Ask anyone who watched any significant stretches of Duke’s 2012 Football season, what their weakest area and most will say unequivocally that it was the defensive side of the ball.
Duke, who utilizes a 4-2-5 defensive scheme relies heavily on the defensive front to slow the run and get pressure on the quarterback but at the same time they rely a good deal on the defensive backfield in both stopping the run and obviously in pass protection.
Duke has had some talent in the defensive backfield but much like the defensive line, they have been plagued by injuries. Last year was a prime example as it seemed every week a defensive back went down to injury and in more than one case it was season ending.
The Blue Devils took an early blow when the NCAA denied a waiver request by Ohio State transfer, Jeremy Cash, to play immediately. It seemed like a minor set back at the time, however, once Duke started losing safeties seemingly weekly, Cash, a 4-star prospect out of high school, would have been a great asset to have on the field.
This season Duke boasts experience and a hopefully healthier backfield that should have talent. The unit will be anchored by veteran Corner and All-ACC selection and Lott Trophy watch list addition, Ross Cockrell.
Cockrell led the Blue Devils in interceptions and was a critical piece of Duke’s defensive unit last season. He is likely to be joined by one of a couple young and upcoming young defensive backs including redshirt freshman DeVon Edwards, highly touted true freshman Evrett Edwards, and possibly fellow true freshman Quay Mann. Redshirt senior Garrett Patterson should also see some action.
The corner position doesn’t have as much experience, save Cockrell so it will be an interesting battle for the starting position as well as which player(s) get into the regular rotation. Rest assured, given all the injuries suffered to Duke’s defensive backs over the last couple years that all will be ready to play.
At the safety position, Duke will have Cash available to play and he immediately showed his impact in the spring when he was all over the field in the spring football game. He is a likely starter at one safety and will be lined up along side an array of experienced and young safeties many of whom saw game action and just as many seemingly suffered injuries last season.
The list includes redshirt freshman Dwayne Norman who started games last season before being lost with a shoulder injury, and veteran Anthony Young-Wiseman. Corbin McCarthy will likely see action as well. Converted safety Nick Hill as well as Michael Westray could see some time in the safety rotation.
Much like the corners, injury worries spurred on from last season will likely have everyone ready to compete and see game action at the safety position.
The defensive backfield has some experience and talent and they will have to step up and be ready to be an integral part of the Blue Devils’ defensive plan for this coming season.
If they can stay healthy with the rest of the defensive unit, this could be one of the stronger defenses Duke has had under David Cutcliffe and defensive coordinator Jim Knowles.
Projected starters at Corner: Ross Cockrell, Evrett Edwards
Key Reserves at Corner: DeVon Edwards, Quay Mann, Garrett Patterson
Projected starters at Safety: Jeremy Cash, Anthony Young-Wiseman, Dwayne Norman
Key Reserves at Safety: Corbin McCarthy, Nick Hill, Michael Westray
More Position Breakdowns:
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