(Photo Courtesy of Duke Athletics)
R.I.P to ACC defenses, and anyone else that has to face the Duke Blue Devils next season. Stopping Duke’s offense might possibly be the toughest thing to do in college lacrosse in 2021.
At the time the 2020 season was cut short, the Duke Blue Devils ranked 11th in scoring offense, averaging 24.13 points and 15.25 goals per game. They also had a shooting percentage of .375, which was good for the fifth-best in the country. But those already impressive numbers could get even more impressive next spring.
Duke has recently landed the commitment of Princeton transfer Michael Sowers, who is taking advantage of the NCAA’s ruling to allow spring sport athletes an extra year of eligibility. Sowers is the Tigers’ all-time scoring leader and will be the likely favorite for the Tewaaraton Award next season. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound attackman immediately makes the Blue Devils better and legitimizes them even more as a national title contender.
When the season was cut short, Sowers was leading the nation in points per game (9.40) and assists per game (6.2). He was simply lighting the college lacrosse world on fire. And now he takes his talents south to Durham, N.C. where he gets to quarterback an offense at a program that has seemed to be searching for that perfect QB attackman since Jordan Wolf led them to back-to-back national titles in 2013 and 2014.
Sowers has been the most electric player in college lacrosse over the past few seasons and there is no doubt that he can lead this Duke team to a Championship Weekend berth. But he won’t be doing it alone at all.
The Pennsylvania native will join forces at Duke with attackmen Dyson Williams and Joe Robertson, and midfielders Owen Caputo, Nakeie Montgomery, and Cameron Badour.
Williams, a lefty Canadian, lived up to the hype as a freshman as he led the Blue Devils in scoring with 28 points (24G/4A). Robertson was injured last season, but had a stellar sophomore season and is expected to bounce back strong and contribute in 2021. Caputo was the second-leading scorer on the team with 20 points (12G/8A) last season, while Badour tallied 15 points (8G/7A), and Montgomery put up 12 points (7G/5A).
With a guy like Sowers quarterbacking the offense and all those aforementioned weapons around him, the options are endless. Sowers can turn on the jets from behind the cage at X and take it to the rack himself, find a cutting Montgomery in the heart of the defense, feed to a wide-open Williams on the back pipe, or many more options.
And while the current players on the roster plus Sowers will be enough to worry about for defenses, the Blue Devils are getting the services of the No. 1 player in the 2020 class, according to Inside Lacrosse, in St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) attackman Brennan O’Neill. The Long Island native has already been described as a generational talent by many, drawing comparisons to some of the game’s greats like John Grant Jr. and Gary Gait.
O’Neill just adds another dimension to this stacked offense. He can make plays all over the field and will make defenders look silly while doing so.
The Blue Devils’ offense in 2021 is certain to have a level of lethality that we have rarely (if ever) seen before and defenses are going to have one heck of a time trying to come up with a game plan to stop it.