Signing Day Superlatives: Defense

The Blue Devils welcome back nine starters on the defensive side of the ball which means this year's crop of newcomers may very well be given a redshirt season. So which players should you keep an eye on heading into the summer sessions? Who may have an inside track at playing as a true freshman? Who will become the foundation for the defense in the years to come?

Which defensive players were the biggest "gets"? Which under the radar commits will burst onto the scene? TDD offers our picks below.

Defensive Players - Signing Day Superlatives:

Biggest Commitment: Another Signing Day Surprise, Leland NC's Keilin Rayner will could very well earn early time in his career as a linebacker in Duke's 4-2-5 scheme. Rayner, whose first offer came from Duke, broke into North Brunswick's starting lineup at defensive end. He held down that role until early into his junior season when he was moved to linebacker. He ended his junior season with 127 tackles, including seven for a loss and two sacks, and two forced fumbles.

At the Shrine Bowl Combine held in Williamson, N.C., Rayner registered a 4.66-second 40-yard dash, 4.53-second 20-yard shuttle, 8-foot-2 broad jump, and 28 reps of 185 pounds.

Honorable Mention: Carlos Wray, a 6'4, 245 pound defensive end from Shelby, NC has drawn comparisons to former Blue Devil Mike Tauiliili with his habit of making big plays with enthusiasm and a visible reaction. Wray, like Jackson, will be called on to immediately push the upperclassmen on the perimeter of the defensive line.

Maryland defensive end Allen Jackson, outside linebacker Deion Williams, and cornerback Michael Westray are Duke's three highest rated players.

As a senior Williams played defensive end and caused havoc off the left side for Orange (Calif.) Lutheran high. At Duke he'll end up as an outside linebacker/safety in Duke's 4-2-5 system.

Westray picked Duke because the Blue Devils pitched the idea of playing strong safety in the new look system. Westray was recruited by NC State as an outside linebacker, but the Blue Devils decided to keep him in the secondary as a player - much like the departed Matt Daniels or current Blue Devil Jordon Byas thanks to Westray's 4.4 forty time.

Jackson, who chose the Blue Devils early on, already had five BCS offers but immediately shut the door on future advances. At 6-5 and 230 pounds with a 4.7 forty time on the books, Jackson was a productive senior for McDonough (Md.) School. Given the continued issues with depth and production on the defensive line at Duke, it's not an unthinkable concept to see Jackson factoring very high in the two-deep very early on.

Most Likely To Be Seen In 2011: One of the most likely to be seen in 2012 is little recruited cornerback Devon Edwards. A player who was injured throughout his junior season, Edwards will likely catch on very early in the return game after averaging more than 41 yards per return as a senior in Georgia.

Williams may also break into the linebacker corps depending on how the upperclassmen perform early on thanks to his motor and speed.

Biggest Steal of the Class: Edwards. After missing his junior year there weren't many schools who came calling until some Georgia connections got word that the Alcovy standout was looking for a home and was good enough to warrant a look.

"They came and talked to me last year in the spring and said they wanted to see my senior film because I got hurt my junior year and couldn't play," Edwards said of the Duke coaches. "I went up the day after the Georgia Tech game and met with the coaches and then they offered me when they played UNC. I called back and committed a couple hours later."

Honorable Mention: Michael Mann was originally committed to Arizona State, but backed off that commitment after the Sun Devils changed coaching staffs. From there Mann re-evaluated things and eventually picked Duke over a number of offers including Boise State, Air Force, Iowa, Colorado State. and Connecticut. Mann has speed and athleticism, but will need a year or so to add the weight required to play at the D1 level. He could project as a linebacker or defensive end depending on how things unfold.

Complete Defensive Recruiting Class Breakdown:

?DE: Allen Jackson (6'5, 230), A.J. Wolf (6'4, 250), Michael Mann (6'5, 225)?

LB: Keilin Rayner (6'3, 220), Deion Williams (6'0, 215)?

CB: Michael Westray (6'1, 195), Devon Edwards (5'10, 180)?

S: Dwayne Norman (6'1, 185), Corbin McCarthy (5'11, 205)?

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