Blakeney starting at WR for Duke
Monroe High graduate Issac Blakeney has moved from tight end to slot receiver and will enter Duke University's preseason football camp as a starter.
Blakeney is one of five former Union County standouts on Duke's 2013 roster, including three that are expected to start.
Redshirt junior Anthony Boone (Weddington) is slated to be the starter at quarterback while junior Jamison Crowder (Monroe) and Blakeney, also a redshirt junior, are starting receivers.
Redshirt sophomore Lucas Fisher (Piedmont) is listed as a backup at defensive end and former Monroe quarterback Quayshawn Chambers will be a true freshman.
The Blue Devils report to training camp on Aug. 4 and open the 2013 season at home against North Carolina Central on Aug. 31.
"Right now we're doing a lot of lifting and conditioning," said Blakeney by phone on Monday. "We're trying to get everything ready for camp."
Duke finished with a 6-7 record last season and qualified for a postseason bowl game for the first time since 1995.
Blakeney said the expectations are higher this year.
"Our goal is to ultimately win the ACC," said Blakeney. "We feel like we have the talent to do it. It won't be easy. We're looking to take a lot of teams by surprise. Every game on our schedule is very winnable."
Leading the way
Boone will take over the offense after serving as the backup the last two seasons.
Boone played behind former Blue Devil QB Sean Renfree, who was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the seventh round in April.
Boone threw for 531 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions last year. He also ran for 82 yards and two scores.
"He's taking the role very seriously," said Blakeney of Boone. "He knows the ins and outs of the offense. He's had to wait three years and now he's getting his time to shine."
The Blue Devils graduated their top receiver in Conner Vernon, who went undrafted before being signed by the Oakland Raiders.
Crowder, who was announced as a second-team all-ACC preseason pick earlier this month, caught 76 passes for 1,074 yards and eight touchdowns last season. His year was highlighted by a 203-yard, two touchdown performance in a loss to Miami, which included a NCAA record-tying 99-yard TD catch, and the game-winning catch in the final seconds of a win over archrival North Carolina.
"The offense is going to be very exciting," said Blakeney. "Anthony has a very strong arm and he can make big plays. Jamison and myself can both stretch the field, so I'm looking forward to it. We have a lot of playmakers this year."
Blakeney's new role
Blakeney started his career at Duke as a safety, but after adding weight to his 6-foot-6 frame, transitioned to tight end last year.
Now Blakeney is trying to lose more than 20 points after making the switch to slot receiver.
"I'm trying to get down to the 220-225 range," said Blakeney. "I'm expecting to start at the slot when the season starts up."
Blakeney feels he's gotten faster.
"The last 40 I ran was a 4.51 and that was when I was 243 (pounds) when I was playing tight end," said Blakeney. "I'm pretty sure I'm in the 4.4's now."
Blakeney caught a team-high five passes for 66 yards in Duke's Spring Game in April.
As a backup tight end last year, Blakeney had 32 catches for 290 yards and a touchdown.
The Blue Devils could potentially have five Monroe High graduates on its roster in 2014.
Redhawk seniors Jaylan Barbour and Tre Shun Wynn have both been offered a scholarship by Duke.
"(Monroe) Coach (Johnny) Sowell's doing a great job," said Blakeney. "I just talked to him on Saturday. We've got a nice pipeline between Duke and Monroe."
Chambers was recruited by the Blue Devils as an athlete and Blakeney isn't sure where the former Redhawk standout will play as a freshman.
Blakeney, Chambers and Crowder played together on Monroe's 2010 state championship basketball team.
"I see Quay playing a lot of different positions for us," said Blakeney. "I don't know the coaches' plans for him, but he's similar to how I was when I got here. Quay's a good player. I've been following him and we text and talk some. I'm excited to see what he can do because I really haven't had a chance to watch him play much."