Dunbar was throttled by Friendship Collegiate in last year’s inaugural DCSAA championship game, 48-12, a final score that could have been much worse given the dominance of the Knights up front. But if there was one advantage Dunbar held in the game, it was on the perimeter with 6-foot-2, 180 pound speedster James Duff, who torched Friendship’s secondary with a 40-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to keep the Crimson Tide respectable. Duff has not only watched his recruiting stock rise over the past seven months since that game, but also one who will be counted on to carry Dunbar on both sides of the ball this fall.
Duff secured his first offer from Toledo earlier this summer, and is being watched closely by a slew of other FBS schools, including Maryland, West Virginia, Temple, Old Dominion and Pittsburgh.
Duff caught 26 passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns as a junior, and his role will expand in 2013 on both sides of the ball. He will play several positions in the defensive secondary in addition to wide receiver — where he will team with Delonte Matthews (32 catches for 646 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012) to form one of the league’s most promising receiving tandems. Matthews is also receiving interest from Toledo, and Old Dominion has also inquired about the rising senior, Dunbar Coach Jerron Joe said.
The expanded responsibility will be a notable adjustment for Duff, who focused solely on playing wide receiver last fall. He will have to adjust to playing the majority of snaps — in addition to receiving from a new quarterback after four-year starter Lamel Matthews graduated earlier this spring. Duff attended one-day camps at West Virginia and Pittsburgh last month (“It’s pretty cool, because I get to see where I stand, not just in DC, but outside the DMV,” he said), and has been running trails near his home in Northeast to build up stamina for the upcoming year.
Duff is getting recruited primarily as a wide receiver, and he maintains that his 40-yard dash is about 4.5 seconds, which is an improvement from last year, he said.
“I have just been trying to keep my stamina up,” Duff said, “because I know it’s going to be very tough for me to go both ways.”
The Crimson Tide finished last season 9-3, and will be playing in a restructured DCIAA this fall, which Duff believes will only make the program stronger. Dunbar will compete in the Stars The Stars division, (along with Anacostia, Ballou, Coolidge, H.D. Woodson and Wilson. Those schools will be eligible for the annual Turkey Bowl each November, while teams in the Stripes division — which includes Bell, Cardozo, Eastern, Phelps, McKinley Tech and Theodore Roosevelt — will compete in an independent playoff format that will culminate in an inaugural football championship to be played in November.
“[The league] is just like the NCAA. They’re putting all the top teams in one division,” Duff said. “It’s good for competition, because you gotta bring you’re A-game every week, because you’re seeing a top opponent every week.”
Related: Recruit Watch: Database of offers