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.
The strength of the Duke defense, and quite possibly the entire team, is the dynamic secondary. The Blue Devils are blessed with a great combination of strong, fast, hard hitting athletes who can hold their own in coverage. The level of play in the secondary has improved each year, starting in 2013 and there isn’t really a weak spot to be found. It is not a stretch to say Duke will field one of the most complete secondaries in the ACC and nationally.
For Duke, the safety position starts with Jeremy Cash. The senior announced this past spring that he was holding off on the NFL for one more season to finish his time in Durham, and from that point on the Blue Devil secondary was as close to a sure thing as you can get in the preseason. Cash plays the hybrid safety position, many times lining up in the box like an additional linebacker, but once the ball is snapped there is no limit to where he can end up on the field. Cash filled the stat sheet again in 2014, compiling 111 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 6 forced fumbles. As improbable as it sounds, it would not be a surprise to see him improve on those numbers this season.
While receiving the bulk of his attention on special teams, DeVon Edwards does plenty of work on defense as well. Edwards came into Duke unheralded and undersized, but has been everything you could want and then some as a starting safety since taking the field as a freshman in 2013. Last season Edwards was second on the team (and in the ACC) in tackles and led the league with 5 forced fumbles. Cash receives the majority of the attention in the Duke secondary, and rightfully so, but Edwards is an All-American caliber player as well.
Deondre Singleton is the third starting safety in Duke’s 4-2-5 defense. Singleton spends the majority of the time dropping into coverage and excels in covering deep routes. Singleton is probably the hardest hitter on the team, although Jeremy Cash would probably like to have a say in that argument. Going blindly across the middle of the field is a big risk with Singleton lurking back there, and that certainly has an effect on opposing offenses.
All three of these safeties are on the field for the majority of the defenses snaps, particularly Cash and Edwards. There is some quality depth at the position, though. Corbin McCarthy could start for many Division 1 teams and the staff is not afraid to put him in at critical moments if need be. Dwayne Norman has transitioned to linebacker so expect to see sophomore Evrett Edwards even more this season. Fellow sophomore Phillip Carter is listed as the backup to DeVon Edwards, but at this point has little experience. I’d expect the staff to try and get him as much time on the field as possible early in the season.
All four cornerbacks that were part of the main rotation last season are back for 2015. The group is led by junior Breon Borders. Borders is only halfway through his time at Duke and has already compiled 7 career interceptions and 14 pass breakups. Borders will be the man once again this year. The coaches are not afraid to place him in one on one coverage against the opposing team’s best receiver.
Bryon Fields will be the other starting corner again this season. Fields has been solid so far in his Duke career, but is usually the member of the secondary that opposing teams choose to take their chances against. If Fields shows less vulnerability on deep routes this season and can take on more solo assignments, the defense will have a lot more opportunities to experiment with their schemes and throw in more blitz packages.
Alonzo Saxton and Zach Muniz played last year as true freshmen and will both be backup corners again this season. Their presence was valuable last year and the experience gained should have them in line for more opportunities in 2015. Saxton could even see some time at the safety position behind Deondre Singleton if needed. Evrett Edwards could also log some time as a reserve corner depending on the situation and injuries.
All stats from sports-reference.com
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