Coach: Jerry Schmitt 8th season at Duquesne (42-31); 13th season overall (70-52).
2011 record: 9-2 overall, 7-1 in the Northeast Conference (tied for 1st).
Key game: Sept. 22 at Bryant. This is an early season test for the Dukes. Bryant is predicted to be one of the top teams in the conference. If Duquesne survives this game, the Dukes might be on track to win the NEC championship as they will face defending champion Albany at home later in the season.
Key returners: Senior quarterback Sean Patterson is one of the best in the conference and with tailback Larry McCoy will give the Dukes an excellent 1-2 punch. Senior guard Eric Warming (6-foot-3, 279 pounds) anchors an offensive line that needed to be rebuilt but should be a strength. All three starting linebackers -- outside backers Chidozie Oparanozie and Derrick Lakins and Horvin Latimer in the middle -- return to anchor the defense. Safety Serge Kona was a first-team all-conference selection.
Analysis: The Dukes have improved steadily over the past three seasons as Schmitt has led them through the transition from I-AA non-scholarship to I-AA scholarship. The team finally appears to have enough depth and talent to be an annual contender for the NEC crown. But this year will test that depth as the Dukes must replace their defensive line and wide receivers. Their experienced quarterback and tailback can carry the offense early in the season, and the team should improve as the season progresses. Defensively, there are some gaping holes to fill, but Schmitt believes the team has had three good recruiting classes in a row and should have the players in place to step in and play at a high level. The key will be the defensive line.
-- By Paul Zeiseduquesnesports - sportscollegedistrict