For the week leading up to Duke football’s 2013 Spring Game, the Blue Zone will be breaking down this year’s returning squad unit by unit to examine the key changes you’ll see for next year’s Blue Devils. Today, we look at the defensive line.
Key returners: redshirt seniors Kenny Anunike, Justin Foxx and Sydney Sarmiento, redshirt juniors Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo, Jamal Wallace and Dezmond Johnson and junior Jonathan Woodruff
Key departures: none
Now in the mix: redshirt junior Jamal Bruce, sophomore Carlos Wray
2012 performance: Run defense was one of Duke’s biggest weaknesses last year—the Blue Devils gave up more than 200 yards per game on the ground. During the final six games of the year, opposing teams gashed Duke for more than 250 yards rushing four times. Clemson racked up 339 yards on the ground and Georgia Tech amassed 330 yards rushing the following weak in a game where the Yellow Jackets only punted the ball once and committed no turnovers.
Duke also had very little success pressuring opposing quarterbacks, recording just 23 sacks all season. An ineffective pass rush allowed opponents to tear through the Blue Devil secondary all year, especially late in the year during conference play. Duke only sacked ACC quarterbacks a total of 11 times.
It didn’t help that defensive line faced several serious injuries throughout the season, most importantly a ruptured ligament in the ring finger of Foxx’s right hand that sidelined the defensive end for four games. Foxx underwent surgery after registering eight tackles and 1.5 sacks through the first two games of the year.
Season outlook: The bright side for Duke—all of its major contributors on the defensive front return for the 2013 season. Three of four starters return to action next year, and Duke should have decent depth along the front four, although redshirt junior Nick Sink has been converted to a tight end after recording 28 tackles as a defensive end in 2012.
In addition to returning most of its top talent from last year, a healthy Jamal Bruce—who was slated to be the team’s starter at nose guard entering the 2012 season before missing more than half the year due to injury—should help the team clog up the middle in the run game. Cutcliffe has also raved about the play of Carlos Wray, who showed flashes of brilliance last season as a true freshman.