Countdown to the Season: Front Six Preview

Credit:Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Football season is fast approaching and the Blue Devils are ready to contend for another Coastal Division crown.  To get you ready for the upcoming season stay tuned to Duke Report as we preview the team and conference as we countdown to the kickoff of the season against Tulane on Thursday, September 3.

Defensive Line

Defensive line has been the most inconsistent area of play for the Blue Devils.  While Duke has improved in the trenches on the defensive side of the ball, it has remained the last piece of the puzzle for a stout defense.  The 2015 season will hopefully bring more consistency, but at this point it remains to be seen what kind of impact the returning experience and influx of young talent will have.  The strength of Duke’s secondary is no secret, so expect opposing teams to test the defensive line’s ability to stop the run and avoid taking chances against Jeremy Cash, DeVon Edwards, and company.  Seniors Kyler Brown and Britton Grier are currently listed as the starting defensive ends and both have played well in reserve roles.  Deion Williams has converted from linebacker to add some depth at the DE position.  Williams and junior Allen Jackson are penciled in as the backups for now, but expect Taariq Shabazz and possibly true freshman Marquies Price to contend for playing time.

Senior Carlos Wray started every game at defensive tackle last season and expected to do the same again in 2015.  Junior AJ Wolf has plenty of experience as a reserve in the middle of the defensive line, but is the other starter at DT to begin the season.  Redshirt freshmen Edgar Cerenord and Quaven Ferguson have loads of potential and should get plenty of playing time this season.  Its possibly one of these guys emerge as a starter down the stretch.


The linebacker position looked to be in good shape entering 2015 with the return of All-ACC senior Kelby Brown.  Brown missed all of 2014 after tearing his ACL before the season began.  His return was going to help absorb the loss of All-ACC linebacker David Helton.  Unfortunately, that same bad luck found its way to Brown again this summer.  Brown tore the same ACL this summer during workouts.  He will remain a part of the team in a coaching and leadership capacity, but his on the field contributions will be missed and leave the Blue Devils with a huge hole to fill.  Zavier Carmichael received a lot of the playing time last year as a true freshman and played well.  Carmichael played in all 13 games and logged 20 total tackles and 2 interceptions.  He is currently the starter at MLB.  Sophomore Tinashe Bere will be the backup and should get plenty of opportunities to show what he can do.  Bere has good size and strength and has the potential to be a tough run stuffer in the middle of the defense.  Dominic McDonald could see some time depending on the health and production of the guys ahead of them.

Dwayne Norman is currently penciled in as the starter at the WLB position.  Norman is in his senior season and has plenty of experience in the secondary, but this spring began the transition to the linebacker position.  Norman is a heavy hitter and has proven himself in coverage and tackling, but we will have to see how he does at the new position.  His strength and athleticism should transfer to the linebacker position, but there may be an adjustment period for how he handles being closer to the line of scrimmage and reading the opposing teams.  Sophomore Chris Holmes converted to linebacker from safety last season as a freshman and played pretty well.  Holmes’ will come into the season as the backup WLB, but with his experience gained last season he should get plenty of playing time behind Norman.

True freshman Ben Humphreys is a name to keep an eye on.  Humphreys was the most heralded of the 2015 recruiting class.  While Humphreys played mostly linebacker in high school he may end up playing the strike safety position at Duke in the post Jeremy Cash era.  Its unclear if Humphreys will redshirt this year and if duty calls he could see some time at linebacker.

Check out our other Countdown to the Season previews:

Special Teams


Running Backs & Offensive Line

Quarterback, Wide Receiver & Tight End