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Duke focused on improving running game

Duke running back Jay Hollingsworth knows exactly where the Blue Devils' running game ranked in the country last fall.

“It was dead last,” he said.

Of 120 FBS schools, Duke ranked No. 120 with 63.5 rushing yards per game and six touchdowns.

“No one wants to be last, and to actually be last, it gives you a different mindset,” Hollingsworth said. “You’re thinking totally different where you know you have to be better. I’m going to better. There’s nowhere else to go but up.”

Hollingsworth, who sprained his ankle in the second game of the season last year and finished second on the team with 179 yards on 54 carries, said staying healthy and better chemistry on the offensive line are the two keys to improving the running game. Because of injuries, the staff was forced to burn Desmond Scott’s redshirt last fall, and he wound up leading the team with 262 yards and one touchdown as a true freshman. Now, with Hollingsworth healthy, the group is deeper heading into summer camp.

“We’re looking pretty good right now as a running back unit,” Hollingsworth said. “We’re really strong. They brought in speed to go along with the power we had in the backfield. It’s going to be a really good group. We’re definitely going to be in the top in our conference for sure, which is where you focus first. Everything else will fall into place. But definitely we’ll be up there.”

By Hollingsworth’s assessment, he and Patrick Kurunwune are the power backs while Scott is elusive. Newcomer Josh Snead showed a lot of speed this spring, along with Juwan Thompson, who arrived for the first summer session. Hollingsworth said the two freshmen are “the two fastest in the room.”

It will also help that Duke has four starters returning on its offensive line.

“We’ve got to make sure we work as one,” said center Bryan Morgan. “We’ve got to make sure we’re doing the right thing at the same time and in the same place, and everything will take care of itself.”