Week 1's Top 10

With the season opening kick off just a few days away we look at the 10 most important players for Duke heading into the game against Tulane.

1. Jeremy Cash, SENIOR, SAFETY

Last Week: 1

Duke was extermely close to losing Cash to the NFL along with Jamison Crowder and Laken Tomlinson after last season.  Luckily for Coach Cutcliffe's program, however, Cash returned and begins the season as the face of the program and the best pure football player on the roster.  With the front six of the defense experiencing heavy turnover from a season ago, Cash will not only be called upon to make plays all over the field, but to set the tone and orchestrate the Blue Devil defensive scheme.

2. Braxton Deaver, SENIOR, TIGHT END
Last: 2

Welcome back Mr. Deaver.  Like Cash, Deaver could have passed on playing at Duke this season in favor of playing the NFL.  Instead he returned to the Blue Devils and could emerge as the top receiver in an offense searching for playmaking as well as consistency.  

3. Devon Edwards, SOPHOMORE, SAFETY

Last Week: 3

He began his career as a terrific return man and last season he upped his game as a safety.  Now, as a junior, Edwards is ready to establish himself as one of the ACC's top defensive backs.  He'll team with Cash and Deondre Singleton to form a trio of ballhawking safeties in the Duke backfield.  It's a safe bet that either Cash or Edwards will lead the team in total tackles this season.

4. Johnell Barnes, JUNIOR, WIDE RECEIVER

Last Week: 4

Losing Crowder to the NFL means Duke is on the hunt for a top end prospect to take up as the first receiver.  Barnes was the guy mentioned throughout the early part of camp, but as the weeks of practice wore on, Coach Cutcliffe made it known that his receivers needed to play with more consistency.  With a new quarterback under center, Barnes will have to answer his head coach's call.  This is a very high rank for Barnes, and it's out of need more than accomplishment at this point.


Last Week: 5

Wilson was Duke's most explosive playmaker early in 2014.  Things tapered off as the season wore on, but now the sophomore from Charlotte has a year of strength and conditioning under his belt to combat accumulated fatigue.  Duke also has a better idea of how to use Wilson this season and will look to get the talented back opportunities to receive the ball in space.  He was banged up at times during camp, but the expectation is that Wilson will be ready to go in Week 1.  He'll back up starter Shaquille Powell, who will be called upon to grind on the Tulane defense and open up shots for the home run hitting Wilson.

6. Will Monday, JUNIOR, PUNTER

Lask Week: 6

Special teams win games.  Duke may have the best pair of specialists in the league, if not the country in Monday and Ross Martin.  Whether it's booming the ball down field or locking his opponents deep within their own territory, Monday's a more than capable punter.


Last Week: 7

Sirk hasn't been seen yet.  At least that's what Coach Cutcliffe has said regarding the role Sirk played for two years as Anthony Boone's understudy and the role he'll play in 2015 as the team's starting quarterback.  There's a number of questions surrounding the Blue Devils' signal caller though.  How quickly will he get the ball out?  With what kind of accuracy?  Is he patient enough to let the play develop or will he be a guy who makes things happens with his legs?  Or a combination of both?  Lots of (expected) questions under center.


Last Week: 8

Wray is the lone returning defensive lineman from a season ago.  In a year where Duke is breaking in three new starters on hte defenisve line and two new linebackers behind it, the Blue Devils could use a steady disruptive force in the trenches.   He'll have a lot of young talent following his lead as well.

9. Ross Martin, JUNIOR, KICKER

Last Week:9

As noted with Monday, Ross Martin is part of a duo of specialists who may be the best in the ACC.  It will be interesting to see if he handles kick-offs as well as field goals and extra points.

10. Breon Borders, JUNIOR, CORNERBACK

Last Week: 10

The Duke secondary is going to be picked on early if the front six can't generate a pass rush early on.  THere's a lot of experience in the defensive backfield and Borders will likely be the shutdown coverage guy of the group.  He'll start opposite sophomore Alonzo Saxton, and the pair will be called upon to not only keep the opponents honest with the playcalling, but also to increase Duke's low interception and takeaway count from a season ago.

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