As the Crimson Tide prepares for their Week 2 matchup against the Florida Atlantic University Owls, let's have a look at one of FAU's star players, senior wide receiver William Dukes.
Dukes was a two-star prospect according to 24/7 Sports hailing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Dukes also entertained offers from FIU, New Mexico, and Toledo. At 6-4, Dukes is a big target which will create difficulties for the Alabama defense which looked quite undersized at times last week against West Virginia.
Dukes returns as part of an experienced group of receivers for the Owls. In 2013, Dukes caught 35 passes for 553 yards and six touchdowns. Dukes also accounted for a below average catch rate of only 45.5% (H/T Bill Connelly). These aren't Amari Cooper numbers, but this team isn't Alabama, either. FAU went 6-6 last year thanks to a schedule that included Tulane, Southern Miss, New Mexico State, and FIU (combining for a shockingly bad record of 11-38 in 2013) in the last four games of the season.
Last week, the Owls were obliterated by Nebraska. FAU lost 55-7 and only gained 200 yards of offense. They effectively used balance to stink it up last week (30 passing attempts and 30 rushing attempts).. Dukes didn't record a stat in the game (side note: I had to spend a few minutes trying to find out if Dukes actually played in this game), so we have to look in past years to see how effective he can be.
As stated earlier, Dukes is a tall receiver who can use to his advantage against smaller defenders (Exhibit A). Dukes is also a tough guy to bring down which should go without saying considering his size (Exhibit B). Dukes also pulled off an incredible stat line of reception, fumble, fumble recovery, 58-yard touchdown in one play last year (Exhibit C).
William Dukes is exactly what the Alabama secondary needs right now. He is a big, physical receiver who represents the type of guy that Alabama has to get better at defending (see Mike Evans). I won't beat the deceased horse too much here, but the Alabama secondary didn't look all that improved against West Virginia in which they gave up 365 passing yards (not counting the 5,000 drops by the WVU receivers). In fairness, FAU doesn't run an offense that has anywhere near the efficiency that Holgorsen's Air Raid offense has, but it will still be interesting to see how Dukes does against this much-maligned Crimson Tide secondary.
Alabama will most likely start the game with Cyrus Jones on Dukes to give him an opportunity to show what he's got against FAU's biggest receiver. As the game progresses, I would like to see younger guys like Eddie Jackson, Tony Brown, and Marlon Humphrey get the chance to go up against Dukes. If anything, William Dukes will present a challenge to the Alabama defense and an opportunity to improve as the Tide goes forward into SEC play.