One on one with Kenny Anunike

After losing last season to a knee injury, redshirt senior Kenny Anunike is ready to make an impact this season for Duke. The 6-foot-5, 260 pound defensive end sat down with TDD this week to chat about his recovery and his future.

TDD: How has your recovery progressed?

Kenny Anunike: I'm feeling great, and I think I'm back to 100 percent. We've had three scrimmages at this point, and I feel like I'm getting into the backfield and off the line as fast as I was at the beginning of last year.

Was there a moment this fall, when the feeling of being back to full speed hit you?

Probably in the second scrimmage. I shot through a gap and it was clean. I was able to get around the offensive tackle and then past the center. As soon as it happened I said "I feel it!". I was moving like I used to, and it felt good. I was the same guy I was in 2011.

Now that you're back, do you feel a greater responsibility as an upperclassman?

Definitely, and that extra pressure comes with the territory of being a senior. It's like they say, to whom much is given, much is expected. I believe that. I've got great teammates with me with guys like Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo and Dezmond Johnson, and I'm just happy to be able to lead with them and help indoctrinate the younger guys into our system.

While you were out, what did you learn about the game and yourself?

I spent a lot of time on the side line as a spectator over the last year. That's been really tough for me. The good thing has been that I got to see our program and our team from an outsider's perspective. I also learned how to battle back and deal with adversity. I plan on using that along with the lessons I learned about perseverance. If things go bad at times this year, I'll know that I've faced worse and I battled back with the help of my teammates and my coaches. I'll take that and use it to keep fighting and to help my team keep fighting.

Speaking of your teammates, the defensive line has sustained some injuries. How does it look on the interior?

We lost some talented guys on the inside, but that's why the coaches recruit as hard as they do. We have new guys stepping up. We moved the Jamal Wallace inside to a three-technique spot, and we've got guys like Sydney Sarmiento, Justin Foxx, and Jamal Wallace holding us down. We want to be run stuffers on the line, and the inside won't be a hole.

How about the younger guys you mentioned? How have they adjusted?

They are doing well. They get a lot of guidance and support from coaches and teammates. Guys like A.J. Wolf and Carlos Wray have really shown a lot of potential and they are getting better each and every day. They have the potential to earn their spots early on.

Switching to the season, you guys have struggled to start strong at times during your career. How important is the opener?

It's absolutely huge. FIU is the only game we're looking at. We've been burned in our openers before, and that killed any momentum we could have had. Our team has been really good when we've built momentum, but there are also times we regress when things don't go well. That's why have talked so much about finishing this fall.

This year we are definitely pumped up to start strong and get our fans behind us early. We know FIU will have this game circled on their calendar because we beat them last year. They probably weren't expecting that to happen, and we know they will be very focused and hungry.

On that note, you've been at Duke a while. What are some of the major changes you've noticed?

There are so many, and the level of change is just remarkable. You notice it on campus the most. Coach Cutcliffe has people coming to football games, and people coming up to us, knowing who we are. Duke is known as a basketball school, but we want football to slide up and get its due as well. Our facilities have really come in with the full turf field, the indoor facility, and the new equipment.

One of the ways you can really see the change is to look at our locker room, we had to add more lockers because so many guys are walking on and want to be a part of what we're doing. People see Duke football now as a program that's on the rise and one who can compete with anyone.

With that in mind, what does it take for Duke to get over the hump and make a bowl? What's been the major stumbling block?

We have to finish better. Go back and look at the games. We're not being blown out, we're losing by seven points here, one point there, a field goal there. Because we've been so close, you can break it down and see where we didn't get a stop, or we didn't execute in the kicking game, or something similar. This fall we've really looked at driving through every drill, every snap, and finishing strong. Do two or three steps extra through the line. We can't afford to take any play off in practice or in games.

Last question, the new uniforms are generating a lot of buzz. Do you have a favorite combination?

I think most of the guys, like me, really like the black helmets, but the blues are really nice as well. I think it'd be great to do an all black uniform or maybe the black uniforms with the blue helmets.

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