The start of the 2016 college football season is fast approaching. Its time to take a look at what to expect from the Blue Devils on the gridiron this fall
2015 was a true transition year at the linebacker position for Duke. Prior seasons saw accomplished veterans like Kelby Brown and David Helton lead the linebacker group and be some of the premier tacklers in the ACC. With Brown’s career ending injury occurring prior to last season we knew going in that the position would be a bit of a question mark. While no one filled the void with eye popping tackling number like those Brown and Helton had produced, a talented group of young linebackers seem to have laid the foundation for a successful 2016 and beyond.
Leading this group is sophomore Ben Humphries. Humphries say significant playing time last fall in a rotation with several other linebackers. He flashed plenty of potential throughout the season, but really had his coming out party in the Pinstripe Bowl against Indiana. The former high school Army All-American should be the starting middle linebacker from day one and after a year of playing experience and offseason training under his belt should take a big step forward in production this season. Humphries will most likely be backed up by Zavier Carmichael. Carmichael is entering his junior year and has played well for the majority of his Duke career to this point. He has good hands, a fact proven by his three career interceptions. His leadership with this young group is very important to the program.
Tinashe Bere will probably be the starting man at the Will linebacker position. Bere became a starter as a redshirt freshman last season and has all the tools to be successful in the ACC. Bere is a strong tackler and shows good athleticism as well. Bere was also a co-winner of Duke’s Most Improved Defender award, given at the conclusion of spring practice, so expect even more from him this fall. If there was a player to keep an eye on at the linebacker position heading into the season, it would be redshirt freshman Joe Giles-Harris. Giles-Harris was the second part of a very talented linebacking tandem brought in last season along with Humphries. Giles-Harris’ athleticism should earn him plenty of playing time in 2016.
If there is one concern with the linebacker position it is depth. The four guys highlighted above are the extent of Duke’s returning linebackers. If injuries start to take a toll or production isn’t there any of the true freshmen linebackers could see the field this fall. Koby Quansah, Alexander Gagnon, and Brandon Hill are all three very talented and have the size to play right away. Time will tell whether or not the coaches think they are ready and able to contribute this season.
Check out our other preseason position previews: