Duke is going to need Brittain Brown this fall.
The redshirt junior entered his sophomore season as the Blue Devils' presumptive starting running back after a productive freshman year. Injuries, however, derailed Brown's season.
With so many starters from last year gone, Brown has been working to get back into the mix.
“This offseason has been a grind already, and the team has been working really well together just trying to build that chemistry back up,” Brown said. “We got Quentin Harris as the new quarterback. We had some players from the offensive line leave. We had some wide receivers leave and open some spots. It’s a rebuilding process, but we think we can do some stuff this season.”
The biggest piece missing will be quarterback Daniel Jones, who led Duke to an 8-5 record before being drafted sixth overall by the New York Giants.
The loss of Jones will likely change the game plan for Duke, which could mean more carries for the Brown and his backfield mates.
“Because we have a new quarterback and receivers, we’ll be running it more,” Brown said. “We have a pretty good combination back there we can rely on. We think it’ll be a big part of our offense, and that’s how we’re preparing.”
But to be part of that new game plan, Brown has to stay on the field.
As a freshman, Brown played in all 13 games and ended the season with 701 yards and seven touchdowns on 130 carries.
Shoulder and knee injuries limited him to just nine games as he finished with just 369 yards and three touchdowns on 80 carries.
“It was frustrating,” Brown said. “I really wanted to play. I knew I had a couple guys behind me who could carry the running back position. It just hurts not being out there for your teammates to help some of these young guys. We’re working on the problem areas in the training room, doing heavier weights and trying to bulk up. We’re already trying to prevent that for this season.”
Brown said he is also trying to step up as a leader now that many of the players he looked up to have left campus. He said he has learned much about how college football works in his three years at Duke, and it is important to pass that information down to the younger players.
“You know what you’re supposed to do,” Brown said. “You know how to get ready for the season. You know how to look at the playbook and what to do in the weight room. You can help the young guys, build up your leadership and try to get the whole team going.”
One thing Brown has done more than the majority of the Duke players before him is win.
The Blue Devils have had just 10 winning seasons since 1980, and Brown has been part of two of them. Duke has gone 15-11 with Brown on the roster, and he hopes this is the year the Blue Devils take the next step into legitimate contention.
“We’re no longer accepting losing," Brown said. "We’re mad when we lose, and when we win, we’re not satisfied. We need to keep that up. We’re going for the ACC championship and the big boys.”