’t hold up against Tulane’s massive offensive line and rushing attack. The Green Wave gained 215 yards on the ground. Duke was simply overwhelmed at the point of attack, and it’s clear the team sorely misses the presence of defensive captain and starting middle linebacker Kelby Brown, who tore an ACL during fall camp.

Green Wave receivers also dropped a pair of touchdowns, which could have made the game much closer than the final score indicated.

Even with these concerns, the Blue Devils are dynamic at the skill positions and physical along the offensive line. Senior Laken Tomlinson is one of the top guards in the nation, and wide receiver Jamison Crowder is undersized but impossible to cover in short areas.

How the team performs on a weekly basis usually falls on quarterback Anthony Boone. The senior signal-caller is a strong running threat, but he’s an inconsistent passer. Against Tulane, Boone was 15-of-27 passing for 181 yards and an interception.

A 4-0 start is yet another feather in coach David Cutcliffe‘s cap as he continues to build a strong foundation at Duke. Yet those four wins came against Elon, Troy, Kansas and now Tulane. Next week will be very different when Duke enters ACC play against the Miami Hurricanes and their dynamic running back Duke Johnson.

The schedule won’t get any easier for the Blue Devils this season, but Duke’s players can enjoy their unblemished start and the fact they accomplished something that hasn’t occurred in 20 years.